Pa Sheehy’s personal, musical and professional journey started at his home on the Dingle Peninsula, in the south-westernmost corner of Ireland, when he recalls an old red radio “always being on” in his childhood home, where listening in on a Friday night to the Top 30 was a constant fixture each week. When his older brother brought home Green Day’s Nimrod album, Pa was sprung into the world of punk rock, grunge & metal, a world he still likes to return to now and again.
His first experience of song-writing came when he joined a band as a teenager in school. At his first rehearsal session one of his bandmates threw him a pen and paper, and while he was initially wondering what he was supposed to do, he got down to business and an hour later they had their first song. During those teenage years he feels he went through a lot of musical phases, initially gravitating towards bands like Metallica and Nirvana and it was only when the legendary music festival Other Voices began as an annual December event in his hometown of Dingle that he started to admire singer songwriters such as Stephen Fretwell, as well as more local Irish talents Emmett Tinley and Damien Rice.
In recent years Pa has fallen in love with a lot of female artists like The Staves, Phoebe Bridgers & Soccer Mommy. He also admits that he became “fed up with my own voice. I would sing a song and think that it just didn’t sound genuine so I tried to strip away everything and see what was there and to my surprise there was this soft tender shy sounding vocal that felt right.”
Anyone who knows anything about the West Kerry region Pa hails from and grew up in will attest to how steeped the area is in traditional Irish music, and how indeed the idiom wouldn’t be what it is were it not for some of the musicians, singers and poets who originated from there. He admits that as a young boy he didn’t appreciate it, and perhaps had a feeling that it wasn’t ‘cool’. Now, some years have passed and he can see the beauty and importance of it and shakes his head at his younger self for not appreciating it growing up.
He remembers going to see the legendary uilleann piper Eoin Duignan play in St. James Church in Dingle. Indeed, the same intimate little church where names including Amy Winehouse, The National and Paolo Nutini have graced the stage (consisting of what was previously the church altar). The piper had the audience in the palm of his hand and Pa recalls thinking that – as frontman and lead singer of his band Walking On Cars – he would need to work the crowd tirelessly to keep them engaged, while this one man and his pipes could hold his audience’s attention just by sitting on a stool and playing his instrument.
“This really stuck with me. I feel like if you can pull that type of gig off you’re the real deal and I guess I’ve been trying to prove that to myself since I’ve left the band. I know I can do the big shows but take away all the bells and whistles and see what’s really there. What’s really in the songs you know?
The aforementioned Walking On Cars brought Sheehy and his former bandmates on quite a journey for the several years of its’ existence. A journey which he says brought them great highs but also quite a few lows. He looks back on what they achieved with great pride, counting many ‘surreal’ experiences but ultimately, despite the success, he says that by the end of the journey he felt as a group they had ‘stopped dreaming’ and that he had completely fallen out of love with what they were doing as a band.
In terms of how he wants his newer solo music to be represented, he says “I want to communicate the raw feeling that was on fire the day each song was written. To capture that on the record is really special but to bring that feeling on the road with you and to deliver it is where it’s at and for me, that’s where the magic is!”
Right now I feel quite lost to be honest, but in a good way. It’s a new sound with a new team and I think the last time I felt like this was in my early 20’s and that worked out ok. I’ve always been a dreamer so for now it’s all about releasing the music I’ve made and seeing what weird and wonderful places it takes me. Wherever it leads to, I’m in for the ride.”