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Friends in high places

Wexford singer-songwriter Gordon Barry told David Hennessy about receiving high praise from his musical heroes Steve Earle and Tom Waits, winning the prestigious International Songwriting Competition in Nashville and why he found it hard to write music during lockdown.

Country music star and writer of the original Galway Girl Steve Earle said Wexford singer-songwriter Gordon Barry “is the best songwriter” to come out of his school for songwriters in the Appalachian Mountains Camp Copperhead, adding: “But make no mistake he was already a special songwriter when he got there”.

It was in 2014 that Gordon released his debut EP Sojourning and completed a tour of New York. While he was in the US, Gordon met the renowned country artist who invited him to take up a scholarship role at his .

Steve’s Camp Copperhead has attracted hundreds of songwriters & musicians from all corners of the globe.

Gordon told The Irish World: “It was amazing for him to say that because there are so many people that have done that workshop from all over the world. For him to say that is high praise from my biggest influence, my biggest icon. I was such a big fan. I have everything he’s ever released.

“It was really exciting to go and meet him and work with him. I became friends with him. I’ve been to see him live at a good few venues around the world.”

Steve Earle.

Gordon then released his debut album The Best Way to Kill a Monster in 2017 with the album’s first single Devil & St. Jesus going on to win the top prize for lyrics at The 2017 International Songwriting Competition in Nashville.
This annual competition is considered the most prestigious songwriting competition in the world and the New York Times says it is ‘the songwriting competition to take note of’.

Previous ISC winners include Gotye, Passenger, Gregory Porter and Bastille and Gordon joined Cork Songwriters Mick Flannery and Jack O’ Rourke as the only other Irish artist to have won the award.

It is judged by big names in the industry such as Lorde, Rickie Lee Jones, the late Chris Cornell and another of Gordon’s musical heroes in Tom Waits.

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“For them to listen to it and judge it the best, that was another surprise and another honour. It’s all great stuff to put on your CV.

“So many people enter that competition every year: 22,000 entered from 137 countries, I was told.”

Gordon takes inspiration directly from Tom Waits in his current single Old Fashioned Morphine.

“It’s a cover version. It’s written by a girl called Jolie Holland. I love the song.

“I kind of used his song Come Up to the House as a template for the kind of version of the song I wanted to do.

“I decided to do a more uptempo version. I thought that would work.

Tom Waits.

“Again, I have all his albums. His lyrics are second to none.”

The second single from his current EP All the Live Long Year, Old Fashioned Morphine follows Roll with the Punches. Both singles’ titles almost sound like a prescription for the times we’re living in.

“The names of the songs are kind of apt now. This was all recorded before all this happened.”

Gordon admits he did not find himself getting productive with writing or recording during lockdown.

“The muse didn’t visit me during the time. I find it kind of hard to write in crisis times like that. It was too strange. I only write in hindsight really.

“I’ll get back to it. I’ll probably start writing again soon.”

The single Old Fashioned Morphine and the EP All the Live Long Year are out now.

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