Darren Morrissey, half of ‘Morrissey and Marshall’, tells Adam Shaw about leaving home for London
On his deathbed, Polish virtuoso Frédéric Chopin requested to his sister that, while he intended to be buried in Paris, his heart was to be sent to Warsaw.
Smuggled out in a jar of cognac, one of the most important parts of his body was to be laid to rest in his beloved homeland – a place he had not seen for almost two decades.
Singer-songwriter Darren Morrissey doesn’t intend on wandering away from Ireland for so long, while thoughts of final resting places will be way off in the distance.
As for his heart, it belongs firmly to Dublin.
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Speaking about the release of his new album with the other half of Morrissey and Marshall – fellow Dubliner Greg – he emits a sincere fondness for the city.
“Some of the best shows we’ll always play will be in our hometown. It’s where we started, it’s where we’re from,” he says.
His musical persona was moulded by the pubs and clubs of the streets lining the Liffey while his living room, for as long as he could remember, doubled up as a concert hall.
“My granny used to support Luke Kelly and the Dubliners years ago and, whenever she’d babysit me, she’d play the piano and we’d sing together.
“My mum was also musical, my dad used to take me to watch live music from a young age and my uncle was in an established band in Dublin.”
The city was also the place which brought him and Greg together. He recalls how they met at a gig one evening where his future playing partner made quite an impression.
“The rock ‘n’ roll band I was in was playing at the old Eamonn Doran’s in Temple Bar and, during our encore, he decided to join in.
“He had a few pints on him and he just jumped onstage and played the final song with us. We became pals, started writing together and it’s grown from there.” While their hearts might be in the Irish capital, their ambitions took them to the British counterpart.
Going on nothing other than pure belief, they packed their bags and headed to London in the hope of making a name for themselves there.
“It was sort of like a test; we wanted to check that it wasn’t just the local Dublin crowd who wanted to come and see us. “We came over without any money, plans or ideas, just a few songs.
We did open mics and a bit of busking – we played all over the shop. We just happened to get picked up and we’ve tried to create a bit of a buzz.”
Darren explains that their move, however daunting at the time, has been a success.
They have produced two studio albums, have an extensive tour lined up and are starting to make inroads in Europe.
Their newest offering, We Rise, is being released in no fewer than 14 countries and Darren describes the album as “a giant step in the right direction”.
“It comes from a combination of working really hard and a growing maturity,” he adds.
“We’ve built up our touring experience and we’ve learnt a lot of life lessons by meeting other artists who’ve helped us along the way. It’s great, man.”
Despite their affection for Ireland, the pair are keen to go out and explore the world. That, they believe, is one of the best parts about being musicians; being able to hopefully entertain people from lots of different places.
But their music, though predominately rock, has a clear Irish influence. Darren cites Kelly as a hero, as well as those from Aslan and Damien Dempsey.
“If you look at Luke Kelly, his voice, his passion, and the way he delivered a song, it’s unbelievable.
“The Dubliners in general; what they did for Irish music, for Dublin music, is nothing short of incredible.
“I would say we’ve been influenced by Irish music but we also take inspiration from the 60s style of music – the Beatles, the Kinks and so on.”
Their move to England, and his surname, has brought inevitable comparisons with the Smiths but, while he takes this as a compliment, Darren insists that they have their own, unique sound.
“Somebody did once introduce us at a gig as being a ‘heavily- amplified Smiths’ and, lyrically, I think Morrissey is a genius.
“I’ve always loved the whole Manchester scene in general. I grew up in the 90s, so the likes of Oasis and the Stone Roses were everywhere.
“But we’re all about getting our own stuff out there, being ourselves and getting the chance to show that we really believe in what we’re singing.”
Relocating to the UK was sort of borne out of necessity. It came at a time when many young Irish people, from all areas of work, were seeking greener pastures.
Darren notes how the Irish have always been ones for emigrating when things look brighter elsewhere and how, often, they make a great success of it.
They are one example, moving up in the musical world and looking to win the affection of people on the continent and beyond.
But whatever happens, their love for Dublin will remain strongest. For Morrissey and Marshall, though they might not go full- Chopin, heart is where the home is.