Songs from a Tourmakeady Shed
NEW MUSICSean Finn’s debut album “End of Summer” will be released later this month.
It’s not uncommon for musicians to retreat to quiet rural locations to compose new tunes. British rock legends Led Zeppelin decamped to the cottage in Bron-Yr-Aur, in the Welsh countryside, where they wrote some of their best tunes.
“I think the difference between me and Led Zeppelin is that I didn’t have the opportunity to go to a state-of-the-art recording studio,” remarks Seán Finn, who recorded his entire first album in a shed at his native Tourmakeady.
Even as modern DIY musicians do, recording an album in a garden shed is new.
It’s even stranger when you consider the number of beautiful recording studios in Ireland and the UK, from where Seán speaks to The Mayo News, at his home in Putney, London.
Like many, Seán Finn found himself at home in the summer of 2020 with not much to do after completing a master’s degree in physics in Amsterdam. Singer and multi-instrumentalist, he had been writing and recording demos at home for a few years before. However, writing and producing an entire album would have caused a lot of disruption for her mother and grandmother.
Instead, he turned his attention to the old storage room at the back of the garden shed where he used to lift weights from time to time.
“I thought it could really work like a little little [recording] space, so that was it,” he said on a Zoom call.
“If I recorded late at night, I wouldn’t disturb anyone in my house. Of course, it’s in the country so I wouldn’t bother the neighbors much – maybe the sheep, maybe, at most.
During late 2020 and 2021, Seán spent many late nights writing in this shed, recording and fine-tuning his equipment, sometimes until four in the morning.
With the exception of the drums – which was taken over by a session musician – he plays all the instruments on his ten-track debut album, “End of Summer”.
Together with mastering engineer Jack Roulston, Seán crafted an album you’d never guess was burned in a shed in the back of Tourmakeady (there are a few references to this, but more on that later) .
As a singer, he displays an impressive range, descending to a Johnny Cash-like baritone during parts of “Old and Gray” and “Cakewalk Day.” Likewise, his keyboard skills sparkle in several tracks, especially the Elton John-esque “I’ll Be Me.”
The laid-back, lazy late-summer vibe of rural Ireland is captured in easy, acoustic-focused listens like “No I Won’t Deny” and “Pencil In Regret,” which includes a solo by guitar by Seán’s friend, Peter Foley. At the more exotic end of the spectrum is ‘Mexican Lady In Red’, which is as jazzy as its name suggests, yet still approachable.
The album’s sonic palette, while limited, suits Seán’s brand of jazz-tinged pop, inspired by artists ranging from the Beatles to Frank Ocean and Canadian DIY superstar Mac DeMarco.
He says recording in a shed with basic equipment and without proper soundproofing often meant painstakingly adjusting dials and microphones to get the sound right.
“If you have equipment that is worth several thousand euros, that probably sounds great. As soon as you turn it on, you don’t even have to do anything,” he explains.
“When it comes to production, I am completely self-taught. I never really have lessons,” he adds.
Sprinkled on some tracks, excerpts of speech, including 34 seconds of a conversation with his grandmother on “Rest”.
Seán says this was done to remind the listener of the DIY nature of an album which is “DIY” in every sense of the word.
“The idea was that someone could listen to the album and halfway through, realize, ‘Oh, it’s just a guy recording.’ that’s kind of the intention.
Come of age
Thematically, the “coming of age” lyrics suit the young man who wrote them. Breakups, hope, expectations and dealing with the realities of life are themes that most people his age can relate to.
“It’s also about accepting that, being a little more responsible for yourself, and being a little more realistic in your expectations, but also not completely losing your hopes and dreams,” says Sean.
His album is due out Friday, August 5, but he’s already working on and executing other projects.
In the near future, he plans to undertake a master’s degree in music production to improve the skills he honed in the garden shed Tourmakeady.
He is also busy playing keyboards for Jack Dora from Sligo, another promising young Irish talent based in the UK.
Seán does not hide that he would like to go to America one day, if that is where the road takes him.
“It’s very unlikely that you’ll end up going back to the shed and making another album. Maybe I would, but it doesn’t seem very likely,” he admits.
Or maybe he could become his own Bron-Yr-Aur.