In this latest installment of Inbound – which looks at some of the more promising acts from across the country – we talk to fast-rising Armagh singer-songwriter Eoghan O’Hagan AKA His New Atlas about the power of cathartic release, his very specific approach to songwriting and his big plans for the next few months.
Firstly, can you shed a bit of light on how you came to be a singer-songwriter?
I started off in a metal band, oddly enough. I left this as I never felt like it was moving at a pace that fast enough for me. So I got a guitar learned three pretty easy chords and made a short EP from it. From the reaction of that EP I knew I found something I liked to do!
How did the name His New Atlas come about?
Apart from knowing that I didn’t want to use my name “Eoghan O’Hagan”, I got the idea of using a band name from City and Colour. I really liked the word “Atlas” and the rest fell into place.
What are your main influences – both musical of otherwise – on your sound and approach?
Jeff Buckley and Daughter. The music got “sadder” but that was me changing my approach from trying to write a good song – to pouring my whole self into each song and if it’s good that’s a bonus.
You’ve recently expanded to a full band for live shows. What encouraged you to try that out?
Well, I am a massive believer in what you record you must be able to do live. So I got some session musicians in to help to make things bigger. It also opened more opportunities for me giving me time to play solo and with my band.
Your music is distinctly personal in tone. Have you found it in any way tricky having others play that music with you in a band set-up?
Yes. I am very weird with my music. If I wrote something most of the time the first them my full band hear it is at a show were I play alone. It’s extremely personal, and I’m delighted to be working with professionals who don’t mess around or joke about anything like that. I still struggle to lift my head up after playing a show I always leave for short time to relax and breath before facing the people who see me as “sad, sad little guy”.
There’s a “five month plan” in place for your next single, Broken Mirrors. Can you divulge some more information about what you plan to do?
I have recently finished the recording of the single with a b-side. So in the next four months I will be doing a lot of promotion and preparation for the release. I don’t want to give to much away but I planning a pretty great tour for it, and a massive launch night!
In terms of your approach to penning material, do you have a very particular process that you undertake every time or is it more spontaneous?
I am constantly writing lyrics down weather it be in my journal or phone. I am picky with writing in terms if space. I need to completely alone. So 90% of the time it’s 2-5am when I begin. I need to be in a certain mood. When I am run down by habit I pick up my guitar and try transfer what’s happening in my head into song thing listenable, and something I and hopefully others are able to relate to.
Your Torn Out Lungs EP got a strong response. With a new EP set for January, how do you think things have changed or progressed, even in such a short period of time?
That EP received a lot of attention from management teams etc so I have been sat down and given helpful criticism that was put into use straight away. I am confident Broken Mirrors is better… a lot better.
What were the main themes that you wrote about/confronted on Torn Out Lungs?
I struggled massively to release Torn Out Lungs because it was honest and people to this day do look at me different. I suffer from depression which was caused by trauma in my family as a child that affects me to this day. When I started writing the EP it wasn’t meant to be played live or recorded – it was my therapy. But releasing it felt freeing.
Between your videos and photography, imagery and visuals seem to play a significant part in your approach as a singer-songwriter. Is that the case?
Yes, of course. There is a cold anger and sadness to each video and photo – most is unintentional – no one told said “cheese” before taking photos. With videos I spend a lot of time planning. The video for ‘His Young’ – my last single – was me tied to a tree which represented a family tree, and the family in front of me had completely cold/numb expressions to really exaggerate the emotion on my part.
You’ve some UK dates on the horizon. How important is it for you to look beyond Ireland at such a relatively early stage of your career?
I have lived and played in the UK and it is just more welcoming for my genre. I also just love the touring side of things and with travel being do easy and affordable why not go over.
Finally, with a very busy few months ahead of you, where do you hope to “be” this time next year?
Extremely hard question because if I was asked that last year I couldn’t have even have dreamed to get where I am at the minute. I don’t plan on slowing down my work rate. All I really hope for is continued support with my music because I feel extremely blessed to have been this support so far.
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