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A catch for the early bird

There was no plan. No grand scheme or ticking clock. Just a wide-eyed music maker locked away in a house outside of Drogheda. Five months later, James Vincent McMorrow emerged with an album. And boy, did it take off.

Yet, McMorrow is anything but an overnight sensation. The 28-year-old Malahide-raised musician released his debut album, Early in the Morning, in February 2010, and still it continues to grow, taking everyone's favourite new singer-songwriter and his magnificent tunes around the world.

Earlier this year, the record was nominated for the Choice Music Prize, and just before the summer, McMorrow was invited to perform on Later . . . with Jools Holland. But it all goes back further than that.

In fact, there was a time when the bearded troubadour moved to London; his early demos having ended up in the hands of some very influential heads at EMI. A publishing deal followed and McMorrow was on his way up.


"That was the first moment in my life where I sort of stopped working," he recalls. "I thought that signing a deal sort of meant something and that the rest would happen almost inevitably, so I took my foot off the gas a little.

"I'd pop in and out of the studio and demo some songs but I wasn't writing, and at the end of the year, I moved back feeling quite despondent about it all."

Indeed, McMorrow realised that it would take a lot more than his signature on a piece of paper to ensure he produced the album he'd always wanted to make.

"If something was going to happen," he says, "it was going to have to go back to how it was -- making music in my house just for the love of it."

And so came the move to Co Louth, where he would spend the next few months writing and recording by the sea. It's little wonder that critics would later compare McMorrow to Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, the American musician who retreated to a cabin in the woods for the sake of his art.

"I couldn't separate the record from how it was made," says McMorrow. "I really like that [Bon Iver] record but I didn't realise how he made it and then think 'I'm gonna do that'. People make records by themselves everyday," he laughs.

Early in the Morning was released to very little fanfare. After all, nobody knew who James Vincent McMorrow was.

"I wanted it to do well," he nods. "The things that are happening now are the things that I had hoped for. But to expect those things to happen, I think, is really folly. I was just taking it day-to-day and hoping that if I kept working at it, that something would click."


McMorrow still gets excited when large crowds gather to see him do his thing. It's the voice that many have fallen in love with (as on the haunting Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree; an alarming blend of beguiling falsetto and gentle acoustic strumming).

"I don't walk around town with my chest out thinking I'm something special," he explains. "I guess I realised that I had a voice that was different or interesting to people.

"It was at that point that I spent a little bit more time learning about my voice and how it works."

Album number two is currently a work-in-progress. No slowing down for this lad, then. "Not in the slightest," he laughs, "it's just getting busier." Glad to hear it.

James Vincent McMorrow is live at the Olympia Theatre, tonight