Yenkee: “The more free time I’ve had, the more I’ve realised that getting up at noon and lazing around my home studio recording pop songs is what I want to do for the rest of my life”

There’s a refreshing simplicity to the way Yenkee conducts himself. A popular live act who feels he’s still only uncovering his sound, he uses the most straightforward of recording setups, modelling his approach on classic rock tracks he’s long loved.

That means single-track bedroom recordings, leaning on his own ability to craft a song over any elaborate techniques in post-production, a strategy that’s seen him develop a following substantial enough to sell out numerous shows around Ireland. New single ‘Shiver Shake’ – a mixed-feelings ode to Cork, rather than a coronavirus reference – is a great demonstration of what it’s all about.

I caught up with the man known as Graham Cooney to his friends to talk it all over…

Congrats on the new single – odd timing to be releasing a song called ‘Shiver Shake’! What were you basing it on in pre-pandemic times?

Shiver Shake was just based on an unsettled feeling I’ve had, and I think a lot of people have had, for the past few years. Something hasn’t really felt right in the world. It’s probably just me growing up and growing older or something. It’s a positive song though I think. I tried to also allude to the things that have gotten me through it – friends, family and love.

I understand the song was in part about falling out of love with Cork – did anything change afterwards – can you re- fall in love through music?

I do love Cork, and always will, but the city you grow up in can be like a parent. It’ll be difficult to leave it when I do, but it’s inevitable. I think the battle between the part of my brain that wants to stay where I grew up and the part that wants to get up and leave it has always been something that works its way into my tunes.

I’ve heard a lot of your influences relate back to 60s and 70s rock. Anyone in particular that feeds into your style?

The first artist I became obsessed with as a young fella was Johnny Cash. Something about his persona drew me into him. His music taught me to keep it simple, too. Simplicity is very important to the music I make. The Kinks, John Martyn, Jonathan Richman, Randy Newman – they’re all huge influences.

How much of your time busking do you think we still hear in your music?

Busking definitely gave me the courage to sing in front of people. So, without it, I don’t think I ever would have been able to play shows. I’m not sure how much you can hear of it in the recordings though. Maybe none. I feel like my love for writing and recording developed completely independently.