Cover Me, Cover You

I was thinking a while back about how much I’ve enjoyed those few times I’ve heard other people singing songs that I wrote. That train of thought prompted me to kick off a discussion on the WeAreTheMusicMakers (WATMM) subreddit, where it became clear there would be interest in an initiative where songwriters would agree to cover each other’s songs.

I tried to get something off the ground, creating a new subreddit where songwriters could find others with whom to exchange cover versions. It didn’t take off, with only one other reddit user signing up when I posted about it in WATMM. (I still think it’s a good idea – if I were a developer I might try to create a dedicated platform that could facilitate this kind of exchange…)

The Electronic Night Before

Actually, I say it didn’t take off, but looking at it another way, CoverMeCoverYou has a 100% success rate. You see, that one other person that signed up, a Santa Cruz-based musician called Eric Taxxon, agreed to cover one of my songs, and I in turn covered one of his.

Below you can play Eric’s version of my song The Night Before. I really like it. It’s fair to say that he’s taken the song somewhere I would never have imagined.

 

I chose to cover Small Virtues, from Eric’s album The Anthill. You can hear the original version here. I recorded my version one evening last week using my Zoom H4 recorder (with a pair of stereo tracks used for the main guitar and vocal track, the lead guitar line on a single track, and some harmony vocals and tambourine on another track). It was a quick’n’dirty effort, but I think it works quite well. It’s a quirky little song and I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to pull off an acoustic version of it.

 

Those two tracks will probably be the sum total output of the CoverMeCoverYou project. Even so, I’m really pleased to have done this. There’s something amazing about amateur musicians on opposite sides of the globe covering each other’s songs without having met or spoken to each other.

Me as Bon Iver

While I’m on the subject of cover versions of my songs, I’m going to go ahead and post below a cover of my song Half-Hearted Love Affair. I’m sure my friend Richie will not be pleased with me making this available, as it wasn’t intended for public consumption. It was a project for an audio production course he was doing in Amsterdam, where he deliberately tried to replicate the style of Bon Iver. He wasn’t, as I recall, that pleased with the result. But I like it. And it’s my song!

 

(Sorry Richie. And thanks.)

The best Irish pubs outside Ireland

I’ve been an Irishman abroad for more than ten years now, and had already travelled a fair bit before leaving for Switzerland in February 2004. One big difference between being an Irish tourist and actually living overseas is that you tend to visit Irish pubs more often. It helps to keep the homesickness at bay and Irish pubs are usually one of the best places to meet (not just Irish) people, hear live music, etc.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve got a fair bit of experience of Irish pubs around Europe and a bit beyond. And I like to drink Guinness. Nowt wrong with that, eh?

Barack Obama with a pint of Guinness

My absolute favourite Irish pub outside Ireland is Mulligan’s of Amsterdam. Here’s how I described it in a post on my top Amsterdam spots after living there for a couple of years:

Live music and good Guinness in Mulligans – as an Irishman overseas I do sometimes get a hankering for a pint of the black stuff. The best pint in town is to be found in Mulligans Irish Music Bar. It’s just around the corner from Rembrantplein but it feels like you’re stepping into an oasis away from the neon and the tourists. Live music three or four nights a week, trad sessions on a Sunday, bar staff who take pride in their job, and TVs that are only switched on when there’s a match featuring an Irish team. Many’s the pub in Ireland could learn a thing or two. (Honourable mention to Molly’s where Matthew and the gang have taken good care of me over the two years.)

As it happens, Mulligan’s of Geneva has been my favourite Irish pub around these parts. I say “has been” because, sad to say, it’s not the pub it was. In its heyday it was the hub of expat life in Geneva; in fact I think it had probably already peaked in that sense when I first got here in 2004. Nonetheless, I’ve had many memorable nights there and I still like to drop in from time to time for old times’ sake. Otherwise, in terms of Irish pubs in Switzerland, the Café du Cerf in Neuchâtel and Paddy’s Pub in Ferney-Voltaire (alright, that one is technically in France) would be two others worth a visit.

The best pubs…according to reddit

What prompted this post is that it occurred to me earlier this week that the folks that hang out on the Ireland subreddit on reddit.com might well be a useful source of knowledge and tips on this very topic. So I kicked off a discussion there that did indeed generate a fair few tips on Irish pubs outside Ireland. I thought it would be a good idea to gather the complete list together, in no particular order, so that I have a handy reference whenever I find myself in some far-flung place in need of a pint.

Europe

  • De Danú, Toulouse, France
  • Stapleton’s, Leuven, Belgium
  • The Celt, Los Alcázares, Murcia, Spain
  • The George Best Bar, Bled, Slovenia
  • St James and Flanagans, both in Lyon, France
  • Lir, Berlin
  • O’Connells, Stockholm
  • The Corkonian and Flanagan’s, both in Cologne
  • Fitzpatrick’s, Essen, Germany

North America

  • Johnnie Fox’s Irish Snug, at Granville and Nelson, Vancouver
  • McVeigh’s, (formerly the Windsor House), Toronto
  • The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, New York City
  • Kells, Portland, Oregon
  • Molly Maguire’s, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
  • Finn McCool’s, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Nine Fine Irishmen in New York, New York casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Gaelic Park in Chicago
  • The Druid, The Field and the Tam, all in Cambridge (outside Boston)
  • Black Rose, State Street, Boston
  • Raglan Road, Disneyland, Orlando
  • Tigin or Fado pubs in the USA

Rest of the World

  • Finnegan’s, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Tropical Murphy’s, Chaweng, Koh Samui, Thailand
  • Paddy’s, Cusco, Peru
  • Bobby Sands, Afghanistan

Now we just need somebody to create a wiki or a collaborate map for Irish pubs. Any volunteers…

Released!

Front cover of The Best of Radio Reddit album

The front cover

I had a pleasant surprise about six weeks ago when an email from the administrators at Radio Reddit popped into my inbox asking whether I’d agree to having one of  my songs on a compiliation album they were putting together. Fast forward to tomorrow, the release day for The Best of Radio Reddit, where track 15 of 17 is my song The Night Before. The publicity blurb for the album says:

The Best of Radio Reddit features 17 artists from the website RadioReddit.com. All artists on the compilation are users of reddit.com. The CD features many genres and only high quality tracks.

If you’re not familiar with Reddit, it’s a website where users post links to interesting content and vote on the links posted by others. There are also comment threads for each link posted, often more interesting and entertaining than the links themselves. To get the best out of it you should create a user account and choose which sub-reddits (groupings of links on specific topics) you want to populate your front page.

Over the last five years Reddit has taught me, inspired me, amused me, annoyed me and distracted me endlessly. It really is great. (And growing more popular all the time, surpassing 37 billion page views in 2012.)

And then, a couple of years ago, someone had the idea of making a sub-reddit where users could upload their own recordings, creating a radio station where listeners vote on what gets played most often. Of course the music isn’t the usual well-known stuff that’s heard on other radio stations – it comes entirely from (mostly unsigned) musicians who are Reddit users. The quality varies, but the idea is that via the up- and down-votes the cream should rise to the top.

I uploaded some tracks to the site a couple of years ago, including The Night Before, which has always been one of the most popular for me in live situations and has proved to be the most popular of those that I sent to Reddit. It’s one of the recordings I did in Ireland at Silverwood Studios in August 2008, including the wonderful Maeve Sweeney on backing vocals and Gavin Ralston & Co. in the band. I’m really pleased that it was selected for this release. I don’t know what impact, if any, it’ll have on my musical activities, but it’s an endorsement of some sort I guess.

If you’re interested in checking out some of the other songs that were selected, then I encourage you to buy the CD (hard copy or download). My tracks have always been available for free download anyway – The Night Before is right beneath this post. And you can find more of my music on my Songs & Music page.

And, in case you’re wondering, neither I nor any of the featured musicians will profit from this project. Some of the money goes to VH1’s Save the Music charity, and the rest will be ploughed back into the project.