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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Northern Ireland Singer-Songwriter Matt McGinn Releases New Single Ahead Of Upcoming 6th Album

By Stevie Connor.

Pushed entirely from his comfort zone, it took an unnerving and potentially intimidating musical collaboration to jolt acclaimed Northern Irish singer-songwriter Matt McGinn from a period of musical depression to create his sixth and arguably finest album to date. Behind Every Door will be released on 27 October on Dolmen Lane Records.

A revered fixture on the Irish scene, McGinn’s previous release ‘Time Well Spent’ (which featured folk royalty, Eliza Carthy, Aoife Scott and Jon Thorne) had enjoyed ‘Album of the Week’ status on both RTÉ Radio 1 and BBC Radio Ulster plus a plethora of glowing reviews, and yet, he says, “the songs had dried up. I just couldn’t write.” A Community Engagement programme in East Belfast then invited McGinn to take part in a project that would see him work with a Loyalist flute band from the area. Despite being no stranger to writing about the consequences of conflict, McGinn is from a Catholic background so admits to having found the idea “terrifying”.

However, as the collaborators connected, they realised they were all affected by the trauma of growing up against a backdrop of conflict, and that they had far more in common than differences, both in music and life. McGinn wrote 8 songs for the project, two of which appear on ‘Behind Every Door’. Most importantly, the creative floodgates had opened, kick-starting an album of beautiful songs and outstanding songwriting blending folk, alt-country and soul.

The first of those two songs is the album’s opening track and first single, ‘The Music’, an upbeat, driving melody-drenched song featuring swirling fiddles and McGinn’s warm, husky voice and wise words. The track shines a light on the historic common ground he shares with the band; in essence, music, melody and the mass emigration of all Irish music traditions across the globe, particularly America where it has inspired so much of their music.

Elsewhere on the album, ‘Lig Duinn’ - slang for 'back off’ – is a foot stomping track written for anyone who has felt any kind of oppression in their lives, while ‘God Only Knows’ is a personal, thoughtful, country-inflected song about the Irish obsession with land. ‘Rainbows’ is a touching, melancholic song that pays respect for all those brave enough not to be straight in Northern Ireland, and McGinn’s reminder not to take his rights for granted.

But it’s the closing track, the staggeringly beautiful The Turning of The Tide that is the most powerful. An epic, 11-minute opus inspired by Willie Campbell who busked on the streets of Belfast in the 60's playing the musical saw. The lyrics see life from his viewpoint, but reflect on the fact that he could never have envisioned The Troubles that hit soon after he died in 1969. Demonstrating McGinn’s impeccable talent for arranging, the track features strings, Uilleann Pipes, virtuoso piper Darragh Murphy and archive footage of Willie himself performing in the song’s utterly haunting final moments.

Recorded in just two days, ‘Behind Every Door’ is a dynamic ten-track collection of magical songs that traverse uplifting, driving melodies, rollicking fiddle-led Celtic folk and introspective, reflective pieces. Throughout, McGinn’s emotive, personal songwriting shines matched by the warmth and passion of his voice.

Joining McGinn (vocals and guitar) on ‘Behind Every Door’ is John McCullough (keys), Eamon Ferris (drums), Colm McClean (Guitars), Darragh Murphy, (Uilleann Pipes & Whistles) and Damian McGeehan (fiddle).

Matt McGinn is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer from Hilltown in Co. Down, Northern Ireland. He studied music at Queens University in Belfast, yet cites his early days as his real musical education trawling through his parents record collection – from Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to Beatles and Beethoven. He learned complex harmonies in the school choir and later delved into the sounds Hendrix and Horslips. Then along came John Martyn, Nick Drake Bob Dylan, Planxty, Robert Johnson, Paul Brady & Andy Irvine. He drew inspiration from them all.

Matt began writing his own songs - a personal, intimate representation of where he is in the moment – and began playing live, opening for the likes of Chris Smither, John Hammond Jnr, Peter Green and Lucy Kaplansky.

Matt recorded his debut album, ‘Livin’ in 2012, but it was his third recording, ‘Lessons of War’ in 2020 and its lead track ‘Bubblegum’ ft. Ciara O’Neill (written with Mick Flannery) that put him firmly on the map. It enjoyed significant acclaim and he was named one to watch’ by Hotpress Magazine.

In 2020 Aoife Scott, daughter of Frances Black, duet with him on his track, ‘Time Well Spent’ which became one of the biggest folk songs on Irish radio. Since then, Matt has had 4 singles top The BBC Radio Ulster and RTÉ Radio 1 radio airplay charts and released his fifth album, ‘Time Well Spent’ (2022)

To celebrate Northern Ireland Screen’s digital archives, Matt composed, arranged and performed a 'Tribute to Willie Campbell’, a man who busked the streets of Belfast for 40 years until he died in 1969. The piece has been screened at film festivals as far as New York and Berlin and has been nominated for a FOCAL International award.

Matt McGinn is currently nominated for a Hotpress award for Best Irish Songwriter and releases his sixth album, ‘Behind every Door’ in October 2023.



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