‘It was just a wow moment!’'
The old saying to never meet your heroes is something Paul McCann would strongly advise against.
The Belturbet singer songwriter has recruited many of the musicians he holds in highest esteem for his forthcoming album, two of whom appear on his latest single - ‘Love is all that Matters’.
After playing every instrument save for the drums on his critically-acclaimed debut album ‘Here Comes the Rapture’ in 2018, Paul McCann decided on a more collaborative approach for his follow-up. Great reviews, and decent sales in the US, emboldened Paul in making the approach.
"I had sent my first album to a lot of," he pauses to consider how to phrase it, “I can't think of a better word - my heroes. A lot of people who I grew up listening to.
“When I got closer to album two, I started putting the feelers out to see if some of the people I sent it to might be interested in doing something.”
While the rest of the planet cursed Covid, it wasn't an entirely ill wind for Paul.
“When that happened a lot of musicians around the world were at home and it put me in a very good position to send people these songs and for them to do stuff remotely.”
Amongst the musical talents to answer his call for 'Love is All that Matters' was "two of my absolute favourites" - singer Sylvie Lewis and guitarist Gary Lewis.
Folk-jazz composer Sylvie Lewis shares lead vocals on two other tracks, and it was only an 11th hour decision to send her on the song.
“I've been a fan of her music for maybe 10 or 15 years,” enthused Paul. “She's just remarkable.
"She completely delivered and then some.”
The name Gary Lucas might not be familiar to many readers, but some of his songs certainly will be. He co-wrote ‘Mojo Pin’ and the title track on Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’ album.
“He is incredible," says Paul of Gary. "He played with Chris Cornell, he played with Captain Beefheart - he actually managed Don [Van Vliet] for many years.”
Again Lucas was suitably impressed by Paul's debut album that he provided an exquisite solo.
“Gary has a very unique playing style - he doesn't play like anyone else I know. There's almost a sitar or Indian vibe from the piece he plays - it suits it so perfectly. It's brilliant.
"I wanted their [Sylvie and Gary's] personality on the songs - at no point did I say, ‘This is what I want’, or ‘This is how things should sound’.”
The Celt wonders what will happen when playing live? Will Paul say to his guitarist - “Can you give this impossible solo a stab?”
Paul explains that “bizarely” Gary has suggested they tour together!
“The logistics of whether that will ever happen - he's based in New York... hopefully, fingers crossed.”
While the story of the musicians who collaborated is remarkable, the story behind it is heart breaking.
“In 2018 my dad died suddenly," Paul explains. "He was in a bad accident and I was at the accident scene. Some very difficult times followed that.”
It was at this time that Paul's eldest daughter Lily - then aged seven - made a gesture which sparked the song.
“There was one day - you know when you need a hug, well, she was sitting beside me doodling away, and she just handed me this little post-it and it was a picture of her and me and said 'Love is all that Matters' on it.
“It was just a wow moment! It was just what I needed at that moment in time.”
Inspired by his daughter's sensitivity, Paul took the title and penned the song in response. He marvels that it arrived “fully formed”.
Of course Paul's eager to collaborate with his heroes, and amongst them he counts his three kids, Lily (10), Cassie (8) and Sonny (5). Appropriately, his two daughters provide vocals for one of the album tracks.
'Love is All that Matters' by Paul McCann is out this Friday, January 20. The launch of his album ‘Alter Ego’ on Saturday, April 29 - tickets available from townhallcavan.ticketsolve.com/shows