A Conversation with Northern Irish Songwriter Dean Kernoghan
(Some time ago I posted a song by this artist. He is an interesting guy to talk to, and I really dig his sound. Cheers.-Derek)
Derek Kortepeter: So, if you can go back into the depths of your mind, what are some of your earliest memories of music?
Dean Kernoghan: Right from when I was very young, I have been fascinated with how songs were wrote and recorded, I couldn’t understand how music could be stored on a piece of vinyl (yes it was back in the days of vinyl) or how it got on the radio. Every weekend I would go to my local music shop and by a single and play it nonstop. Everything from the Bee Gees to Iron Maiden, it didn’t matter to me what style it was, or if it was cool. I was just listening for a great song.
Kortepeter: Can you trace any of these memories/early music experiences as current inspirations for your songwriting?
Kernoghan: I guess listening to all that music when I was young planted the seeds of wanting to write songs and work in the music industry. Im an audio visual engineer now so it kinda all stems back to that fascination when I was young.
Kortepeter: Since we are on the topic of songwriting, could you explain the core themes that you write about?
Kernoghan: My e.p has a theme of searching… for love, for somewhere to belong, for a better life. But there’s a lot of positivity and humor in the songs. My favorite lyric is in Neil Young’s ‘Out on the weekend’ where he says… ‘Think I’ll pack it in, by a pickup’ No joke, I must say that to myself (and others) at least once a day. I think there’s something romantic and uplifting about getting rid of all the ‘stuff’ in your life and just setting off into the unknown, living day to day. The songs on this e,p come from that feeling.
Kortepeter: Does being Northern Irish give you a unique perspective on life that you can translate into a musical expression? I don’t want to bring up any bad memories for you, but the Troubles so often become intertwined in some way with the art of your people, and I have to wonder if the same can be said for you as a man with a guitar and a voice.
Kernoghan: I really try to write about how I feel and be honest in my songs so when there’s something I disagree with or feel strongly about, it’s going to come out in the music. Growing up in such a conflicted and repressed society is bound to influence anyone’s art. Northern Ireland is such a beautiful land but there are deep wounds from ‘the troubles’ that only time will heal but generally, as a country, we are moving forward and we must be positive and thankful for that. I am hopeful and hope my music reflects that.
Kortepeter: What would you say is your process of writing?
Kernoghan: I really can’t sit down and think… OK I’m going to write a song about this girl that’s driving me crazy. It just wouldn’t happen, and I’d end up driving myself crazy. I usually sit down with the guitar and play a few chords and just sing whatever pops into my head. It may be very rough and makes no sense at all, but all I’m looking for is a good melody or feeling. I’ll record it on my phone, leave it for a day or two and then listen back, if I think there’s something with potential then I’ll work on it and spend time crafting the song, while trying to stay true to the original vibe.
Kortepeter: It’s funny that you are interested and influenced by the Laurel Canyon sound. I’m a SoCal guy from the San Fernando Valley (born and raised) and that isn’t far from where I grew up. What drew you to the artists to come from this scene?
Kernoghan: Well, as someone who grew up in cold, wet, troubled Northern Ireland in the 1980s it was easy to romanticize about the music scene from California. It’s warm weather, acoustic guitars, a free spirited community sounded like paradise to me. I love songs that are emotional, heartfelt and honest and it was around California in the 60’s that the singer songwriter really became popular. The music seemed so pure and organic yet had power in it. I could feel the emotion in the songs.
Kortepeter: As your website indicates, you were not always a solo artist. What made you decide to take that leap of faith and thrust yourself into that world?
Kernoghan: A broken heart. I wrote a song about a year ago about a girl that I thought was pretty good, the song that is, not the girl. I hadn’t wrote anything for a long time and when the song was finished I liked it, thought it was strong and had a style that was quite original. That song didn’t make the e.p but it gave me the inspiration and drive to start writing more. After a while I found I had a few songs that fitted well together and began to get a image in my head of an e.p and how it would sound. I was really just writing for me, just to get it out of my system.
Kortepeter: Tell me about your E.P. “Wherever You Go,” what content can people expect to find on the record?
Kernoghan: Well, it was all performed and recorded by me in my kitchen and living room over the past year. I tried going to a studio to record but it didn’t work out, I like the freedom to change my mind, without it costing me hundreds of pounds. I change my mind a lot. I could have a song recorded and wake up and think it’s too slow, or needs to be up a key and when you’re paying big money for a studio you don’t have that luxury, unless you’re loaded. I work as an audio visual engineer, so I had most of the equipment I needed and really started to enjoy working on it and seeing it come together. I did take it to a studio to mix it though, and I must mention Neal Calderwood at Manor Park Studio, who did a great job of mixing it.
Kortepeter: What do you want people to take away from your music?
Kernoghan: If someone can relate and enjoy a song, then it has done its job. I’m not expecting people to have a religious experience while listening, but you never know!
Kortepeter: Are you looking towards any specific future creative endeavors musically?
Kernoghan: I’d like to start gigging again and give more time to my music. I also would love to make videos for the songs. I can picture an animation for my song 50 million miles from home, so im looking for someone who can do that kinda thing. And I keep writing and trying to improve as a song writer.
Kortepeter: Before we close, do you have anything else you would like to say?
Kernoghan :Just like to thank you Derek and let anyone who is interested know they can listen to my e.p for free at www.deankernoghan.com