Niall McDowell is a 22 year old singer/songwriter, who has been writing and releasing music since 2017 on Bandcamp, self-releasing his folk-tinged debut EP Valentine in August 2019. Niall spoke to The Jumble Magazine all about genre shifting, the lock down, and the anxiety of finding your voice in a world where it feels like everything has been said before.
How would you describe your music?
I used to classify myself as a bare-bones kind of lo-fi folk singer for the longest time, up until after I released my EP last year. Over time I think my music has shifted in genre and mood from song to song, which was important for me so that I don’t rely on the same techniques when writing. I decided a while back to not really define my music as any one thing because I never really want to be pigeonholed as a certain kind of artist, because I don’t see even the songs I released on Valentine the same way six months later, and I don’t play them the same way either.
What inspires you to sit down and write a song?
I used to write a lot in journals and I consistently felt like I had a perspective to say something interesting, but as I got older I got that anxiety that everything’s already been said before, and even acknowledging that anxiety has also already been done before. I remember writing my first song Valentine to break out of that frame of mind and to make an effort to write a love song in a way that was self-aware about the act of being self-aware. That was the first main drive and inspiration to turn my writing into music, but from then I became more interested in using my voice in an unusual way, to combine my outlook or observations with certain melodies or textures, and explore my own kind of musical and personal identity from that.
What would you advise readers listen to first? Do you have a favourite track from your catalogue?
I’d describe Valentine as a personal project, because it’s been a project to me for really formative years in my life. I guess I’d say Find Your Man is my favourite track that I’ve recorded. It was out of my comfort zone to record with multiple instruments and I appreciate that in retrospect, and it adds a kind of maximalism to an EP that I would usually describe as stripped back. It’s the song that people gravitate to and I think it’s very solid considering it was recorded in one day. I think that’s what I like most about the EP; it was recorded within a time constraint, so it’s not overthought sonically, and the raw quality of it sets up a good basis for whatever I release in the future. I have a song that I released last month, You Have My Heart, that veers off in a different musical direction, which I wanted to do but it’s also not like, a completely random switch-up because I think that the basis of what i’m interested in is within these first songs, whether it’s lo-fi or more high quality.
What about the lock down? How has it impacted your work as a musician?
I had a couple shows lined up that have been postponed because of the lock down, and You Have My Heart was released when everything was happening which I wasn’t expecting, so I found it very odd personally. I’m trying not to focus on that kind of stuff so much, because it’s not really important in the grand scheme of things. Although, the lock down has allowed me to work more on my next project which I’m grateful for, and I recorded a live streamed performance for Chordblossom’s Songs from Home series on their Facebook page, which was something I wouldn’t have actually thought about doing otherwise. Other than that, I think i’m reminded that in a time where I can’t actually record or perform professionally, I still love to write and record anyway and so I’ve been recording covers and small clips just for my own fun, which I’ve found to be really positive creatively.