Interview: Five Minutes with Sean Healy
Image credit: Yun Wu Seeso Studios Shanghai
Irish singer-songwriter Sean Healy has already won many fans over with his debut single, ‘Drift Around’. The single was premiered last week and is due to be officially released on the 22nd of February via Chestnut Records, however, you can catch the gentle lullaby below. The musician is a lover of all things artistic, working within the animation industry in China and finding comfort in performing in intimate settings to live audiences. Within his love for the arts, Sean Healy also finds expression, allowing the energy of his work to flow into indie-folk melodies.
Find out more about the rising artist, his hopes dreams and inspirations in the interview below.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
Writing songs has been something that I’ve gravitated towards since I started playing the guitar as a kid. Since then I’ve just felt like doing it, I guess it has been something that I’ve used to figure things out and deal with things, that’s the starting point. After that, I enjoy playing those songs live and sharing them. I think the arts, no matter which medium, are one of the most important things to open up people’s outlook and thoughts, at least they have been for me. If I could help with that in some way I’d be very happy. For me, the arts can sometimes give a glimpse into something I can’t describe and that keeps me coming back.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
I guess you could say the sound, my songs are pretty stripped back at the moment so when it comes to producing them, I just try to make space for the song to come through by having a straightforward guitar and vocal track. Perhaps in the future, I’ll add more layers to it.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Well, Chris Yamao made the animated video for this track which I was really impressed with. The kind of abstract, thought-provoking story that he came up with really made me look at the song in a new way and made me think about what it’s about in a different way. I like that the meaning of the video is left quite open to interpretation, just like songs often are I think. I really like the colours and characters in it too.
What’s on your current playlist?
Been listening to some Fionn Regan, John Lennon, Vinnie Paz, Forgetters, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Grimes, Jawbreaker.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I’m not sure how to describe it. When I see people focused and looking like they’re really into the music, I always get more energy and kind of fall much deeper into the songs. That’s a really good and satisfying feeling. It’s always kind of surprising as well because I don’t think about that when I’m writing the songs, other people listening to them doesn’t really cross my mind, so when I play them in front of people and look up and they seem to be enjoying them I’m like “Oh, cool, that’s a nice surprise.” It’s kind of bizarre that something I make up from I don’t know where can affect someone else in some way or grasp attention in that way, it gives me a feeling that we’re all connected and a song or performance of a song or a moment from it can be a tiny flash or glimpse into that.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I usually just write what I feel like writing and don’t plan anything. When I was learning different styles and techniques, I used to try and write something in each style and use each technique but I haven’t done that for a long time. I guess the music I hear and songs that I learn effect what I end up writing but I don’t consciously aim for any kind of sound, I just try to say what I have to say.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
It’s pretty simple for me because it’s just guitar and vocals at the moment. I just put a mic in front of the guitar, adjust it to get a sound I’m happy with, put a mic in front of my mouth, check the levels and record the song. Once I have the mics set up in position and the levels right I try to record as many songs as I can before I get tired of it or have to do something else. I try not to do many takes. Ideally, I’d just use the first one because I think repeating the song over and over can get annoying and lose the energy, but I will do another take or two if I think something really needs to be improved. I’m not good at remembering songs, especially lyrics, but this year I have taken to memorizing everything before the day I record, this makes it easier to do it in one or two takes.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I don’t really think in terms of what I want to do, I just do it because I feel like doing it and see where the road leads.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
A drink, either water or beer. I used to have a notebook nearby with lyrics but I’ve been trying to memorize things more so hopefully I won’t need it anymore.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
David Keenan is a talented Irish songwriter whose music I have enjoyed a lot over the past year.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Just getting the time to sit down and write music. I like to have mental space and time to sit down and write, I can’t multi-task or be thinking too much about other things I have to do. Once I’m free to do it then I usually enjoy sitting down to write and something comes out. When I really enjoy listening to other people’s music it can push me to write sometimes or sometimes from seeing paintings.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I have a pretty simple set up, I use a Rhode mic for the guitar and an SM 57 with a pop shield for vocals. I record into Pro-tools through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 sound card and that’s it.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Not with music at the moment, just writing and recording songs. I wrote a song for an animated movie a while ago but it’s in pretty early stages and those kinds of projects can take a long time to come together. They’ll decide if they’ll use it or not at a later stage.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
Yeah, I like to think that my songwriting is always improving as I write more, listen to more music and learn more songs.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
I have quite a few songs that I want to put out so hopefully, I’ll be releasing new ones quite often. Aside from that, it all depends on what happens with travel restrictions, venues being open or closed and things like that.
Famous last words?
That’s all folks
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By Sarah Britton