independent

Sunday 20 August 2017

The perfect partnership

Jessica Farry

When the Hawk's Well Theatre announced that it would be launching a renovation fund to help with the costs of giving the theatre a much needed facelift, many local artists were keen to help out in whatever way they could.

One of those artists was singer and songwriter Kieran Quinn. As a well known face around Sligo, he is well placed to organise events that will help the theatre towards its fundraising goal. With that, he is currently enjoying his residency with the Hawk's Well Theatre, which links nicely with his plans to help the theatre fundraise.

Before that, Quinn has organised a special once-off songwriters event at the theatre this Saturday, July 15th.

Hosted and chaired by Quinn and Charlie McGettigan, the event brings together some of Sligo's best songwriters for a night of songs and stories.

"We have seven other Sligo songwriters coming in to join us on stage, who will do two songs each. That's Seamie O'Dowd, Gerry Grennan, Sarah Crummy, Jessie Whitehead and three lads from the bad The Oddsocks, all who write songs themselves - Luke Mercer, Anthony Mannion and Michael Conefrey, drummer Eddie Lee and Steve Coleman will be there to augment the songs," explained Quinn. "Everyone will do two songs each on the night, we'll have a chat in between songs about what inspired them to write the song or what process they used - whatever strikes myself and Charlie as the night goes on."

The process of song-writing is different for everyone, as Kieran himself will tell you. But for him, the process is different every time.

"It's very organic. It's never the same twice. I've tried it both ways to write the melody first and then add the lyrics and writing the lyrics first and then adding the melody and both work sometimes and both don't work sometimes, I don't really have a set method. It depends on what comes to you. Yesterday I was working with Charlie and we were getting ready for the show there was one point in the afternoon where I played a couple of chords on the piano and he latched on to it and we came up with a melody and he'll go away and put lyrics to it. Another one is where you sit down with an idea in your head and you just try and flesh it out. It's like brainstorming. You try and structure it then."

Sometimes, he will listen to the radio or read a newspaper and be struck by a line that can inspire the title or chorus of a song. Kieran says he draws inspiration largely from personal stories or events.

"Personal stuff often creates the strongest songs, but not everything has to be really deep and meaningful - the audience would be bored. Inspiration can be things that happen to you or a story you hear from a friend. Or a line on radio or a newspaper."

He is hugely grateful that he has been given a residency at the Hawk's Well Theatre.

"Generally the way my year is structured, the school year is really busy, I teach so that's the best time to put on gigs or to tour. Theatre season is more the autumn, winter and spring. The summer is a bit quieter and the residency has enabled me to have the time to sit down and know that 'right this week I'm concentrating on song-writing'. It's great to be able to relax and not worry about booking the next gig. I've bought books on it, I've read them, I've tried to do as much of it as I can, I've reached out to other songwriters.

The Hawk's Well has hosted a huge number of Kieran Quinn gigs over the years, and this is a partnership that works both ways.

"The last few years I've done a lot of work here, it's a lovely place to play. That's the main thing. It's a lovely environment. There's a great team here and they make it easy for you to prepare and put on shows and promote them. It's a good partnership at the minute - I bring stuff to them and they bring stuff to me."

And with that, he came up with the idea for 'Our Place' - Six Songs for Sligo.

Each month for the next six months, he will release a newly composed song, starting at the end of July.

Kieran will be joined by a well known local artist to perform the song live at a Sligo business. Proceeds will go towards the theatre's renovation fund.

"I've a few songs written. These songs will later in the year be put on to an EP, we'll have a launch night in November too," he explained.

"We're asking local businesses to sponsor the video so we're looking for businesses to sponsor the filming of the video which will be filmed on their premises. We've two confirmed - Knox and Connolly's which is brilliant."

Given the fact that the theatre has become somewhat of a second home to him in recent years, Kieran says he was only happy to help.

"They've been very kind to me over the years in many years, I guess it's nice to give back sometimes. It's a worthy cause, it's a huge addition to our community, they're making efforts to reach out to all areas of the community.

"The idea just struck me a few weeks ago, it ticks a couple of boxes, it enables me to release my songs and it raises money for a worthy cause."

Jane Parsons, Hawk's Well Theatre, says they are encouraging businesses to get in touch about filming videos on their premises.

"It's a huge benefit to the businesses as well, to have musicians on their premises wherever that might be, we're open to all suggestions - the crazier the better. It could be during office hours, before or after, invited guests, whatever. It'll promote the business, and we'll promote it online. We have a professional team of videographers and photographers. Kieran's videos get great traction online, people love them, with our promotion, with Kieran's promotion, and the businesses promotion we can get that.

"It's wonderful that Kieran came to us with this idea. We're always trying to think of ideas to get the theatre out to the community. The theatre is about the community. To be able to get out there is a lovely way of doing that."

Kieran added: "There's all these people who want to give up their time to make this project happen and the vast majority are giving it for nothing which is a sign of their respect for the Hawk's Well.

Tickets for Songwriters' Circle cost €20, and €10 for under 18s and are available from the box office on 071-9161518 or www.hawkswell.com.

For more on 'Our Place', contact Jane Parsons on 071-9161518 or jane@hawkswell.com.

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