“This part of the contract denotes that you won’t do anything sacrilegious during your performance”, said the amiable young event coordinator for the cathedral.
“Oh”, I replied, nervously perusing every line in my mind’s eye depicting religion in the album.
Seeing the worry set in my face, he added – “of course, you can be critical, just not sacrilegious – like turning the crosses upside down or anything like that.”
My churning stomach calmed, and a breath of relief escaped. I was certain I wanted to release “The Prick and The Petal” in this big beautiful church, but in part expressly because the album is so critical of this setting. Being sacrilegious, though, was not the intent.
“Priests have lain and put her down” is a line that laments the sorry state of the protagonist’s position from the concept album, after resorting to prostitution in desperation and desolation.
The line’s critical of man, certainly, but not God. Even if a priest represents the voice of God on earth, none are infallible – only the pope gets that afforded to him (by himself, suspiciously enough). If I’d said “the pope has lain and put her down” I may have been in trouble. So that line passed the mark, barely. I sighed a “phew” of relief, signed the contract and decided I’d release this album into the world from the alter of Gustav-Adolf Kirche on the west side of Berlin.
It would be released almost exactly a year to the day of having entered Famous Gold Watch Studios in September 2018 with my band, naively thinking we’d have the thing wrapped up and prepped for a Christmas release.
What happens when you commit to a project with your name on it, of this magnitude, is a multitude of grievances you’d never have suspected. Well you could have, but only those sufficiently ignorant, or dumb enough actually undertake it. No sane person would.
First hiccup you face is that old chestnut: money. For an independent debut, there are two ways to fund your record: come from a rich family, or get into debt.
As I am not from a rich family, I was stuck with the latter.
I earn okay money as a musician. That’s the breadline to most people, but making rent and having money for bread is actually one of the higher tiers for working musicians.
Still, I knew I’d need help. I went the crowdfunding route, wherein you make pleas to anyone who’ll listen to help you on your way.
I asked every favour I could wrangle and managed to sum up the total expense for a professional album to be 3,300 euro. This was well over a grand off the mark, but anything under 5 grand is still pretty much a bargain.
Crowdfunding is a surreal thing to do for a solid year. You are shocked by those who come out of your past to pave your future. And they’re never who you suspect.
It’s a beautiful way to rekindle old friendships. Those fleeting moments you shared with someone, that meant something to you, all come flooding back into memory with a simple “ping” of an email stating: “You’ve Received a New Patron”. A name and face emerges that time and distance could cruelly have categorised as past, as redundant or nostalgic, petty sentimentality to dwell on in your waking days.
I’ve always been painfully sentimental.
I have to consciously tell myself not to mourn the minute while I’m in it, as I’m so prone to romantising the loss that comes with forgetting something, anything beautiful, ugly, bad and good.
Almost every lyric I wrote for this album is in some way about loss: of love, of place, of grief, or self-worth.
When you’re enjoying a pint with a friend, and thinking about what you’ll eat for dinner – I’m contemplating how great it is to share warm words over a cold glass, and how we got here, and how we’ll leave and how many times we’ll do it again, and how they’ll lessen as our lives take hold with responsibility, and how we’ll grow, apart as friends and more together as people, and live a life, and die, and after, too will everything else. All before asking for the bill – I hate that last part the most.
It’s just the way I’m wired, sentimental as they come.
So, having patrons, old friends, who’ve come back into my life, gives a sense of meaning to those moments that would otherwise have been lost to the ages. Naturally and rightfully so, as you can’t keep carrying everyone you ever shared good days with at the forefront of your thoughts, as you’d be insufferable. “Colm loved red apples, take them away! I can’t stomach the sight of them, it hurts too much to remember!” See? Insufferable.
With these pings representing someone’s belief in me, or in my music – there’s zero risk of sentimentality. It legitimatises the gut feeling that your past together maters, and more significantly, that what you’re doing, and that you matter.
That feeling is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. That feeling made every bit of stress, all the arguments, and times spent in the foetal position fretting over everything worth it. And if nothing else comes out of this album, it’ll be enough.
We released the album to a room full of love ones, and strangers whose presence was equally loving and even more-so cherished. A month later the band was put up in a swanky hotel as we played our first festival in Liverpool. We stayed up late in a hotel room, ordering room service and putting that metal cover for the food on our heads, like kids, like idiots, like happy fools.
And the thought came, as it usually does, that this moment was something I’d never get back again, or sustain no matter how much I focused or dwelled on it. You lose everything eventually. But if you’re lucky, dumb, or sentimental enough, you still make the gamble.
And, we had enough sense to nab a photo.
Read more about patronage here.
Order debut album here.