Dorset singer-songwriter Roo Panes – a man who grew up just down the road from yours truly, as it happens – has taken a route to professional musicianship that could only have come from the 21st Century. Having contacted Burberry about taking part in their Sessions – and to his own surprise, getting a call back – Roo found himself with an insta-audience. And deservedly so; there’s an effortless, unassuming charm mixed with a slight awkwardness to those early recordings.

Three EPs and a full length entitled ‘Little Giant’, released in August 2014, which showcases his 12-string guitar talents and penchant for a deep, heartwrenching tale amongst his melody. Roo, in short, is well worth a tear or three…

You meld classical and folk music in your style, with the classical aspect really kicking in with the backing instrumentation. How did that develop?

I have always loved the sound of stringed instruments, for me they generate an emotive musical landscape, and I’d always wondered what it’d be like to blend that aspect into my songs. It started mainly as a flavour, but gradually grew into more of a characteristic of the music to date. Sometimes I feel like strings arrangements can carry a melody of their own in a song as well as a vocal melody and that attracted me. Classical music has often been a go to for me, I’m not very knowledgeable about it, but I just like the nature of it. It interests me how classical music sets out to tell a story without words, and I thought that could be integrated into folk music nicely, which has a storytelling culture in a lyrical sense. When the group started to grow in number we always used to joke about growing an orchestra out of our friends, but I think it’s still a little way off from that.

Tell us about your album ‘Little Giant’ – how long did it take to put together, and how did NBC come to pick up the title track?

The main legwork of recording Little Giant was done in about a month I believe, but the songs themselves were all written at different stages. I did 3 EP’s prior, and a few of the tracks were chosen from them to work on. Mainly because it didn’t feel right to leave them behind, they’d played a part in getting me there in the first place! But some of the tracks were written very close to recording. I feel like I was still writing, “Tiger striped sky” almost up until I was sitting in the recording seat! Credit goes to my team for the NBC slot, I believe my publishing team brought that about.

You play a twelve string guitar, which it’s fair to say it not your typical instrument. What can you acheive with a twelve string that’s not possible on a normal guitar?

I had a sound in mind that I originally thought would be on a 6 string, but I couldn’t find it. Then I saw the 12 string standing in the corner of the guitar shop, gave it a go and it was exactly what I was looking for. At that time I was playing mainly solo acoustic gigs and wanted something with a bit of body that could fill the songs a little more. However I also needed something with delicate high end because I do a fair bit of picking in my songs. I think that’s its main strength, its sort of shy and bold at the same time.

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What do hairdressing and the Irish music scene have in common? If you’re aware of one of the coolest and most unlikely venues in the city, Rathmines-based Abner Browns, the answer will jump out at you. David Judge is a hairdresser by profession, but has found himself stuffing his salon with music memorabilia and turning it into a BYOB cultural hub that hosts some of the best acts in Ireland (it recently welcoming a small show from Duke Special, and Michael Stipe dropped in for a chat).

And that was all before his latest project – recently rebranded Canalaphonic from Canalapalooza, after a frankly outrageously hypocritical legal challenge from Castlepalooza – got underway. The festival will take place on canal barges and around Rathmines, and has already announced acts like The Hot Sprockets and Gavin Glass. David, in short, knows what he’s talking about. So here he is on his own heartlands, and Irish music in general:

Abner Browns is an unusual combination to say the least. How did such a venue come about, and how do the businesses compliment each other?

Well first of all it’s only one business, cutting hair is what i do for a living and what puts food on my kids table , the music is for me at the moment anyway. It’s just something I love doing, though its kind of taking over my life as I seem to have created a monster! But each does complement the other, the shop is a bit of a music museum, vintage guitars, gramophones, vinyl etc on the walls, so the music at night fits in nicely. The music and gigs have been great for the business and has increased our customer base in a huge way. This was never the intention, it started off with a guy playing some songs on the couch on a busy Saturday and has grown organically from that. But as a marketing tool it has been fantastic, we couldn’t buy the publicity we get .

What’s your vision for Abner Browns?

I don’t really have a ‘vision’ as such, the thing has become extremely popular and we seem to be known all over Ireland as well as getting mails from abroad. We’ve featured in inflight magazines and been filmed by Spanish TV.We’re part of the Dublin Now project which is basically the 100 coolest things in Dublin.The ‘brand’ and our name has grown and people want to involve us in stuff like the new Canalaphonic festival and some other festivals coming up in the summer. I’m promoting a couple of gigs and also managing Sinead White, one of the GoldenPlec’s 2015 picks, so who knows whats next ! I’ve a background in business and marketing before this so i do approach things in a slightly different way to some in the music industry.

Love-able music blogger BarryGruff, has released a five year anniversary compilation entitled ‘Barrywuff’ for a ‘name your price’ download over on Bandcamp. Having been writing out of Ireland for years (he’s now in Canada), the highly-readable scribbler deals a few top Irish acts, with tracks from SertOne and Oh Boland that are well worth a listen. The […]

VannMusic have just released their latest EP Running, which quickly found its way to the top end of the Irish charts, including a number one ‘physical single’ in Boy (you can get hold of the new releases through their site, here). The Dublin-based rockers have been slowly inserting themselves into the upper echelons of the […]

Enter Metropolis are the rarest of things these days: not only a German band singing in English, but a German band singing in English successfully enough to tour in Ireland. With the German scene having returned to its linguistic roots, the indie rockers from the west are looking at the bigger picture, looking to make waves in […]

This month’s Music Alliance Pact is out just in time for Paddy’s Day, which means the Irish act deserves particular attention, right? He doesn’t need flimsy reasoning, to be fair: Bobby Aherne’s ‘No Monster Club’ get better song by song, and ‘I’ve Retired’ – featured here – is my favourite track so far. Dripping with […]


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