Villagers - drawing confidence from experience

Conor J O'Brien to play GIAF Big Top on July 19. Mick Flannery supports

Villager's Conor J O'Brien.

Villager's Conor J O'Brien.

“I’m a bit older and I’ve more to write about...I feel now that I can say ‘me’ or ‘I’ instead of ‘jackal’.” So said Conor J O'Brien, the gifted songwriter at the centre of Villagers in an interview with The Irish Times last year.

The growing confidence and assuredness, as both a man and an artist, that quote reveals, neatly tracks O'Brien's career ascent from his triumphant debut, Becoming A Jackal (2010 ), which married folk-rock and indie, and appealed to both alternative audiences and many mainstream listeners; the left-field turn of the experimental, electro infused {Awayland} (2013 ) - both of which were nominated for the Mercury Award.

Last year saw O'Brien's most personal, intimate album to date - the stripped back, lyrically powerful, Darling Arithmetic. Opening track 'Courage', says it all: “Took a little time to get where I wanted/It took a little time to get free/It took a little time to be honest/It took a little time to be me.”

In his review, respected critic Nialler9 captured the essence of, not only the album, but of what makes Conor J O'Brien, such a special, welcome talent: "The stripped down nature of the album highlights what a great songwriter O’Brien is...he has things to say we can relate to, and sentiments that comes from a heart, his heart, with an underlying confidence that comes from experience and learning from it."

Yet no sooner had Darling Arithmetic been released than the prolific O'Brien was back in the studio, taking a new look at older material. The results were released in January as Where Have You Been All My Life? Recorded in one day at London’s RAK Studio with Richard Woodcraft (Radiohead, The Last Shadow Puppets ) and Villagers live engineer Ber Quinn, the album distils five years and three albums of Villagers’ songwriting into one flowing narrative.

Villagers play a 'Galway International Arts Festival and Róisín Dubh presents...' concert at the Big Top, Fisheries Field, on Tuesday July 19 at 7pm. Support is from Meteor Music Award winning singer-songwriter Mick Flannery.

The remaining Big Top concerts are Elvis Costello & The Imposters (Friday July 15 ); Bell X1 (Saturday 16 ); Imelda May (Thursday 21 ); The Gloaming (Friday 22 ); and Suede (Saturday 23 ). Tickets are available via and For further suggesions on music at the festival, watch this video: 


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