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Lauded by the likes of Tom Waits and Bill Withers, Cork mu­si­cian Jack O’Rourke talks to Ed­win McFee about his de­but al­bum Dream­catcher, his in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed song ‘Si­lence’, and why he doesn’t want to be pi­geon­holed.

At the time of go­ing to press, Dream­catcher, the de­but al­bum from ris­ing Cork­bred tune­smith Jack O’Rourke is cur­rently sit­ting pretty in the top five of the Ir­ish al­bum charts. The prod­uct of years of hard work, the award-win­ning writer (more on that in a bit) was un­der­stand­ably chuffed with his achieve­ment when we caught up with him.

“I’m re­ally fuck­ing proud of what I’ve achieved this year,” he beams. “Dream­catcher is the only in­de­pen­dent re­lease in the top 30, so it’s a great mo­ment for me, my band and PR team. We’re at a grass­roots level and are do­ing ev­ery­thing our­selves with­out sup­port from any la­bels, so it feels good and I’m glad peo­ple are en­joy­ing it.”

An­other suc­cess for O’Rourke is his ster­ling new single

‘On The Down­low’. A sort of reimag­in­ing of Roy Or­bi­son’s ev­er­green ‘I Drove All Night’, the singer tells us that the cur­rent radio hit was part of his plan to make his piano-based mu­sic as un­pigeon­hole-able as pos­si­ble.

“Ini­tially there wasn’t much adorn­ment on the track and I told my pro­ducer [Chris­tian Best] I wanted it to sound like an up­dated ’80s power bal­lad. I particularly loved the pro­duc­tion of that Roy Or­bi­son song and we took it from there.

“I’ve re­leased a lot of dif­fer­ent types of songs over the last year or two and I’ve made a con­scious de­ci­sion to try to avoid get­ting put in a box.

We’re in this cul­ture of peo­ple want­ing to pi­geon­hole mu­sic and that’s only in­creas­ing, so I want to avoid that as best I can.”

De­scrib­ing the record­ing process for his de­but as “re­laxed and chilled” (two words which are rarely used in re­la­tion to mak­ing one’s first ever al­bum, in fair­ness), the song­writer cred­its the easy birth of Dream­catcher to hav­ing con­fi­dence in his songs and a bunch of stel­lar mu­si­cians be­side him to aid and aug­ment his vi­sion.

“The record­ing wasn’t as stress­ful as it could have been,” he of­fers. “Not to sound ar­ro­gant, but I had a high stan­dard of what I wanted the al­bum to sound like and I had – and have – some ex­cel­lent mu­si­cians with me, so that took some of the anx­i­ety away.”

One of the key mo­ments on the al­bum is a tune en­ti­tled ‘Si­lence’. A semi­au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal story of a boy re­al­is­ing he’s gay, the song has since be­come some­thing of an an­them after it was adopted by both Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and Yes Equal­ity.

“It was a proud mo­ment for me but I didn’t re­ally en­vi­sion it be­com­ing an an­them,” says O’Rourke. “I think the song goes be­yond sex­u­al­ity and could be about any type of sup­pres­sion. I think ev­ery­body, no mat­ter who they are, can re­late to that. Dur­ing the mar­riage ref­er­en­dum I was heav­ily in­volved in the Yes cam­paign and when I was out can­vass­ing, peo­ple told me they were go­ing to vote No un­til they heard that song and it changed their opin­ion, which meant a lot.

“I think it touched a nerve with a lot of folks be­cause it wasn’t try­ing to preach some­thing, or push a view on some­one. It was a story of a child who was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, told rawly.”

And it wasn’t just the peo­ple of Ire­land who were moved by ‘Si­lence’. None other than Tom Waits and Bill Withers were also smit­ten with the song, which fended off 80,000 other en­tries in the In­ter­na­tional Song­writ­ing Com­pe­ti­tion to win first prize in the Lyrics Cat­e­gory.

“It was a great feel­ing win­ning the prize, especially as Tom Waits and Bill Withers were judges,” says Jack. “The fact that they liked the words of the song, particularly as there’s so many Ir­ish-isms and Cork slang in it, meant it trans­lated on a uni­ver­sal level which was good to hear.

“It’s a weird one be­cause art should never be a com­pe­ti­tion. I’m al­ways re­minded of that Neil Young quote, ‘Com­pe­ti­tions are for race­horses’, but the fact that ‘Si­lence’ re­ceived that ac­co­lade has cer­tainly helped bring at­ten­tion to my mu­sic.”

Dream­catcher is out now.

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