The day Niall dialled 999 and just knew
It’s refreshing to listen to an artist who has taken their time to hone their craft and experience life and not been fast-tracked along the assembly line of opportunistic records. That’s not to decry the imagination of the likes of Mozart or Michael Jackson, but their youthful and privileged experience will never be the same as our experience, however exulted the end product might be.
And this has never been truer than in the case of Niall Rainey, an Irish crafter of folk songs who this coming Wednesday will finally, albeit reluctantly, showcase his first album at the ripe old age of 34.
“I always felt I didn’t have enough life experience to warrant creating an album until now,” the Derry singer-songwriter tells InOut, and it took a near-death experience to make him realise that he was ready to make his existence count. In the back of an ambulance, his whole life flashed before him – it was the wake-up call he needed to realise it was worth documenting, and it inspired the song ‘I think I’m dying’.
The album Roll on Someday soon followed. It plays like every single track has been heart-wrenchingly ripped out of his diary. While some songwriters wear their hearts on their sleeves, Rainey’s is wrapped up for an Arctic winter.
“I’m someone who lives their songs, not writes them,” he contends. “Each is a snapshot of my life or those lives around me, some painful and some less so, which I could share.”
Rainey began writing at the age of 14. “I didn’t think I was particularly gifted and was certainly reluctant to share my efforts,” he recalls. “I learned, however, that songwriting was a great way to express moods and emotions.”
Despite his folk roots, and a fondness for great songwriters like Simon and Garfunkel, the Dubliners and the Eagles, it is a musical influence from his genesis as a songwriter who Rainey finds most enduring.
“I was a 14-year-old when Nevermind was released,” he reveals. “More than its musicality, its energy and rawness captured something in me. I learnt that music was as much about feeling and mood than a catchy tune or lyric.”
As a teenager, Rainey played in a band, but found it hard to leave his folky and 1970s rock roots behind, and later at university, he continued to write songs, but not always completing them.
“My songs are generally not written for mass consumption – they are a reflection of a moment,” he says. “That’s why I have so many uncompleted songs. I often can’t find the mixture of the same moment, mood or even voice to finish up and I can’t be untrue to the song.”
Finally, it took an accident to show Rainey the way. “Ireland’s reputation of producing beautifully crafted folk songs remains intact with the release of Roll on Someday,” praised Irish newspaper The Evening Herald following the album’s release in his home country, and now it is Denmark’s turn at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge at his concert and album launch.
“Through all these years I have been writing, pretty much for myself, and now I am ready to share,” he says. “I truly believe that I have found that place and this indeed is my time, for a while at least.”
Kulturhuset Islands Brygge; Wed 20:00; free adm