David Hennessy talks to singer-songwriter Marc O’Reilly about his current UK tour
The critics couldn’t get enough of his debut album My Friend Marx in 2011 when it made many ‘Best of’ lists and acclaimed acoustic singer-songwriter Marc O’Reilly has returned this year with his impressive follow-up, Human Herdings. Marc has been compared to artists such as John Martyn and Bon Iver and British audiences will get a chance to catch his extraordinary live show when he comes on tour this month.
But did following his impressive debut put Marc under some pressure? “It did in a way. I didn’t really think about it until the time came round and then I was like: ‘Feck it, I have to do another album’.
“What I found was that since I released My Friend Marx, I managed to get a manager, then I got a UK agent, a German agent, a Dutch agent and I built up this team of people over the two years and I had all these people who were being awesome to me. My biggest thing was to 1) do myself justice, and 2) Not disappoint them, so there was a little bit of pressure definitely.
“It was a little bit of pressure but I couldn’t wait to do it as well at the same time. It’s one of those strange things, it was very nervous but I couldn’t wait to get it done and I was quite excited about the sound.”
Human Herdings boasts a different sound to its predecessor, was the change in style conscious? “It’s just been a natural progression because I’ve been gigging an awful lot, seen a whole pile of bands and musicians and been listening to a whole pile in the period so I suppose that all fed into it really.
“I had an idea that I wanted to sound a little bit bigger with the band and have a 70’s blues rock feel to it and still maintain the folk element. That was the plan and I’m just very happy with how it turned out.”
Although before Marc could be seen performing solo with just a guitar, fans who turn up to see him this time will see him playing with a full band. Is this still something Marc himself is getting used to? “Completely. What’s great is I’m now doing songs from My Friend Marx with a full band. For me, it’s almost like touring two new albums.”
The song Reach Out deals with Ireland’s financial difficulties of recent years. Although things are improving, can the singer still see that recession is very much present? “I still think it’s quite there and quite visibly there. All you have to do is look at the headlines and the absolute uproar that’s over the Irish water thing. People don’t have any money left, really. I still think it’s definitely around.
“I suppose from a musician’s point of view, it might even be a good thing because always during recessionary times, the arts flourish in terms of creativity, not necessarily in terms of funding. I still see it around and people are finding it very difficult.”
After growing up in Lismore, Marc is now based in Cork city. He is also half French: “The father’s from Fermoy and the mother’s from just outside of Nantes. I spent all my summers there so every summer we used to head over and when I was in primary school, parents used to take us out of primary school here a couple of weeks early and then we would get a month in school over in France. It was a great way for us to improve on the old French.”
Has bilingual Marc had the chance to gig in France yet? “Do you know what? I f**king haven’t. It’s f**king disgraceful. My father’s always onto me about it. It’s just difficult to try and find a French agent to be honest and it’s not something we’ve looked into properly. It’s something I must start doing. I’ve done one gig in Paris with a jazz band that I did some singing on an album for there, Kairos 4tet. I did a gig with them in Paris last year but I’ve never done any of my solo stuff there. Must do.
“We did a French agent based in Cambridge actually but I don’t know, she wasn’t getting us any gigs,” Marc laughs. “It wasn’t working out.”
For a side project, his brother Pierre and Marc are the electro-pop duo ‘R’ who received excellent radio support last year for their debut single ‘Change’ from tastemakers such as Steve Lamacq (BBC 6music) and Janice Long (BBC Radio 2). “That’s the problem,” Marc laughs when asked how he has the time for this also.
“The thing is Pierre’s a musician as well. He’s mainly classical, he’s based in London actually. He did his undergraduate in Cork School of Music and then went over and did his masters in the Royal College of Music in film composition and then I’m obviously the poor man’s music, folk/blues.
“But the two of us love our bit of electro-pop and after talking about it for years, we finally decided to do it and then we released one track as a single and it probably got a better response than anything we’ve ever done individually ourselves.
“We’ve made a very conscious decision: I’m in the process now of doing a lot of writing, as is Pierre. We’re going back into the studio in December with a view to releasing our album in the new year, and hopefully tour that.”
Marc O’Reilly plays The Louisianna in Bristol on November 11, The Boileroom in Guildford on November 12, The Islington in London on November 13, The Vic in Swindon on November 14 and Four Bars in Cardiff on November 15. For more information, go to http://www.marcoreillymusic.com/.