Meet The Artist: Emmét McGonagle

Photo credit: Brandon Cana

20-year-old Emmét McGonagle is a musician and songwriter from Limavady, Co Derry/Londonderry. Currently studying at Queen’s University, he enjoys writing and performing confessional folk music that evokes real emotion from the listener.

Inspired by the musical styles of Damien Rice and Bob Dylan, Emmét released his single “Better Off Alone” in January this year and is now set to celebrate the launch of his EP at McHugh’s, Belfast on April 3.

Get To Know More About Emmét:

How did you get started in the industry?
“The first time I picked up a guitar was when I was fifteen. It was my Auntie Anne’s guitar, and she taught me her favourite song: “Red Red Wine” by UB40 (a wine enthusiast, our Anne). From then on, any time there was a family gathering me and Anne would perform that song together – me playing guitar and her off dancing on a table somewhere.

“It didn’t take me long to realise that I wanted to entertain people with my own music, so I started writing my own material and now here we are I guess.”

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Photo credit: Brandon Cana

What genre / style do you create in?
“I love performing folk music. I was raised on the likes of Damien Rice and Bob Dylan so it feels natural to try to emulate some of their style through my music.”

What would you be best known for?
“I’d say I’m best known for my single “Better Off Alone” which I released this January. It’s got a decent bit of airplay over the past few months, most notably across the water on Larry Kirwan’s Sirius XM Radio show “Celtic Crush”.”

Check out the video for “Better Off Alone” below:

What would you consider your biggest achievement?
“My biggest achievement to date is performing on the Wooly Woodland stage at Stendhal Festival of Art last year. Stendhal has been a massive part of my summer for years now, and it was so humbling to be able to contribute to the kamikaze of art that the festival has to offer.”

What would you consider to be the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your industry?
“The most important thing I’ve learned is to make honest music which you can be proud of. Take time to draft and redraft songs, and when you’re happy with them make sure the material that you release is properly and professionally produced (it may be expensive but it’s infinitely worth it).

“Even if someone else doesn’t like your music, you can find solace in the fact that you’ve created music which reflects your personality to the best of your ability.”

What has been your biggest challenge to date?
“I’d say my biggest challenge to date has been in trying to write happy music. I’m a really happy guy and there’s nothing I would change about my life, but I can never manage to write a happy song. Just can’t do it. Cynic at heart I guess.”thumbnail_The blame Final

Tell us a little about your personal life, are you married, kids, hobbies etc?
“I’m in my third year of studying English with Creative Writing at Queen’s University Belfast. I’m currently trying to grow my hair out (goin’ for the man-bun), and I have a small collection of sunglasses. I’m also addicted to coffee, but as a student I guess that’s probably normal.”

Tell us about your most recent work?
“In January I released my new EP “The Blame”. It’s a four-track EP and I’m so proud of how it turned out. A lot of the songs are pretty sad (what with not being able to write happy songs and all), but I think they sound lovely and they’ve had a gorgeous reception so far.

“If you want to check it out you can find it on Spotify, and if you’d like to buy it (THANKYOU!!) it’s available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.”

PLUG !! What would you like us to tell people about?
“On Monday 3 April I’ll be playing in McHugh’s in Belfast to celebrate the launch of my new EP (thanks to the fantastic folks at Gala Hala Promotions). I’m so excited to be sharing the stage with Alpha Twin, Paper Dogs and Paddy Clark. It’s gonna be an unbelievable night, and I really hope you can come down and join us.”

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Photo credit: Brandon Cana

If you had to describe your work to someone who has never heard of you what would you say?
“I’d say “Sad folk music.” To me my music is a lot more than that – I focus a lot on writing confessional lyrics and matching them with unique chord progressions which reflect the emotion behind the songs, but at the same time I’m just as proud to be the mastermind behind sad folk music.”

What’s the funniest experience you’ve had in your business?
“A drunk woman once tried to slow-dance with me while I was performing. She kept trying to hold my hand mid-song (while I was playing my guitar) so I had to try to awkwardly edge away from her, which resulted in a kind of cat-and-mouse moment where she basically chased me in circles across the stage. Don’t get me wrong: I was flattered; but there’s a time and a place for stuff like that.”

What would your advice be to young people hoping to pursue the same industry?
“Just keep at it. Make a Facebook page and post music and updates as often as you can. If someone doesn’t like your music, that’s completely fine. Don’t be disheartened if people don’t reply to your emails, or if a stranger on the internet writes a nasty comment. It’s so important to stay confident, stay positive, and stay happy.”

Anything else you want to tell people about yourself or your work?
“I always try to perform as often as possible, so please let me know if you have any gigs which you’d like me to play at. Also if you ever fancy a chat about music, feel free to send me a message via my Facebook page.”

Who do you look up to and why?
“A bit cheesy, but the person I look up to has to be my mum (d’aww). She raised me, my brother and my two sisters by herself, she’ll never hesitate to put someone else before herself and she’s always smiling. Cheers, mum.”

Find out more:
www.facebook.com/emmetwiththegoodhair

Buy Emmét’s EP “The Blame” online at:
Spotify: open.spotify.com/artist/0foZ7F8WgReaPZ7uj5Lk7L
iTunes: itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-blame-ep/id1201361599
Amazon: www.amazon.com/Blame-EP-Emm

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About the Author

Abby Williams
Belfast based author/writer specialising in entertainment, mental health and human interest.