Fiona O’Brien talks to Peter O’Sullivan, the 72-year-old who retired from the buses to become a singer-songwriter and made a new life for himself on the online music scene
Peter is just back from the Dublin 1916 commemorations, and had ‘a blast’ in his native city, feeling overwhelmingly proud of the events that took place over the Easter weekend, even if the weather didn’t match.
“It was a bit of a mess because it was too bad to go outside, so we ended up watching the presentation at Parnell Square on the television from the hotel in Clontarf!” he says.
He has his own unique memories of the army in Dublin, having been brought up in Arbour Hill, where his dad was stationed as a soldier.
“It’s funny actually because my mother was the daughter of a British officer. He was killed in about 197 I think, obviously Ireland was a hard place to be at the time for an Englishman.
“And then she went and married an Irish soldier!” It is here that Peter had his first musical experience. “I first sang in the church choir at Arbour Hill. I remember we went on tour and they brought us to Butlin’s holiday camp which was in Meath at the time.
“And its funny how sometimes random information will always stick with you, but I will never forget the song that we were singing at the time. It was called The Shoemaker’s Shop and it was No.1 there in about 1951. We loved it.” And from there, Peter’s musical career is growing from strength to strength now, over 60 years later.
Part of it is in thanks to the new technology available with Peter using an online music platform, called Reverb Nation, to allow people to sample his songs. And with 93 pages worth of positive comments, it is safe to say that he has quite a substantial fan base.
“As long as I can remember I’ve liked all types of music. I think that is important, it’s good to have a mix. In order to really enjoy music you have to be open to it all.
“You can’t just stay within rock and roll or classical. I listen to hip-hop, even if I’m not a huge fan and I think some of it is horrible, but it helps to hear the positives in other songs, and maybe what you could do to the track to improve it or make it your own.”
And ReverbNation allows him to do just that, to sample songs from his followers, and give his music a huge shared platform for other people to sample his songs. “I find that most rewarding, to hear feedback from fans and the wonderful comments they give me from enjoying my music.”
Peter’s sound is predominantly folksy, and on his account he has a collection of 16 songs that were all recorded and written by him, with the help of a guitar accompaniment from John Hamilton, who runs the EQ recording studios in West London. Its no surprise really as Peter’s parents were both traditional amateur folk singers and his elder brother George an accordion player.
He has also started winning numerous awards including KXRL – Radio Angeles for #1 on the charts for his hit The Songs My Mama Sung as well as a Best Folk Classic song for Where the Wildflowers Grow. “It is an incredible feeling when you hear your songs on the radio for the first time.
“It is so funny how the music industry has changed. Back in the 1980s I had a song submitted to the Eurovision preliminaries in Ireland. “At that time, people would submit the songs and