Arts Week with Judy Murphy
When I decided to go back at music, it was like being born again. A new hand of cards, a new beginning,” says singer Seán Keane as he talks about his latest album, New Day Dawning.
This is the first album of new songs since the death of Seán’s wife Virginia just over six years ago. The mother of their daughters, Maraleeze and Jennifer, Virginia was also Seán’s manager and their personal and professional lives had been inextricably linked since the release of his first solo album, All Heart, No Roses, in 1993.
In fact, as the Caherlistrane singer points out, New Day Dawning his first new album in eight years, as he’d quit touring during Virginia’s illness.
There has been one album since she passed away; a compilation, Never Alone, but for a long time, Seán wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue in the music business without her by his side.
Two years ago, he realised he did.
“Also, out of respect for Virginia, because it’s what she would have wanted,” he says simply.
By then, he had asked a friend, Johnny Broderick, to become his new manager.
Johnny worked with the Brothers of Charity in Clarinbridge and when the Keanes lived locally during the 1990s, Seán and Virginia regularly attended events at the centre. That continued after they moved elsewhere and Seán also performed there. Johnny was a friend and Seán trusted him.
“I asked him about managing me and he said exactly the same thing as Virginia had said when I’d asked her years before. He told me; ‘I know nothing about the music business’,” recalls Seán with a laugh.
But Seán had plenty of experience – good and bad – while Johnny had enthusiasm and a desire to learn.
At that stage, Seán had released a single, Paint Me a Picture of Ireland, which Johnny had written and publicised, so the singer had an instinct that they could work together.
“He’s a very good songwriter and poet and some of his poems are getting noticed now,” observes Seán.
That spurred Seán’s own creativity and for this album, he’s co-written three songs with Johnny and Johnny’s brother Iggy.
“It’s a collaborative process,” he says.
One of those collaborations, One More Hour, shows how good the process can be. This duet with Áine Morgan was initially recorded as a demo and never intended for New Day Dawning. But when Seán listened back to that initial recording, he realised its power so he decided to record it properly and include it on the album.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.