By David Hennessy
Ronnie Scott’s was the venue for a recent showcase of an exciting Irish musical talent on the scene. The Cork singer-songwriter McMahon has been to Hell and back. After surviving an awful car crash that left him with no sight in one eye and no sense of smell, his woes were compounded by a relationship break-up.
However, it was while getting away from his troubles in Thailand with his song writing partner Darren Kirwan that a chance meeting with a record company boss landed McMahon a deal and set him on the path to where he is now, having just released his debut album, Half Blind.
Showing many different sides to his eclectic performance, McMahon began with the jazzy single Deep Down before going into Your Last Song which is quite reminiscent of Paddy Casey’s best work, rounding the set off with rocky number Fire. The evening had a great friendly vibe with much of McMahon’s own proud family there.
The recent London performance was preceded by warm words and a poem by owner of All in Recordings Terry McCabe. The poem was Everything Happens for a Reason as there was so much fate involved with Terry meeting McMahon. While they both ended up on the island of Ko Phangan, they had both missed planes and arrived later than intended. At the time of first meeting McMahon, Terry was taking a “gorgeous” girl back to his room but when he continued on his journey, something told him he had to go back. On hearing McMahon play a couple of songs, Terry McCabe offered a record deal on the spot.
McMahon takes up the story: “Well myself and Darren were out one night and I think it was early in the morning when Darren met up with Terry and Scott (Ogden) and they were with two girls the time I was introduced to them. We were chatting about where we were staying and they were staying at a place that had a much better deal on their hotel and cheaper. They went off with the girls but lucky for us, they came back and picked us up and brought us up to their hotel so we checked in there and it was much cheaper and it was a much better area for us to be in.
“We went back and got our stuff and I had a guitar somebody gave me because they couldn’t take it with them so we were playing the guitar. When Terry came back, I was playing the song What if God was one of us, he loves that song and after that I played a song of my own and we just got on great and after a while, he offered the record deal- I didn’t really think it was serious at the time but luckily it was serious. You never really take anything that you hear on holiday serious but it was true, he flew me home and taken care of me a lot.
“Everything Happens for a Reason is the poem and it’s kind of scripted for our journey really. Everything began from there.”
The horrible crash from which McMahon says he will always be recovering happened six years ago. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt while travelling in a car with three friends, including his former fiancée. The long recovery is especially harsh as McMahon was an active sportsman prior to the crash but song writing has been what has brought him through: “You can write down how you feel and you can change things around. It’s good for the soul and good for the brain: To express yourself. That’s good for anybody and it’s helped me to deal with a lot: Break ups, tough times but at the same time to have fun and I think that’s the beauty of it. No matter what you’re feeling or what you’re up to at the time, you can express it through music and for me, it’s good self-therapy.
“There were times when it was very difficult but the glass is always half full, not half empty and I just always tried to look for the positive in things. I just live every day and make the most of it and I’m delighted things are going well.
“I was a sponsored rollerblader at the under-age world championships and before that when I was younger, I did gymnastics and was in the Irish squad. I was always doing things extreme like that that I love to do. Sometimes I would just jump off a cliff into water to get a bit of a rush but now, I’m focused on different things but I did enjoy doing them a lot.”
McMahon says he is not massively affected by the loss of sight in one eye, more so by the loss of his sense of smell, and that his album’s title can be applied to anyone’s life: “Even though it’s kind of a pun on what happened to me, Half Blind can be about not doing a job that you like, it could be about love, it has many meanings to many different people.”
Recently McMahon has supported Imelda May in front of his home crowd in Cork at The Marquee, played for former X Factor judge Tulisa while both were on holiday on played at Glastonbury Festival although it was on an open mic stage. Next year, he hopes to play one of the legendary festival’s stages.
Currently gigging around the UK, McMahon and his song writing partner Darren have already written several new tracks for the next album. For more information about McMahon and his gigs, you can go to: www.mcmahonmusic.co.uk/