The Nation Mourns will be performing a double headliner with Kilkelly at Zimmer 16 Theatre on January 24th. We chatted to the songwriter ahead of the performance so you know what to expect.
The Nation Mourns is the musical brain child of Irish songwriter Neil O Shea. Growing up with a wide range of blues and rock influence, it was the haunting timbre of artist such as Tom Waits, Nick Drake, and Jackson C Frank drew him to songwriting. His song-craft leads to lyrics of landscapes and leaving for home; while subtle, melancholic melodies draw you ever further into the music.
indieberlin: Tell us a little bit about your musical background
TheNationMourns: I grew up listening to a lot of blues and rock n roll from my dad. I remember when I was pretty young, under 10 I’d say, my dad and I used to drive around blasting Chuck Berry. It was a lot of fun. I think I was about 8 when I got my first guitar, a classical nylon string and my dad though me some chords. I started to take lessons at around 12 and fell in love with the instrument, and started to get into heavier music like classic rock and thrash metal. At this point all I wanted to do was play guitar solos, and I still kinda do. It wasn’t until my late teens I got back into the folk, blues, and old country stuff. I then went to college to study Music, Management, and Sound, and thats really where I fell in love with songwriting.
indieberlin: How did you come up with the name The Nation Mourns?
The Nation Mourns: I really wish I had a cool story for this but sadly I don’t. Being from Ireland a lot of people ask if its to do with Irelands history, but no, I just saw this photo of the Capitol Hill in Washington D.C after Lincon was assassinated. They had hung this huge banner that read “The Nation Mourns’ and I just thought it looked really cool.
indieberlin: Tell us something about yourself that you always wanted to say but no one has ever asked you yet.
TheNationMourns: I once played a cowboy in the Beaumont Boys National School production of “Me and My Horse go Clippity Cloppity”. I think I was 6. No one ever asks about that.
indieberlin: How does the songwriting process work for you / in your band?
TheNationMourns: Its strange, it has changed quite a bit as I’ve gotten older. I used to be the guy at 3 in the morning a little bit drunk, writing and playing guitar as quietly as possible so as to not wake anyone but now I try to get up early and treat it as more of a task rather than a random intoxicated thought. I find I’m more productive this way and get more work done.
indieberlin: Where do you get your inspiration from?
TheNationMourns: It kinda comes from all over really. I could be watching tv or reading a book and see a nice phrase or image and start to write a song around that. I like to take some personal experience and fictional experience and weave them together to make a story. For me songwriting is definitely more about story telling and lyrics than anything else. If I can write a cool guitar part or something with that its just a bonus. I’ve alway found myself drawn to lyrics.
indieberlin: If your music was a movie, which genre would it be in?
TheNationMourns: I guess, maybe an indie drama with a bit of a thriller element to it. I’ve always been a fan of the director Jeff Nichols. Michael Shannon stars in a few of his early movies and I can see him driving around some rural town with some of my songs in the background of some shots.. well I can dream. Haha.
indieberlin: What was the last concert you went to?
TheNationMourns: I saw The Bros. Landreth in Auster Club a few weeks ago. Really nice gig and beautiful harmonies. But most importantly, Joey Landreth. Man, that guy is a machine on guitar. In my opinion one of the tastiest guitar players out there at the moment. He’s got such great feel for the instrument, and dat tone, its sick!
indieberlin: How do you feel about covering a song?
TheNationMourns: Well I would consider myself a folk musician, and I don’t think you can do that without paying some homage to the great folk songwriters of the past, and carrying on the tradition of handing down songs. So I play a few old folk tunes usually if I have a time in a set, and it’s always great to meet other folk musicians and swap songs. They might know a song or artist you’ve never heard, or vice versa, and then it can open up a whole new world of songs and techniques to pick up on. I’m not sure how I feel about taking a pop song and halving the tempo to make it some quirky cool thing though.. but I guess thats a different thing.
indieberlin: How do you think the audience in Berlin is different to the audience in Ireland?
TheNationMourns: I love the Berlin audience. It can be a little daunting at first playing here; coming from gigs in rowdy Irish bars where maybe 20% of the people listen and the rest just wanna get sh*tfaced (which isn’t so bad at a rock show but definitely a bit off putting for a solo folk singer) but you get used to it. But here in Berlin its very much a listening culture, which is fantastic and definitely makes for a more enjoyable performance. I also think its more enjoyable as an audience member. Its allows you really get into the show.
indieberlin: Do you prefer to play big festivals / stages or smaller club gigs?
TheNationMourns: I’ve always been a fan a theatre shows. Both as a performer and audience member. There is just something about great a nice band or artist in a beautiful theatre setting. I used to work as a stage hand for some arena shows, big festival stages and opera houses and its always the opera houses or theatres where I imagined playing. I don’t even really like going to arena shows or giant outdoor gigs. Although I would say no to playing one, haha. But I find them too impersonal for me. So I always try to play a theatre when I can. So come to Zimmer 16 on the 24th of January to see me in my favourite setting!
The Nation Mourns & Kilkelly at Zimmer 16