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Liter-Artists: An Interview with Neil Moran

Neil Moran is a singer-songwriter from Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath. He has been honing his craft since his teenage years and has been performing extensively around Ireland for several years now. Neil came into his own with his debut EP 'In time' in late 2016 and has followed it up with gigs in Ireland, and the U.S. Neil also has appeared with acts including Glen Hansard, John Spillane, Mick Flannery and The Riptide Movement.

'Gracefully written acoustic Folk album. ‘Here to Home‘ is an introspective EP that traverses the terrains of pain and regret. The songs take a long look at the pain and suffering that has been caused by mistakes made in a relationship. There are moments of reflection as well as wondering if there is a way to mend this broken relationship. All of which gives the lyrical songwriting of ‘Here to Home‘ a humbling feeling. Moran takes real care to fully vocalize the emotions in his songs, placing the listener right in his shoes. His emotive vocals are warm and sincere yet regretful. Adding the acoustic instrumental background arrangement to the overall atmosphere not only makes the EP very intimate but allows the words to hit home. Overall ‘Here to Home‘ is something everyone will be able to relate to on one level or another.' - The Music Below.

'Here to Home' is the title of Neil's current EP which was released on the 6th of March 2020.

Hi Neil, first I would like to thank you for taking the time for this interview. Your latest EP 'Here to Home' is so delicate and beautiful, 'Passing By' is my favourite - I even added the song on an Irish playlist I made. Your music helps me to escape. What inspires you to create?

Hi Sophia, thank you very much for your kind words about my music and adding it to the playlist. I find inspiration in personal experiences and more recently from other people, from things going on around me that I feel I can relate to or feel moved by.

 I think when you create something, there is always going to be a part of you in what you are writing about. For example, not all my songs are personal, but I try to find a personal experience that I can connect with the lyrics. I feel like I can’t just sing anything…I need to believe in what the lyrics are about.

Do you have a unique process when you create, and does literature play a role in this process?

I find what has worked for me when I write songs is to just sit down either with the guitar or the piano and try to find some chords that speak to me. If I find something, I record it on my phone and see if any lyrics flow with the melody. If I am lucky, I would be able to finish the song right away. More often, though, I will come back to my recordings, review them, and see if anything sparks. In terms of songwriting, if I have a writer’s block, reading a good book helps me open the mind. It can be a great inspiration for helping lyrics flow or seeing how others tell stories.

Who are your favourite writers, and why?

Cormac McCarthy is probably my favourite writer. The first book of his I read was The Road, and I found it to be a very moving story set in dark times. I loved the relationship between the father and his son and how they both learn from each other. I love his style of writing and how I can never call what will happen next in his stories. I loved his western trilogy, The Border trilogy. J.R.R Tolkien is another one of my favourites. The Fellowship of the Ring was one of the first of his books that I’ve read. I loved the world that he created, and the stories of friendship in difficult times. I found it incredible how he created such a vast world full of great characters.

What makes a book your favourite?

Similar to a great song, I guess for me is the storyline and the characters that I can understand and maybe even compare in a way.

Music and literature are often interconnected; for example, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. In your opinion, is music literature?

I believe so, for me, it comes down to storytelling. I believe that songs can be literature, and they can both influence each other in many ways. I think Bob Dylan deserved the Nobel Prize. The standard of his storytelling over the past 50+ years… there hasn’t been anyone close to him. I find myself reading his lyrics to find out what happens to the people in his songs. I also feel Bruce Springsteen can write in a similar storytelling style.

We are all living in a difficult time due to the Covid-19 crisis, but has it helped you to read more and create?

I find that it has been helpful towards both reading and creating. I have had more free time to read, which has been great. In terms of creating new songs, I have spent more time at my guitar and going over new ideas. I’ve been happy with some of the new songs I’ve been working on. I didn’t want to become frustrated if I couldn’t come up with something that I didn’t like. I do my best of not trying to force it or to write just for the sake of it.

Music and literature both have psychological benefits. What do they bring to you?

For me both let me switch off from everything going on around me and allows me to stay in that moment of what you are listening to, playing or reading.

What are your favourite songs at the moment?

Right now, I would have to go with “The Temptation of Adam” by Josh Ritter. I find myself listening to that often. The song has a great story, and the lyrics are worth reading alone.

“Things Have Changed” by Bob Dylan is another excellent song. I love the way the lyrics flow in this song along with the great band sound. “Rainy Night in Soho” by Shane Macgowan. Always loved this one and find I've been playing it a lot lately, great lyrics and melody.

Thank you so much for your answers. I hope to see you again live in Galway! One last question to give us inspiration on what to read this summer - what are the books you think we all should read?

Anything by Cormac McCarty really, I'll go with No Country for Old Men. Also The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt, great western, I really enjoyed it. Thanks very much! I really enjoyed the chat, great questions.

You can find Neil Moran's latest release here on Spotify, Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Interviewed by Sophia Hadef.

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