Interview: Fintan McKahey

With his debut EP coming out and endless projects in the backburner, things seem to be only just starting for 21-year-old singer/song-writer, Fintan McKahey.

However, the origins of and inspirations for his percussionist-style of music leave a lot to be uncovered. Aideen Casey talks to the West-Cork native to find out what’s behind his eclectic style and what’s in store for the year ahead.

As with all good musicians, Fintan began playing music from quite a young age, with a little help from his musically gifted father.

My dad was a musician; he was quite well known. He was in a band in the 80s, called Stump. He was a drummer with them. They were from Cork as well and were very big in the 80s; they were second in the indie charts for about 6 months. They were quite big internationally for a good while until they broke up. So, he kind of introduced me to music and to playing the guitar. I play the drums as well. He would have helped me free my mind and start writing.

I started playing bass in a couple of bands – most of my live experience was playing bass in bands. I played with a guy I know who plays the drums and we put gigs together with my dad. That was kind of the start of all performances, 6 or 7 years ago. Since then I got more and more into recording and production and that’s kind of what I have been doing ever since, just recording flat out on my own and working as a solo artist. I moved to London last year doing a music production degree. I was doing a lot of studio stuff like recording and developing weird techniques to record songs, so I went into the whole behind the scenes production part.

The West-Cork native wasn’t confined only to London, however: the musician has travelled to several countries that have hugely influenced his music.

[I travel] a hell of a lot, really. I was just in Ibiza last week for a couple of weeks playing a few bits of music over there. I was in Thailand as well for all of January playing some music over there. I was in Peru a few years ago for a couple of weeks doing this course with loads of Shamans. I was kind of embarking on this spiritual thing, so I’d say that definitely had a big impact in at least my lyrics. It inspires you to write songs because of the whole culture. My style is kind of ethnic and I’m really into psychedelic music. Psychedelic music definitely has a worldly feel to it – even if you go back to The Beatles and their stuff – playing guitar and all this mad, psychedelic music.

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My mum always took me travelling when I was younger, so I always kind of had a taste for travelling. West Cork is amazing but it can get a bit dull if you’re just in West Cork or Cork for that matter. It’s nice to have your base around here and then branch out to see all the other places. But Cork is definitely a fantastic place because the music scene is massive. It’s such a small place, yet it has great musicians and studios down there. It’s amazing.

Now I’m living with my girlfriend right out in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere. She’s a photographer so we’re both just living there, making our art, and going travelling sometimes as well. I’d rather live here than live somewhere else. I’ve tried living in London for a year – it was good and worthwhile, but really I just wanted to come back here. In London, there’s a million people playing music as well, and it’s really hard to get in touch and break through to that person on a relationship basis. Cork is kind of a base for me. It’s good to be able to go out to the city and then come back.

It’s clear the singer/songwriter has gained a large amount of inspiration from his travels, but his eclectic style also contains elements from his favourite musicians and genres.

I’m very into folk music. [I like] Nick Drake: he was an acoustic guitar player. He died when he was really young, like 26. He still got 4 albums done before then, and made his first album when he was 19, which is amazing. I like that sort of folky element – people like Jose Gonzales. Then there’s the psychedelic music, like with Jimi Hendrix – all madness like that. Since I moved to London I really started getting into hip hop and electronic music as well, like really ambient, instrumental based music.

The inspiration doesn’t stop there: the 21-year-old is collaborating more and more with his music to get the best possible sound at the end.

I think collaborating with different people is quite an important thing. I play in a couple of bands: there’s one called The Nashbrothers that I’m playing in – I play bass with them. I’ve been solo a lot for the past 5 years and there’s only so much you can do on your own. I’m starting to branch out – I have a violin player playing with me now for a lot of my gigs, plus a bass player and a drummer. It’s nice collaborating with other people because they’ve got ideas you would never think of.

Fintan has just recently released his first official EP, “Two Lifetimes Late”: an eclectically-styled album with an ambiguous name. I asked the Cork-native about the album and what the meaning behind the name is.

That’s a good question. It’s hard to explain [the name] really because it’s so abstract. It’s kind of whatever you want it to be really. I wouldn’t say there’s too deep a meaning behind it. I just think it’s really cool imagery. I write lyrics first and foremost by using the imagery in my head, and then try to make a storyline out of that. I always try to come up with some phrase with some really weird imagery and then go from there. You can make of it what you will. The single released from that album is called Two Lifetimes Late as well.

This is my first official release – I still have about a hundred songs in the backburner yet, so I’m not quite finished. It’s more than just making a song and then releasing it. So many other factors come into play – the timing of everything, putting it all together into one finished product, getting the artwork together, getting the tour – you can’t just release something and expect it to take off. There’s a hundred different things behind the scenes that you have to organise in relation to it.

I had to contain [the music] a bit, because I don’t want to release something and not be able to perform it live. I did want to go pretty mad and weird but you have to keep it somewhat stripped back to play it accurately. At the moment, though, I’m working on some more stuff that has a kind of “out-there”, electronic-type, psychedelic, mad production on it.

With his singing and song-writing abilities, the roads are limitless for Fintan, but the young musician’s heart really lies with recording.

Recording is what I like doing the most. I had a really nice studio in the last house I was in, so eventually I want to build up and have a nice recording studio that is nothing other than a recording studio. Hopefully I’d get people in and let them play and collaborate together. I like being a producer, so I’d help them with their music – I’ve done that quite a lot for people.

For now, Fintan is continuing with music projects over the winter, hopefully breaking into the festival scenes next year. His debut EP “Two Lifetimes Late” is available on iTunes and any good streaming site. You can listen to it for free and check out his upcoming gigs all on his website, fintanmckahey.com.

 

Words: Aideen Casey