Galway singer- songwriter Seba Safe told David Hennessy how, when Covid- 19 hit, he left his job and life in Dublin to launch himself as a recording artist.
Galway singer songwriter Seba Safe has just released the single Rainy along with the EP of the same name.
Seba told The Irish World: “I thought it would be fitting to have the title track and the EP be Rainy as it is a summer release in Ireland.
“Although it can’t be said for this week because the sun is splitting the rocks, everyone’s walking around like lobsters.
“It’s nice and upbeat and summery, it’s a bit of a bop.
“I suppose there’s a cockiness to Rainy.
“The intro line is, ‘You can have your rainy day because everything I need to save happens in my head before you even spread your marmalade’.
“It’s just basically telling myself to keep the head down and keep going.
“It’s about wanting it all at once but knowing when to pull in the reins and just keep going.
“No matter if things aren’t kicking off just yet, that happens to everyone. You just have to keep trucking on.”
Seba Safe, who real name is Mike D’Alton, has already been earning praise from BBC Radio’s Gemma Bradley as well as outlets such as The Irish Times and Hot Press.
Gemma Bradley says of him, “I absolutely love everything he’s been doing.”
The Irish Times say he is, “Very worth your time and ears.”
The 30- year- old from Portumna writes candidly and honestly on personal relationships, love, loss and change and boasts a sound that combines elements of pop, folk, indie and R’n’B.
However, had it not been for the pandemic Seba Safe would more than likely not be releasing this music now.
In fact he would more than likely be working in catering jobs in Dublin.
But the pandemic saw him move back west to the Clare town of Lahinch and use the time to write ‘like a madman’.
He released his debut EP Map Runner which established him as one of Ireland’s most promising songwriting talents and the Galwegian was quickly signed to indie label Nettwerk Records for a global deal.
Rainy is the follow-up to last year’s EP, Before I Remember You.
The recent single I Wonder has a haunting dreamlike quality and Seba describes it as like ‘several diary entries from the last two years. The lyrics are very personal and deal with everyday thoughts, fears, hopes, loss and love’.
I Wonder certainly sounds personal..
“It’s almost like a page by page journal entry.
“Every verse is different but it’s all personal stuff and different stories that were going on at the time.
“That’s how I usually write songs, almost like diary entries.
“They’re quite personal but hopefully universal as well.”
While the record may be looking back at the tough times of the pandemic, Seba has to admit it was great for him as it focused his mind on music.
“In a strange way the pandemic was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
“It took me out of a 40 hour a week catering job in Dublin City, and I moved out west.
“I just started writing like a madman and then got picked up by Nettwerk, and I’ve just been recording and writing ever since.
“So musically and creatively, it was definitely a positive.
“Obviously, the isolation and everything that went along with that was a bit tough on the old noggin.
“But creatively, it gave me quite a boost just to have that time, I guess.”
What were you doing in catering? “I was slaving away,” he laughs. “I was working in cafes and restaurants making coffees.
“I still do a bit of that part-time but I suppose there were many distractions of the city as well.
“I was probably going out a bit too much and getting sucked into the underworld of Dublin City,” he laughs again.
“Now I’m back to nature, back to the sea and I’m just happy living a hermit life writing tunes and recording my music.
“It’s all good.
“I’ve been writing since the age of 13 but 2019 I started this project Seba Safe and then I was releasing bits and pieces but I think it took a global pandemic to really kick me up the arse and start treating it the way I should be.”
What does that name Seba Safe mean? “I used to live and work in Spain many, many years ago.
“I was doing the Irish pub scene circuit playing covers and a few ra tunes here and there.
“One of the owners there actually christened me Sebastian Safe.
“It’s kind of an inside joke.
“When I got back home, Sebastian Safe was my alias and manager name even though it was still me.
“So I would contact people, ‘Hello, Sebastian Safe here. I have this guy Mike D’Alton. You have to listen to him’.
“It kind of evolved from there.”
Mike comes from Portumna in Galway, well known for giving the county Joe Canning.
He points out it is also home to John Muldoon formerly of Connacht Rugby.
“So it’s good sporting land,” he says.
Do you or have you played any sport yourself? “Badly, both (GAA and rugby) badly, and I’m currently now a bad surfer as well.”
Seba Safe comes back to UK shores with his Rainy tour in July having only played here last year.
“My sister lives in London as well so I’m over quite regularly.
“One day I might move there, if I can trust myself to behave!”
The EP was recorded in producer Duncan Mills’ (Florence and The Machine, Jake Bugg and Jamie Callum) studio in London Fields last summer.
“The master Duncan Mills is absolutely incredible, the two of us got on very well and really, really happy with what we created together.”
I Wonder follows the single Afterlife. Tell me about that. Is it, like the title suggests, pondering mortality?
“It’s more about the afterlife of a relationship or friendships.
“Or even just the life after a certain version of yourself or a time that you were living in is over.
“You’re kind of picking up the pieces and looking back and reflecting on the person you were.
“It’s kind of more of a living afterlife.
“That was about a time where I felt like a completely different person and looking back at the people I knew in that situation.
“It felt like almost I was a new person reborn or I was dead looking back into it and who I was back then.”
Like many of Seba’s tracks, Afterlife’s melody is deceptively upbeat.
“It’s always nice to mask a sad song in some nice, lush happy chords as well.
“I Wonder is quite similar to that as well.”
Mental health seems to be a big theme of the EP and your music. It’s something you’re not afraid to address…
“I think it’s pretty much how I deal with it.
“Writing so openly is very therapeutic and it almost helps me figure out what I’m feeling.
“Sometimes I have to write a song and listen to it and then the song actually tells me a little bit about what’s going on in my own head which is kind of mad, kind of subliminal messages to myself.”
Another track on the EP On My Way looks at Ireland’s mass emigration and uses the phrase ‘Oró, Sé Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’ (welcome home).
“It was about the mass exodus of young people leaving this country and it’s kind of just a nod to the memories lost, that could have been made here if they felt that they had the opportunities to stay or the jobs or whatever, the weather perhaps.
“I think it’s just sad to think of all the stories that we lose with everyone who leaves, takes their lives elsewhere.
“It’s just sad that they feel that they can’t do it here in their own land.
“And then the Oró, Sé Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile, it’s kind of a play on words and a play on that mass exodus.
“When I go home to my hometown, I think I can count one friend from my year that I’d be close with that’s still there out of everyone which is mad.
“I think most of my good friends now are abroad but I’ll stick it out here in the wind and the rain for the next while anyway.”
Seba joined Lisa Hannigan, Wallis Bird, Mick Flannery, Declan O’Rourke and more at Vicar Street for a tribute to John Prine to mark his anniversary in April.
Did John Prine mean a lot to you? “He definitely did.
“My father is a big country music fan, and my mother too.
“We kind of grew up with around his music.
“I always say he’s the Leonard Cohen of American folk/country music because he’ll make you laugh, he’ll make you cry and he’s just so honest.
“He’s the kind of writer that I’m striving to be myself.
“It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s honest.
“It’s real and every day life.
“I think he’s just one of the greatest writers that have graced this planet.
“I don’t know how I got on the bill but I very fittingly sang his song How Lucky.
“I certainly felt lucky that night to be there celebrating his life and work, it was amazing.”
Did you start playing music early and how did you get started? “I think I went down the route of many, many teenagers: Found Nirvana and Metallica, Pantera, all these bands when I was a spotty, greasy, long haired teenager playing in metal bands.
“There was a great scene back in the day for teenagers.
“There was bands everywhere and battles of the bands in different counties.
“We travelled around and just put on these shows.
“I suppose just as I grew older it kind of turned from metal into pop/punk, pop/punk into indie and then kind of kept mellowing out as we go.
“That’s how I started.
“I went to a Josh Ritter concert when I was about 11 or 12 and I think that was kind of the moment where I realised, ‘This is definitely what I want to do’.
“That was kind of the lightbulb moment.”
On leaving school, Mike would study music at BIMM in Dublin.
“It was the second year of it (BIMM) in Dublin so we were kind of the guinea pigs in a way.
“They were still figuring out the route they were taking.
“As a degree goes, I’m sure if it’s worth its weight in paper really but the connections I made and the friends I made within the course definitely got me to where I’m at at the moment and I definitely learned a few lessons along the way from it.”
Seba looks forward to touring his new EP. After dates in Ireland and the UK, he takes it to Europe.
This is nothing new as he has already played dates in Germany.
What was that like? “It was amazing.
“I got to support my friends All the Luck in the World.
“It was my first taste of the German audience.
“It’s a lot different to the Irish audience, I’ll say that.
“For an Irish crowd, sometimes it’s more about the night out and the craic.
“And for the Germans, it’s definitely about listening to the music.
“You could have a room full of people and you could hear a pin drop.
“It was incredible. It was daunting, but it was beautiful really, they were listening to every word which is really some thing special.”
What has been a highlight of your live experiences so far? Is it playing in Germany or that night in honour of John Prine or something else?
“John Prine was definitely up there, to honour that man and to meet his family was something really special and surreal.
“My biggest show to date was in Whelans last year. It was pretty much sold out and I ended it with a brand new song at the time.”
Seba is talking about Singing Louder, his as yet unreleased track.
“It just has a simple hook and I sang it just acoustically with no mics and I had the whole room singing it.
“That was a moment for me that was just very special.”
Seba tells us he is already looking ahead to ‘the debut album’.
“I’ve been writing like a madman here in Clare so I’m really looking forward to releasing new music and the aim is the debut album.
“I’m just chipping away at the pile of songs here at the moment trying to decide which ones to pick.
“2024 is the plan for the debut album.”
Seba appeals for you to come and check him out if you can catch one of his upcoming gigs.
“If people are looking to come to see someone who’s just singing from the heart and writing songs that are honest and true and something that I really care about- It’s not just rolling out songs that I think will potentially make me money.
“It’s all real and it’s from the heart
“If you come to see me, it will be hopefully something special.”
The single Rainy is out now.
The EP Rainy is out now.
Seba tours Ireland and the UK in July, he plays Hug and Pint in Glasgow on 23 July, Castle Hotel in Manchester on 24 July, Jacaranda Records on 25 July, Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham on 26 July and Slaughtered Lamb in London on 27 July.
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