It was only in a chance encounter at the Harold’s Cross Festival in May that Pearse McGloughlin learnt that the local antiques shop Harold’s Bazaar was closing up.

He had visited Tom Rea’s shop before, the musician said last week. “I thought, what a cool place to do a song. It was cluttered with all little nice antiques and paintings.”

So he performed a song there – in 15 minutes before the shop’s final day.

The result is a melancholy black and white video filmed by his brother Kevin, showing the silverware, porcelain figurines and china that Rea unloaded in a “relocation sale” before the store’s closure.

McGloughlin’s soft vocals and sparse, melodic guitar-playing are heard over the cars passing by on Harold’s Cross Road.

It’ll likely be a scene in a documentary about his band, Pearse McGloughlin & Nocturnes, shot in various locations around the city, he says.

Finding Inspiration

It’s just before 9pm on a Wednesday, the only time the musician, teacher and father-of-two can steal away to speak.

As well as the documentary, McGloughlin has recently finished recording his fifth album, The Rest, with his band, he says, at a table in the HX46 Cafe in Harold’s Cross. The group includes guitarist Enda Roche and keyboardist Billy Donohue. There’s also bassist Yvonne Ryan and violinist and accordion-player Christophe Capewell.

Today McGloughlin wears a plaid shirt. His hair is coiled in a low bun. He answers questions carefully, preferring to think instead of rattling off a sound bite.

Past albums have drawn inspiration from literature, he says.

The 2013 ambient electronic project with composer Justin Grounds, Idiot Songs, is a concept album based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s book The Idiot, about an honest, innocent man who navigates corruption.

After Idiot Songs, his band took inspiration from Mary Oliver’s “beautiful” poem “Wild Geese”, with their 2016 album The Soft Animal.

“The first line is ‘You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves,’” McGloughlin says.

That was a nice thought, he says. “Not to be too hard on yourself. Just love what you love. My daughter was born around that time and it was based on life events.”

Heavier Topics

The band’s upcoming album, The Rest, will hit on more current events. It won’t necessarily be political, he says, but rather a way to work out things that affect him emotionally.

Back in 2010, McGloughlin was involved in DePaul’s 2010 Life’s No Picnic On the Streets project. Photographers, songwriters and other artists ran workshops for people in homelessness, and there was an exhibition of their collaborative work at the end.

“The idea was to produce something at the end of that workshop. It also gave a voice to the homeless,” he says.

The result for McGloughlin was two songs: “Dawn Skies” and “Whiskey Tree”.

The idea for “Whiskey Tree” came from a wishing tree, says McGloughlin. “A wishing tree, where people are putting their hopes and dreams.”

“It starts out with wishing tree and becomes ‘whisky tree’ in the song,” said McGloughlin.

He worked with those in the workshop on lyrics, he said. “One of them was ‘The man on the street loves his whisky neat’. They loved that. I was like, yes! That’s it.”

The song will make its way into The Rest, which McGloughlin hopes to release in September. It also features Ryan and Capewell, he says.

Another song, “Betting Pool”, was released in April. It’s poppier, upbeat but tells the story of a hung-over gambling addict who is “drowning in the betting pool”.

McGloughlin is excited about “Fear of War”, which he’ll release in September. It’s a pulsating and foreboding song.

“I don’t have political and social answers,” he says. “But I think it’s the duty of a songwriter to kind of take the everyday and elevate it a little bit more.”

On Location

McGloughlin says he also wants the album to have a “sense of place”. “Two of the songs on the new record are in Irish,” he says.

One is inspired by a river in Sligo, Garavogue. “I’m very inspired by the countryside and landscape and the Atlantic,” he says.

For the documentary with the scene in Harold’s Cross – shot by Mark Willis, McGloughlin’s brothers Paraic and Kevin, as well as others – McGloughlin and his band have recorded several songs on location.

They did one in a forest outside of Dublin and another in the Olivier Cornet Gallery on Great Denmark Street in the north inner-city.

“This was great fun and full of amazing artwork, so this was an easy shoot,” says Kevin, who filmed with brother Paraic. “We also got to shoot footage of really beautiful paintings from our uncle Eoin MacLochlainn who exhibits there.”

MacLochlainn, also based in Harold’s Cross, has done the cover art for recent Pearse McGloughlin & Nocturnes singles, including a watercolour painting for their song “Ag Ól, Ag Ól ag an Garbhóg”.

The Rest will be McGloughlin’s fifth album since 2009.

“I have a great group of people that I work with. I’m a songwriter so in that way it’s straightforward,” he says. “It’s just about changing the cogs a little bit.”

“I work with different people that inspire me and I’m happy to work with,” he says.

Pearse McGloughlin & Nocturnes’ song “Fear of War” is due out in September 2019. The Rest is due to be released in 2019 or 2020.

[UPDATE: This article was updated at 12.24pm on 24 July to include the names of all the musicians who will feature on the upcoming album.]

Aura McMenamin is a city reporter.

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