Q & A – Background

Q &  A with Mick McHugh

Mick McHugh playing Sydney Opera House St. Patrick's Day 2013

1. Tell us about your family and where  you grew up?

I was born in Dublin, Ireland, and grew up in suburb village on the outskirts of Dublin called Lucan. There were six kids, three boys and three girls, two years between us all…boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl…all brown hair and brown eyes..so we’re a good Irish family! We’re a close family, with a great bond and that keeps me strong and has given me a fantastic foundation to get out into the world and be myself.

2. What would you say were your early childhood musical influences?

Well growing up in Ireland, most people are exposed to live music on a regular basis, and not necessarily just in pubs, but at family gatherings, weddings, funerals, family holidays and then as you get older, usually at house parties after a night on the town. Also, my Dad  has always loved blasting music at its loudest possible decibels when it was a song or group that he loved…from the Beatles and Neil Diamond to Kris Kristofferson, he had loads of Beatles on reels. And my Mam would play her tapes of traditional balladeers doing well known ballads, the good old stuff, you know….and she likes singing along with the songs around the house. And then my eldest brother would introduce me to modern bands of the 80’s like Def Leopard, Bon Jovi, U2. My cousin would pull out the guitar at every family celebration and then on holidays in the county I would watch a everybody stand up and take turn singing unaccompanied, while everyone listened in silence, and then the finale would be this guy with the hugest voice a 14 year old boy had ever heard in his life sing with eyes shut tight, veins bulging, tears flowing….I realise now, I was the fly on the wall just watching, taking it all in.

3. So, when did you actually start playing guitar and singing?

Well, I actually only picked up the guitar and started singing when I was 23. I had finished a 5 degree in Polymer Engineering, and was working in the industry but I wasn’t very happy about where my life was heading and decided to start doing some things that I really wanted to do…and one of those was to play music. My best mate was keen to learn guitar, so he went and bought one, a chord book, and off we went. I only intended to be able to play some cover songs at house parties. I had been playing for one year when I met my Australian wife at a Dance workshop called “5 Rhythms” in Dublin. She was on a one year working. We fell head over heels for each other instantly. That first night, she played me a song of hers that she had written, I was so impressed and then she encouraged me to sing a song for her. I had never sang for anybody (but I was definitely keen to impress her!) so I sang a David Gray song I had been learning by myself. She thought I was great, of course! The next day, I was sitting at a cafe on my own, and I said to the waitress, “Can you get me a piece of paper and a pen, I gotta write something down”, man, I was in love! I wrote some lyrics, went home, picked up the guitar, and a songwriter was born….just what the world needed, eh! Another songwriter! Ha! From there I kept writing. Then soon after, I joined a contemporary Gospel Choir in Dublin, next thing I knew I was addicted.

4. What other instruments do you play?

At live gigs, I play acoustic guitar in various tunings, harmonica, foot stompbox to give it a driving bass beat and a foot tambourine on the other foot. And sometimes I play a song or two on mandolin or ukulele too. I can tinker on a piano, but only when no one’s watching for now.

5. Which artists have influenced you the most?

More so individual songs than a whole artist’s catalogue have influenced me. For instance, I love “Imagine” and “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon, “Father and Son” and “Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Times are a Chagin” and lots more by Bob Dylan, to Beatles, to love songs, lyrically centred songs, to U2, David Gray, Damien Rice, Damien Dempsey and more recently Mumford and Sons. So many…..

6. How would you describe your musical style?

Contemporary Irish Folk, its lyrically strong and acoustic guitar driven. My Irish roots are evident in my music but I have definitely had a lot of influence from gigging full time in Australia over the last three years.

7. Did you study music?

No, never, just did a part time course in music business for three months before turning fully professional in 2007. That has made a massive difference to my career, it helped me channel all the passion and drive to get my music career off the ground. To learn guitar, I just had a song book and chord book, gotten bits from the internet, and from watching other artist, and playing full time has catapulted my ability too….match fitness.

8. What other bands have you been in?

No other bands, just sang in a contemporary Gospel Choir in Dublin around the same time as when I first picked up the guitar. It was great fun, we were singing songs by U2, Bob Marley, Sting. That’s really where I learnt to sing, I was just thrown in at the deep end, nut there was sort of safety in numbers…great way to gain confidence when you first start singing I reckon.

9. Where do you get your inspiration for Songwriting from?

Cheesy as it may sound…it’s love. As soon as I met my wife, fell in love, I started writing and I’ve never looked back. Using love as the core, I get inspiration from been a husband, a dad, a friend, missing my family in Ireland, I try to keep a universal thread so that people can relate to the songs.
And I don’t force songs, I let them happen, I find they are much stronger that way, and they mean more to me. I write from emotion…as soon as I have an emotional experience or epiphany, I grab it on paper. Then I might be playing something on the guitar one day and the two fit together with ease, once I have a verse or a chorus, the rest just flows.

10. What are your career successes and highlights so far?

Becoming a full time musician and getting paid to do something I love! Ha! Not being a Polymer Engineer anymore too! Ha! Supporting Pete Murray here in Australia was fantastic, playing Port Fairy Folk Festival, The Fatherhhood Festival, releasing three CD’s, and all the nominations in songwriting contests, especially the two international ones.

11. How can people find out more about your music?

At www.mickmchugh.com and the music is available from Mick McHugh on iTunes.

Cheers Mick  : )