On April 14th, 2017, Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan released his first album in five years—six years for his American audience. The Meeting of the Waters takes Regan’s usual thought-provoking prose and adds a shimmering, atmospheric backdrop. It’s a sonic, vibrant journey through the Irish landscape and it is well worth the wait. Regan took some time to talk with us about his creative process and the importance of following one’s instinct.
mxdwn: Thank you so much for talking with me today.
Fionn Regan: My pleasure, thanks for calling, I appreciate it.
mxdwn: Let’s start—when you were working on The Meeting of the Waters did you have a general idea of how long you wanted to work on it? Or was it just an organic process?
FR: Well, after the last record, which I don’t think is released in America—it’s called The Bunkhouse Vol 1: Anchor Black Tattoo. A short record with a long title. After that, I felt like I had been working towards something and that was the end. I just needed to find my way to the next place. I had an abstract idea of where it was going, but it felt like I had to cross a bridge to get to the next place and it took a lot of working out how to get there. It was like trying to follow a map—an abstract map. I’m delighted that I did, because I feel like I’ve arrived at a place now that’s the start of a new cycle. It felt like a cycle ended and that I found a foundation for a new way of doing things.
mxdwn: Your last album was just you and a four-track recorder and a guitar. What was the inspiration for you to move into a more produced sound with elements of electronic?
FR: It really comes down to what I feel is the right thing for the fans and where I’m at. I make the record and I try to arrive at something that I want to hear. And this record is what I’ve wanted to hear. It’s not always easy or fast to arrive at that, but when you have that instinct, I think it’s really worth having the patience. And a couple of songs arrive; they’re kind of the guiding light for the rest. It’s usually one or two of them that really make it feel like it’s a record. It’s kind of like the ground needs to turn over and it needed to have a little bit of space—like when there’s a crescendo and an end, then there’s space and the next piece comes along.
mxdwn: I can see that in this most recent album. Especially with the last track. It’s twelve minutes of shimmery noise and it’s very—I guess the word is emotive. It seems like you were going with what felt right and it feels very natural and—
FR: Yes, instinctual, yes.
mxdwn: Instinctual—that’s what I was thinking of. That’s the perfect word for it.
FR: Yeah, yeah. I think that the record, it’s almost like it starts in the countryside and then it moves in. It’s like a move into the city; you imagine driving into the city for one night—you have “Babushka”—and then it’s like a drive back into the countryside. That’s what it feels like to me. The record has a crossing in it as well, a moment where it bridges into the next part.
But yeah, I’m excited about it, you know? You work on a record and you sort of forget that everyone else is gonna hear it. For a little while you forget. That part is really exciting. The privilege of being able to make music and write music, that’s really massive and I never take it for granted. It is kind of almost a miracle—you start with nothing and then you have a record. I don’t even know where it comes from.
mxdwn: That’s interesting that you lose yourself in the music and look back after the fact and it’s like, “how did that happen?”
FR: Yeah, that happens all the time.
mxdwn: And I feel like that’s going to produce the best work, too. I mean, especially when you say you forget that other people are going to hear it, which is great, because you’re not concentrating on who’s going to like it or how it’s going to be received; you’re just concentrating on the music and the emotion.
FR: I think the most important thing is how you feel about whatever your artistic medium is. When you feel really great about something the way I feel about this record—well—that’s it, really. I get to go and play the shows and enjoy and do the best that I can. The record feels like I didn’t spend too long or finish too early—it feels like I just got it right for this record and that’s a great feeling.
mxdwn: I read somewhere that you briefly considered going full time into visual art and I’m wondering how visual art affects your life and music.
FR: I’ve always painted stuff out of necessity—I want [an album] cover and I come up with an idea and then I go, oh well that works. I did think about it for a little while, but you have to accept what you really are—you know—what your main thing is. I thought about it for a while and I just enjoyed it, but I feel like now, whatever that wave was, it’s somewhere else and I feel like I’m back and I want to focus on music. At the end of the day, I’m a songwriter and that’s really the most paramount contribution I can make at the moment. Painting and that kind of thing, maybe later.
I do feel like sometimes you make a piece of art and it somehow becomes a song. There is a little bit of an exchange of two currencies. It definitely feels like there’s some kind of trade between the two.
mxdwn: You have four scheduled shows coming up in the next year. Are you planning a more extensive tour beyond that?
FR: I would love to. It’s exciting for me to play all these songs, so I’d like to play them and travel. The nomadic feeling of playing music is an amazing thing. So, hopefully. There’s no solid plans yet, but definitely something I want to do.
mxdwn: Is there any particular artist that you haven’t worked with who you’d like to?
FR: Yeah, yeah…there’s so many. I suppose someone like Lana Del Rey. I think she’s a genius. She’s a modern classic.