MUSIC MAN Conor Ward plays Garbo’s, Castlebar on October 13. Pic: Crude Media
Ciara Galvin chats to singer-songwriter Conor Ward ahead of the release of his new single, ‘Hope’
TRAVELLING ‘Darkest Peru’ last year I stumbled across a poster of a familiar face. No, it wasn’t the marmalade-loving Paddington Bear, but Castlebar man Conor Ward. A random happening that came into conversation while chatting to the musician last week about his latest single, ‘Hope’.
The singer-songwriter escaped to South America last year for six weeks and while experiencing the sights and sounds of Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, he decided to take a chance and do some gigs.
“I had been travelling around for a while, Dubai, Asia, and I came back and had the itch to go again, and there wasn’t really people going, so I said I’d just go myself. People mentioned an Irish hostel chain and I thought it’d be cool to look back and say you did gigs in South America.”
The Limerick-based Medical Physicist made contact with Tipperary man Davy Brown, who owns The Wild Rover Hostels, and he was ‘100 percent up for it’. Playing in La Paz, Bolivia, and hostels in Arequipa and Cusco in Peru, Conor got a brief taste of fame.
“It was class. You meet people on the way and you tend to meet them again along the way so by the time I got to Cusco there were big signs. It was so weird. I’d be there getting food and it was like ‘Are you the guy on the sign?’,” he laughs.
Son of Peter and Nora, Conor juggles both his passions, music and medicine. After finishing work at 4pm at University Hospital Limerick, you can often find him with his guitar writing songs in the evenings.
“It’s busy, but I enjoy it. They’re both a break from each other,” he explains.
So where did the passion for music stem from?
“I have three older brothers and all of them play music and played in different bands and did different gigs themselves, so when I was growing up there was always guitars and instruments around.”
Determined to start playing, the young Conor first cut his musical teeth on the banjo, as his hands were too small for the guitar.
“I still play – I’m delighted I play the banjo. Then I started learning guitar.” With older siblings, the 29 year old’s taste in music developed from listening to the likes of Led Zepellin and AC/DC to acts which influence his own style now, like Glen Hansard, Ray Lamontagne and, more recently, George Ezra.
A career highlight so far for Ward was playing support for one of his favourite bands ‘The Stunning’.
“They’re the band that myself and my brothers all love. I’d say I’ve gone to see them maybe ten times. And then I got asked to support them at Dolan’s Warehouse.”
Dispelling the maxim ‘You should never meet your heroes’, Conor says the band were ‘lovely, lovely guys’.
Released on August 20, Conor’s new single ‘Hope’ addresses the issue of mental health through a fervent and catchy indie pop tune.
“During college, I lost two friends on separate occasions to suicide. They were both quite musical. Since then, even in college, I’ve always been doing fundraisers for Pieta House.”
While writing songs, Conor kept coming back to the theme of mental health.
“They always say when you’re writing material that if you write about stuff that you’re passionate about or that means a lot to you, it comes out best.”
With the song complete, the musician felt that tying it to a project would raise awareness.
And so the idea for his upcoming video for the song came about, along with a trio of fundraising gigs.
The video hits Conor’s YouTube channel on September 9. It’s a special production for him.
“The video I shot with Crude Media is a day in the life of someone struggling with mental health, and the idea is to raise awareness. We shot the video with Limerick Suicide Watch.”
Among his upcoming performances is one he’s really looking forward to – a hometown gig in Garbo’s in Castlebar.
“It’s people you’ve grown up with and known for years at those gigs back in your hometown; that’s the best.”
Conor Ward plays Whelan’s, Dublin, on October 5; Dolan’s, Limerick on October 12; and Garbo’s, Castlebar on October 13. His single ‘Hope’ is available on Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Music and Deezer. The proceeds from all three gigs will go towards Pieta House and Limerick Suicide Watch.