A poet turned musician – or, perhaps, the opposite, Christian Wethered is a delicate, slow-burning artist who explores life through his lens, with subtle songwriting and poetic lyrics.
Referencing the likes of Villagers and Fionn Regan, his music feels routed in the more inventive end of Irish indie-guitar pop, despite his English origins.
The Dublin-based songwriter carries with him influences from time in France and a distinctly personal feel, despite his numerous successful collaborations over the years, including with Loah and the Trinity Orchestra. I caught up with him around the release of ‘Mr Medicine Man’.
Your latest single passes comment on society’s reliance on medicines. Can you talk me through that – do think we’ve lost our way?
I think the song is ambivalent about antidepressants etc, and there are pros and cons either way. Clearly we ought to be wary of the underlying institutions behind medicines, but I’m not sure we’ve lost our way.
At the risk of getting away from the music, it’s hard not to see society as being totally changed by what’s going on right now. How does the song feel in that context?
It’s a very uncertain time. The song clearly wasn’t written about the Coronavirus, though it’s interesting to see how isolation has flagged up the issue of depression.
Chatting about music like this can sometimes feel ludicrous, though I also think we need to keep going. We need to continue to support each other.
Is there a lot of social commentary in the rest of your music?
Not really. Actually, ‘The Rat’ is aimed at political greed in general, but I haven’t even recorded it yet.
What’s the story behind that stark cover sketch?
Eugene Korolkov (black_griffel on Instagram) was the illustrator; he also did the logo for Roseanne Lynch’s incredible play ‘Zandra Queen of Jazz’. I wanted something raw, like a Goya sketch; so he drew the old man.
You see to be very much a storytelling, lyric type of guy. Is there a lot of crossover between your poetry and your music?
Yeah I think so. I love guys like Bill Callahan, Gil Scott Heron, Laurie Anderson. In Ireland, I love what Fionn Regan has done; and Adrien Crowley too. ‘Page’ poetry is maybe a different thing; it’s weird, more elliptical. I should be releasing my next poetry book in the next couple of years.
Given the mix of activities, is it fair to say you’re just a broadly creative person? In what other ways does this come out?
Ha but they’re the only things I can do! I sleep a lot; I still take five naps a day. Things I’m bad at: concentrating for longer than two minutes, reading long sentences, lifting heavy things.
How do your songs come together, typically?
Music before lyrics! Would be cool to try the other way.
With the single out, what else is coming down the line this year – are there bigger releases planned?
‘Way Back’, which is the next single, sounds like Villagers or Fionn Regan, and will also feature Cillian Byrne (Basciville) on piano. The EP, ‘Mon Petit Jardin’, takes place in France: its punky French influences (Gainsbourg, Dutronc) come from when I was teaching and living in Lille. It was tough to finish, as I’ve had Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) for the last five years. Some of it takes from Lou Reed, Bill Callahan, Tom Waits, Piero Ciampo. But also more contemporary people, like London Grammar, James Blake, Thom Yorke.
You’ve done quite a wide range of collaborations over the last few years. Is that something you’re keen to bring into your own work?
You mean bands? I’ve never been a great instrumentalist! I still have my double bass, but haven’t gigged in ages. I really miss being in a band; the bond is so strong. I’ve asked some of the Discovery Gospel Choir to sing backing vocals for me on the next EP.
What’s been your favourite musical moment so far?
Mr Medicine Man!
What are your plans for the future?
No plans as such.