With his sophomore effort, ‘Awayland’, released this month, Irish baroque pop auteur Conor O’Brien is in the sort of fine form we last saw him in in 2011.
Emerging from the ashes of Dublin indie quartet The Immediate, his Villagers project has enjoyed a stellar couple of years by any standard, with debut album
‘Becoming A Jackal’ making the 2010 Mercury Prize shortlist and the record’s title track going on to win an Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically in May 2011.
Wall-to-wall critical acclaim and tours with Elbow and Grizzly Bear bookended his first solo campaign, but despite this,
O’Brien’s feet have remained firmly on the ground. home and away
He is charmingly self-effacing. For example, when I mention the band’s magnificent Brixton Academy support slot with Grizzly Bear last October,
his modesty and perfectionist ethic are hinted at as he plays down the performance’s impact, home and away focusing instead on its flaws.
“It was a good show,” he says, “but it wasn’t the best of the tour. It felt like a big echo chamber and you couldn’t really hear the detail.
It’s such a cool room but it’s such a hard place to play because it’s just so echoey.”
Conor is also gracefully level-headed when it comes to the home and away concept of awards and their accompanying baggage.
He says: “They’re obviously important, I guess, and it’s nice to get recognition,
but you have a strange relationship with them when you’re a writer.
Anything that is related to your writing can affect your ability to write the next time you do it if it affects you mentally.
“My initial reaction is always to bring the guard up,” he’s says, “which is strange to people because they think you don’t care about it or you don’t want it but it’s not that.
You just have to make sure that it’s not the reason to write your next album.”
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