“I came back to re-write my ending, but instead I’ve written a whole new beginning”, says Robert O’Connor, a Dublin-born singer and songwriter who has found that sometimes the third time really is the charm.
A fresh-faced O’Connor first appeared on the Irish music scene in 2008 with his self-written debut album ‘Distance’. The singer funded the record himself, but at the final hour before its release, Universal Music expressed interest in distributing the album. An apprehensive O’Connor, who had always retained full control of his career, agreed, and the ten-track opus was released, becoming HMV’s ‘Album of the Week’. Hotpress magazine called it ‘Top honours songwriting’. O’Connor then returned to college to complete his Journalism diploma.
It was 2012 before the singer re-emerged for a string of shows in his hometown in support of the release of ‘Resistance’, a self-released EP that was warmly received by critics. One review by Indie Music Digest said: “Robert possesses enough musical talent and songwriting prowess to be extremely dangerous”. ‘Reincarnated’, a remixed version of the EP followed, allowing O’Connor to show off his more adventurous side, with EDM remixes created with a new set of collaborators, including Matty Graham, who transformed “Too Late” from laid-back soft-rock to a fully-charged dance track with nods to Swedish House Mafia and Pet Shop Boys. Once again, Robert returned to normal life, and a multitude of career changes followed until he was drawn back like a magnet to music in late 2017.
“I had these new songs in my system for a couple of years and each time I’d get to the end of another year I would feel a sense of failure that I hadn’t recorded them – it was a real weight on my shoulders – and though I knew there was no demand for new material from me, I felt like this was something I needed to do for me and my own happiness”.
“You Found Me”, his first new music in five years, was released on March 30 earlier this year, and O’Connor spent the better part of three months hustling with the track at radio. “I’m the artist, the PR, the manager, the radio plugger”, he jokes – but it’s all true. His hard work paid off and the upbeat country-infused rock track landed on playlists across Ireland, Europe, the UK, US and even Australia. It reached number one on the UK’s Indie Alliance Radio Chart and was unmovable for five weeks. The follow-up, “No Second Chances”, a contemporary country break-up song, was played on over 60 radio stations. It reached number one by public vote on the LGBTQ Music Chart and O’Connor gave countless interviews with radio stations and blogs on both sides of the Atlantic. “This was a song I’d dreamed of releasing for four years, of course I wanted to tell everyone about it when it finally happened”, the singer says.
He closes 2018 with a cover of one of his favourite festive songs, Joni Mitchell’s “River”. Working again with Stuart Gray who produced his previous two singles, O’Connor has put his own stamp on the 1971 classic, which was never actually released as a single, though has become one of Joni’s most famous works. Trading the original’s piano for electric guitar and a tribal-like drumbeat, O’Connor’s interpretation highlights the sadness and longing in the lyrics. “I’m gonna make a lot of money, and then I’m gonna quit this crazy scene”, he sings in the opening verse, but in reality, while the scene he’s found himself in once again is arguably crazier than ever, the last thing on Robert’s mind is quitting.