ON TRACK Joe Monaghan on stage with Train Room.
Balla singer-songwriter Joe Monaghan on Train Room’s successful year and their soon-to-be-released new single
SINCE Joe Monaghan and his band, Train Room, released their debut EP, ‘Delicate Bones’, just over a year ago, the band’s stock has soared and become hot property in music circles.
The reaction that followed the release of the four-track EP lead to a successful Irish tour; being critically acclaimed by the likes of Hot Press and GoldenPlec Music Magazine; being named Dublin Concert’s Irish Band of the Week for April; winning Irish Times Song of the Week for the track ‘Grace’; and providing the soundtrack for a Mayo.ie tourism promotion video watched worldwide, featuring Mayo GAA stars Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea and Colm Boyle.
It was a hectic year for the wavy-haired Balla native, but one he looks back on with a sense of achievement.
“I’m delighted actually, with where I am at the minute,” he told The Mayo News. “The EP got a lot of really great reviews from the likes of Hot Press and GoldenPlec.” An avid reader of such respected magazines himself, he found the experience of being in them himself ‘weird’ – in a good way, obviously.
“[Delicate Bones] is a bit different, musically, than what is out there – quite spacious and melodic – and the structures are a bit different, but I stuck with it and I’m delighted. Looking back in years to come, I’ll be delighted to be able to read about it.”
Dubbing Monaghan ‘one to watch’, online music magazine GoldenPlec wrote: “The singer-songwriter genre is something that is awash with musicians that all sound like monotonous clones of each other. Train Room really excel when trying to avoid the generalisation by adding in other instruments and creating more complete sound.” Hotpress, meanwhile, praised the ‘quietly powerful’ and occasionally ‘otherworldly’ nature of Train Room’s songs.
Keen to branch away from the ‘sameyness’ of the Irish singer-songwriter scene, 30-something-year-old Monaghan offers a refreshing blend of indie-rock, contemporary instruments and a modern electronic style, all of which are on show at their very best in Train Room’s newest single ‘Entertainment Nights’, out January 22.
The song was written by Monaghan over a decade ago, but he only recently decided to release it after getting a positive reaction when playing the song on tour.
It’s an alternative sound to the tracks featured on the EP, with Monaghan moving to a more uptempo and uplifting tone, incorporating an electronic edge that complements his soulful vocals. It was produced by Monaghan in his Balla studio.
“This song is one of the first songs I ever wrote,” he said. “It was an acoustic song, but I wanted to do it in an electronic style.
“It’s a different style … There is different instrumentation and a more contemporary feel. You want to give the listeners a bit of variety, and that is good for yourself in a production sense.
“It took so long to produce. You are your own worst enemy because you are judging yourself all the time and you have nobody to bounce off when you are working on your own. I took a lot of influence from ‘The National’, an American rock band, but I’m really happy with the end result.”
Past and future
Train Room kicked off their first-ever Irish tour last summer as a four piece, playing in some of Ireland’s most iconic venues.
Whelan’s, Crane Lane, the Spirit Store, Monroe’s Live and the Live on Air festival were just some of the pitstops. They also supported iconic Irish band Frank and Walters.
But for Monaghan, and the band members that went on the road, the highlight of the tour was to come at the end.
“I was really surprised to get all these iconic venues, I was like ‘wow’,” he gleamed. “I played in Spirit Store in Dundalk, a place that I always wanted to play. I supported the Frank and Walters band in Castlebar, which was another highlight, it was a great night.
“But the highlight of the tour was the return gig in The Rendevouz in Balla, because it was like I was bringing it home.
“I always wanted to play in my hometown and it was nice to finally get a gig there. [It] turned out to be a really good gig because the band was playing great by the time we got there, and there was a really good crowd there.
“You meet a lot of great people when you are touring, and it makes you want to do that all the time. To get to set up and play for an hour-and-a-half with a full band is incredible, and to hear your own songs played like that – it’s definitely something I want to do again.”
This year is already lining up to be another busy one for Train Room.
‘Entertainment Nights’ will be followed up by another single, ‘Lives of Others’, in March, and a remastered version of ‘Grace’ will follow in April, with an idea for an animated video currently in the pipeline.
The second EP is due out in May, and an album is on the cards by the end of the year, as is an extensive tour during festival season.
As well as all this, Monaghan is keen to take his music beyond Ireland and across the world, getting on the road for new life experiences, meeting new musicians and broadening his musical horizon. “A lot of my music would be listened to in South Korea, Mexico, places like these,” he explained. “It goes around the world thanks to Spotify and iTunes, so it really makes you want to get out there, staying busy and putting pressure on yourself to create more music.
“I do a lot of reading on other musicians, successful musicians, and the way they seem to get a livelihood and maintain sustainability is by travelling with their music, meeting new people and creating great albums and songs from that.
“It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Get ready to hear a lot more of Train Room in 2018.
‘Entertainment Nights’ will be available to download on iTunes and Spotify on January 22.