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In Conversation With Errol Walsh

Hailing from the picturesque seaside town of Portstewart, on the coast on Northern Ireland, Errol Walsh has been an stalwart of the Irish Blues, Country and Roots music scene since the 1970s. Plaudits include the British Country Music Association album of the year award for 1997's “Coyotes” and the “Spirit of Antrim” award for the Nashville recorded “Waltzin' in the Water”.

He is currently enjoying a renaissance with a new album, "Through Your Eyes" and the release of his back catalogue. Stowaway Music took the chance to have a chat with the man himself:

SM What was the role of music in the early years of your life? EW My mother was a singer in a dance band and music was always a feature of home life, but my teen obsession was football, so I was a late starter in music. However, when my mother’s genes kicked in I quickly became addicted.

SM How did you learn to play and write?

EW I learned to play by ear on a cheap nylon string guitar but after driving my mother crazy with one string melodies she gently advised me (actually upon pain of death!) to find someone else to annoy and suggested I look for someone who was also learning to play. Bingo... the penny dropped and I learned much more quickly! I always loved language at school and so it wasn’t much of a leap to think about writing my own songs. Like everyone else I borrowed melodies and ideas that I heard elsewhere and fashioned and fused them into my own creations... if it’s good enough for Bob Dylan, it works for me. Early bands I played in usually had a singer though, so I just played guitar until I decided that if they wouldn’t let me sing I’d have to start my own band, a fairly common story I’m sure, but that’s how I started singing and becoming more creative.

SM What is your creative process like?

EW For years I always felt I needed a melody or a chord sequence to trigger lyrical ideas which meant that songs developed in a more organic sort of way in one sense, but it was frustrating at times when I felt compelled to write about a specific subject, which would mean working in reverse, i.e. lyrics first, melody second. But, I discovered much later that that was simply a lack of confidence and I eventually learned how to work that way too, which was immensely satisfying.

SM How did that realisation come about?

EW In an odd way! A friend of mine asked me if I could put music to an unfinished poem he’d written and my immediate response was that I didn’t/couldn’t write that way round. But I really liked the idea he had in this poem and asked him if I could play around with the words and the meter a bit, with a view to asking another guitarist friend to suggest a melody. He was fine with that, so I developed his lyrical idea and when we were both satisfied with the outcome I duly took it to my guitarist friend.

My friend asked me what kind of style I was looking for, so I picked up the guitar and played a few chords to demonstrate what I was after. I realised right away that, without thinking, I had just done precisely what I’d asked him to do. My confidence just soared and I thought Wow.. after all this time... out of the blue! That was how I discovered that I actually could put music to an idea as well as writing the other way around, so I now had another string to my bow.

It also gave my writer friend a lot of confidence too and, in short order, we had written three songs from ideas that he offered up. With my new found confidence I could also put this method into practice on my own, which gave me much more breadth and scope in my writing. SM How could you describe your music? EW I generally dislike labels because they can be a bit restrictive. As a songwriter I treat songs as individual entities and try not to group them into a specific genre but, having said that, other people tend to describe my music as “Americana”, which is as close as it gets I guess and pretty much covers most of my musical tastes. I do lean naturally towards country/folk/blues because those styles suit my voice best, although I had a passionate affair with soul and funk music for about ten years at one point.

SM How have you been able to use social media during these unprecedented times? Are you finding that you use it even more to stay connected to fans and other musicians? EW My relationship with IT was always on the most basic of terms to be honest.... my brain simply isn’t wired that way! Social media was straightforward enough for keeping in touch with people on a casual basis, but the intricacies of online ‘business’ has always been a mystery to me. The Covid pandemic changed all that right across the board in society and in the absence of live work, another means of staying connected to fans was more essential than ever.

Fortunately for me, along came Stowaway Media who took all that side of things off of my hands, created a professional website for me, managed my album distribution, set up all the online outlets and platforms I needed to promote my music and gave me a new lease of life!

SM Any advice for aspiring songwriters?

EW There are no hard and fast rules for a start, it depends on what your aim is, I guess. Some writers are supremely talented at writing to order, but that's never been my aim so I can only speak from my own experience. I write because I love to write, despite the inevitable times when inspiration is mysteriously lacking, but that always passes.

Lyrically my impetus and inspiration has mostly come from my own life experience. Musically and melodically there are so many factors involved it seems futile to even attempt to list them. Writing in, or for, a band can be tricky and sometimes restricting if everyone else isn’t on the same page, but equally it’s incredibly inspirational if the right chemistry is there. The same applies to co-writing. The chemistry is important.

At the end of the day though, I’ve found that writing songs is generally a lonely furrow to plough. Most of my ideas come at inconvenient times, in the middle of the night, in a dream, in the car, wherever, and then laziness is the enemy. I need to do it while it’s fresh in my head or be prepared to lose it. Once the idea is written down it can always be revisited.

I’m essentially a frustrated drummer, so I've always loved rhythmic music and the elusive holy grail of 'the groove'. As a singer I love the art of phrasing. It took me a long time to learn and appreciate it, but that felt like a big leap forward. I don’t have any tips for success... if I did I’d be the first to apply them! Whatever the level of success, I’ve always found that it’s worth the effort and writing satisfies something in my soul.


Errol Walsh's new album "Through Your Eyes" was released in March 2022 and is available on CD, download and all streaming services.

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