INTERVIEW: Dublin Singer-Songwriter Tony Tyrrell Talks New Album ‘Conviction’

The now waning pandemic has certainly offered time for self re-discovery, and for Irish songwriter Tony Tyrrell, this time allowed him to turn over a new leaf. 

Located in Dublin, the songwriter has indulged a life full of music. Working as a saxophone player in several bands, Tyrrell eventually helped create The Afternoons, an Irish rock band from the 90s. The band found modest success, and notably played at the MIDEM conference in France. 

However, as many bands eventually go their separate ways, The Afternoons dissolved. This left Tyrrell to write his own music, allowing him to find his own voice along the way. Pulling out songs from his vault over the years, he assembled the 11-track album Conviction, which officially drops today, August 12th.

In anticipation of the album, Tyrrell has teased his audience with a few singles, most recently “Mocking Bird”— a personal ballad that envelopes the most intimate feelings he experienced during his writing process. An official video was released following the single’s release, which shows the listener a more in-depth meaning to the heartfelt song.

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We had the pleasure of getting to learn more about Tyrrell, his new album, and much more.

First off, we wanted to ask about your latest single, “Mocking Bird.” Can you talk a bit about the inspiration and influence behind this track?

“Mocking Bird” is essentially me processing a falling out with a friend, in song. You’re standing on the edge of decisions and actions that will have a profound impact on your life, and on the lives of people around you. But, because you’re hurting, feeling betrayed, you can’t take a step back. “Mocking Bird” is about that type of inevitability.

What was the writing process like? Did the song produce itself quickly, or did you find it took a while to get everything the way you wanted it to be? 

“Mocking Bird” took a while to get right. Maybe that’s because it is so personal to me. I needed it to carry the emotional weight that it is meant to convey. I remember landing on the line in the chorus, “on the border of a place called no return” (which reminds me of “past the point of rescue”), but I can’t quite recall how the ‘“Mocking Bird”’ image came to me. However, I was sure when it did suggest itself, that I wanted to keep the idea open, that is, of being mocked rather than, literally, a Mockingbird (single word), and that’s why I use the two words (“Mocking Bird”). I also remember balking a bit at the line, “no longer a friend of mine” as it felt very raw. But I knew it was right- so right that I used it twice in the song.

Your new album, Conviction, has officially seen the light of day. Is there an overarching theme or motif throughout this collection of songs?

I’m not so sure that the songs on the album are knitted together thematically, but the album title – “conviction” – does convey my intention to deliver an album I could stand over, and that was true to my musical sensibilities. I believe I’ve delivered on that. The album is also intended to feel ‘real’ or ‘natural’ in that it was recorded over three days with the band playing live and only the drummer using a click.

What do you hope fans and listeners take away from the album?

I’d like listeners to appreciate the quality of the songwriting and the want to share it with their friends, just like I’ve shared music I’ve discovered and loved with my friends.

How does being from Dublin influence your music and/or writing style?

Being from Dublin, Ireland, probably has a more particular influence on how I use language (lyric) than on the music as such. Music, in all its styles, is so freely available that you can just as easily catch a reggae, or a zydeco band in Dublin as a folk or rock band. But how we use the English language in Ireland is very particular to the place, and I think that that comes through in my songs. But I’ll let the listeners be the judges of that.

You mention being a multi-genre multi-instrumentalist. Does your diverse background in music allow you a lot of freedom when it comes to the composition of a song?

Yes, I played clarinet and sax long before taking up the guitar to write songs. And I played classical, big-band jazz and even German beer-tavern music before I joined a rock band. That experience has filtered into my singing and songwriting in various ways. Being a woodwind player brings a sense of phrasing that can be brought into singing and having played different types of music means I have a wide range of musical reference going on in my head. Because I wanted this album to be direct, the sound palette has been kept controlled within a standard band setting – but maybe for my next album I will experiment and mix it up a bit with brass and strings etc.

Who are some of your biggest influences that have shaped your overall path in music? 

I like and have been influenced by so many fantastic artists, but The Beatles and Bob Dylan are top of the list. Both defied categorization and explored different themes and styles, always moving forward and surprising their fans even to the point of losing some fans who wanted them to remain the same. Other artists like Bowie, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Van Morrison, Wilco, Calexico, Damien Rice … the list goes on.

If you could write a song with any present-day artist, who would it be and why?

I would like to write with Ron Sexsmith, as it appears to me that he’s incapable of writing a bad song, and has an amazing way of connecting with his emotions. I’d also like to play with Arcade Fire to feel the power of their live sound running through one of my songs.

What are one or two pinnacle moments in your career as an artist?

The first was a gig I played with The Afternoons, the band I played with in the 1990s. We played a small theater venue not so long after we had recorded our album. We were very much on top of our game, and on that night everything worked, and we fed off each other in the moment. That sort of musical elation doesn’t happen too often.

There have been other special times like playing on the same bill as Stiff Little Fingers on the Irish stage at the Midem Festival in Cannes, but listening back to the first rough mix of Conviction really blew me away. This was a major step for me, being the singer and focus of the project and to hear those early mixes, particularly those in which I pushed my vocal, was an amazing experience… but I’m looking forward to many more such moments once the album is released. 

What are some of your goals, whether it be music or personal, for the rest of the year?

My key goal is to get traction for the album with sufficient positive feedback – gigs, radio play, reviews, streams – that makes recording another album during 2023 a realistic proposition. I am committed to spending at least a year in working with Conviction while planning for a second album. I have a lot of songs already written and a few new ones in process that I’m really excited about. So, that’s the plan. To work hard, hope that action begets re-action, and that I can do it all again with new songs, and maybe a new approach to the recording process as part of which I experiment with different soundscapes. Bring it on!

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