Graduating from a role as a session and stage guitarist to an acclaimed songwriter, Richey McCourt’s career in music has gone ‘behind the scenes’, but the route the Blanchardstown musician has been able to take, in part from his own home, has opened plenty of impressive doors.
There’s a distinct difference between performing music and writing it for someone else, and McCourt’s journey has been very much about collaboration, working with record labels and high-profile acts to develop songs, style and direction.
“I started as many do, in guitar bands, and not always in a songwriter role,” he tells us. “During this time I was studying sound engineering, which is where my love of production started. After a few failed bands, and a realisation that it wasn’t the career path for me, I worked in Ireland as a session player with artists when they came in for promo – artists like Olly Murs, Shane Filan, Rebecca Ferguson and more. Throughout this time, I really focused on honing my craft as a songwriter. And that really started to come to fruition about five or six years ago.”
There have been plenty of steps on that journey, but some stand out, not least collaborating with some of the UK’s biggest acts.
“Landing a song on a UK Number 1 album, Will Young’s ‘85% Proof’ [Richey was involved in writing the track ‘I Don’t Need A Lover’], helped open a lot of doors. Working with major labels such as SYCO, RCA, Island Records – you’re dealing with really talented A&R teams, and it’s often a collaborative experience,” he says.
“I always approach working with these teams and artists in the most professional manner possible. I am a songwriter and a producer and my role is to bring their creative vision to life. The majority of artists I’ve worked with are so immensely talented, and each have their own ideas and vision, so there needs to be flexibility and an openness to all of it. I think good communication and trust is key.”
“I’ve collaborated with artists who feel a song I’ve sent them or played to them needs to be worked on to really be their own, to fit their sound and brand, and it becomes a “co-write”, which honestly are my favourites. And then there are those times where I submit a song for consideration for a project and it’s taken away and recorded almost exactly as the demo was. Each project and each artist have their own needs and processes.”
Despite all his progress and differing approaches, though, McCourt’s ultimate test of the quality of a song remains a simple and long-established one.
“I tend to do the ‘campfire’ test,” he says. “Does the song stand up when played with just guitar or piano? Could you and a group of pals sing it around a campfire! It sounds cheesy, but it works every time. If the answer is ‘yes’, then the song is solid. Beyond that production brings life and colour to it.”
“I hope to continue to write and produce music that connects with people, and to be lucky enough to continue to have the studio be my office each day,” McCourt says, looking to the future. “I’m working in my dream job now after many years on different musical paths – and it’s a job that allows me to be a very present Dad and husband too. As long as I can keep that going, I’m a happy man!”
Richey McCourt has worked with Aimee, Will Young, Pixie Lott, Rita Ora and many more. His latest work, a co-write on ROOUE’s new single ‘Flavour’, is out now.