WHEN Aaron Dillon released his debut album, Brown Envelope, in 2007, the title was one of the defining expressions of the time. While the Celtic Tiger was prowling the land people in positions of influence were surreptitiously offering and receiving said bulging item to grease the wheels of shady deals. Word had it we were all partying at the time, and while Dillon offered up some hoedowns on his record, his humane folk and roots sound was more keen on documenting the travails of the common man.
Thirteen years later he returns at another moment of great significance with his follow up album I Didn’t Mean It I Swear. With songs like ‘Staying In’ (“I’m staying in again,” he yells. “I’m not so social.”) and ‘Hope For Us All’, where he declares he’s “living an endless holiday” it seems like Dillon has eerily captured the spirit of these times.
“There you go,” he snaps gamely. “I’m telling you. It’s f**king funny the way it works out really. It really is.”
It would be great to report that Dillon waited for over a decade for the right moment to deliver this prophesy, but the truth is more mundane.
The intervening years has seen him devote his energy to Ray Barron’s Cajun/Americana/zydeco band Two Time Polka.
He also started doing work for Music Generation, which resulted in his solo work taking a back seat. Eventually Dillon finished and mastered the album a year ago. However, circumstances didn’t allow for its release, but with little else going on now it seemed as good a time as any to put it out in the world.
“I wanted to do it hard copies really,” shrugs Dillon. “Sometimes I suppose when you’re not floating in dosh it seems like a vanity project to be putting your money into a musical thing. The delay really was I was trying to get money together to make hard copies and if I wanted to do something good, something kind of creative as a cover.
“But it’s becoming less and less necessary to make hard copies. So as I was waiting to do that [Covid-19] happened and I just thought I’ll just launch it digitally and go that way.
“As you know the musical world has changed tremendously. It’s becoming less and less necessary, really. It’s the old fashioned part of me that wanted to do it that way. But when this stuff kicked off I was sitting at home and I said ‘Look, it’s a waste here. I’ll just throw it up on all the platforms, all the rip-off platforms.’”
Friends got in touch with Dillon, humorously congratulating him for his prescience.
“It was a complete coincidence. A happy accident, I suppose, if there’s such a thing,” he says dismissively.
“But that stuff like ‘Hope For Us All’ or ‘Staying In’, that would be applicable to any time too. If you give up the alcohol staying in becomes a priority.”
Dillon says a lot of the songs on I Didn’t Mean It, I Swear go back 10 years or so.
The first album was more suited to being played solo or as a duo with guitar player Dave Hackett, and Dillon wanted to write songs tailored to be played by a band.
“So it’s kind of an old album in the making in one sense. And I suppose the enthusiasm waned for a bit. Various other things… “
The sentence hangs. If ever someone was a willing supplicant to the whims of “various other things” it’s Dillon.
Hailing from Drogheda, his tenure in Cork was initially presumed to not exceed two weeks
“It was just two weeks work,” he recalls of his arrival here in the early noughties.
“I was just back from South America to come down here for two weeks work.
“I was looking to go to college in Galway. I just stayed for another while and stayed for another while. And the letter arrived from Galway and I still don’t know whether I was ever accepted. I just told the mother to throw it in the bin.”
To find himself in a city where there was live music available somewhere every night was a bit of an eye-opener for Dillon.
He had only started playing guitar as he left his teens but Cork offered an environment where he could treat it seriously.
Instead of studying Sociology in Galway he pursued the Music, Management and Sound course at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa.
From that point he started to take it seriously and began to attend open mic nights.
Then support slots with Mick Flannery followed and Dillon famously appears as one of the gamblers’ voices on ‘Take it on the Chin’, the centrepiece of the Blarney man’s first album, Evening Train. Flannery has returned the favour by playing piano on two songs on I Didn’t Mean It I Swear.
The album’s title comes from a line he ad-libbed on the song ‘A Man’s Best Friend’. He had other titles he was playing around with, such as Love, Lust and Other Hobbies.
“There was kind of a loose concept to the album,” he reveals. “That’s why I chose those songs. Varying stages of a relationship, I suppose.
“There’s the romantic side, domesticity, sex and lust and love and bitterness and the whole lot. It’s a very loose concept.
“But I had to have that idea in my head because I’d end up having songs about the banking crisis stuck between all these things,” he chuckles.
- I Didn’t Mean It I Swear is available on most platforms.