For almost as long as I can remember, Niall Jackson has been an integral part of the Irish music scene, which is odd, as he’s now been in London for several years, working with the BBC. As you’ll gather from the below interview, Jackson is one of those people who’s wonderfully hyperactive, relentlessly positive every time you meet him, and just seems to contribute a whole lot.
In the build-up to this interview, Niall gave me a sneak preview of his album under the name Swimmers Jackson, ‘Murmuration’ a debut solo effort that will be released shortly. I’m absolutely delighted to report it’s the best thing, in my opinion, he’s ever done, and I say that as a big fan of his band, Bouts.
‘Murmuration’ whimsically flits from very direct descriptions of the canal I live a few hundred metres from in south Dublin, to more abstract ruminations on life’s ups and downs that have this beautifully honest, subtle quality to them. I highly recommend you go and listen to it, when it appears. In the meantime, here’s what Niall had to say for himself…
First of all, congrats on the album. I understand it’s been a long time coming. Can you tell me a bit about the journey that bought you here?
The beginning of this album process was hearing Irish artist Winter Aid’s ‘Murmur of the Lands’ EP in 2017. This was a dude who had reviewed music I was involved with before (he ran the blog The Torture Garden back in the day). Anyway when I heard his EP I was really jealous, not only of the songs but also who produced this shit.
Turns out it was Darragh Nolan, who runs Asta Kalapa studios in Gorey Co. Wexford, so in March of 2017 I sent him an email that I loved the Winter Aid EP, and would love to do something like that myself someday. I didn’t know either of those dudes personally at the time, so when Darragh got back to me and started encouraging me to send him demos, well let’s skip the middle part, 3 years later here we are. The long engagement. Murmuration as an album name is a nod to Shane, AND the first album from the greatest band of all time, R.E.M.
The evolution of Swimmers seems to align a lot with your own personal circumstances, which I guess is very natural. Does that evolution feel like a key part of the record and your solo-feel?
God yes. This is an album written mostly alone, in my 30s, about my 30s. Trying to get it down and out before my 40s was the challenge. It is both personal and reflective, maybe overly so, but the listener can be the judge of that. I’m a little embarrassed about how personal it is as I’ve always been the guy in the back in bands, bass and backing vocals, but at the same time I know it’s genuine, and I think that is lacking in popular music today.
Is the album also a progression time-wise, with your songwriting?
Time always progresses, with or without us, but if you mean has my songwriting gotten better? I don’t know. I think its the best thing I’ve done personally, and I’ve definitely given it my best, but I’m also still getting to grips with being ‘the guy’ as opposed to one of many. I hold my Irish peers in very high regard, much higher than I would hold myself, so I just hope I’m not letting them down.