What irritates me? Barbers who insist on talking when they cut my hair!

Person to Person: Musician Paddy Dennehy on growing up in a remote part of Cork, and his likes and dislikes in life
What irritates me? Barbers who insist on talking when they cut my hair!

Paddy Dennehy. Picture: Celeste Burdon

Paddy Dennehy is a folk singer-songwriter, originally from Limerick, now based in Cork. He recently announced a new album, ‘Love and Be Brave’, to be released in Spring 2023, and the first two songs from it, ‘Heaven Not Far’ and ‘Are You Still My Girl’, are available on all streaming services now.

TELL us about yourself:

My name is Paddy Dennehy and I’m a singer and songwriter from Limerick based in Cork. My first album, Little Light, was released in June, 2020, and my second album, Love and Be Brave, will be released in the spring of 2023.

Where were you born?

I grew up on a stretch of road called Ballinagoul, on a back road between Bruree and Charleville. It was as remote as it sounds. There wasn’t a whole pile to do except go outside and kick some sort of a ball around or go back in to play music. In hindsight, where I grew up was probably an instigator in learning to write songs. I was told by an old babysitter a few years ago that at the age of five I announced to her that I was going to bed early to write a song - I was that type of (annoying) kid.

Where do you live?

Currently I’m living in Wilton, Cork.

Family?

My mother is an artist, my father is a retired guard and a farmer. My mother somehow kept a career in art going whilst looking after four kids - at one point all under the age of five - after moving from Limerick city out to the sticks, I don’t envy the culture shock she went through, let alone the isolating nature of it. She’s tough.

My father is the kind of guy that works all the hours god sends, even when he’s not working. If he wasn’t on a 12-hour shift with the guards, he would be out on the farm. If he wasn’t out on the farm, he would be helping out at a neighbour’s house; someone always needed their grass cut, or cattle moved and so on.

I try to think on my parents’ work ethic if I feel tired or not up to the task in front of me.

I also have three wonderful siblings but we can talk about them in the next interview!

Best friend?

I don’t really go in for the idea of a ‘best friend’. I’m fortunate enough to have come across a few people over the past ten years or so I’ve remained very close with. It’s a funny little group. We’re scattered all over Ireland and further afield these days but still make sure to meet up every couple of months. We rent a house, all make something for dinner, play board games then play songs together until the small hours. It’s terribly wholesome really. It does me the world of good.

Earliest childhood memory?

Getting frustrated when I couldn’t get the sliotar off my brother when we were small. My mam, seeing I was on the verge of a meltdown, pointed out that I was holding the hurley the wrong way around. I could have been holding four hurleys in four hands the right way around; I was never going to get that sliotar.

Person you most admire?

It changes, a lot. It depends on where you are in your life I suppose or how you’re feeling. It’s driven by whatever problem is dogging you and you think on someone that has overcome it.

Likewise, it’s those events or achievements that prick your ears, fill you with joy, make you sit up and think ‘I can’t believe they just went ahead and did that’. Anyone that goes into politics and helps someone, I admire them. It’s a much-maligned profession and thankless in the most part. Anyone that hauls their ass out of bed to work a job they hate because they have dependents. Anyone that checks in with their family, their neighbour or that buddy they haven’t heard from in a while just for the pig iron (that is to say, just because), I admire them. Anyone who makes something.

Person who most irritates you?

Any barber that insists on talking while I’m getting a haircut. That’s me-time.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

Ah god, that’s a loaded question! It feels quite sad I would even think to say this, but I believe whatever government party receives the greatest mandate in an election should be free to choose their Minister of Finance freely. What brings this to mind is the number of candidates in the U.S mid-term election running with the line that the previous election was somehow stolen from them, the vote was ‘rigged’. You set out your stall as best you can, whatever that stall may be. I don’t care as long as you’re not trying to hurt someone. If you lose, you have faith in judicial oversight and in the choice of the people you tried to represent.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

I got engaged on my last trip to Wicklow so that’s got to be it, for me. We went on little hikes near Glendalough with our dog and stayed in a little cabin with a stove. It was perfect.

Favourite TV programme?

I don’t have a particular favourite but the last show I really couldn’t help but binge was The Boys on Amazon TV.

Favourite radio show?

The Brendan O’Connor show on a Sunday morning on RTÉ Radio.

Your signature dish if cooking?

A vegan dengaku with crispy tofu and stir-fried noodles.

Favourite restaurant?

Son Flour on Castle Street in Cork city. It’s a vegetarian/vegan Italian that is incredible.

Last book you read?

Colm Tóibín’s The Magician, a fictionalised account of the life of author Thomas Mann.

Best book you read?

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry. I wrote and reworked a great deal of my first album after reading that book.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

I picked up Niamh Regan’s debut album Hemet last time I saw her live. If you want to get out and support Irish music, Niamh would be a pretty good place to start in my books.

Favourite song?

Marie by Randy Newman.

One person you’d like to see in concert?

Tom Waits. I was offered tickets to see him in Dublin but wouldn’t take a night off studying for my Leaving Cert. I heartily regret that now.

Do you have a pet?

A boxer dog called Mavis (named after Mavis Staples). My fiancé and I found her when we were out for a walk. I reckon she was dumped as she was stone mad at the time. That was five years ago now and I love her to bits.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl. I can’t imagine writing a song in the morning. It seems horrific actually.

Your proudest moment?

Releasing my first album.

Spendthrift or saver?

Definitely on the saver side, as it means I can pay a string section to record parts on an album - which is probably a bit on the flaithiúlach side!

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

A light rail network in Cork.

What makes you happy?

If you play something you’ve written to a room full of strangers, you’re never quite sure how it’s going to go down. Even among people that have paid to see you, heard your music before and want to hear it live, there’s no guarantee they’re going to be taken with you. It makes it all the more wonderful when someone tells you ‘song x’ always reminds them of a particular time in their lives. That makes me happy.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone that cared a great deal about whatever they did and tried very hard.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I’m walking around the house trying to find the best reception for a video call with my fiancé who is in India at the moment.

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