London is still the place to be for Jim O’Donoghue Martin
They came in search of the London dream. Four lads going on an adventure, taking on the British capital doing what they love, writes Adam Shaw.
It was a far cry from Dundalk, Co. Louth – ancient castles would be replaced by futuristic towers, sleepy streets would soon be filled with red buses and black cabs.
Many had done it before. Given London’s position as a truly global city in terms of arts and culture, it is not uncommon for musicians to try their hand there. The reality proved slightly different. Their schedules didn’t match, their houses were too far apart, work got in the way.
“It was difficult but the necessity of life dictates where you need to go and what you need to do,” Jim said. “We put out a few singles and a few EPs but, ultimately, we ended up going our separate ways and now we’re all doing different things.”
Jim was disappointed, naturally. The band had been the whole reason for coming to London – he’d left a decent job back in Ireland, as well as everything he’d ever known. “It did make me question things and I had to weigh up whether it was a good idea for me to stay here,” he explained.
“When the band was removed I had to take a step back and think. But any doubts I had about the situation didn’t last long. “I realised that I loved it over here, it was where I wanted to be and it was the place that I had made my home.”
This positive outlook translates to everything that Jim does, especially his music. He decided to continue working as a solo artist, recording everything out of his room in Hackney and balancing it alongside his job at an art company.
“It fits into my life very well and, in many ways, it’s better now,” he said. “I can plan things out and see things in a much clearer light. Of course I dearly miss being in the band but I’ve got more freedom now, more control over my decisions and more space to try out different things.”
He’s certainly embraced the solo life – he’s produced a number of singles under the name Video Blue. He’s also coming to the end of recording an album and has spent time touring around the UK.
“It’s a bit of a slog and you end up in a load of different venues – some great, some not so great”
“It’s a bit of a slog and you end up in a load of different venues – some great, some not so great but, honestly, it’s going okay,” he said. “It consumes a lot of time, I work in the day then record in the evenings and at weekends, but I’m managing.
“And I’m feeling a bit of a build now; people have come to see me who aren’t friends of friends, they’ve come off their own back, even if it’s just out of curiosity.”
Jim hasn’t entirely given up on collaboration, however, and has even kept in touch with the drummer of his band who now goes under the name Trick Mist.
“He’s up in Manchester now but we got together and played a few dates and we also released a physical seven-inch single,” he said. “Online is necessary, of course, and it’s a lot easier to get it out there but having a single on sale in various indie shops and being able to actually see it and hold it was great.” His latest project was a tribute set with two Irish friends covering the work of Canadian artist Matt de Marco.
“If there’s any way to describe it, it would simply be that it was a ‘labour of love’,” he explained. “We filmed it in their living room, documented it and just had a great two or three days recording his songs and mixing them up a little.”
The trio will perform at Hatch, a coffee shop in Homerton, on September 25, before Jim heads back to his homeland to take part in the Hard-working Heroes festival.
“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s quite a big deal for people emerging in the industry and people like the Villagers, James Vincent McMorrow and Hozier have all passed through there,” he said. “It was very nice to be selected and it’ll be great to travel home – not that I’ll get to see the family, mind, it’ll be a case of three performances in a day in Dublin.”
Seeing his family is not a problem, as they manage to get over to see him regularly, making use of the cheap flights between Ireland and the UK. Jim admitted that he does get twinges of homesickness but that he enjoys living in London. He has also become more and more involved with Hackney Irish Social Club, hosting quizzes and regularly spending time at the Prince Edward pub. And what’s more, he is a very firm believer of being able to stay true to your identity, wherever you might end up in the world.
“To me, Irish is inherent. You take it with you wherever you go; you don’t have to be in Ireland to feel Irish,” he said.
Jim doesn’t have a particular aversion to returning to Dundalk or anywhere else in Ireland, far from it. But he is happy in London and is determined for the dream to live on, even if his original plans evaporated thanks to impracticality. He is still doing what he wants, and hopes that his music can grow and grow, perhaps so much so that one day, it will be his life.
He found adventure, his decision was vindicated. And who knows, perhaps one day he will round up his mates and, in the style of Jake and Elwood, tell them “we’re getting the band back together”.