Interview: Myles O'Reilly
Renowned Irish film maker and documentarian Myles O'Reilly will be taking over The Duncairn for the final weekend of January to curate and document three packed days of music from emerging and under the radar Irish musicians.
The Myles Does Fifty weekend, “is just a live representation of what I like doing which is presenting emerging artists,” O’Reilly told The Duncairn about his plans for the weekend. “And I can think of no better place to do it than Belfast … In my history as a musician I always thought that there was never really a platform for musicians to be seen or heard,” he continued, recalling his days as frontman for the folk-pop band Juno Falls. “I guess that a lot of very talented musicians just come and go and give up. And I guess that maybe in some small way I was one of those musicians too. So, there’s a driving force behind everything I do - to shine a light on, and magnify the craft of, some really beautiful emerging musicians who wouldn't otherwise promote themselves.”
“I'm trying to bring music into people's living rooms,” he continued, explaining the ethos behind his work. “I guess I’m trying to magnify reality in a way so that when someone is watching my films they feel they’re really immersed in the reality of it, there’s no fakeness.”
You can view O’Reilly’s work on two different sites. His own Myles O’Reilly’'s, Arbutus Yarns, and also This Ain’t No Disco- an Irish alternative music program hosted by DJ and visual artist Donal Dineen and directed by O’Reilly. Check the links and see the plethora of talent he has documented from Glen Hansardto Villagers, as well as Duncairn favourites Lisa Hannigan, David Keenan, Lemoncello, Mick Flannery, and many more.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I know that it’s The Duncairn’s 5th anniversary, but for me personally it will be my 10th. So, it's just nice to throw a party up there, which is the attractive part.”
However, as a friend of The Duncairn he also has an ulterior motive. “I want to bring attention the fact that The Duncairn exists, and to all the musicians like Rhob Cunningham and Sive who should be going up and playing in Belfast.”
“I think to make a film of the weekend is a great way to highlight the fact that you’re up there, that arms are open - you know? You always take such great care with the artists that play there, and that the line of communication is there, which is very important. And I guess my objective is to make a film to put that on display for the rest, for everyone in Ireland.”
So why did he select these particular artists to appear at the special Myles Does Fifty weekend? “Rhob Cunningham for one has been playing for 10 years. He's had such amazing breaks with support slots, but he never thinks in terms of … ‘how will I get a song played on the radio? Or who do I need to impress?’ He's allergic to all that. His music is adorable. He was one of the first that I started filming ages ago, just to give him this extra dimension that will allow others to see him without him ever having to compromise whatever it was that was stopping him from selling himself I guess.”
“And I think it's not just Rhob,” he adds, thinking through the list of musicians he has worked with. “If you go to my siteand if you were to really delve deep into it you’ll see that, I would say at least 50% of the musicians there are emerging and kind of would be of that same ilk. They don't want to compromise what they’re doing to find a route through the industry or compromise their creative energy to try and succeed. It's a funny one too because Ireland has way too many musicians that are brilliant for a [music] industry that’s really small. So, I guess there are only a few who fit into the holes.”
“Rhob and Sive in particular are two artists I’ve worked with in the past who don't get a lot of breaks and who are brilliant. They both hate this kind of self-promoting. They’re serious working musicians as well. They do the cover gigs, and they travel a lot, and they work with music but not necessarily their own music. They’re so capable of being superstars and I guess I want to highlight that. There are so many others like them, but they are two perfect examples of artists who don't get the breaks they deserve.”
“JPTrio are wonderful. They’re part of the band Moxie, and their frontman [Ted Kelly] I admire so much for his banjo playing. That used to be an instrument that I couldn't stand - it's kind of loud and abrasive and it cuts through rooms. Maybe it’s good that it cuts through a room in certain environments, but for closed settings, for small little rooms where there are other instruments having to compete with the banjo, it's always kind of chaos. The first time I heard a banjo being played so delicately, and so proficiently, [Ted Kelly] is an unbelievable banjo player. The feel that he puts into it. He plays with his brother [Jos Kelly] and a drummer [Paul Leonard] and it’s really great to see him taking the centre stage because I feel there's a big future for him as a front man as well.”
Of course, it’s not just musicians who are appearing at the Myles Does Fifty weekend that he has worked with. There are too many to mention, and the walk that he had started as we chatted on the phone, Belfast to Dublin, was coming to an end, (“I just walked back home, I must have walked about 6 km.”) but he had time to mention two who are appearing in The Duncairn’s new programme.
The young Irish songwriter David Keenan is returning to The Duncairn on Saturday 5thJanuary, and O’Reilly finds him fascinating. “When we first met it was at a function where Damien Dempsey, Ronan O Snodaigh, Liam Ó Maonlaí, and Declan O'Rourke were there. David was supporting them all. He was a young fella and he said to me, ‘this is one of the greatest moments of my life.’ I asked, ‘why’s that?’ and he goes, ‘they're all here.’ And what struck me about that when I decided to stop playing music and make videos, I wrote myself a list and on the list was Damien Dempsey, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Ronan O Snodaigh, and Declan O'Rourke. And here I was looking at this 20-something year old lad telling me that all these elders, as he calls them, where his influences. So, I mean, that blew my mind. But I think he has the energy like they all have. It's like he’s watched and listened and understands what they do. It's just so great to see somebody with his youth and vigour doing what the elders are doing, and that he’ll continue … Folk music at the moment is having this resurgence because we’re constantly bombarded with awful commercial s**t, so to have a young fella like David performing at a time when it’s about to explode again - it's a lovely thing.
Anna Mieke will be returning to The Duncairn on 25th May, this time with Amy May Ellis, and Meike stands out to Myles O’Reilly. “I think she is on a par with Joni Mitchell,” he told me. I asked him to repeat that, just to make sure. “In terms of her song writing capabilities, which I would never have been able to say about anybody in Ireland, especially anyone so young,” he continued. “I've watched her, it’s incredible. Like four years ago she couldn't play the guitar and now she’s a virtuoso. She just picked it up three four ago. I was at a session in Stoneybatter and the Ye Vagabonds lads were there … She was there for the set and she picked up the guitar and she knew like three chords, but she had already written a song to them. She's an impressive individual, and I would say the same for David Keenan, and Laura Quirke (of Lemoncello: “She’s so inspired by the elders as well the masters. She's so young, it's great to see her develop). I could count them all on two hands, there’s a great little troop of young ones who would do Joni Mitchell proud.”
Each of the events programmed for the special Myles Does Fifty weekend will be in the format of The Duncan’s Fifty evenings of music and discussion, suitable for a wide range of creativity, from spoken word to live music, visual art, photography, and whatever else occurs. Recreating an intimate atmosphere where we welcome people with a glass of wine and some food, (symbolic of communities breaking bread and creating a bond) we create space for people to join in discussion on issues that impact on us all.
Check out Myles O’Reilly’s Arbutus Yarnsand consider a subscription to help allow O’Reilly to continue dedicating so much time and resource to creating music video and film of this quality. “What I'd be asking people on my website is if you like the work maybe you would consider subscribing. And what that means is €3, or every time I put out a video you give €3. That's the price of a half-pint. Every time I put out a video you buy me a drink basically.”