The Mark Hayes Project

First Published September 2021

STARS BACK MARK ON CANCER VOYAGE

Some of Irish music’s biggest names have come together to help raise funds for a young father and teacher, MARK HAYES, who is currently in Mexico receiving potentially life-saving cancer treatment. 


Ireland’s king of country Daniel O’ Donnell, country superstar Nathan Carter, the multi-talented Cliona Hagan, Eurovision winner Charlie McGettigan, Sawdoctors legend Leo Moran,Offaly’s man for all seasons Simon Casey, songwriter and presenter Marc Roberts, folk star Don Stiffe, and one-third of the famous Three Amigos Jimmy Buckley, have joined songwriting great Johnny Duhan in recording a very special version of Duhan’s classic hit THE VOYAGE in aid of the forty-three year-old Westmeath man who is bravely battling colon cancer. 


THE MARK HAYES PROJECT, as this collective of extraordinary talent is known, will release THE VOYAGE across all digital platforms on Friday, September 24th, with the single available to pre-add/pre-save right now, and also available to request at radio stations nationwide. 

PRE-ADD/PRE-SAVE HERE


In the years that I’ve been writing this column, I’ve often told you guys that there’s a certain single or maybe an album by an artist that you’ve “got to” go get and add to your collection. Usually, of course, that’s no more than a recommendation of something that I’ve really enjoyed on a personal level, most often by an artist I usually have a lot of respect and admiration for as well, and I do it because I hope you’ll get to experience that same sense of joy. But ultimately, of course, whatever you decide to do is completely up to you. 


This week, though, and this time, it’s different. Very different.


I’m not simply giving you my opinion on The Voyage by The Mark Hayes Project. I am straight up asking you to BUY this single. And more than simply asking you, I’m going to say please, please, and PLEASE again, because this is important in ways that are almost beyond the scope of any words to put shape on. By doing this, you’ll be helping to give Mark a fighting chance in his ongoing battle against cancer. And let’s face it…there but for the grace of God – or just luck, call it what you want – go any of us. 


So, right now, if you can, please go to the website www.marksfight.ie, and click on the link that will let you pre-add or pre-save the record. And while you’re there – and only if you’re in a position to do so – maybe you could think about making a donation to Mark’s GoFundMe campaign as well. By pre-adding or pre-saving the record, you won’t have to do a thing on the day of its official release on September 24th, it will go straight into your music library. You’ll find that same link in my bio on Instagram (AnthonyOTRT). 

The Voyage is also available to request from radio stations all over Ireland right now too, so please request it everywhere and anywhere you can as well, because that will also help to raise awareness of Mark’s fight. 
Now, on to the man himself. Let’s get to Mark’s story…


Mark Hayes is a father to two young daughters – Emma and Olivia – with his wife Marie. He was a fit, healthy, and active thirty-nine year old who had hardly ever been sick in his life when his world was turned upside-down by his colorectal cancer diagnosis in 2017. At first, the shock of that news was tempered by the assurance that his tumour could be removed, an operation Mark underwent in February 2018.

Sadly, however, that sense of relief was short-lived as tumours were revealed on his liver just a few months later in November, leaving Mark in a fight against stage-4 cancer. Despite the right side of his liver being removed at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, the cancer returned within a few weeks of that operation. At that point, and in those circumstances, Mark and his family were given the devastating news that two years was probably the best outcome they could hope for in terms of his life-expectancy. 


With further surgery on his liver not an option, and with continued chemotherapy the only treatment on offer here in Ireland, Mark and his family began the search for additional treatments that might be possible abroad. With Mark no longer working in his role as a teacher at Merlin College in Galway, a GoFundMe was set up by his family. And with the support that option has generated from people all across the country, Mark has so far been able to avail of several treatments outside of Ireland, and is currently in Mexico. 


However, these trips, and his continuing fortnightly chemotherapy sessions have exhausted a substantial amount of the funds already raised up to now. While the cancer remains confined to Mark’s liver, recent scans have shown that further tumours are also present there. This development means that time – now, more than ever – is of the essence in Mark’s fight. His continued treatment at the Berkeley Institute International Centre in Ensenada, Mexico is what could end up saving Mark’s life.


Thanks to the incredible outpouring of love and support from Mark’s family, friends, and so many generous souls who they don’t even know – and might never even know – the GoFundMe has already raised in excess of €100,000. However, to put this amazing figure in its true context in relation to where Mark currently is in his battle and with his treatment, it is vital to stress that a substantialamount of these funds have already been drawn down and used.


For this reason, because Mark’s fight – in every sense – is still ongoing, we need to continue to fundraise and to highlight his situation. This is where, and why, we really need everyone to help raise awareness of both the single and the GoFundMe, by helping to spread the word about both, and again – if possible – by please supporting both.


Marie, Mark’s wife – who works in the Galway Clinic – explains further why it’s so important that fundraising efforts continue…

“The GoFundMe campaign (aka ‘Mark’s Fight’) was set up in December 2019 to fund supplementary treatment for Mark. The initial target was €100,000. Research was underway for any therapy or treatment that could help him. We decided we would tackle this disease from every angle possible. With Stage 4 cancer, we could not rely solely on standard of care treatment, we simply had to try more. It could be the combination of modalities that make the difference.”

Marie continued, “Thanks to the immense generosity of all who donated to ‘Marks’ Fight’ to date, Mark was able to avail of multiple treatments in Spain and the UK, in conjunction with his fortnightly chemotherapy sessions here. We believe that the two dendritic cell vaccines he received along with several IRE ablations (Nanoknife®) and more recently the use of the “Care Oncology Clinic (COC) protocol”, is the reason that Mark has maintained some disease stability. The cost of these treatments are very high and the funds raised were disappearing quickly.”

In April 2021, reports showed that there was some progression in Mark’s liver tumours, despite being on continuous chemotherapy. The side-effects of the chemo drugs were intensifying and now it appeared that the cancer was beginning to out-smart it. Marie takes up the story again…

“Research led us to a biotech company in the US (Berkeley Institute) who have figured out a way of giving chemotherapy at a higher dose and with less side effects (SEF Chemo) and they have reported many positive outcomes. If there was any chance that this could help Mark in his fight, then we had to try. So, in April 2021 the GoFundMe campaign was re-ignited and the target was increased to €200,000. Over 90% of the initial funds raised had now been used in ongoing treatments for Mark, so we had to start again. The response has been overwhelming and by August 2021, there was sufficient funding to allow Mark to travel to Berkeley Institute’s international centre in Mexico to receive his first treatment of SEF chemo. It is very challenging for Mark to live so far away from his family while receiving this treatment, but throughout the past four years, he has always been determined not to give in to his diagnosis.”

“This is a trial treatment,” Marie stresses, “and several sessions will need to be completed before doctors can tell if Mark will respond well. So we need to be able to keep him there for as long as it takes.”

As for The Voyage itself, well listen, almost everyone in Ireland knows Johnny Duhan’s beautiful song, thanks in the main to Christy Moore. And over the years, it has, of course, been recorded by many more artists. This version, however, must surely rate as one of the most beautiful that there’s ever been. Certainly as far as I’m concerned. Yes, the story behind it on this occasion adds even more emotion and poignancy to every line.

But even if listening to this record from a purely musical point of view, it has to be said that this collection of voices blend together exquisitely. And they’ve all been captured expertly by Tony Maher and Joe Egan. 
As well as the line-up of stellar vocalists involved in this project, the musicians featured are some of the finest in the land. There’s Mairtin O’ Connor on accordion, Ciara O’ Connor on fiddle, Jim Higgins on percussion, Frank Kelly on the gut string guitar, Enda Dempsey on acoustic and electric Guitars and vocal harmonies, James Blennerhasset on upright bass, and Tony Maher himself on piano and synth.


But beyond all the famous-names and star-players involved in this project, the very reason why this recording of The Voyage even exists at all, can be described in one simple word…love. 


Everybody involved in the project, regardless of whether or not they even know Mark personally themselves…they know love. 


They know Mark’s family – his wife Marie and their two young daughters, Emma and Olivia – and his friends, all love him like we all love our own families and our friends. And they know that love can change everything. And in a situation where love was all they could give – in the form of their talent and time – then they were willing to give their all. And they have. And you can hear it – that love – in every line of The Voyage, a version that is as much a prayer as it is a song. 


If you can find the couple of minutes it will take to go and pre-add or pre-save the song today, it will mean the world to a whole lot of people. Not least of all, a young father who – as you read these very lines – is sitting alone today in Mexico dreaming of being back at home in Ireland with his three girls…


THE VOYAGE, by The Mark Hayes Project, will be available on all platforms from FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24th, and is already available to pre-add/pre-save RIGHT NOW by clicking on the link you’ll find at the website, www.marksfight.ie The Voyage is also available to request from radio stations all around the country right now. 

ENDS

David Mallaghan (& Ken Hume)

First Published September 2021

POET, PAINTER, ACTIVIST

One of the longest-running spoken word events in Ireland, Tullamore’s SCENE OF THE RHYME (SOTR), makes its long-awaited return to the world of ‘live’ events this coming weekend. Saturday, September 11th will see the first of two special performances taking place in John Lee’s Bar and Venue at 5pm, while on Sunday a ‘pop-up’ show will happen at Chocolate Brown in Tullamore. And the man behind the return of the SOTR is poet, painter, activist, and Tullamore Rhymer, DAVID ‘MALLY’ MALLAGHAN. 


In describing Mally for an edition of the Under The Fading Lamp chapbook published by the Tullamore Rhymers’ Club some years ago, I wrote the following…


“A writer without honesty in their work is a writer in fear of the very characteristic that can transform mere lines on a page into the trenches of the soul, the places where the hardest, bloodiest, most unforgiving and merciless battles of life are waged and recorded with every passing moment counted off into eternity. David Mallaghan is a poet who has made a very brave and deliberate choice to embrace in its entirety the depths and span of his being in all of its forms; his dreams, his nightmares, his passions, his demons, his frustrations, and his desires. His honesty in stripping bare any pretense of what disguise may need to be donned to gain the acceptance or approval of some sections of society is not only admirable, but stands as a lesson to all writers, of all genres and formats. David knows, and proves in his work, that writing is not a calling pursued in hope of being understood by the world, rather it is a world entered into and a mission undertaken to understand and accept oneself.” 


That’s still Mally. 


I had the pleasure of catching up with Mally last Saturday, and, by coincidence, our fellow Tullamore Rhymer KEN HUME too, who we’ll get to a little later.  But Mally and I began our chat by talking about the two very special SOTR events that were a week out as we spoke, and he gave me the low-down on how it all came to be…


“Well Scene of The Rhyme (SOTR) has been running for almost ten years now. It was Cormac Lally who started it, but then Cormac moved down to west Cork, and Richard Brennan and I took over. Richard then moved on to some other commitments as well, so David Hynes and I ran it for a while. And now it’s me. Before the pandemic, we were running every month, but then everything collapsed. So these events next weekend will be the re-launch of SORT as a monthly event in Tullamore. We’re the longest-running event in the midlands for spoken-word, comedy, and music, and we want to get back out there again. Poetry Ireland contacted Terri Dale, event manager for Castlepalooza and Shakefest at Charleville Castle, she then contacted me, and we put things in motion from there. So we have John Lee’s booked for the 11th of September, and we’re also doing a pop-up event on Sunday at 3pm in the Chocolate Brown coffee shop. The re-launch will be these two events. At the Lee’s event, it’s in a bar, you can have a pint, that’s where we regularly hold the SOTR. At Chocolate Brown on Sunday, it’s something new for SOTR, but you can have a coffee and a cake while listening to some poetry. That’ll be new for us. We’re really looking forward to getting SOTR back as a monthly event in Tullamore, for local poets, comedians and musicians, but also to bring talented people from around the country to Tullamore, so that people in Tullamore can see poets, comedians and musicians that they wouldn’t normally see.” 

I asked Mally to give readers an idea of what a typical SOTR night might be like…


I’d open the night and I might read a poem or two, and tell a joke or two, and then I’d introduce the acts for the night. I usually start with the poets first, the spoken-word artists, and we’d have maybe two or three at the start. Then in the middle of the event I’d have one or two comedians, and more than likely I’d wrap things up with a music act or two, maybe someone like Niamh Dooley, aka Dubh Lee, or Eoin Martin, for example, just to name two of our local Tullamore musicians. That’s the progression we’d usually have. We like to have poetry first, then comedy, then music. I find it’s very hard to follow comedy, and it’s very hard to follow music, but poetry is a great way to start the night. And, of course, poetry is what we started with, SOTR was just a poetry night. Then Cormac started to add a few musicians, and when I started I added the comedians. But at its heart and soul, it’s a poetry night.” 

The re-launch events happening on Saturday and Sunday, however, will just be poetry, as Mally went on to explain…


“I decided for the relaunch that it would be just poetry, and not only just poetry, but just local poets. Except for David Hynes (from Dublin) who is an honorary Tullamore man at this stage. All the other performing poets are local. We’ve got Noeleen Flanaghan from Clara, Ken Hume from Tullamore originally but also living in Clara now, David Hynes from Kilcock whom I just mentioned, Roseanna Tyrrell, Seamus Kirwan, Thomas Carty we’re 90% sure of, yourself Anthony, and of course, Tullamore’s poet laureate for the Poetry Town event, Cormac Lally, who we’re hoping will be able to perform at one, or maybe even both events. He’s actually doing some workshops this weekend too. The Poetry Town event organised by Poetry Ireland runs from 10th to the 18th of September. Twenty towns around the country were picked, and Tullamore was one of them. Those towns got funding to run events in that time period, live events, workshops, to get people into poetry who maybe aren’t already. But also, for people who are into poetry, to give them something to go see and perform at. Poetry Ireland, fair play to them, they spotted that all these nights and events around the country were struggling to get back going, so they came in with the funding, which is great.” 

As mentioned earlier, one of the poets that Mally mentioned would be performing at the SOTR events, Ken Hume, also happened to be with us on the day we spoke. Before turning to the author of the Snowstorm of Doubt and Grace poetry collection to hear from him, I asked Mally to share a little bit about his own creative background, and to tell us who David Mallaghan is as an artist…


“I started writing poetry in 1986, in sixth class, in Ballinamere National School. The teacher we had was Larry Fleming. Every second Friday, we had to have a poem or two written for him, while in sixth class. So for nine months in 1986, every second week I was writing poems to perform in front of the class. Cormac also came through Ballinamere National School so he had Larry Fleming a few years after I did. A lot of people came through that school who would have had Larry in sixth class, and he got them all writing poems, and he got me started too. I didn’t start performing until I hooked up with the Tullamore Rhymers’ Club about ten years ago. And once I started performing, I started to write a lot more because I realised I was enjoying it. And I had events to go perform at. So I think joining the Tullamore Rhymers’ Club was a big part of things for me too. Then when Cormac got SOTR going, that’s when I started to perform not just in Offaly, but around the country. I started to meet other poets and promoters, and I started to realise that there was a scene all around the country. Galway, Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Belfast, there’s a scene in every part of Ireland, and events in every part of Ireland. Especially in Dublin, there was a huge scene in Dublin. The first year I started to perform with SOTR, I started to do stand-up comedy as well. That was another avenue for performing. But when I go to comedy clubs, I’m doing my funniest poems as my show, so it’s still poetry, just funny poems. But when I do SOTR, I might do a serious poem, or a political one, maybe a mental health issue poem. But when I do comedy clubs, they’re just funny poems. By now, I’ve performed at five Electric Picnics, five Castlepalooza events, and two more events at Charleville Castle pre-Castlepalooza. And we actually brought the first ever spoken word event to Castlepalooza. They kept it on every year after we did it first. That was done through Terri Dale as well, I think. I’ve performed all over Ireland, in Amsterdam as well, and Berlin. I love performing. I use a lot of the same poems, but they’re my best poems. I always go with my best poems. So if you’ve seen my show five or six times, you’ll see that I’m rotating my best poems all the time with the odd new one.” 


In the same edition of Under The Fading Lamp that I referred to earlier in relation to Mally, I wrote these words about Ken…


“Many writers, knowingly or not, are chained to certain portals of possibility by way of their own perception of themselves. They think they are a certain ‘type’ of writer, so even before they leave the first drop of ink on paper or hit that first key, their voyage has begun and they are merely a passenger on a ship they should be captain of. Ken Hume, however, is not this kind of writer. Constantly evolving and maturing into a wordsmith of tangible self-confidence, Ken can sit calmly before a blank page or screen awaiting the next world of words to reveal itself to him, that he may then bring it to life by a sure, poetically calibrated hand. Equally so can he begin with just a simple seed of thought and shape and grow that small beginning into a deeply meaningful end. Nothing is forced, but a gentle attention to detail is constant. ken is a fully accepting but fully aware passenger when cresting literary waves, and also a steady presence on the bridge when in command of turning sail to wind and bringing a new creation to shore.” 


Turning my attention to the same Mr. Hume, and picking up on the fact that Mally had mentioned the Tullamore Rhymers’ Club, of which Ken was a founding member, the man himself filled us in on how the Club came into existence…

“Well I began my writing journey as a film critic with the Tullamore Tribune, that gave me a taste of writing regularly. I’d always written poetry, for as long back as I can remember, since I was a kid, encouraged by my late mam. And I’d always been talking about publishing a book, so a couple of friends of mine said well, why don’t you do it? Maybe now is the time. So I wrote it, with my mam – there’s some of her writing in there as well – we had it published, but I still felt there was something else I wanted to do, something more. I was wondering if there were other poets out there to share work with, and encourage each other, get ideas, ya know. So I thought wouldn’t it be great to have a group that would meet up on a regular basis. I texted a couple of my friends – Thomas Carty and yourself – and we set up a meeting. We started first in a back-room in my old family home, and we called it the ‘Hume Library’ because there were so many books in it! [Laughs].” 

It was the idea of Thomas Carty to name the collective The Tullamore Rhymers’ Club, in a nod to the famous Rhymers’ Club of which W.B. Yeats was a founding member in London. 

Ken continued, “After a few months, our numbers had increased from three at first, onto to four, then five, then six, including Mally here who was brought along by Cormac, and there was Seamus Kirwan, our friend the late Camillus Boland, Lorraine Dunican, Richard Brennan, James Delaney, and others too. It started to grow beyond what any of us had originally anticipated, so we moved the venue to the Bridge House Hotel, who kindly offered us a room for use. From there really, we started to talk about spreading our wings a bit further, to start performing, and move away from just sharing our work privately.” 

I wondered what did being a part of a group of writers like that did for Ken as a poet, and even as a person, too? 


“It gave me huge confidence. I’ve always written because I’ve found that I express myself better in the written word than in any other way. So for everything to have evolved from scribbling a few words on a page to meeting up with a group regularly to share poetry, and talk about it, get feedback, that was incredible. A very satisfying feeling. For that then to evolve into public performances with some of the leading entertainers in the country – Brendan Bowyer, Brendan Grace, Mike Denver, the Fureys – incredible experiences. Nerve-racking too, for me. Public speaking is something I find challenging, but I’ve always wanted to share poetry with people, to make it accessible for people.” 

And sharing his work, and making poetry accessible is exactly what he’s going to be doing as part of the return of SOTR next weekend. How is he feeling about that? 


“I’m excited. And nervous at the same time. But mostly excited, because I’ve been feeling the itch to get back to sharing my work for a while. I took a break to focus on family (proud dad of two, Grace and Ava), and on writing. But in the past year or so – ironically in the time that you couldn’t go out at all! [laughs] – I’ve really wanted to get back out to sharing my work, and back in front of an audience. I think now the country needs it more than ever, to be able to get back to live events like SOTR. Poetry is for everybody, that’s what I feel. And everybody has a story to tell. So we want to reach out to people with poetry, because there’s a hunger out there for the arts, there always has been in Ireland. We’re a nation of bards, storytellers, and writers.” 

And in Tullamore in particular, there’s probably a lot more along those lines happening than most people ever know about. And Mally has been a man at the heart of so much of it during the last decade, through his involvement with SOTR and the Rhymers’ Club as well. But there’s also much more to Mally than simply being a creative and insightful wordsmith. He’s also a passionate activist, with what’s happening in Palestine being something that he has focused a lot of energy on in recent years…


“I follow world history and world events, and for years and years and years, ever since the Second World War, the Palestinian people have been treated terribly. They’re being murdered – even children are being murdered – they’re being bombed, they have no rights. There are two million people living in Gaza and it’s like an open prison, they can’t leave it. Human rights have been destroyed. What’s happening, at this moment in human history, is unacceptable. Palestinians need their own state. They need passports. They need healthcare. They need all the things they’re being denied. But because America is backing Israel, Israel is just stealing all the land, and knocking down villages, hospitals, and schools, replacing them with their own settlements. It’s totally against everything that’s right in the world. And it’s going on in our time. But we can do something about it. We can make people aware that this situation is going on. Just on a human rights level, it shouldn’t be going on in 2021.” 

And Mally doesn’t just talk about doing something, he actually did something – bothe amazing and profoundly sad – to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people…


I asked poets and writers around the country if they would, if I contacted them with details of a child or a woman or a man who had been killed in Palestine, would they write about that person. We spent six months – me and Dr John Ennis from Mullingar – collating these poems and these writings about people that died, and we put them into a book called ‘Turangalila Palestine’, which is sanskrit for “an event that keeps occuring in Palestine.'” From all around the country, and even with some writers and poets from abroad, we got people writing about the people that were being killed. It’s a very personal book. It’s not a very happy one, you’re not going to read it and feel that way, because every poem that’s in it was written about someone that was actually killed. And that’s quite sad. You can check the news – I mean, look, it’s not in the news enough – but every week the Israeli Defence Forces are killing innocent Palestians. That’s unacceptable in 2021. It just is. And all around the world there’s a network of people who are trying to help the Palestinians and raise awareness. Roger Waters from Pink Floyd is one of the big guys behind it. Maverick Sabre from Ireland is involved too. There’s a lot of support. But that support has to turn into changing things.” 


Mally is not shy about letting people know about his own roots as a Tyrone man, and rightly so. And those roots are one of the reasons why he feels such an allegiance of sorts to the pain and suffering of the Palestinians…


“There’s a huge solidarity between Northern Ireland and Palestine, because very similar things happened in each place. People were being oppressed, people were being killed. The people of Northern Ireland have been through that, so they kind of reached out to the Palestinians, and they reached back. In fact, Ireland did in general, because we have a history of 800 years of struggle with the English invaders. Because we have this history of struggle, we know what they’re going through in a way, and we want to help. We have ways of helping them that we used to get over our struggles, without violence. Peaceful protest. Information. Like the hunger strikers, that was a peaceful protest, and that changed things. They have hunger-strikes going on at the moment as well. So we can say, look, we had it really bad for a while, but we sorted it out. This is how you can do it.” 

Does Mally see a resolution being found and agreed upon by all parties? 


“I hope so. It has to be a two-state solution. The Palestinians have to be given a state, and a capital. Their capital was Jerusalem, but Jerusalem has been stolen from them, which isn’t right. And the Americans were kind of behind that. There needs to be a state of Israel and a state of Palestine. At the moment, there’s only a state of Israel. The UN is very powerless on this. The UN, have they any power at all? I don’t know.” 

Before we finished up, I wanted to ask Mally about what began as just a lockdown project for him, his wonderfully and beautifully artistic tree paintings…


“The entertainment industry collapsed overnight, so during the lockdowns I had nothing to do! I was sitting here one night and I said, I’ll go down to Mr. Price and I’ll buy paint and start painting. So I did, and I started painting trees. I started posting them on Facebook, then one day someone said, “I’ll buy one of your paintings”, and I went…ok! [Laughs]. Six months later, I’d sold forty-four! All done, basically, off my Facebook page, and by word of mouth. Still have some for sale, too [laughs].” 

My last question for Mally before wrapping things up with one more for Ken, was how did he think he’d feel come next Saturday, and being back at the mic for a SOTR event again? 


“I can’t wait! The SOTR ethos, well for me anyway, is that I want to support local talent. Local artists, local poets, local comedians, local musicians, get them involved. And if I can be the first person to put them on stage, I want that. Because someone gave me my first time on stage, and I want to pass that on. If I can give a poet, a musician, or a comedian his or her first time on stage as a boost to them, that’s what SOTR is for. But also featuring established acts, national as well as local, we want to bring them to Tullamore and get them performing. A mixture of fresh, raw talent, giving them a boost, and poets, musicians, and comedians, and putting on shows in Tullamore. There’s no-one else doing this here, or even in the midlands. Giving people a boost, and getting established artists in, that’s what SOTR is about.” 

And for Ken, as a performer, how will he be feeling when Saturday comes? 


“Woaaa…[deep sigh]…nerve-racking! Getting up on stage has always been a challenge for me, in front of people, but that’s countered by my desire to share my poetry, and that always wins over. I’m excited, because I have a lot of new material, a lot of new experiences since I last really performed. A lot of things have happened, births, deaths, and everything in-between that have shaped me and my viewpoint on a lot of things. And that has impacted hugely on my writing, and can be seen in my writing. So I’m looking forward to sharing that with the general public and seeing how it impacts on them, and can they relate to it. If people can relate to what I write, that’s my job done.” 


The SCENE OF THE RHYME events take place on Saturday, September 11th in John Lee’s Bar and Venue, 5pm; and on Sunday, September 12th at Chocolate Brown coffee shop, Tullamore, 3pm.  

ENDS

Editorial

First Published September 2021

MUSIC, ‘LIVE’ EVENTS, AND A GOVERNMENT THAT NEVER CARED

Anyone who couldn’t have foreseen the current government’s appalling treatment of the music and ‘live’ events sectors simply hadn’t been paying attention. The signs were on it right from the moment Catherine Martin T.D. was handed a portfolio that included responsibility for tourism, culture, arts, the Gaeltacht, sport, AND media. 


The argument can rightly be made that each of these areas needs and warrants a department of its own, given the importance of each to Irish life. At the same time, however, realism, pragmatism -and, in fact, the constitution – dictate that not every area of significance and consequence can be afforded the luxury of a department in its own name, given that our government can have no more than fifteen members (Article 28), including the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and the Minister for Finance. So in effect, minus the aforementioned, only twelve seats – at most – ever remain to be filled in the cabinet. 


That fact notwithstanding, however, the decision to ask one minister to take on responsibility for six sectors which, each in their own right, play such prominent roles in Irish life, seemed crazy at the time. And nothing that has happened since has shown otherwise. Now, to be clear here, I understand that there’s seldom a perfect way to do anything in politics, and that no matter what any government – or minister – might do, there will be someone on hand straight away to say why they should have done the opposite. That, unfortunately, is the way of politics in general, and certainly in Ireland.


Moreover, when it came to the easing of restrictions, it’s perfectly understandable that a phased approach had to be taken, and that whatever such approach was decided upon, it would end up with some group or section of society having to bring up the rear. A phased approach makes sense. But a phased approach could still have included all stakeholders to some extent. 


What this situation has also revealed – laid bare in no uncertain terms, in fact – is that politicians – for the most part, there have been some exceptions – simply have no idea how the music or ‘live’ events sector. It’s not a matter of turning a key, opening a door, and hey presto…back in business, back to normal all in one move. There are very, very few music or ‘live’ events of any nature that happen without the need for a lot of advance planning. A lot of planning from a lot of people. Artists, their management team, their PR team, venues, sound and lighting experts, ticket outlets, and more. Everything needs to be coordinated on multiple levels. 


To be able to plan ahead, you need to be able to see ahead. And yet, as I write this, with September only a couple of sunsets away, no line of vision on a return to normality for the music or ‘live’ events sectors has even been hinted at in any detail, let alone laid out in black and white. 


For a profession so fond of hiring advisors, the ability of most politicians to communicate is worse than abysmal. A politician’s job, no matter what anyone says or thinks, is incredibly tough. There’s no doubt about that. Yes, they’re well-rewarded, but most of the people who only or primarily focus on that fact wouldn’t put up with the abuse that comes with the job for even a day. And to be fair, if they tried working as a councillor, a TD, or a minister for a week, they’d quickly find out that most in those roles – most…not all – more than earn their living. And that’s across the board, politicians of all parties and none.


A quick word on abuse, while we’re here. While frustration and anger, and a lot of other emotions are all understandable given where we are in this time of Covid, and everything that we’ve already had to deal with and come through, resorting to name-calling – sometimes in a way that’s really vile, vicious, and completely unnecessary – is not to be condoned. That’s just bad manners, childish, reflects extremely badly on those who do it, and it helps absolutely no-one in any way at all. Anybody who acts like that, regardless of who they are, doesn’t deserve to be a part of finding any way through this. 


However, there are many things that politicians could so easily do to make their own lives easier, and the lives of their constituents better. Communication is top of that list.  And right up there with it, is respect. And respect is not shown to anyone by running a so-called ‘pilot’ concert in a way that precisely zero events without further government funding could ever run in the real world. And respect is not shown by overseeing a grants process that sees several artists awarded more than one, while hundreds more received no help at all. That is not respect. Of course it was impossible to make sure that everyone who applied for funding of some kind got something that would help them. But what was always completely within the power of those who ran that operation to control, was making sure that no-one received multiple grants. Simple. 


Anyway, respect is what takes me right back to my opening point, that how little this government thought of the arts was evident from the moment the Green Party’s Catherine Martin was tasked with heading up a department that included six portfolios; tourism, culture, arts, the Gaeltacht, sport, AND media. 


Now, as far as Minister Martin herself is concerned, I admire her for having the courage to take on such a workload, and I have nothing but sympathy for the mess that she’s found herself at the centre of as far as the return to normality of the music and ‘live’ events sector goes. Even at the best of times, in a ‘normal’ Covid-less world, Catherine Martin would still have only twenty-four hours in her day, and seven days in her week, all to be divided between the six different portfolios for which her department has ultimate responsibility. Even at that, her task is monumental. Throw in Covid and its complexities, and it’s not just one magic wand she’d need, it’s a new one for every hour of every day of every week! 


The gov.ie website currently lists eighteen official government departments, and only one really comes close to Catherine Martin’s in terms of the spread of its duties, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, overseen by Minister Roderic O’ Gorman, although there are clearly more obvious links between each of those. There are some departments, which, understandably and for obvious reasons, must stand alone. Health, Foreign Affairs, and Justice. But surely, back when this government was being negotiated, more thought and care could have been given to the overall balance of things? I, for one, believe so. And have done for a long time. The madness and mayhem of the mess that has been the government’s treatment of the music and ‘live’ events sectors over the last number of months have only served to reaffirm that belief. 


So, what could have been done differently then, back when this government was formed? What would have given Minister Catherine Martin a fighting chance of representing artists and musicians with all of her might, which I genuinely believe she has always sincerely wanted to do? Well, let’s have a look…


The Department of Transport, as important as it is, could surely handle something else too. Tourism, perhaps? And do we still really need a Department of Finance AND a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform? Make them one! And, would not the Department of Rural and Community Development be a fitting and natural home for the care of the Gaeltacht as well? These questions give us somewhere to start from. 

With the Department of Finance becoming the Department of Finance, Public Expenditure, and Reform, that immediately frees up one department. The portfolios of Higher and Further Education should also come under the watch of the Department of Education, full-stop. That would mean that we then have a stand-alone Department of Research, Innovation, and Science. From the burden that rests on Catherine Martin’s shoulders right now, let’s actually go ahead and move Tourism to the Department of Transport seeing it become the Department of Transport and Tourism. As mentioned earlier, have the Department of Rural and Community Development become the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Gaeltacht. Now, Catherine Martin is left with just Arts, Culture, Sports, and Media in her charge. But, we’re not done here yet…


By making the Department of Finance become the Department of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, we freed up a department. This can now become the new Department of Sports and Media, taking two more briefs away from Minister Martin. A possible step further even, make it the Department of Sports, Media, and Communication, leaving us with a Department of Environment and Climate as well, because that’s a portfolio that will certainly need as much time as possible devoted to the growing challenges it will continue to face in the years to come. 


And we’re not done even at that, because there’s one more move which would also make sense in two ways. If we take Heritage from the current Department of Housing and Local Government and Heritage, and move it to what Catherine Martin still has on her desk, we end up with a Department of Housing andLocal Government (and as with a Department of Environment and Climate, a Department of Housing and Local Government will have more than enough on its plate!), while Minister Martin heads up our Department of Arts, Culture, and Heritage. 

To my mind, this paints a much more balanced overall picture. But crucially for the music and ‘live’ events sectors, Minister Martin would, right from the get-go, have been in a significantly better position to champion these sectors. There’s just no question about that. Her workload and areas of responsibility would have been literally cut in half. The time and energy that she’s had to put into dealing with the tourism, Gaeltacht, sports, and media briefs since taking office could all have been devoted to her efforts on behalf of the music and ‘live’ events sector, as part of her Arts, Culture, and Heritage brief. There’s no way in the world that this wouldn’t have made some difference to things, and perhaps even enough for these sectors to – at last – be looking beyond Covid. 


So why would any government in its right mind even attempt to wedge six portfolios – each one so important in its own right, let me stress that again – into the department of one single minister? 
Well, it has to be said that the answer looks simple enough at this stage. For those of us who work in the music and ‘live’ events sectors, the problem isn’t just that this government has been acting like it doesn’t care right now. It’s that now, at last, maybe it’s becoming clearer to see that they never really cared at all. 
This government has already sanctioned the return to Croke Park of 40,000 fans for the All-Ireland hurling final. At the time of writing, public transport is set to return to full capacity next week (from Monday, August 30th), and schools are also due to reopen, if they haven’t already done so. But the music and ‘live’ events sectors? Still waiting on a ‘road-map.’ 


Just to be clear as well, very few who work in or are involved in the music or ‘live’ events sectors have any problem at all with the return of crowds to Croke Park or any other sporting occasions in large numbers, if it can happen safely. No problem at all. More luck to all involved. The point is, the exact same thing could already have been happening – in some shape or form – for concerts, festivals, and theatre too, as well as smaller ‘live’ music occasions. And the fault for that not being so, for this delay, and the embarrassing absence of clear communication on all of this, lies, ultimately, with the government. Not with Nphet as some would like us to believe. Throughout this whole pandemic, Nphet have been doing their job, which is just to advise the government. The final call rests with the government. 


And that’s who thought it was a good idea to ask one minister to take on the portfolios of the arts, culture, tourism, the Gaeltacht, sports, and the media in the first place. Those same decision makers are why the music and ‘live’ events sectors are still waiting on a ‘road-map’ instead of being well down the road to some kind of normality again. 

~ This week’s column can also be enjoyed in full at the official OTRT website, www.ontherighttrax.com 

ENDS

Marc Roberts

First Published August 2021

“PEOPLE NEED MUSIC”

Part 2

It’s far from a given that somebody who possesses an extraordinary talent will also possess a personality to match. One gentleman who effortlessly excels in both regards, however, is one of Ireland’s foremost talents when it comes to the gentle entwining of words and music, MARC ROBERTS. 


Truth be told, in fact, if some extraordinary talents were relying only – or even too much – on their personalities, they’d be in big, big trouble. And just to be clear, when I talk about personality in this context, I mean something as simple as someone’s ability or inclination to be friendly, to be respectful of others, to be able to show some sympathy, some empathy, and some compassion as a matter of course, rather than as an exception, or only when they have their ‘show’ face on. There are some in the world of entertainment who consider themselves to be ‘stars’ first, humans second. In their own minds, they walk among us, rather than with us. Not so with Marc. 


The Mayo native, who has made his home in the land of the tribes where he presents The Feel Good Factor on Galway Bay FM, is as down to earth and normal a chap as it could ever be your pleasure to meet. Marc is a genuinely extraordinary artist, as his latest single, CONSIDER IT DONE, proves yet again. And if you haven’t yet heard his previous release, the truly beautiful Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes, let that be exhibit B in this case. 


But as well as being s songwriter of considerable skill and renown himself, Marc was also the man responsible for introducing Daniel O’ Donnell to the craft in a serious way. But how, I wondered, did it all happen? This week, we get Part 2 of our recent chat with Marc underway by the man himself telling us all about it…


“Well Daniel has been a friend of mine forever, for as long as I can remember. And he’s always been a great encourager and a great friend in the business, without a doubt. And we have a similar sense of humour too, to be honest. Then in 2004, I toured Australia with him, as his guest artist. He’s always said he loves my songs, so I used to always send them to him. But then he’d come back and say, ‘It’s a gorgeous song…but it’s just not me.’ And I was like, ‘Well what IS you then?’ [Laughs]. I didn’t get that. You see, with me, cathartically, I have to write. And I love it. I won’t push myself, but when something happens I go there. So it could be rock, pop, rap, classical, anything, I have bits of everything. I just love music, like I love people. That’s just me. And it has to come out some way. So I’d send him all of these, and in hindsight, I could see afterwards why they weren’t suiting him or whatever. So it was Don, my manager [Collins], while we were on tour who said, ‘For God’s sake, I’m sick listening to the two of ye talkin’ about writing. Why don’t ye get together and try writing something?’ The thing with Daniel is that he’s very lyrical in the way he speaks. And he comes out with some very profound statements, and some very positive things. He has his own definite thoughts on things. Almost to a charismatic point where he can comfort people by some of the things he says without even realising how important it was that he said it.”

“So when we came back from Australia”, continued Marc, “I went to his house in Donegal, and we wrote ‘I Will Think Of You.’ And then the following day – I stayed over that night – and the following day we wrote another one. That was two. And he was absolutely thrilled. He just couldn’t believe it. He was ringing two of his friends and goin’, ‘I’ve actually written my first song.’ And he did his work [on the song] the same as I did mine. We trashed out ideas back and forth, just kind of teaching him in a way that there are certain things you can say, but by not saying it. And there are certain words you shouldn’t use that just don’t work in a song, that kind of thing. And it went from there. We had two on that album, ‘Live,Laugh, Love’, then we had three on the next album, including the title-track, ‘Yesterday’s Memories.’ And then the next one was ‘Until The Next Time’, and I wrote two-thirds of that album, pretty much. The first single that came off it was called ‘Crush On You’, which went Top 20 in the UK pop charts.” 

So would Marc say that songwriting is something that can be taught to someone who might have never even attempted it previously? Or would it have to be someone like Daniel who – as Marc had pointed out – is almost lyrical without even knowing it, so maybe just needed to be made aware of how close to being a songwriter he actually was? 


“I’d say it’s a mixture of both, to be honest with you. I don’t think it’s something you can teach people. It’s something innate that we [songwriters] have. And there’s a general thought that you don’t question it too much in case it disappears [laughs]. We all do different things in life. I can’t do things that other people can do. I would be, probably, a deep thinker, I would think a lot and would be working things out that way. And I know Daniel would be the same, from the point of view of having definite thoughts and ways of saying things. His fans are just so important to him, no more than my own are to me as well. I mean, they are the reason that we do what we do. We’ve been given an amazing responsibility and opportunity to do what we do for a living, and meet people in the process, and make people happy. It’s just an amazing thing. So, for him, I would have definite ideas and things of what he wanted to say, and he did. All we did was get together and we tried it, and it worked. My manager and I have written a song together, just the one. And again, it was down to something that kept recurring thought-wise, words-wise, idea-wise. We finished it together coming back one night from a gig. So I don’t think it’s something you can teach people. You can show people the idea of what songwriting entails, but I think a lot of the magic is something that you have to be born with. It’s just something that happens. And as I said, you don’t question it too much [laughs].” 

Songwriting is a funny thing on the Irish country scene, in that it can often be ignored. An artist like Derek Ryan, for example, will – quite rightly – be heralded as a figure to admire precisely because he’s such an excellent songwriter. But he’s not the only great songwriter in Irish country music. Yet, so often you’ll see Irish country artists covering American country songs that, of course, first entered the world as…original songs. So why not find great original songs from Irish writers too? As a songwriter, how does Marc see that side of things? 


“The only thing that really bothers me is that there’s an element of karaoke coming into the business that I don’t like. I’ve written with Derek, we’ve written three or four songs together, and we’ve had quite a lot of success with those. And everytime we meet we say we must get together again! I’ve written with Brian Kennedy, I’ve written with Jimmy MacCarthy, there’s quite a lot of people I’ve written with and loved the whole process. Gary Barlow calls it sharing the birth experience! [Laughs]. It’s great to get like-minds in a room and to just work at something, and see it evolve. So that’s the only problem I have with the business. There’s even karaoke tracks being released with vocals on them, and that’s not what the business is about. Derek Ryan and I always say that the amazing thing about writing a song and releasing it is that you KNOW that no-one else is going to have that song as their next single. Whereas if you’re recording covers all the time, there’s always a danger that somebody else is going to have the same song recorded with three-and-a-half-grand spent on it, and so did you! Then it’s a battle for the playlists [laughs]. But you see, for us, for people like yourself and myself that write and are in the business, it’s a total commitment. You’re there for every element of it. And there’s nothing nicer for me than to hear somebody who wrote something perform it. If you ever hear Jimmy MacCarthy perform his own songs, it’s just the most magical thing. And you realise why he used a particular word in a particular place…because it’s him. I did a lot of stuff with Jimmy down through the years and he’s just amazing, the way he thinks and the images he creates. People that do write their own songs, I have so much respect for them because you have bought in totally into the whole business. Everything about who you are and what you do is music. Even when you’re off, you’re writing. You’re thinking about songs. You’re coming up with something. Then you’re seeing if it’s good enough, will people identify with it? It’s a full-package kinda thing, which is what the Americans have done for years. But people have always covered songs, and if it’s a great song, or something that meant a lot to me, I would certainly do it. But I love the original element of things because you’re getting a part of the person really.” 

Of course it isn’t just Daniel from the O’ Donnell household that Marc has co-written with, having collaborated with Majella on When I Found You, a very special song for the couple…


“That was amazing, yeah. And the way we did it. It was Don again, my manager, who came up with the idea. Majella had said to me one time she was down in Galway – her sister lives here – that she wanted something special for the wedding, and she’d love to write a song. She has a great voice, you know. And she just wanted to do something different. So she wanted to write one, but she had no idea if she could. And to be honest, I had no idea whether she could or not either! But Don came up with the suggestion that Majella write Daniel a letter telling him exactly how she felt about him from the minute she met him, and how her life has changed. And God forbid, but if he was to head off to war tomorrow and she was never to see him again…what would she say? What are the things you would say to someone you loved who you might never see again. And you’d only have this one opportunity to do it. We were performing our tribute to the music of John Denver in the National Concert Hall in Dublin at the time, and Majella came to the show with one of her friends. And before the show she handed me a letter, and she said, ‘Do not show this to anybody or I’ll kill ya!’ [Laughs]. I said no problem. So I came back to Galway, and I live beside the beach. So I literally went to the beach with the guitar, opened the letter, and twenty minutes later I had a song called ‘When I Found You.’ And that title was one of her lines. The very first line in the letter was, ‘How can I put into words the way you make me feel’, and that’s the first line of the song. So I literally crafted the song out of what she had given me. ‘You’re everything I’ve lived for/ Somehow it feels so right/ You’re the sunlight in the morning/ You’re the stars above at night/ I want this day to last forever/ I hope it always will/ I thank God above for making dreams come true/ Cos he gave me all I wished when I found you.'”

Marc went on, “While I know Majella, and she’s a dear friend of mine – more so now than at the time, when I would only have known her for about a year and a half, and on occasions where I would have met herself and Daniel at shows or maybe out in Tenerife – but we wouldn’t have been as close as we are now. And you need to be close to someone [to write with them], almost to be able to give out to them, to say, ‘You can’t say that!’ [Laughs]. When you’re writing with somebody you have to be so honest. You need to know you can trust that person, that you can say whatever it is, and sound as stupid as you want. Because then the other person can come back and say, that won’t work…but this will! That kind of trust has to be there. Anyway, when she heard the song, she was just blown away. Because she could hear the various things she’d said, ya know. So on the day of the wedding, after the first dance, I went up on stage with the guitar and Majella came up and sang it. And she made a gorgeous job of it. I’ll tell ya, he was one shocked Daniel! First time I’ve ever seen him speechless [laughs].” 

While every song will, of course, have its own special place in his heart and its own memories attached to it, I wondered which songs in Marc’s own catalogue held a particularly special place in his affections? 


“Probably the one I mentioned before, ‘Four Empty Walls.’ Because every Sunday afternoon, myself and my mum and dad, and my sister, always went to my grandparent’s house for a visit. That was my mum’s mum and dad. It was something we always did, and always loved to do. It was just unquestionable that every Sunday that’s where we were going to be. And some of my other relations would arrive and it was just gorgeous, it really was. Then, over a short period of time, both my grandparents passed away. And it became too difficult for any of us to go back and see the house. But one day, without telling anybody, I hopped in my car and I drove to the house. The wall around the front of the house that was too high when I was a kid, I could step over. At the back of the house there was a tree. And I remember one day, myself and my sister, Marie, we were playing at the tree and we tied a little piece of the tree down to the ground, so it was like in an arch. It was just a small piece of a twig. And all these years later, I came back and that tree had totally grown into that shape. And it really got me. And the house, all that was left of it was four empty walls. I sat in the car, I was quite upset, and I wrote ‘Four Empty Walls’ from beginning to end. Then I put it away because I couldn’t tell anybody that I’d been to the house, because I didn’t want to upset them. As in emotionally. Not that they would have minded me going there. But eventually I did [tell them]. It’s just one of those songs that affect all of us. And then, Shay Healy, God rest his soul, heard me sing it, asked for a copy of it, and sent it to Ralph Murphy, who sadly is no longer with us as well. Ralph was one of the people behind me being one of the six Irish writers who would go to Nashville, because of that song. To this day, everytime I sing it I’m back there. And I see my grandparents, so it’s special. It means a hell of a lot. And I’m so happy to say that it means a lot to a lot of people. Because everybody has that one little house, that one place in their life that they can’t go back to.” 

Because it is such an emotional song, is it also a hard one for Marc to sing? 


“It can be. It’s even harder if my mum and dad are in the audience. So I literally just have to blank them out [laughs]. Because the last thing you’d want to do is to upset your parents, needless to say. But everybody is back in that moment when I sing it…and me too. It’s just one of those things, every little bit of it brings me back…”

One thing we couldn’t pass over before our chat came to an end, was the state that the music and ‘live’ events industries remained in. On the day we spoke, indoor dining had just returned, and yet, for music to return indoors, the road ahead was – and is – still as unclear as it had been six, eight, and more months ago. What did Marc think lies ahead? Or what way back is one he thinks would work? 


“I honestly don’t know. It’s a little bit frightening. We were the first to go, we’ll be the last to come back. And we’re always the first port of call for anybody who needs any celebrations or charity, or whatever. And I have no problem with that. That’s one thing I spent a lot of time doing in lockdown, doing a lot of stuff for charity, which I’m very proud of. We did a concert on Valentine’s night for the National Breast Cancer Research Institute, I put it together and compéred it, and sang on it. We got all our buddies, Daniel, and Nathan, and everybody else to do it. And we raised €69,000, which was amazing. Again, for a very worthy cause, because everybody is affected by something like that. But yeah, I honestly don’t know what the answer to those questions are. What scares me a little bit is that we’re not talked about that much, as an industry. I know for a fact people need music, in every sense. Emotionally, physically, socially, whatever it may be. Everybody needs it, and I think this has highlighted it. On the other hand, this is unprecedented, this has never happened before. So I mean, my heart goes out to the government at the same time, because there’s no blueprint. Everybody’s waiting to see what’s going to happen. It’s difficult for everybody. I have no idea how music is going to come back, be it in phases or whatever. But I really do believe that it has to come back. People cannot live without music. We can’t live without performing it, and people can’t live without that social element, and music’s release, and that ability to provoke thought. Everybody needs it. I’d be quietly positive, and I always would be, that we’ll get there.” 

Finally, we finished up with what is possibly my favourite question to ask anybody that I’m lucky enough to have a chat like this with. I asked Marc if he could remember one of the best lessons he’s ever learned, be it about life in general or specifically music related. And also, is there any one piece of advice he’s ever been given – again, about life in its broadest sense or just about music – that has stuck with him and served him well to this very day? 


“Great question. I went to secondary school in Gortnor Abbey in Crossmolina, which was the Jesus and Mary nuns. And they always said one thing: you have two ears and one mouth for a reason! And I think that’s the best advice in the world. Listen. Speak your mind, but listen when you’ve spoken, like I said in the song. It’s amazing even at gigs when you meet people, and how people can feel comfortable enough to talk to ya. Ok, it might end up in a song [laughs], but at the same time, I think it’s so important to listen. I really do. To anybody. I find in conversations, if there’s a lot of talk goin’ on, I get quieter [laughs]. I just listen. And that’s not being judgemental, it’s not being anything. I just feel that when the time is right, or if I have something to say, I ‘ll say it. But in the meantime, I’ll just keep quiet. That’s one of the most important things, and I’ve always remembered it…you have two ears and one mouth for a reason! Listen twice as much as you speak. And the other one then, well I remember being asked once by Brenda Balfe on RTE Radio 1, aroundabout the time of Eurovision, my favourite proverb. And it would be, ‘Never leave to do tomorrow what you can do today.’ Because if you do it today and you like it, then you can do it again tomorrow! [Laughs].

CONSIDER IT DONE, the brand new single from MARC ROBERTS, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. You can also tune into Marc’s shows on Galway Bay FM every weekend, The Feel Good Factor (Saturday and Sunday afternoons), and Sunday Night Country.

ENDS

Marc Roberts

First Published August 2021

“BELIEVE THAT IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN”

Part 1

There are certain artists who don’t just fall into the category of ‘gentleman’ in the world of Irish music, but whose very names could well be used to define the term. And singer/songwriter MARC ROBERTS is most definitely one of those artists. Simply put, if you were to name someone with a bad word to say about Marc, I’d name you two liars in return. And you’d be one of them. 


As well as sharing his own considerable talents with us over the years, Marc has also represented Ireland on the international stage, taking the song Mysterious Woman – written by Nathan Carter’s manager (and no slouch himself in the songwriting department), John Farry – to within one place of glory in the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest. Not just someone who happens to make his living in the music business, Marc also harbours a deep appreciation for those whose musical gifts have graced the world. This sense of gratitude led to him recording the album A Tribute to the Music of John Denver, with a live show performing the hits of the Country Roads legend also giving rise to ‘full-house’ signs going up at venues nationwide. In fact, that show even made it to Denver’s hometown of Colorado. 


It was under Marc’s expert guidance that Daniel O’ Donnell himself first ventured into the realm of songwriting, something we’ll come back to in much more detail during Part 2 of our chat. 


So, with all of the foregoing considered, it seems more than fitting – and especially given the monumental achievement of his fellow county-men in dethroning the Dubs at Croke Park last Saturday! – that we point the OTRT spotlight in the direction of this proud Mayo man this week. 

I had the pleasure of catching up with Marc a week or so ago, with the main reason for our chat being the release of his latest single, CONSIDER IT DONE. I asked Mark if that song was based on anything in particular from his own life, or was it more a case that he came up with the hook or a couple of good lines and just took it from there? 


“It’s kind of a mixture, because the expression, ‘consider it done’, just came to me, and I thought, wow, that’s catchy. But what could it mean, though? Then when I started to think about it, it’s kind of like how your life progresses and the way you should think. The chorus is, “Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride/ It’s not how you look, but how you feel inside/ And if you need a helping hand, consider it done.” Don’t ever be afraid to ask for a helping hand. It’s all about the whole idea that life is about choices. I was always torn between the expressions, ‘Everything comes to he who waits’, and then, ‘He who hesitates is lost.’ Because how can they both be right? ‘Consider It Done’ was on my first album, and for me at the time it was my perception of the business. How does it start…God, I’d need the guitar on my knee now to think of the lyrics [laughs]. ‘When you sit and count the stars in the sky/ You want to touch them, but they’re too damn high/ If you want the brightest star, consider it done.’ Everything seems like, oh my God…how is this gonna happen? But if you have a bit of belief and faith in yourself and what you’re doing, and you know it’s right…then karma! It’ll happen! If it’s supposed to happen, it will happen. Consider it done.” 

While I didn’t realise that Consider It Done had also appeared on Marc’s debut album, I did notice that it was also the title of his publishing company. So ‘consider it done’, as a phrase, obviously has a much deeper significance in Marc’s life? 


“Well yeah, that’s it. And that’s the explanation for it. It’s my publishing company, and our record label is C.I.D., which is also ‘consider it done.’ It’s like a positive affirmation. If you want something, consider it done. Believe in it. Believe that it’s going to happen, and have faith. The problem is a lot of us don’t know what it is we want [laughs]. I think everybody is the same, no matter what walk of life you’re in. You want something, whatever it is. But if you believe that it can happen, just believe in it, then consider it done. It will happen.” 

Marc mentioned how he was always torn between the two phrases, “He who hesitates is lost”, and “Everything comes to he who waits.” But of those two, which one did Marc himself tend to veer more towards, I wondered? 


“All my life it’s been a mixture of both, and that’s what always kind of confused me. How can they both be right? Everything comes to he who waits. So, if you sit back and wait for something to happen…allegedly it will happen. But I do believe that everything happens for a reason. People come into your life for a reason. Things happen in your life for a reason. So it would be more that than he who hesitates is lost. That used to always throw a spanner in the works for me. I used to try to figure out, well, if I hesitate too much…time is passing, life goes on, things change, everything changes. Music changes. Thankfully for me, that song still means as much to me as it did when I wrote it. And I see it in so many people, and it’s such a positive affirmation to have. Just consider it done, whatever it is.” 

Was there any particular reason why Marc wanted to bring the song back into the public arena right now?


“Because anytime that I performed it ‘live’, people loved it. And I wanted to bring it to a different audience. I got it remastered and edited for radio, so it sounds very much of what’s happening now in lots of ways. It’s very radio-friendly, and any presenter that’s heard it has loved it. So thankfully, from that point of view, it’s been playlisted everywhere, including RTE, which is great. It’s a very polished production. It was Chris O’ Brien and Graham Murphy that did it, and they’re both Grammy nominees, as you know, for their production. And Billy Farrell, who I write with, and produces quite a lot of my stuff, is also a Grammy nominated producer, he mastered it for me. There’s still a lot of people who hadn’t heard, so to them it’s a brand new song anyway.” 

Consider It Done is the follow up to Marc’s previous single, Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes. What process does Marc go through when he’s considering a new release? 


“Well, to be honest with you, I’d normally be a bit more organised than I am now [laughs], but with the way things are with the pandemic…! ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes’ was a huge radio hit from our point of view, and again, it ticked a lot of boxes for me. It’s a song that I was inspired to write by my niece and nephew when they were kids. And it all came from the way when you’re a kid, and you know when you look up at the sun and you get tears in your eyes? And my wish for them was that the only time they’d have tears in their eyes was when they looked at the sun. So ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes’ was my little way of twisting it around and saying don’t get those tears in your eyes. And again, the song was very much along the lines of something that you could live your life by, at any age. ‘Let tears of joy be the only tears you cry/ May the universe guide you in everything you do/ ‘Cause love will always see you through.’ It goes on, ‘Speak your mind, but listen when you’ve spoken/ Choose your words so no-one feels the pain/ Open your heart, although it may get broken/ Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ Again, it’s saying to live your life in a positive way. Be good to people. You’ll get it back tenfold. Help people whenever you can. And I’ve always lived my life by that. So that song was me telling them what I felt would help them in life.” 

Even just listening to Marc speak about those two songs – Consider It Done and Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes – and hearing him recite some of the lyrics, it really emphasises how philosophical a songwriter he seems to be. I asked Marc if he thought that was a fair observation? 


“Hmmm…I can be. Depending on the type of song. Those two songs, for instance, they almost wrote themselves, both of them. Because they’d be very much an extension of the way I would think. I wouldn’t like to see myself pontificating to people that they should do this, or that. But it’s to remind people that life is always full of choices. There’s lots of things that you can do. If it can be half-full or half-empty, it’s always better to be half-full. It’s that kind of thing. You only have to listen to the younger artists now to realise – and this is in general, in pop music, Ed Sherran, Tom Grennan, any of these guys – the lyrics are so important. I think people don’t realise how important they are. It’s not all about, ‘I love you and you love me.’ That’s been done a million times. You have to find a different way of saying that, but still keeping the sentiment. I think, if you can make people think, you’re halfway there. If it does nothing else but somebody gets something positive out of it… Usually people will just go, ‘Ah it’s a lovely song, I love the melody of it.’ But then all of a sudden they’ll come back and go, ‘Wow, I was listening to the words!’ It proves that the perfect marriage has to be both words and music. Words are so important. Down through the years, a lot of the time, they’ve become lost. And that’s a pity, because they’re very important.” 

Given how hard the last seventeen or so months have been for the music, entertainment, and arts industries, did being a songwriter help Marc to get through it all? Was he able to fill some of that extra time writing, or, like a lot of songwriters, did he actually find it a hard time to write? 


“Good question. I’ve done some writing, but no more than I would have ever done. I’m not very regimented and orderly in that sense. It’s hard to explain. I’ve never done a 9-to-5 writing job. I know that works for Gilbert O’ Sullivan and Chris De Burgh, and people like that, and that’s great. But I don’t know, I kind of consider that too much like work! [Laughs]. I always used to write better when coming home from a gig, it could be three or four o’ clock in the morning and there’s nobody on the road, you have a coffee, and you take your time. Just empty your head of any thoughts, and that’s when I get ideas. My only thing that I was very conscious of from the very beginning of Covid, was that I didn’t want to write anything negative. I didn’t want to write anything that was going to be very much of a pandemic type of song. Because we all just have had enough of it. We just want to get on with life. We want to get back to some semblance of normality. I wrote one with Charlie McGettigan, and in that one we actually went there. It’s one called ‘To Hold You Again.’ We were both kind of thinking God, ya know there’s people that would come to our gigs that we’d give a hug to at the end of it. And we were thinking if only we could get back to that person again, that would be an indication that things were normal! But, we’ll just have to wait. I’ve always done a little bit of writing, the usual scribbling down little bits and singing my heart out into my phone. That’s what I do. I’ve finished a song with Max T. Barnes, that’s going to be a single soon.”

CONSIDER IT DONE, the brand new single from MARC ROBERTS, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. You can also tune into Marc’s shows on Galway Bay FM every weekend, The Feel Good Factor (Saturday and Sunday afternoons), and Sunday Night Country. 

ENDS