Interview by Ciara Moynihan of The Mayo News
25th August 2015
David Dee Moore has been a prominent figure on the music scene in Mayo and beyond for many years. Keen to support other musicians, he set up the Acoustic Yard, a venue for singer/songwriters from Ireland and beyond, in the Yard Bar of Matt Molloy’s, Westport, back in early 2014.
The Belfast-born musician has recorded two successful CDs on the USA record label Green Linnet with Niamh Parsons and the Loose Connections, called ‘Loosely Connected’ and ‘Loosen Up’. He has also written numerous soundtracks for radio, TV and film, including the Sony award-winning radio comedy programme, ‘A Perforated Ulster’, Channel 4 educational series ‘Coolaboola’ and short films “The Visit’ and ‘The Farmer’s Wife’.
David has also had an alternate career as a bass player working with artists like Liam Clancy, Jerry Fish and Noel Redding, to name a few.
Here, he talks about his route into the music business, his new charity single highlighting the need for a pancreas transplant surgeon in Ireland, and exciting plans for a new Acoustic Yard Singer/Songwriters’ Festival.
CM: How long have you been living in Westport, and what prompted the move?
DDM: I came here 16 years ago after spending a songwriting week in Clifden with artists, including Steve Wickham of The Waterboys, Liam Reilly of Bagatelle and Thom Moore. I met a few Westport musicians who were also at the event, and they invited me to their town for the weekend to play. I’m still trying to get home.
CM: When did you first decide to pursue a career in music?
DDM: The first time I held a tiny guitar as a five year old. It was a present from my parents, bought at a seaside resort. I loved it and knew music was for me. I started playing guitar properly when I was 14 with my best friend at the time in Belfast. We spent a lot of time jamming together in our rooms, and we even attempted to write songs. In a way it kept the Troubles up north from consuming my childhood.
CM: Do you come from a musical background?
DDM: Not really, though my parents loved to sing a lot of old songs around the house. They really enjoyed the sing-songs in bars. They both had good voices.
CM: What musicians influence or inspire you?
DDM: Coming from Belfast I was surrounded by great music, including of course Van Morrison. He systematically influenced the sound in Belfast and in Ireland I suppose. I also enjoy listening to Tom Waits, David Bowie and an American singer called Dan Hicks. I think a lot of the Irish songwriters like Glen Hansard and Declan O’Rourke are great and help keep songwriting in this country popular. Basically I enjoy a good melody whatever the genre.
CM: When did you first discover your talent for songwriting?
DDM: I didn’t start off as a singer/songwriter but I would write songs as part of a band. My first band was a punk band called The Ex-Producers, and we would play for 20 minutes in the break of the local pop bands. We played in the infamous Harp Bar that recently featured in the movie Good Vibrations. It was the only real punk venue in Belfast, and both religions would hang out there. We were filmed there also for a BBC programme called ‘Something Else’.
Even when I worked with Niamh Parsons I still kept in the background, writing and producing. It was only when I moved to Westport did I become a solo singer/songwriter.
CM: What prompted you to start the Acoustic Yard sessions?
DDM: I had just released my CD ‘The Sun, The Moon, The Stars … and Other Moving Objects’ in 2013 and realised there were very few venues that put on live original music in Ireland. So instead of complaining about it I created my own gig.
CM: What’s been your favourite Acoustic Yard memory?
DDM: Discovering the amount of talented songwriters on this island. Every day I am inundated with music from songwriters wanting to play at one of my events. I wish I could put them all on. I am hoping the festival can help. One particular fond recent memory was when songstress Kathleen Turner, a northern singer based in Limerick, sang a beautiful song called Kenmare Bay at the sessions. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I remember looking over towards Matt Molloy and the look on his face when she sang. It was priceless.
CM: What can we can expect from the inaugural Acoustic Yard Singer/Songwriters’ Festival?
DDM: The festival will extend over three days, from Friday, May 6, to Sunday, May 8, 2016, primarily in the new Westport Town Hall Theatre. We will have a main concert on both the Friday and Saturday nights with two or three celebrated artists performing on each night.
The theatre will be the hub of the festival, offering a constant string of performers, workshops and sessions for all ages throughout the day. We will particularly give new upcoming songwriters a platform, which is important to me. During the year, we will be going around local schools putting on workshops with a song competition. The winning song will be performed at the festival and recorded as well.
CM: The Acoustic Yard lunchtime sessions are running all this week at Westport Town Hall Theatre. Can you tell us a little about the artists involved?
DDM: Each of the artists are Mayo-based, including myself, and all have released CDs over the last year. Most self-made CDs go unnoticed, as the music isn’t attached to a mainstream record label, so this is a chance to hear some fabulous new original songs. The artists performing are Graham Sweeney, Dennis McCalmont, Derek McGowan, Elaine Griffin and myself. The event is free, so everyone is welcome to pop in and spend some time listening to the songs.
CM: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
DDM: I am in the middle of recording a charity single I wrote called ‘Give Me Your Hands’ here in Clew Bay Studios to bring awareness to the fact that we don’t have a pancreas transplant surgeon here in Ireland. There are over over 20 people waiting to be operated on. One such person badly in need of a transplant is Rachel O’Hora from Bohola, whose plight was made known to me by local businessman Leon Tunney-Ware who helped to start the campaign. He asked me to write a song, which was a challenge I gladly accepted. The recording will have a host of top Irish artists singing and playing on it, whom I won’t mention as yet. We also hope those artists who couldn’t make the recording will sing their own version of it on YouTube.
CM: With all of these projects going on, are you finding time to work on your own music?
DDM: I am always writing and recording at home. In March of this year, I released a downloadable EP called ‘Burst’ on iTunes and so on, so I’m still promoting that. I’m not planning anything new ’til the new year. Though I’ve decided to remix and re-release a CD I made in 2010 called ‘The Almighty Warrior’, which was never finished to my satisfaction.
CM: Are you planning any tours this year?
DDM: Touring is put on hold while I work on the festival, but I may do some work with my good friend Derek McGowan, who hopes to tour his new CD, ‘Rainlight’. I worked on that as his bass player, which is a change of scenery for me from being the solo singer.
CM: What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?
DDM: Having our very own TV special for the BBC with Niamh Parsons called ‘In Performance’. My mother went to the recording to see me play for the first time. She never said it, but I know she was very proud.
I also remember strumming the opening chords of one of my songs on stage at the Edmonton Folk Festival in Canada just as the sun was going down. At that moment, 30,000 people lit up their candles one by one in front of me. I thought at the time, “It could never get much better than this.”
CM: What advice would you have for up-and-coming singer/songwriters trying to break into the music industry in Ireland?
DDM: Always write from the heart and write for yourself. Discover your own style. Influence is good, but don’t copy. I find a lot of young singers nowadays all have that same Ed Sheeran sound. It’s good, but it isn’t unique anymore and doesn’t stand out in the crowd.
The music industry has changed so much now through social media and TV talent programmes, but I always believe in good songwriting. Add this with a good live performance and you will get noticed.
For more information on the Acoustic Yard and the singer/songwriter festival, visit www.theacousticyard.com or email david@theacousticyard; and for more on the charity single, check the Keep Lives Facebook page, and sign the petition on www.keeplives.org