Offstage | Conor Coughlan

Sunday, March 20, 2016 0 Comments A+ a-

First time I heard this guy play was back in December at SETS Showcase. He introduced one of his songs, For You, with this amazing story about touring through the States and bumping into Steve Reid, from Supertramp, who offered his studio for him to record the track. Then he walked off stage and performed this amazing song completely unplugged. Needless to say he had us all mesmerised. I can't think of a better word than prodigy to describe Conor Coughlan. He started playing at 9 years old and at 19 had his first album, Give It Up - recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California - released through Homewood Music Collective in the UK and US. And on top of that, besides talented, he is a joy to talk to, humble and super down to earth musician. What not to like about him? I am so pleased I had a chance to catch up with him Offstage. Do check out his album and don't miss his next London gig on April 19th at The Lucky Pig, details below. 

♯ You started in music incredibly young, can you tell us how did you get into it?
I kind of grew up into it, my dad was a musician when I was younger and it was sort of inevitable. When I was about 4 or 5 years old whilst other kids would be watching Teletubbies or whatever I would be sat there watching Neil Young or The Rolling Stones and be amazed by them. I’d sort of impersonate Mick Jagger and run around the house like a lunatic. I am still like that to this stage. And that’s how I got into it. 

Conor at the Bedford, what a great performer. Great stage presence and what a sweet guy! Photo by Zaira.

♯ Was YouTube your first platform to showcase your music? 
I am from a period when kids were starting to upload their music on YouTube. I was about 12 or 13 when I started uploading my music, but I’ve been playing prior to that. I started playing songs when I was about 9.

♯ Who were your main influences back then and how much has it changed since? 
I guess everyone gets influenced by their parents record collection. My dad and my mum’s musical taste was basically The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tom Petty, all that kind of stuff you know. And a lot of music from the 70s. That’s probably my biggest musical influence, those kind of artists, but of course there is a lot of new music out there that I do listen to, people like The 1975, Jake Bugg, who I’ve been listening to a lot. It depends on what kind of mood I am in, it kind of varies.

♯ Who would you like to collaborate with and why? 
I am a long way from that but if I had a choice to collaborate with anyone… Hmm is this dead or alive?

♯ Let’s say someone you would like to write a song with and someone you would like to share the stage with. 
Ok, so someone I would like to write a song with would be Bruce Springsteen, just because I admire his writing so much, he tells a story like no one else. And someone I’d like to share the stage with… Hmm it would be go to go on stage with someone quite popular nowadays, like The 1975, but then again it would also be cool to go on stage with a legend, probably someone like Keith Richards, from The Rolling Stones, particularly seeing he’s getting quite old.

♯ Your first album was produced and recorded in America. This is a bit unusual for such young British artist. How did it happen? 
Going back to the YouTube thing, that came from uploading videos when I was younger. I basically got found by my manager Ricky. He got in touch and there I was, this 14 year old kid exchanging emails back and forth with this guy, quite funny now looking back at it. So we’ve communicated for about two years and kind of worked together as best as we could being in different countries though email and Skype. But when I got to about 16 I left school, got a job and saved up money to move to California for a couple of years. I basically toured up and down the country. And that’s how it came about really, I was lucky enough to have my manager sort of taking me in and wanting to travel the country with me. It was a lot fun.

♯ How much has this experience changed you and your music? 
I was very fortunate but then again it was a lot of hard work. I was supposed to be in school until I was 18, but I left when I was 16 because I already knew what I wanted to do. It was a lot of hard work. I think everything you do on a day to day basis influences your writing. You cannot not be influenced, so totally. At times when I listen to myself now I mention America a lot, which is kind of what I thought about when I was writing, as I spent quite a lot of time out there, and it worked its way through my lyrics

♯ Do you think a new album would have a completely different shape since you’ve been in the UK?
I’d like to think so, it is always nice to evolve as an artist. I’ve already started writing it, in fact I’ve almost already finished. It is taking a bit of a different direction but not too much. I am listening to different music now, that’s always gonna happen I suppose, you start listening to new music, you experience different things, you get older and you go to different countries. I do think so, but do I think it will change drastically? No, not really.

♯ Can you give us an insight on your songwriting process?
It generally starts with me sitting around with the guitar absentmindedly strumming some chords, I might be playing a song by Van Morrison and then all of a sudden I stop thinking about anything and I strum new chords and think “oh that sounds quite nice”. So I start humming a melody over the top of it and start singing gibberish, then it kind of forms into what eventually becomes the bones of the song I guess. And then I kind of start writing the lyrics. Short answer, I think the music comes first, although still quite simultaneously as the lyrics.

♯ Is there a song you wish you had written?
There are always songs I wish a had written myself. There’s quite a few that I listen to and think “this is quite me”, one of it being Come Pick Me Up by Ryan Adams. That’s definitely one I could definitely see myself writing I suppose, although nowhere near as good as Ryan Adams.

♯ Have you a favourite song of yours? Either to play or one that’s more personal to you? 
I’d have to say probably Give It Up, just because it is a really really personal song. But then there are other tracks from the album I like, it is a tough question, but if I have to pick one it would have to be Give It Up.

♯ When not making music, what do you like to do?
Buy clothes. Any given musician’s classic combination: buy guitars and clothes. Basically shopping. 

♯ I didn’t see that coming!
Really? No, I love my clothes, love my guitars. Classic musician.

*** Do not miss Conor at The Lucky Pig on April 19th, 5 Clipstone Street, W1W 6BB.