independent

Monday 25 March 2019

Lip-syncing to his own life story

Brendan Keane meets Mick Egan, the subject of a new two-hour documentary film, who chats about a musical journey which first took flight with a demo recording at Cooleycall studios in Bridgetown in 1985.

Mick Egan, right, with Wexford filmmaker Philip Cullen whose ‘Lip-syncing To My Own Life: The Mick Egan Story’ will premiered at the Riverbank House Hotel on Friday March 8
Mick Egan, right, with Wexford filmmaker Philip Cullen whose ‘Lip-syncing To My Own Life: The Mick Egan Story’ will premiered at the Riverbank House Hotel on Friday March 8
Mick Egan, on left, performing on stage with JMA
Mick Egan in his younger days

When the history of Wexford music is finally written a number of artists will feature prominently on the list of outstanding performers the county has produced and among them the name Mick Egan will stand out.

Synonymous with the local music scene since his tentative first steps into the world of rock as a member of Trupenny Opera, the down-to-earth singer-songwriter is now the feature of a full length music documentary that will get its première in the Riverbank House Hotel on Friday, March 8, at 8.30 p.m.

While the focus of 'Lip-syncing to my own life: the Mick Egan story', will obviously place attention on the role Egan has played in the Wexford scene it will also represent a labour of love for filmmaker, Philip Bertrand Cullen.

The première, under the banner 'the filmmaker and the songwriter', will feature a screening of the two-hour film in addition to live performances from the likes of Frankenstein Bolts and Stagefright.

This newspaper caught up with Egan to get his views on the film and what it means to him to be highlighted in such a way.

'I know it's based around me and my story as such but I think it's really about Wexford music,' he said.

'There are a lot of people interviewed in it and it really does tell my story and my involvement with music as it goes right back to the very beginning,' he added.

The idea for the film was first muted about six years ago: 'I was playing at a charity gig in the Riverbank Hotel about six years ago and Philip put the idea to me that night; that was where he asked me could he do it.'

'For me it's more like a film about the Wexford music scene and it centres on Mick Egan,' he added.

'I think Philip interviewed most of the people involved in music in Wexford and the likes of Pierce Turner and Billy Roche are featured in it.'

From humble beginnings as a solo singer-songwriter and then as frontman with Enniscorthy's finest, Trupenny Opera, and now as the principal songwriter in JMA, Mick Egan's musical journey has seen him work with some of the finest musicians, songwriters and composers in Wexford.

With JMA, alongside long-time collaborators, James and Anne Meyler, and Keith Devereux and Mick O'Brien, Egan has recorded three brilliant albums to-date and added to his own back catalogue of 13 solo albums his important contribution to the original music story of Wexford cannot be overstated.

He is also renowned as a studio engineer and in that capacity has worked with just about everyone on the contemporary Wexford music scene.

Now well into his fourth decade at the heart of Irish music his insatiable appetite for creativity hasn't waned.

'I don't think I could give it up even if I wanted to,' he said.

'It's part of who I am, the same as it is for anyone involved in original music,' he added.

James and Anne Meyler are interviewed in the film, as are people like Paula Cox, Peter Murphy, Denis Collins and Justin Cullen, and one of the things that Egan said he finds striking about the documentary is the quality of the cinematography and he gives full credit for that to filmmaker Philip Bertrand Cullen.

'It looks really good and I was very impressed when I saw it,' he said.

'It's a bit surreal because it really is a very good quality film and we hope it will get to something like netflix but it will be available on DVD locally and on the night of the launch,' he added.

'It goes right back to the '80s and it highlights my own influences; it's very accurate and really does tell it like it is.'

Egan is very eager to point out that the film is far more than just a documentary about him.

'This is also a representation of what Philip can do as a filmmaker and it's representative of me as well as 'the songwriter', he said.

The soundtrack features original Mick Egan songs but it was Cullen who chose them.

'The soundtrack features my songs too but it was Philip who decided what he wanted on there.'

Egan feels the film is something Cullen was destined to do and if it wasn't about him it would just be about someone else.

'I think if it wasn't about me it wouldn't have made a difference because I think it would still have been made,' he said.

'I was reluctant at first but then I thought about it and said why not but I think Philip would have made a music documentary anyway even if it wasn't about me,' he added.

'It's about music and my part in that story.'

Mick Egan is one of the most humble songwriters one could meet and that's perhaps best highlighted by his reaction to the comments said about him in the film: 'Lots of lies have been told because people have been extremely generous to me with their comments.'

Following the screening there will be a questions and answers session with the filmmaker and songwriter and that in itself promises to be an intriguing part of the night.

With a new JMA album recently launched and the film première around the corner Egan is keen now to get working on his next solo album which we can reveal will be released before the end of the year.

He admitted that for him music is ever evolving and his songs formulate themselves and take their own path.

From his first 10-track demo, recorded in Cooleycall studios near Bridgetown in 1985, to the latest JMA album the songs of Mick Egan have embraced the last four decades of Wexford music.

Maybe it was always meant to be that his musical journey would one day be documented in this way but nobody involved in the original Wexford music scene would argue that the Mick Egan story is one that deserves to be told on film and in the hands of Philip Bertrand Cullen it's been conveyed in exemplary fashion.

The premiere will be a celebration, not just of a great songwriter, but of a county steeped in music and while the screening will take place at 8.30 p.m. sharp the doors will open at 7.15 p.m. Tickets are now available from the hotel, Golden Discs and the Red Kettle Cafe.

Gorey Guardian

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