Clare People Andrew Hamilton May 2012
Séan Tyrrell has lived a full lifetime since he first began to work on ‘The Walker Of The Snow’ in 1998. Ahead of it’s release later this month, Andrew Hamilton speaks to the Bellharbour based musician about the politics of music, mortality, joy – and everything else that went into the making of his latest record.
After six years of hard slog, Séan Tyrrell finally hit the wall. The record that he had fought for, the album that neither sickness nor financial trouble could scupper was finally finished – except that it wasn’t.
More than any of his previous recordings, the journey to find ‘The Walker Of The Snow’ has been a challenging and often frustrating one for Tyrrell. Musically it all works – the songs were his song, the ones he loved the best from his lifetime of playing music. The problem, as it too often the case, was one of politics.
Séan wanted a song, the centerpiece of the album that he had already recorded in his head, but the person who owned the song was not willing to part with it. The result was three years of waiting and more waiting.
Until January of this year, when a final attempt to secure the song failed and the time came for Séan Tyrrell to draw a line under this song. The result was a rethink, and ultimately a rebirth for the record, which became something different, and in his opinion better, than what had been planned.
“That sapped a lot of energy from me. I could have got around the other things – the bad heath and the financial problems - but that situation [with the song] was difficult. Then about three months ago I made one last attempt to talk to him [the songs owner], but it was ridiculous and I said that was that,” said Séan.
“It could have been his retirement fund, it really could. It’s a great song, a really brilliant song. Everything about it was made for radio – it would have been the one that I would have been sending to radio stations. It’s a pity, the whole thing was a bit of a pity.”
Séan part funded the making of the ‘The Walker Of The Snow’ through the Fund It programme, which allows musicians to auction special ‘rewards’ to fans in return for pledges for sponsorship. As luck would have it, Séan’s dalliance with Fund It provided an unexpected creative inspiration to reinvent the album.
“This song had left a big gap, in my head anyway, on the album. So Colin and myself [Séan’s producer Colin Boland] got together to see how we would fill this gap. One of the rewards that I had promised through the Fund It programme was a five track EP that wouldn’t be released anywhere – an exclusive. When I began to record this EP I recorded the first one and I though, ‘hell, this should be on the album’,” Séan remembers.
“I ended up taking three of the songs started for the EP and including them on the album. Which changed everything. Another change was the song ‘Black Hole’ recorded many years ago at Windmill Lane in Dublin. That song was a reaction, at the time, to the difficulties in the 1980’s. I hadn’t forgotten the song, because I had written it, but it had gone from my mind.
“Until I was sitting in that chair over there [in his house in Bellharbour] and Colin put it on. I said to Colin, we have to put that one track on the album. The song was more important and more topical now than when I first wrote it – it had to be on this album.
“All of a sudden the album took on a different shape to what it had been, and I love it because of that.”
Like no previous album, ‘The Walker Of The Snow’ has deep connections to Séan’s own life.
“I lost my brother Liam in the last year and I also lost a great friend of my, Anthony ‘Skippy’ Reid from Lisdoonvarna. We had a night in the Royal Spa to remember him and in the course of that night, and thinking about that night, I began to think about this album and my life. There are an awful lot of connections to my life on this album. There are connections all the way along. It wasn’t planned that way – it was a bunch of happy accidents,” continued Séan.
“I think it [the idea of mortality] has had an impact on this record. They say, every night you go out, to play it like it was your last. I could walk outside the door and someone could roll over me with a truck that can always happen. When it came to choosing the sings for this record, there were songs that I wanted to be down there, I wanted them to be recorded, and I’m delighted that they are there.
“I’ve never put a song on an album that I don’t believe in. I can’t sing a song that I don’t believe in. These songs are there because they really do mean something to me. I have the highest of respect for all of the songs that are on this record.
“There is light and shade in this record. There are some comic pieces, some dark pieces, some instrumental – it is going to be interesting to see how people react to that. I suppose that remains to be seen.”