GOT SEEN, GOT HEARD
Mary Fogarty meets up with musician Padraig Rushe as he prepares to inject some soul into this year's Summerfest
SOUL SINGER Padraig Rushe cut his teeth on music as a child growing up in the States. He left America at the age of 10 with his parents Padraig and Marian and his brothers and sisters to start a new life in Bray, but never forgot his genre-traversing musical beginnings.
Born in Kildare, Padraig and the Rushe family, including Jen, Rob, MaryRose and Carl, went to Chicago when he was just two years old. They went from there to New York before their return to Ireland and a home at the foot of Bray Head.
The 26-year-old is now managing his record label and has released his debut album, Greyworld, which he financed with his own hard-earned cash. He gained performance experience that was second-to-none with the Dublin Gospel Choir and is now presenting his own work to the world.
For those of you who love a bit of 'gospelising' by the way, there is an incredible recording of Rushe singing Jackie Wilson's uplifting 'Higher and Higher', with the choir on Youtube – recorded at three in the morning according to the video blurb.
'There was a wide gambit of music in the States,' said the self-assured, wellspoken young man with a pleasantly calm demeanour. 'I started off listening to anything from Motown to folk and country to rock, my brothers and sisters were listening to a lot of music – my brother was in to Guns n Roses at the time!' We agreed that, indeed, everybody's brother was listening to Axl and Co. in the '90s.
Also in America, there are radio stations dedicated to particular types of music – soul being the obvious example touted by Rushe – whereas here the best one can expect is a 'soul hour,' or something vaguely off the beaten track on an arts and culture show.
'If I could describe my work in three words I'd say – folk, soul, rock. Um – alternative!' he told MTV last year when he became the only Irish artist to earn a place on Get Seen Get Heard: The Contenders, following voting from 200,000 people across the UK and Ireland.
Educated in St. Anne's Shankill and secondary school in Glasthule, the Bray youngster was in Bray Junior Musical Society as well as the National Children's Choir. Singing and songwriting had come as naturally to him as breathing. In his teens he moved on from choirs to a number of bands and in college the Gospel Choir, and the notion that he would eventually make a living out of music was cemented. At one point he was in a traditional Irish band singing as Gaeilge – his parents having duly dispatched him to the Gaeltacht to pick up a cupla focail on their return to Ireland. He bought his first guitar at the age of 14. 'It was £200 and it was red,' he said. 'I had been writing songs and recording my singing on tapes and needed to be able to accompany myself.' The red guitar has stood the test of time and is still in good working order.
He made an interesting deal with his older brother. Rob had sold his own guitar so said that if Padraig bought one, he would teach him how to play it. As we all know the promise of a teenage brother is worth nothing! The lessons were not forthcoming but Padraig taught himself how to play and a songwriter was born.
As it turned out, Rob and Padraig later worked together along with their other brother Carl and brother-in-law Chris – all of whom played instruments on Greyworld. 'It was nice to work with family on the first album. For one thing you can talk to your brothers and sisters in a way you would never speak to anyone else!'
The recording of the album last year followed a lengthy apprenticeship with the Dublin Gospel Choir. He joined intending to stay for a year and ended up staying for six. He eventually left his job and began the task of committing his body of work to history at Sun Studios with the expert help of producer Pat Donne who had previously worked with Paddy Casey. Rushe had sang backing vocals with Casey in the past and gave Pat a demo of 20 or 30 songs before their partnership began.
His 'break' in meeting the producer came after eight gruelling years of rehearsing, writing music, gigging, and singing backing vocals. 'I wouldn't have written the album I wrote without those eight years,' he said.
Some of his former gospel choir colleagues will join him on stage at Summerfest this year for his bandstand gig on Thursday July 16 at 8.15 p.m. He is looking forward to bringing the full band to the iconic home-town venue.
The driven musician is hard-headed when it comes to being told he can't do something and, like learning Irish in his childhood, likes to perfect anything to which he turns his hand. He is selfmanaged and prefers it that way. 'At least if something goes wrong I can only blame myself,' he said.
From a whimsical youth spent recording his own radio shows on a tape recorder, Rushe has developed a strong style and a work ethic that is a credit to him. 'I'm gonna be a singer,' he said to his long-suffering family when he was a boy and crooning every minute of the day. 'An athlete wouldn't be told to stop training!'
Padraig's debut album Greyworld is available on itunes and in record shops as is his latest single New House Rising. For more information go to www.padraigrushe.com.