Image by Tarik Yilmaz [Used with permission]
“I started off late with the music, I moved over to Australia when I was about 25 years old and I only picked up a guitar when I was over in Australia”, Gerry Gormley, a singer songwriter, based in Wicklow but originally from Trim, Co. Meath, is sitting in The Bleeding Horse, Camden Street, on a rainy Monday evening enlightening me about what started him off on his musical adventure. He started playing the guitar, as a way of keeping boredom at bay while he was travelling and quickly realised it was a wonderful addition to the writing ideas that he already had, “I was over there and I had a few quid starting off and I knew after about two months that I was going to run out of money very quickly and I was going to have to start working and I’d be bored so I said why not get a guitar? And try my hand at it for the craic, I had always written poems, stories, and attempted songs, obviously without any musical instrument, but over in Australia I picked up the guitar and just started learning a few chords over there and it went from there”.
Since then, Gerry has been involved in music, as a solo performer as well as part of a group taking on song writing duties in both ventures, “I played solo previously and I was in a band called Sugar Cane Flame, with three friends of mine we were together for about 2 years, kind of alternative folk-rock material, it was really good fun while it lasted, I was kind of like the chief songwriter and the guys came in and put the meat on the bones of songs”
The band had a little taste of the rock n’ roll lifestyle, recording an EP and a music video for one of their tracks; ”We had like minor success, we got some airplay we were played on FM 104 and Radio Nova and we got an EP recorded out of it as well, which I was very happy about, there was one song on the EP, it was called “Jesus, the devil in me “and I think still to this day it’s my proudest writing achievement, I was just so happy with it.
The story behind the lyrics is an interesting one and Gerry has several different creative processes when it comes to writing songs, “It was basically a song about a man who met the devil in Alabama and the devil takes him down the wrong path and eh the good lord comes to save him, but yeah I love doing that, I love just sort of making up songs”. “I’ll do like a couple of different things, like I’ll either draw from my own experiences when I’m writing a song or I will draw from someone else’s experiences who has told me a story or something about them or I’ll just make up a story, if I feel I’ve got a good story that I can tell within a song within a couple of verses, I’ll do it that way, you know, so depending on what mood takes me and sort of what I feel like is coming out of the song is what I’ll write, you know?”
Making a music video is one of the highlights for a band and with director John Redmond at the helm, they made a superb video for one of the tracks from their EP, entitled “The Rascal”, “We had a beautiful sunny day out in Howth and we just filmed away for about twelve or thirteen hours, I really liked it because we managed to get costumes and everything and get done up, and one of my good friends Bella A Go-Go was in the video as well, who was known for her burlesque shows and different things like that so she had her own costumes and kind of dressed for the part, my brother Damien in Wicklow, dresses really extravagantly sometimes, so I went down to him one sunny afternoon, the week before the video shoot and he dressed me up with his clothes, really good fun!”
“I was kind of in the background as the narrator to a story that was going on behind me, it was my first time recording a professional music video like that so yeah really good craic, it got a few views on YouTube as well”. “Funny story actually, in the video I’m wearing like a pair of John Lennon Sunglasses and they really suited the outfit I was wearing , like a long top hat and the brown suit and the sunglasses were put on me by pure fluke, because there was one scene where we were lying down on the ground and it was a really sunny day and John had a camera and he was pointing it down towards us and he was just saying to me “Gerry, you have to stop flinching“ because the sun was right in my eyes and I couldn’t stop, I was trying to open my eyes and I was straining and I just looked like a complete lunatic, even more than usual! A mate of ours Tyreke was there and he had the pair of John Lennon sunglasses and he was like “Do you want to try these on? Maybe that will help?” I was like yeah ok, when I had them on it was like a eureka moment, like the whole outfit was complete and I didn’t have to worry about squinting!
Having played many shows both as a solo performer and as part of a band, the past number of years have been an experience, with some memorable gigs, “The first big one for me was playing the main stage in Whelan’s, I was solo at this stage, I was backing up a band called TKO, a good friend of mine, Mick Geraghty, the lead singer of the band at the time, and I was in college with Mick, I was chatting to him and happened to have some of my demos and he had the gig coming within six weeks, he touted the idea to me “Would you like to get on stage and back us up?”.
With a good opportunity presenting itself, Gerry didn’t waste any time in expressing enthusiasm for playing the gig, “I was just like “Holy Jesus I’ll do it!”, it was an absolutely amazing experience, I remember being back in the green room, waiting to go on and there was a good crowd there as well, I got up on stage and I was never happier, it was just an amazing feeling, I felt like all those days trying to play the guitar and trying to write songs had paid off, even if I didn’t do anything else in my life, I was after getting to play on the main stage in Whelan’s on a Saturday night which was absolutely amazing, you know?”
“Another great time with Sugar Cane Flame, we entered a competition for Radio Nova , well they had a Battle of the Bands competition and we signed up for it and we didn’t even think we were going to get called to be part of it but they rand us and said yeah you’re in, I think it was the second heat and we were absolutely delighted just to get into the competition, it was out in Swords in Hogs n Heifers, we went out there the first night for the first heat, gave it absolute socks, I just remember cos we had a new song, that was a real good, rock n roll song, we also won the heat as well and because of that, we got to go onto Radio Nova, got airplay with them and got interviewed by them, it was really good fun, we didn’t win the final but sure it was a great journey anyway.”
During the busy days of Sugar Cane Flame, Gerry managed to multitask, managing the day to day band business in addition to holding down a full-time job;
“It really was an invaluable experience , particularly for me because I was managing the band and I was the chief songwriter and I was promoting the band so I was doing a lot of work and it was like I had a full time job outside my full time job, but I didn’t mind, I absolutely loved what I was doing, there was absolutely no problem there for me but I was burning the candle at both ends, it has to be for love, it can’t be for money that’s for sure!”
The world of music is a not an easy one to break into and it is easy to become disillusioned with the struggle of doing a lot of work for relatively little reward, however there are always defining moments that will spur you to continue the path to musical success,
“One of the moments that spurred me on to keep going was the EP launch, for Sugar Cane Flame ,we held it one night in April 2014, and it was absolutely amazing, like the place was absolutely jammed out of it and we had to go in that day and get set up and we had to do all the usual stuff, but like the whole day was dedicated just to the gig, so like that whole day from start to finish, it felt like you were achieving something because, it was just about the music….. you went in to check with the venue to see what was happening, and then you go in and get your gear set up and then you do your sound check and then you need to go off for a couple of hours and come back and it was just, it was an amazing feeling, amazing night, everyone seemed to enjoy the music and enjoy themselves so yeah, it was a great time!
While not exactly coming from a very musical family, there were some hints of music in his blood, “My Dad was a great accordion player but he didn’t have one in the house when we were growing up, I remember we were at a family reunion when I was about 12 or 13 years old, that’s when I saw him playing the accordion for the first time and I was kind of blown away, there was a couple of people with guitars and me da sitting with the accordion, I remember looking going, janey I didn’t think he could do that! Memories! Also, my uncle Gerry, he was a great sort of like folk musician and still plays around Trim to this day.
A surprise trip to San Francisco ended up introducing Gerry to his acoustic guitar, a light brown Takamine which he describes as “a magical guitar”, “I love it to bits”, he enthuses, “the tone off it is absolutely amazing!”, “I’m no Steve Vai or Jimi Hendrix or anything but just for the intent purposes of what I do, the acoustic guitar sounds beautiful and its one that you wouldn’t just use in the rehearsal space, it’s the one you bring on stage and love, cos it just gives such a great sound!” He keeps all bases covered with a Gibson electric guitar “I also have a black Gibson SG, on which I am trying to learn my craft”.
Gerry describes his musical influences and reminisces about his teenage years back in the early 1990s and the moment of realisation that he wanted to be a musician, describing the first time he saw Pantera perform on television,
“I remember when I was about 14 years old, myself and my brother Damien, were watching The Headbangers Ball, the auld metal show from back in the day, you know? And we were just looking at a couple of videos and Vanessa Warwick, who was the host at the time, eh it just shot to her and she was in a car park interviewing this fella, he just like had a skint head, a t-shirt on and a pair of cargo pants, you know like the shorts cargo pants ,and was just talking about the song that they were about to perform and the band was called Pantera, the lead singer was called Phil Anselmo, that was the guy that was being interviewed and it shot to the video, it was shot live and just seeing him on stage It was like wow that is amazing and it was just like such energy and such fire in the vocals, it was just like yeah!! I’d love to do that, you know? “Phil Anselmo is a questionable character these days, I had to put his personality aside, I’m not going to sort of like discard the love I have for music just because someone is a jack**s you know, that’s the way that is.”
Feeling inspired having seen Pantera’s performance, Gerry began to listen to “whole load of metal music”, “I had always listened to music and I liked it, but when I heard Pantera, I don’t know how to explain this, something happened inside me, and something happened with this sound that was coming into my ears that made me go “Holy S**t!” “What is going on? “
“There was more of a context to the music, Pantera unlocked the door for the rest of it to come in, you know?”
The conversation turns to the recently recorded debut solo EP which is due for release soon,
the idea came about after Gerry’s mate Tony Carberry, became interested in the music that he was playing and offered to play the bass if he wanted to record the music and that was that, so with Gerry singing and playing rhythm guitar and Tony on bass, they were joined by Paul Murphy on lead guitar and Paul Daly on drums, “Musically it would be Nick Cave meeting Bruce Springsteen, drunk in a bar, he explains. “I wrote the songs, two of the songs are from a couple of years back and two of them are from quite recent, I really wanted to mash them up like that, I had two songs put away from a good few years ago, I needed to, how shall I describe it? Exorcise the demon by getting them recorded properly and putting them out there into the ether, you know?”
The single “Take me home” was inspired by a real-life situation, “sometimes I can create a song or a story from a snapshot of life, you can create a story from like just having a visual of a couple of people, a moment in time”, “It was 4 days of recording, the last day we went in there was 16 hours, trying to get everything finished up, i was going to collapse, but the first day we were in there was tough, we hadn’t rehearsed enough, that was the thing, we did go in slightly under – prepared which wasn’t very professional, but I had a window, a time frame that I needed to get it done and I felt everyone could pull together to get the material done to the level I wanted it and we did, we did do that, we had our struggles through the EP but we came out with a high end quality product that we were all very proud of , that we will have released soon enough, we will have a single pretty soon enough anyway”.
Gerry is cheerful about the upcoming video shoot for “Take me home” in March, “John Redmond, who directed the first video, he’s directing it, he’s giving me mates rates, it’s in good hands!”.
In addition to his solo EP, Gerry also is the singer for a new project that himself, Tony Carberry, Paul Murphy and another drummer are working on, a heavy rock band, influenced by a hybrid of Corrosion of Conformity, Deftones and Queens of The Stone Age, drawing inspiration from doom metal and southern rock allowing him to experiment with different styles of music, “We’re creating a sound at the moment, I’m very excited about it, this project gives me the opportunity just to be the front man, I’m not playing guitar, Tony is taking up the guitar, I write the lyrics and the melodies and I’m just out the front by myself which I f**king love!
“Tony was our bass player for the solo project, he’s a pretty slick hard rock guitarist or southern rock guitarist whatever way you want to call it and he’s at that for a good few years, but like he just came to me with it and said I’ve got these couple of songs we could do something with them I said send them on to me and I’ll start writing so that’s what we did,
he’s going to keep start recording now and over the next couple of weeks he’ll keep sending them to me and I’ll just keep writing, that’s it!”, “This is all I want to do with my life, I just love it, like I’m only here for a short time, I’ve got a good feeling about “Take me home” because like it’s just so accessible, I knew when I wrote it, this seems to be a song for everybody”.
With countless songs written and many more to come, is there a process for writing a song or does it have to be a sad or happy time to write a song that reflects that emotion,
“It’s mad it depends, like I wrote a song called “Into the ether” for the new project on the way into work last Tuesday morning, on the Luas, I didn’t even have a notepad, I had a pen and an envelope, I was sitting down and the f**kin Luas was jammed out of it and I had my headphones on and Tony was after sending me the guitar for this new song that he had, now Tony gave me the title as well, we discussed a couple of things about what he meant by into the ether, he told me what he meant and then I started getting thoughts about what to write from there, I got most of the song written before I got into Jervis street shopping centre!
“Being in the right place is sort of like, it’s in your head, and it doesn’t matter what your surroundings are as long as you can go away into that place you need and it doesn’t necessarily need to be happy or sad but that can depend on what your writing like you know?” “Sometimes you want something good to come out of something bad, so it can be hurtful sometimes, trying to get a song out like that. “It’ll bring it out of you, there’s no doubt about that, tackling issues like that, it’s going to be reflected in the writing alright, yeah like the realness of it, like if you’re grabbing deep down into yourself, those words are going to come out and you’re going to be able to do something to do with them”
Speaking of his dream gig and venue, it would be supporting Blind Melon and Alice in Chains in the Academy, Dublin, “I just love Alice in Chains so much and Blind Melon, I didn’t like Alice in Chains immediately, but the album Dirt , I was after coming home from Australia and I must have listened to it 5 or 6 times over and I was like it’s alright and then I remember I came home from work one day and I said I would give it another shot and just clicked into my head, it went from its ok, its ok, its ok to Jesus f**kin mighty, you know?!”
Elaborating on the songs that defined certain periods in his life, Gerry credits “Far beyond driven” by Pantera with describing the moment that he knew he “was completely engrossed in thrash metal”. He explains, “it was after “Vulgar Display of Power” came out, I would say I was about 15 and my brother came home on the Sunday from Dublin and he had the tape of “Far beyond driven” and I remember we had a little radio sitting on the fridge and Damien just put in the cassette, closed it and pressed play and I’ll never forget the first ten seconds of “Strength Beyond Strength”, it was the first song on the album, it was just insane, Dimebag Darrell!
In 3 years’ time, Gerry hopes “to be gigging regularly and making a living from it, that would be just amazing, and have a solo album produced, an album with the heavy rock outfit produced and have both going, that’s the dream at the moment.”
“It’s a side project for the moment, until we can get it up and running, and get another few songs written an then we can look at taking it to the stage but I will go with whichever way it progresses, I wouldn’t even say one is more important than the other because they are both mean different things to me for different reasons, but if one was going to take off, It’s not like I’d leave the other one behind but like if you’re onto a winner, you’re very lucky, you’ve got two paths to go down either way you win and that’s brilliant you know?
Gerry’s aspirations are very well defined when it comes to goals that he would like to achieve with his music for the coming year, “To have the (Hard rock) EP released, the EP or the single released for the solo project, and to get into the Irish iTunes charts at least in the top ten” and to become fairly well known,” where people can actually, go ah he’s a musician, he wrote that song!” as for the side project, He’d like “to be on the stage before the end of the summer, rocking the sh*t out of Fibber Magee’s , having people go mental, it would be f**kin amazing!
Currently, in this digital-focused world, social media prevails as the way for an artist to promote their music Gerry is mindful of how a strong social media presence is important to maintain popularity, “It’s all part of the business now, at this stage, I’m on Facebook, Youtube, Soundcloud and Instagram, it’s an important promotional tool”.
To keep updated with Gerry’s music, you can check out his social media handles;