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For those left behind

Robert John Ardiff told David Hennessy that he’s looking forward to his upcoming gig in Kilburn, why he had to hand deliver his album during the pandemic to connect with his listeners and why he had to have a word with the film crew using his music on the star-studded Modern Love.

Six months on from the release of his second solo album, Robert John Ardiff will be coming to The Fiddler in Kilburn.

From Summerhill in Meath, Robert John Ardiff came to prominence as part of Come On, Live Long who earned a Choice Music Prize nomination in 2017 for their second album (In the Still).

Released in April, Ardiff’s latest album The Corridors of Love is  the follow-up to his 2018 debut, Between the Bed and Room.

Ardiff says it is a record for those people he sees as being left behind or forgotten, something he has noticed with even greater starkness in the times of pandemic.

Robert told The Irish World: “You see it in Dublin. I suppose you see it in London to some extent.

“In Ireland at the moment housing is a really big issue.

“If you don’t work for one of these software companies or work in finance or have a steady income, you’re kind of just paying for another man’s old age.

“You’re paying rent to someone who’s bought a house because they want it for when they retire.

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“And then also during the pandemic, a lot of the time I was cycling around Dublin and I was seeing homeless people.

“Homeless people had a really rough time during the pandemic as well because a lot of their income might come from begging or things like that.

“And people are still sleeping rough but you don’t have the protection of the community around you.

“Even if you’re sleeping rough, there’s still people walking down the road, there’s still people keeping an eye out for you.

“Whereas I suppose you don’t really have that during a pandemic because the city is just like a ghost town.

“The album touches on lots of different themes.

“You know, Dublin was one of the themes that I chose to write about on it.

“But there’s also things in relation to relationships, self discovery.

“I think when you make art, or you make music, you’re constantly questioning, ‘Okay, what the f**k am I doing? Am I doing the right thing here? Is this sustainable?’

“There’s a lot of questions on the record as well in relation to that.”

Written during lockdown, the title is borrowed from Deborah Levy’s book The Cost of Living in which she describes the apartment building she lives in as ‘the corridors of love’.

“It’s a great book.

“She was living in an apartment complex in London, just kind of going home every day on her own to her daughter, and she was thinking about the other people that were living in the different apartments.

“You know even though you live in an apartment, you still feel kind of lonely?

“You’re surrounded by loads of people.

“She touched on that. She ended up calling this apartment complex ‘the corridors of love’, and I just kind of went with that.

“I thought it was beautiful title, a beautiful kind of idea.

So that’s the reason I called it The Corridors of Love.

“Like the housing problem in Ireland, I touched on that idea.

“You have people living in these shared accommodation, or living in apartments or whatever and we just don’t know what’s going on in these people’s lives.

“So the narrative of the album tried to address that a little bit.”

Robert played The Fiddler in February last year. Although there had been reports of a coronavirus wreaking havoc in China, we didn’t yet know how serious it would be for us here.

In fact, it seems like another world now in which Rob played to that room full of  care free people who were all enjoying the music.

Rob remembers: “We did the gig. We sold the place out, the place was fucking packed out and we had a savage show and afterwards it was like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to get you over here in this summer. You’ll have to come over’.

“There’s some festival that happens in Kilburn high road that the guy from the Fiddler plays a hand in.

“He said, ‘Come over, you can play this festival in August. This pandemic be will be over by then, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah’.

“And then the next day, went to France, to Paris, played a gig and then flew back to Ireland and literally two days later, it was like, ‘The world is shutting down’.”

Rob would have been planning on dropping his second album last year but his fans weren’t disappointed as he stayed busy and produced the EP A Whistle in the Dark early on in the crisis.

How has the last year been for him? “I’ve just been in the studio working most of the time basically. You can’t gig. So what can you do? Write and record and do those kinds of things, you know?

“At the start of the pandemic I was like, ‘Okay, I’m just gonna make a small EP just to get me through this period of time.

“So we recorded that track quarantine and I made this little EP, A Whistle in the Dark.

“Then I released that. Then I was like, ‘Okay, this is still going on. I gotta do something else’.

“So I made the album.”

Rob says it has been weird to release an album without the opportunity to perform it live but his fans got to see him face to face if they ordered his vinyl and lived in Dublin.

“You literally just send it out into the ether and then a load of people order your album.

“Then what I did with the vinyl in terms of Dublin and stuff was I delivered it myself because I was on the bike.

“I was just cycling around and I suppose it kind of made me feel like I was actually meeting the people that are interested in it, the simple thing of ringing the doorbell and delivering the album made the person feel there was a connection there.

“It’s weird because you’re not on a stage. You’re not there to put yourself across or to tell people what it’s about.

“They were just like, ‘Oh, you’re delivering it yourself?’

“I was like, ‘I only live down the road’. You know Dublin. You wouldn’t be able to do that in London.

“Dublin: With the bike, the city is your oyster as they say.”

What about those ordering from outside Dublin such as his native Meath? “They got it in the post. A few people from Brazil and a few people from Japan and stateside people bought the record. International enough people. They didn’t get the hand delivery service.”

The album was quite international in itself being recorded between Dublin, New York and Copenhagen.

“I was over in New York doing a gig in October 2019 and we ended up making a record in this guy’s studio in upstate New York.

“We recorded two tracks, and this track just kind of fitted the concept of the album, fitted the idea of the theme. The song’s called Public Taxes.

“So that was the one we did in New York.

“And then I recorded a lot of it at home.

“For anybody who makes music, generally, the cheapest way to do it is to make the thing at home and record it yourself.

“So I did a lot of it at home and moved houses in the interim.

“And then I kind of finished it in the studio and, and the guitar player in my band had been living in Copenhagen at the time and so he cut some of the guitar in Copenhagen.

“So it actually worked.

“The internet was my best friend. Put it that way.”

Rob told us before about how his debut album was made in the bits of time he got in the evening after putting his daughter to bed.

A baby or a pandemic, it seems Robert always has to work around something.

“You just make it whatever way you can. You need something to occupy your day. Some people climb mountains or run marathons, do you know what I mean? Some people follow Millwall.

“Music is the thing that I do.”

Robert has also been writing for television since John Carney (formerly of The Frames and director of films such as Once and Sing Street) asked him to write some songs for Amazon Prime’s Modern Love which stars Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Andy Garcia and more.

After having songs featured in the first series, Robert’s music is also featured on the recent second series.

“It’s great. Getting any kind of publicity like that is fantastic. It was great just to be featured on it.

“And it was great as well because all the songs that have been featured in season one, people end up discovering that again.

“It just keeps it going. There’s a long lasting benefit to being featured on a TV show.

“I was very happy and to be featured on that.”

Rob ironically can’t watch the show. Seeing his music on something like that feels a bit ‘close to the bone’.

“I definitely can’t watch it.

“I watched the episodes where my music isn’t featured.

“And then the ones where my music is featured, I kind of just glanced at. My missus watched them and I was like, ‘What’s it like? What’s it like?’

“It’s good. It’s very strange watching Anne Hathaway eat a bowl of muesli to your song.

“There was a track called Somebody to Love that features in the first one as well.

“There was a scene with Andrew Scott. I think he’s in a gay partnership or something like that and they’re trying to adopt a child.

“And there’s the same kind of thing, ‘This is just too weird, too close to the bone’.

“It’s kinda like watching through your fingers a little.

“I was happy with how it turned out.”

Robert’s Tightrope Walker features in the second series but Rob does jokingly confess to being disappointed it is not featured as strongly as his previous two.

“It’s played as two people are in a café. It was just playing underneath their talking.

“I got onto the director. I was like, ‘Come on, don’t even have them talking…’

“Actually, interestingly, the director was like, ‘We kind of buried your song in that scene’.

“And I was like, ‘Yeah, but it’s television. The music is totally secondary to what’s happening on the screen. Of course you did’.

“And I’m very grateful to John Carney. He’s always coming to me with ideas.

“He’s like, ‘Could you write a song for this?’

“I’m literally in the studio at the moment trying to write a song.

“He told me this concept that he has for this thing and I’m trying to write a song to go with that.

“I’m working on loads of different projects at the moment. So writing songs for other people is just a side of that.

“What else would you do? Those lads are still going to climb the mountains. Those fellas are still going to go to Millwall every Saturday. I may as well go in the studio and do my thing.

“Have you seen that Argentinean movie The Secret in their Eyes?

“It’s about a murder and the search for the killer.

“There’s just a quote that kind of resonated with me where they’re searching for the fella and they realize he follows a certain football team and they will go to the football match and try and spot the spot the guy.

“And someone kind of says, ‘How did you come up with this idea?’

“And he said, ‘Well, you can take anything away from a man. You can take away his house, his family, his job. The one thing you can’t take away is his passion’.

“And people will always just pursue their passion to the death. And that’s how I feel in relation to music.

“And I know a lot of artists, friends and painters and stuff who would say the exact same thing.”

The Corridors of Love is out now.

Robert John Ardiff plays The Fiddler in Kilburn on Thursday 4 November.

For more information, click here.

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