As a part of the sixth annual Porch Stomp, we’ll be working with Beehive Productions, NYC Ferry and Blue Point Brewery to bring you a series of videos featuring artists spanning the gamut of NYC folk scene (and then some). Check out our blog every month for new videos and interviews with artists, and be sure to follow us on instagram: @porchstomp and Facebook: Porch Stomp. Come see all of our artists at Porch Stomp this June 23rd on Governors Island: www.porchstomp.com
When I moved to New York in late 2013 and entered the folk scene shortly thereafter, the words ‘Big City Folk’ became a common phrase within the colloquial vocabulary. Investigation led me to find out that this was not only the hub for contemporary singer-songwriters in NYC, but that the crew was led by none other than Niall Connolly, a man whose incredible writing style, infectious sense of humor and lush, crimson beard far preceded our formal introduction.
It was a few years before we finally crossed paths at BCF's Fawkner song club (held each Thursday night in the dim backroom of the Cobble Hill bar), and I recall being immediately taken by the depth of his musicality. He brought the room to ease by subtly cracking jokes and sipping a beer in between songs, pieces crafted with great intent both lyrically and melodically. Likewise, his seemingly methodical hooks, both familiar yet intimate, swept the space, beckoning the listener on a voyage into the depths of his artistic soul. His power and conviction as a songwriter and his careful tending of Big City Folk has ushered in a thriving community of songwriters and a place where people come to share new works, explore lyricism and escape the world amongst the safe haven of like minds.
Niall has since become a part of the Porch Stomp scene and is an incredible advocate for folk music here in New York City. See him here performing "Skin and Bones” on the NYC Ferry headed from Rockaway to Pier 11.
Tell us about coming to New York: when did you move here and what was the draw?
I moved here in summer of 2007. The Department of Homeland Security officially recognized me as 'An Alien of Extraordinary Ability' and awarded me an 0-1 visa, which permitted me to live and work here as a musician. I chose to move to New York largely because of its great musical history and abundance of great musicians and venues.
And Big City Folk? Where did that come from?
When I lived in Cork in Ireland myself and my flatmates had something we called the Tuesday challenge, whereby each week we had to have a new song or poem to present. There were two songwriters and a poet in the apartment. We would invite another writer along each week too. It was a fertile creative space. I missed that when I came here. I started Wednesday Night Song Club in a basement of a bar on Carmine street that summer of 2007, then I started doing it in multiple different venues around the boroughs and realized I needed a name for the collective of musicians that was forming. It's a longer answer than this, but that's essentially the genesis of Big City Folk
What’s your favorite place to play music in NYC? Any good gig memories you’d like to share?
The Scratcher in lower east side. It is the best listening room in New York and Brendan and Pete did a phenomenal job curating their Sunday night series. My favourite gig memory is probably the first time Glen Hansard invited me up to play a song of mine with him and his band and Javier Mas from Leonard Cohen’s band. Leonard Cohen is my all time favourite songwriter. I saw him play in Dublin, Glastonbury and Brooklyn. Each time Javier was by his side. The first time that I played with Javier was about 6 weeks after Cohen had died. Glen was doing a short tour to raise money to combat homelessness in Ireland and he’d invited Javier to do the tour with him. I was in my hometown of Cork the night they played there and he invited me to join them for a song. They both agreed to appear on the recording of that song ‘May 12th, 1916- A Song For James Connolly’.
If you could offer one piece of advice to young artists looking to get involved in the New York City folk scene, what would it be?
One piece of advice? Edit. I often find inexperienced songwriters songs are far too long. Edit. Get to the core of what you want to say and say it.
If I could be so bold as to offer a second piece of advice, if you want music to be your job, treat it like a job and be prepared to work very hard at it.
How long have you been connected to the Porch Stomp community and what are you the most excited about for Porch Stomp 2019?
I’d been hearing about it for years but last year was my first time playing. I was inspired to meet so many musicians I did not know despite working in music in the city for over 10 years.
And finally, NYC Ferry! What was the draw to shooting video on this particular ferry line?
My family and I moved to Rockaway in April and I take the ferry to gigs in Sunset Park and Manhattan at least three or four times a week. I love it! I wish it ran at night too so I could take it home as well.
For more information, visit : https://niallconnolly.com/
Special thanks to Jeff, Sue and Redia of Beehive Productions and Elana of NYC Ferry for making this series happen.