Ahead of the Expected Autumn Release of His Debut Album, “A Perpetual State of Apathy,” Tipperary Musician Cormac Looby Discusses His Career

While a proud native of Cahir, Co. Tipperary, the musician Cormac Looby admits that it probably wasn’t the most fertile ground for such a passion. “There wasn’t much of a scene, I must say,” Cormac tells Post-Burnout about growing up there. “Our local rockstar was Johnny B of The 2 Johnnies fame.

“So, he was in a band called Johnny B & The Boogie Men, and they came in and played for us in sixth class, and I got a CD afterwards and stuff, and I thought it was very cool that he had a CD. But there wasn’t too much of a scene, now. So, it was Dublin or Cork or wherever if you wanted to see a gig.”

While, today, Cormac cites the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Sam Fender as influences on his sound, his early inspirations are more wayward and indicative of the time he grew up in. “The very first independent thing I wanted was one of the Now [That’s What I Call Music!] CDs,” he says. “Now 63 or something, I don’t know. It had the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Where Is the Love?’ on it, and I remember vividly watching the ad for that Now, and I was like, ‘I really need that CD!’ [Laughs]

“My first love in music was definitely pop music. My dad is a big Elvis fan, so we had him pushing Elvis a bit on us, anyway. Apart from that, there wasn’t very much influence from the parents, musically, so it was kind of up to myself to go and find a lot of that music, and I guess that’s how I got into listening to a lot of maybe questionable choices, in terms of pop music, back then, as is natural, I suppose, at that age.”

Photo by Gemma Bovenizer
Courtesy of Jawdropper

The first concert Cormac remembers attending was the Midlands Country Festival in Mullingar, where he saw acts like Christy Moore and Mundy, which he calls, “A great first introduction to live music.” As a teen, he began playing in school bands, with influences that were, again, very indicative of the time. “When we were in T.Y. and fifth and sixth year, bands were very much at the helm,” he says.

“There was that whole wave of Imagine Dragons and Mumford & Sons, and that. Whatever you may think about it now, that was what we were listening to and that was the stuff we were playing. I think definitely what I’ve listened to has evolved a lot, from my teens into my early twenties, and I feel like it was my early-to-mid twenties before I was really digging into the music that would properly inspire me and inspire these latest songs.”

While Cormac felt that these bands allowed him to experience gigging and travelling for the first time and, after they finished, he continued writing and performing, he didn’t initially pursue it as a career. Cormac moved to Galway to attend university and then to Manchester to work on a postgraduate degree in Teaching. It was there where he truly planted the seeds that would germinate into his solo career.

“I guess being in Manchester was a great time for me, pre-COVID,” Cormac says. “It was my first consistent basis [as a musician]. I was doing a lot of the open mic scene over there and small shows and stuff, and it was the first real opportunity I was getting to share my music, and it was great to be able to write a song on a Monday and then get down to The Whiskey Jar on a Thursday, and gauge whether a song was hitting or not, or whether it needed more work, or if it was one to throw in the bin. So, Manchester was great for that.”

This all set the groundwork for the release of Cormac’s debut studio single, “I Don’t Need Your Love,” which was released at a pretty unenviable time. “It was a funny time; it was the 28th of February, when I released my first single, of 2020,” he explains. “Fantastic! Yeah, it was funny. It was released and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was lucky [that] I worked with a really good producer in Manchester, kommy, and he did so much for everything: he helped set up my website, email, domain, social media, and everything like that.

“But we released the tune and, when COVID hit, it actually did give me a bit of space to go back and look over things that I might have missed and send out some more emails, and then the song got on the RTÉ Recommends list and BBC Introducing, just by having more time to follow up with it and do a bit more marketing with it, so that was really cool, I guess. I mean, obviously, COVID was bad, but it gave me time to learn about that and to do a lot of writing, as well, and a lot of soul-searching, I suppose.”

After the pandemic, Cormac moved back to Galway and fleshed out what he had started. “That’s when I got digging into playing with the lads in the band that play with me now, and developing a bit more of sound and just properly having a go at doing this music craic. I’m in Dublin now, and, like someone said, it’s like coming to Hollywood for an Irish musician, y’know? It might be a bit of a necessity, I suppose. Not always; there’s great scenes in Cork, and Galway, and Limerick, and everywhere, but the lads in the band are based here now, so it made sense to come here and start off on this album cycle in Dublin.

The album in question is Cormac’s debut, A Perpetual State of Apathy, which follows a four-year string of singles and EP releases. At the time of publication, two songs from the album – “Angel, Baby” and “Ordinary Woman” – have been released as singles. On making the record, Cormac says, “It was recorded at the Black Gate Studios [in Galway]. Liam King is the producer and sound engineer. But we ended up all over the place.

“We were in Black Mountain in Dundalk, and The Clinic, here in town, for the guitar, and then we did some double bass and some strings out in Stiúideo Cuan in Spiddal in Galway, and there was contributions from other studios and some brass and stuff from [the Westmeath based] Grouse Lodge and stuff. So, there was a lot of spots involved [Laughs], so that made it interesting. And it’s scheduled for release in early September, I think, without a date yet, but roughly that time.”

You can keep up to date with Cormac Looby’s live dates, music and social media accounts on his website.

Tune into today’s episode of
POSTBURNOUT.COM Interviews… at 21:00 (IST) to hear this interview in full, where we go into further depth about everything discussed as well as talk about how Cormac balances his music project with his teaching career, the music on the upcoming album, how the digital era has changed his listening habits, how each location he has lived in has influenced him, and much more. Available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music Podcasts.

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