Rory Gallagher (who, for reasons that I’d imagine are obvious, doesn’t perform under that name) has had an unuusal career. Originally from Donegal, for whom he wrote the iconic GAA track ‘Jimmy’s Winning Matches’, he built a solo career as ‘Rory and the Island‘, the island being a reference to where he usually played, his own bar in a Spanish island resort.
Rory did, eventually, step away from the island to set up in Scotland, only for Covid to put a wrench in his plans for an Edinburgh live venue. Instead, he’ll shortly be back in Lanzarote doing things the way he used to. First, though, there’s an Irish tour to enjoy, and a celebration of the fact that while it all appeared to be going wrong, Rory made the most of the last few years instead. I caught up with him ahead of the release of the new EP ‘Centre Comes Together’. He plays Opium, Dublin, on December 10, as well as several other Irish gigs in December and January (tickets here).
First of all, last time I was talking to you, you had just had to abandon a venue project in Scotland. How’s the fall out been?
Well, 2020 seems like a long time ago now, i think we are maybe pushing it to the back of our minds as much as possible too! Haha, so I am well over it at this stage. It led me down such a different path with spending more time on my writing and opening my eyes to the world of online music performance . In January 2023 we will be opening a little music bar in PDC, Lanzarote and i will be broadcasting gigs into it live from my living room here in Scotland … so i will never learn!
Did you ever settle back into life in Ireland, musically speaking, and how does your experience over the last few years link in with your move to Lanzarote?
Yes, I have been selling more tickets and performing more than i ever did before as a solo artist, so I cannot complain, I had to re-adjust my mind as I had become so soft… In Lanzarote everywhere seems to be just a 15 minute drive away so i got such a shock to my system in my early 40s having to drive 4 or 7 hours to gigs again. It’s strange that now I quite enjoy it and I get a lot of things sorted in my head when I am just driving.
How did those lockdown online shows help move you forward?
It got my music across to a lot more people, when they were literally a captive audience! The likes of my spotify went from around 500 listeners a month in 2019 to 15k by 2022. I think it also helped me more in the talking/presentation side of the show as those lockdown gigs are kind of like hosting a radio show or something similar at times, lots of requests and shoutouts.
Obviously the world of Spanish island music has been a huge part of what you do over a long period. Do you anticipate a change in your style of music again once your back?
I can see the sunshine definitely having an effect on next year’s writing already, although it really is hard to predict life, I had a breakdown and wrote some of my darkest material in 2010 when i was in Lanzarote. Sunshine really is a state of mind.
Tell me about the connections between the latest two EPs, which seem obviously linked by their titles…
Yes totally, ‘Centre Falls Apart’ was the 10-track album released in March 2022, it is very warm sounding and melodious but a lot of the lyrics were written during lockdown so they have a lot of sadness and frustration. The new 4 track EP ‘Centre Comes Together’ is 4 songs which were left over from the sessions as they just were not working at the time, or were incomplete. I completed and recorded them over the summer, they sounded great, and it just feels right to put them out now as a little sister of the March album.
There’s some commentary on social media in your latest song. How do you view the online world?
It scares the hell out of me, seeing how people who never cared for politics at school can become preyed upon by data analysis and almost brainwashed into cult mentality for an idealogy. I also hate the “keeping up with the Jones’s” buzz , but replace the Jones’s for the Kardashians. It’s such a double edged sword because as an independent aritst social media has been vital for me, but as Kevin Bridges says “if Facebook was a pub, you wouldn’t go into it” .
Pandora’s box is open now and I don’t think we can turn back. I went off my personal Facebook page for all of 2022 thinking it would free up some time and clear my mind a bit, but i just feel like i have missed out on birthdays and anniversaries of friends and family, so i will prob return with my tail between my legs!
Do you see your December/ January Irish tour as something of a ‘goodbye’ thing?
Yes, goodbye to this album and wrapping up the last 18 months a little bit , but I ‘m not a big artist who will come back with a brand new stadium concept tour in two years, no Zoo Stations here! it will be 70% the same, and i will really only take about 6 months getting the new bar in Lanzarote set up and writing new material, also learning a few new cover songs which i always think helps the mind.
How far off is a new full length album?
I have been writing quite fast this past few years and feel more inpsired now than what I did when I was 27, so hopefully maybe only 1 year away
I must admit, I feel I have my ear to the ground of the Irish music scene but I’ve not heard of ‘Voices of the Sea’ as a label. How did that connection come about?
It is a new label set up by my old friend Shea McNeils for the purposes of releasing an album of choir music, but as he had the mechanics in place and the choir project has been taking a bit longer than expected, I snuck in there and was the debut release from the new label!
How are you looking to the future now?
As somebody who suffers from anxiety a lot I try not to live in the future too much, I try to plan and then try my best but it rarely ever works out, so at the age of 44 I really need to get used to living in the present. ‘Rory’s Corner Bar’ in Lanzarote will be getting a lot of my attention in the next few months and I have 5 big irish gigs coming up, so that’s about it really.