“I usually write music at home in my box room. I live in a quiet cul-de-sac in Baldoyle with (other people’s) kids cycling up and down outside in Spiderman costumes. Musical ideas, when they come, usually come quickly enough. Then I play them over and over and over, until the music, and in particular the melody, is locked into my head. The lyric writing then takes about three or four months and I do that while out walking. I spent about three and a half years on my last album but didn’t actually write any of the lyrics down until the last minute when I had to type up the lyric sheet. My favourite places to walk and write are the Burrow Beach in Sutton and the promenade in Clontarf. All my life I’ve been singing under my breath without moving my lips, which is probably why I have trouble projecting my voice at gigs.
My box room now has a piano in it, which I got in exchange for buying my sister a new sideboard. I am currently learning ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’. The room has laminate floors and sliderobes with mirrored doors, which means I can look at the chords I’m playing. Arnotts have yet to deliver curtains so my neighbours wave at me when they walk by. I usually sing with my eyes closed, which probably makes me look stupid.
Once I have my guitar I’m pretty much good to go. I also need peace and quiet of course. Other than that I don’t really need any special atmosphere. I’ve always fancied having one of those design-classic Danish or Swedish chairs that I could sit in and write from. It would become some sort of lucky charm that would stay with me through thick and thin until I was eventually buried in it. They’re very expensive though and would probably scratch the laminate.
I don’t spend that much time here to be honest: maybe a few hours a week. I tend to go into the box room on the off chance that something will happen and then just start playing a few songs or messing about on guitar. I usually know within a quarter of an hour or so whether anything will come of it. It’s important to get joy out of playing music too, which is why I have started learning the piano. When you write songs, you can feel under pressure to be productive when you’re playing, and you perhaps overlook the sheer pleasure in it. Since I started learning the piano I am spending more time in the room, as practice is very important at the early stages of learning anything.
In terms of when I make music, it’s pretty random, although I would generally have more free time in the evenings. It’s not unknown for my to just hop up off the couch and run upstairs to work on a sudden idea though; that usually happens at the very early or very late stages of writing a song, when there is a specific problem to solve.
I can’t really work if other people are around and I’m as solitary as an oyster when it comes to writing. I have no urge to collaborate, which sounds closed-minded, but it is probably a necessary part of being quite an intuitive/haphazard songwriter.
I like the sense of familiarity and comfort in the room. However, I just know that when I go back into the room tonight, it’ll be giving off vibes like ‘You’ve been talking about us, haven’t you?’ and ‘No one was supposed to know about us’.”
Mumblin’ Deaf Ro’s latest album The Herring and the Brine is out now – for details of gigs and downloads please see www.myspace.com/mumblindeafro. He plays with Adrian Crowley and Boa Morte in Whelan’s on March 5th.