Having just released his ninth album, ‘After the Harvest’, we caught up with Derry’s very own Paul Casey to talk about all things music including touring with Chris Rea, the current state of the local scene and the influences for his new album.
How long have you been on the music scene now?
I’ve been writing and recording now for around 20 years, having played in a number of cover bands around the town.
And around then, I grew up listening to the music of Chris Rea and Clapton, but I actually ended up working with Chris Rea when I was quite young, and toured with him for about 13 years and that opened up a lot of doors for me.
How did you manage to get involved with Chris Rea?
I was able to get a demo to Chris, and he loved it. This gave me the confidence to do more and more, and he encouraged me to do more too. We recorded an album together and it started from there.
I actually gave Gerry Anderson some of my music and he was a massive champion of what I was doing. He was one of the biggest influences that I had, and having someone like Gerry in your home town who was the biggest radio presenter in Northern Ireland, loving your stuff and encouraging you to do more… this opened so many doors for me.
To have the platform of Gerry’s show across Radio Ulster for me, for Bronagh Gallagher, for Eoin O’Callaghan for all these people, we are in so much debt to Gerry Anderson, it’s incredible.
How have you seen the local music scene progress since you first started out?
There’s so much good music now around the town. Way back when I started out, I was using a great recording studio in Donegal but I was writing so much and had so many ideas that it was costing me a fortune to record them all. I ended up getting myself some recording gear and started to record at home and it’s grown from there.
But I think that you can see that with bands in the town, everybody’s recording at home because the technology’s there, and I think that’s a factor why there is so much good music out there.
The facilities are great these days, I remember when I was in the college, I said to my music teacher “I want to play the guitar” and he told me I couldn’t. It was either flute, piano or violin, so I ended up dropping out of music, which was a shame.
But that’s changed. I’ve done a few song writing workshops in schools, and they’ve got everything, drum kits, recording, logic, guitar amps. So it’s totally changed and brilliant to see.
So what about the Homegrown concert, will it be a yearly event?
Well we’re going to do it in January again and keep building it, maybe change a few wee things every year.
We started it during Culture year and it has now run for three years, and the fact that it was so supported within the town was incredible, we nearly had the Forum filled with people out to support their own, and I think that’s brilliant about Derry.
How did you manage to tap into the TV show market?
I look after a lot of marketing and I’ve worked out a way of getting my songs to music supervisors.
It’s a wee cottage industry and I do some work with a producer in America. But there was a show on ABC called ‘The Neighbors’, and the theme of the show was that the boy and girl had broke up, but they were still in love with each other and had got back together. I sent her my song called ‘Still in love with you’ and she loved it and emailed me straight back saying, “I want this song for the show.” So it’s about timing too.
If you could go back in time and give some advice to the young Paul Casey starting out on his musical journey, what would it be?
The best bit of advice I ever got was from Liam Bradley who plays drums with me, and is one of the best drummers in Ireland, but his advice was ‘be a nice guy’… if you can be a nice guy and be able to work with people, you’ll always be busy.
You played with the Ulster Orchestra in the Guildhall last year, what was that like?
It was incredible. The day before the gig there was a rehearsal where I ran through my two songs with them. I landed, got up, “you ready?” “yeah, I’m ready,” so they went through the first song… incredible “happy with that?...okay, next song” bang.
My dad was actually sitting there listening to me, in this big church in Belfast, and I went up and asked him “what was it like?” and he was sitting there nearly crying. It was amazing.
So between the rehearsal, the sound check and then the gig, it was over that fast, to just have those six songs with them was incredible. Each time was as good as the last.
So talk us through the new album?
There’s a lot more guitar in this album, the last album I tried to make it sound like a soundtrack, but JJ Cale is a big influence of mine and other American guitar players. So there’s a lot of that influence there.
Music is great but sometimes you can lose track of what you do. The first song is called ‘Hold On’ and is about that. It’s about falling out of love for music and is split into three parts and progresses like a journey, starting in a minor key, into a gospel section and comes out the other end in a major key, upbeat tempo.
Where did the title for the new album come from?
I had no idea what I was calling the new album, but my cousin is a great photographer who has done the art work for the last couple of albums, so I told him what I was doing and he sent me some photographs.
He had a photo of a tree down by Redcastle and it was called ‘After the Harvest’ and I thought “that’s it” and it tied the album together.
You can catch Paul Casey at the Playhouse on Saturday, 06 June for an evening of acoustic music featuring songs old and new with Karen Porter on Cello and Martin Barr on guitar. Tickets priced at £10 and available via the Playhouse website or Box Office.