herald

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Fionn’s island of dreams

An interview is a creative process. Or so says Fionn Regan. The arty bohemian in the striped shirt has a point. It's up to me to ask interesting questions, and for the interviewee to respond in the most imaginative way possible. And they don't come more original than comparing your first album to "a lemonade stand that got out of hand".

Journalists have learned to deal with Fionn's ever-expanding range of riddles, metaphors and hilarious similes. It's entertaining, if a little pretentious.

"I suppose it's just like writing a song," says Fionn. "It's a creative thing. Why does it have to be 'size of shoes' and 'who's your girlfriend?' You know what I mean?" I do.

But the 28-year-old, from Bray, appears to have toned down the artiness in favour of a more straightforward approach to conversation.

We could discuss his Mercury Prize-nominated debut, 2006's The End of History, which took him all around the world, and gave him a landmark deal with US record label Lost Highway (home to Willie Nelson and, previously, Ryan Adams).Or, we could talk about the breakdown of said deal and a less-than-pleasing follow-up in the form of The Shadow of an Empire.

But let's start with 100 Acres of Sycamore -- a wonderful return to form, complete with rich, emotive storytelling, enchanting piano, and some beautifully presented string arrangements.

The last record was a chrysalis, he says, which makes this one a butterfly (steady on). Whereas The End of History took three and a half years to follow up, 100 Acres of Sycamore arrives barely 18 months after the Irish folkster pulled a Dylan and went electric.

Thankfully, those days are far behind us, but his decision to record a third album so quickly was purely "artistic", without any of the industry woes that he experienced last time around.

"I've always made things in my own mad way," he says. "I made The End of History and there was no expectation for it . . . it just had its own life.

"It just so happened that the record I made in between that and The Shadow of an Empire didn't get put out, so I went and made another one," he continues.

"It was a miracle that I got a record out that quick, considering what was happening. My feet hadn't touched the ground . . . there was all sorts of shenanigans going on."

Basically, Lost Highway wanted one thing and Fionn presented another. I hope he didn't take it personally.

"I didn't," he replies.

"In a lot of ways, it's just to do with communication," he says. "It's like, if you commission someone to paint a picture, they draw a sketch and everybody agrees that the gorge should be on the left, and that the trees will be there, and so on. Then you come back with the finished painting, and they go 'no'. That's the nature of art.

"But the nature of the record that I made was so uncompromising -- I thought I might get away with it but I didn't," he laughs.

But had it worked out with Lost Highway, the musician might never have had the opportunity to visit the beautiful village of Deia, Majorca.

Having met British actress Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies, Land of the Lost) in Valencia, the pair bonded over a mutual love for English poet and writer Robert Graves, who had lived in Deia until his death in 1985. Friel then invited Regan to stay at her home on the island, where he could work on his writing.

"It was just one of those serendipitous things where the stars align," he recalls. "Some people you meet, you just know that you'll be friends for a long time. So it was just one of those very lucky things where we got talking about Robert Graves' book, The White Goddess.

"Deia is like a dream. I mean, you can see why it was such a magnet for so many writers," he says.

"When Graves was there he just started buying houses and moving people out there, so you have the roots of an artistic community that's developed over years and years -- everybody's making films and writing. It's an amazing place."

Time's almost up. Before I go, I've been instructed by a friend to ask about his impression of Mick Jagger. And I'm not leaving until I see it for myself.

"A mean impression of Mick Jagger? I've never heard of that," he replies. "That might be the tricks of the night . . ."

Hmmm, something tells me he knows exactly what I'm talking about. I'll get it out of him yet.

100 Acres of Sycamore is out now

Promoted articles

Entertainment News