Tuesday 12 December 2017

Conor enjoys his year of the Jackal

his mercury nomination has changed perSpectives for Villagers' Conor O'Brien but, he tells chris wasser, He NEVER wantED to win

"I'm not just saying this in hindsight because we didn't win or anything," he tells me, "I kept saying it to everyone leading up to it -- when I started to think 'oh s**t, if I win, I have to say something'. I was kind of happy we didn't, because it had already done its job for us -- way more people knew about the album and were hearing the songs, we were getting played on the radio in the UK more and since then it's been packed houses."

"We did our biggest show in London two nights ago in front of 800 people," he continues, "and now we've just booked the Shepherds Bush Empire, which is crazy, you know, 2,000 people. The winning thing might have tipped it over the edge in terms of the buzz -- it might have been overkill. I want people to discover this band on their own terms and it has felt nice and natural up to now -- I don't want to ruin that."

Things are working out pretty well in the US, too. A few days after our meeting, Conor (originally from Dun Laoghaire) will return to the States for his fourth tour -- the first with the band -- since forming Villagers. They'll also be back in Dublin in December for two highly anticipated performances at Vicar Street, one of which has already sold out.

But it's his colourful past as part of another hotly tipped domestic act that we should talk about. After all, it's more than three years since Malahide-based foursome The Immediate decided to call it a day, shocking many of their followers and commentators who believed that the band had what it takes to go all the way. As the group's former vocalist and guitarist, Conor isn't afraid to mention the band's name, either, dropping it on several occasions throughout the interview.

"As soon as The Immediate ended, I went on tour with Cathy Davey," he says, "and that was the first time I actually got paid to play music. And from then on in, it became a bit more of a thing that I could do so I could buy food and stuff, which is good."

But where was his head at when that band came to an end, I wonder? Did he adopt a new game plan when writing songs under the Villagers name?

"I didn't really have an end goal in my head when I was writing the songs at the start," he replies, "because that's what I've always done -- I've always written songs. But I didn't know how they were going to be presented, or if I was going to form a band, or if I was going to give them to someone else to perform. I took it day by day, and I took my time at it as well.

"I didn't force myself to get anything together. I went on tour with Cathy and then, in my free time, I could stay in and just demo, basically. So, I guess, I was constantly writing and the band and everything, that happened around it. It sort of slowly started to come together."

Despite writing new material on the road, Conor promises that the next album will be good, and that it certainly won't include lyrics about "touring travelodges". What's more important, however, is keeping a level head despite his success. Oh, and making sure that he doesn't become a "d**khead".

"I just want to make sure I maintain this obsession with the art side of things," he finishes, "I don't want to go up my own a*se, really, and it's very easy to do that when you're always touring, and I want to make sure that it doesn't happen."

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