“MUSIC WAS always there in some form but only gradually asserted itself on me.” So says Galway born singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley as he prepares to release his fifth album Season Of The Sparks and plays a homecoming concert at Strange Brew in the Róisín Dubh tonight at 9pm.
Leaving his Barna home in the early 1990s, Crowley moved to Dublin and worked for an eccentric art dealer with a penchant for Bonaparte memorabilia. Slowly but surely music began to play a larger role in his life and just over a decade ago he recorded his debut album A Strange Kind in a small Rathmines bedsit.
In the years since then he has recorded with former Nirvana, Pixies, and Manic Street Preachers’ producer Steve Albini at Electrical Audio studio in Chicago and has been lauded by American alt-country singer-songwriter Ryan Adams in a Rolling Stone interview.
Last year was somewhat of a breakthrough for Crowley as his album Long Distance Swimmer was nominated for the Choice Music Prize and was described by the NME as “a lo-furnished, snug, auburn-tinged folk album which calls to mind Bill Callahan, Johnny Cash, and Edwyn Collins”.
Seasons Of The Sparks follows on from that success and unusually for Crowley it was written, recorded, and released in a very short time period.
“I didn’t see any point in waiting unnecessarily,” Crowley tells me. “Though if anyone had asked me a year ago I wouldn’t have said I’d have another record ready to go. The last album was more or less a breakthrough for me and it did sort of pave the way for this new one. It wasn’t really a case of my trying to quickly have a follow-up to Long Distance Swimmer to keep the momentum going. I just had the new one written and recorded and so it seemed easier for me to put it out there rather than wait a while.”
In recent years Crowley has become an associate member of innovative music group The Fence Collective. Last weekend he joined James Yorkston, King Creosote, Alasdair Roberts, and Pictish Trail at the Homegame Festival outside Fife on the east coast of Scotland.
“I’ve been performing at it the last three or four years and I only ever go because I’ve got loads of great friends there,” says Crowley .“Each time I go I don’t expect too much to happen but more often than not something amazing occurs or some great opportunity arises.”
Crowley wasn’t the only Galwegian performing at this year’s festival as rising star So Cow also made the journey. “The Fence Collective guys have been talking about him for a while,” Crowley states. “It’s great that they were able to get him to come over and actually I think it was the first time I ever shared a bill on a festival with another Galway act.”
As part of the Homegame Festival this year Crowley, in collaboration with James Yorkson, will released an eight-track mini album.
“A while back James rang me and reminded me of this idea we had of recording an album together,” he says. “I had just finished mastering my new album and so I was ready to give my ears a break but James suggested we get a mini album ready for the Homegame Festival.
“We both sort of used our own home recordings and embellished upon those and with the deadline we were able to do things fairly quickly. We only had a few weeks to do it and it was quite amazing what we were able to achieve in that time.”
The album is a tribute to American songwriter Daniel Johnson and his inspirational ‘outsider’ songs. Johnson has battled chronic mental illness for many years and has been name-checked by indie musicians for over two decades. He gained widespread public exposure in 1992 when Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain wore a Johnson T-shirt on stage at the MTV Music Awards.
In April 2006 Crowley and Yorkston were invited to perform at The Devil and Daniel Johnson gig at London’s Barbican venue.
“When I performed at that gig I became quite friendly with Daniel’s brother Dick Johnson,” says Crowley. “We might send him on a copy of the album because personally I’d love Daniel to hear it. Maybe also there will be other people out there who know James and me and when they hear the album they might discover Daniel Johnson for themselves.”
Crowley is currently on the crest of a wave artistically and throughout 2009 he has plans to tour everywhere from France to Malta. Following on from the positive attention he received from the music press in Britain in 2008, Crowley will be officially releasing his Season Of The Sparks there in June this year.
“I would hope to get some good coverage because I truly believe it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he says. Though first he will be performing his latest opus in the Róisín Dubh.
“I’ve got a really new live line-up and I don’t think my live shows have ever sounded better,” he says “Three quarters of the band Halfset are with me now and Jeff Martin makes a great addition as a second guitarist.”
Many have predicted great things from Crowley since he made his initial forays into music more than a decade ago. Crowley’s last few albums prove he is truly a force to be reckoned with in indie music. His gradual journey to this point has seen him referred to as the longest overnight success in Irish music history.
“I don’t know actually know who said that,” he says, “but when I read the quote last year I thought it was absolutely hilarious. It sort of gives me inspiration to push forward.”
Admission to the show is free.