Liam O'Kane

12 June 12 words: Parisa Eliyon
"I joined the choir when I was eight. The first thing I did was spend three months at Pinewood Studios recording a series with Thora Hird"
Liam O'Kane and his band Jimmy The Squirrel

Liam O'Kane and his band Jimmy The Squirrel

You're headlining at The Nottingham Playhouse soon. They rarely have local music; it must be quite an honour to get shows like this...
It is a real honour to play somewhere like the Playhouse. It's an amazing space and the fact they don't often have local music makes this show even more special. The show I played in the play rooms last year with Jody Betts was one of my best musical experiences. The chance to play the main room with Jimmy the Squirrel was incredible, that's such a fantast stage to perform on.

Have you noticed a change in the way musicians are treated in this city?
Nottingham acts getting national coverage over the last few years has changed peoples’ opinions of musicians in the city. I think for the first time since I've lived here people feel the music made in Notts is as good and important as music made across the rest of the UK.

What's different about playing in Nottingham to other cities?
I suppose a big difference for me is that when I play in Nottingham I get to sleep in my own bed and not on someone’s sofa or floor. It's a great city to play music in though, a lot of the touring acts and bands I know can't wait to get back there. We're excited about music here; not just our own but by what else is happening around the country.

Please tell us about your choirboy days...
I joined the choir when I was eight, at the time they performed under the name Angel Voices. The first thing I did with them when I joined was to spend three months at Pinewood Studios recording a series with Thora Hird. I was on two out of three Angel Voices albums. The choir later went on to perform under the name Libera. I recorded a lot of the solos on the first album and then my voice broke. It was an amazing part of my life; I got to do so many things and meet some incredible people. 

Liam O'Kane in his choirboy days


You were in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, right? 
Well, my voice is. The Choir recorded some of the sound track at Abbey Road. We sing the backing to the soloist in the church [Everybody’s Free]. They never flew us out for the filming, so the choir in the film mime over us.

And you still have fans keeping an eye on you around the world?
The Choir's now world famous as Libera. Robert Prizeman the director is a genius and has created his own modern style of choral music. Having sang a lot of the solos on the first album I get a lot of people searching for videos and things of me singing back in the day, but they also find what I do now. Some people really enjoy what I do now but I appreciate it's very different from the choir days. 

What's different about playing solo than with your band Jimmy the Squirrel?
There's a massive difference between them both for me. It's an amazing feeling to have written and arranged songs with the band and to then play them live. At the same time it's fantastic to have been working on a song by yourself for weeks and then play it for an audience. I think I feel more nervous playing with the band as there's more going on and I want to play well for the other guy's. I can be a lot more impromptu playing solo as I don’t generally write set lists and I just play songs that fit the mood of the room.

Tell us the story behind one of your songs...
In Music Lost is an auto-biographical piece. It has three verses, each representing a period of my life. The first verse takes place when I'm eight and I hear a song that changes the way I listen to music forever -  While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles. I reference the song in the chorus with the line “with every mistake I will learn". The second verse is me at 15 going to my first gig at the Underworld in Camden. Having been in the choir for years this was such an eye opener to a whole other world of music. I saw The Slackers and King Prawn, these are bands I still listen to today. The last is me  two or three years ago, realising that although music is a constant in my life, it's also always changing and that I will have to change with it.

You've worked with Rastarella Falade in the past. What makes her stand out as a promoter?
It's always a pleasure to work with Rastarella. She has such an amazing energy and passion for everything she does, and that really rubs off on everyone around her. She's a fantastic promoter.

Your label Offcut Records is working with some great local acts - what have you got coming up?
We've got some really exciting stuff: Steph Kirkup from The Maze has joined the team to help push our future and current releases, which is fantastic. Until now we've only had acts from Nottingham on the label (Breadchasers, Shankland, Sam Mckenzie and myself), but we'll soon be releasing records from acts around the country. The first of these is a fantastic concept album by Babar Luck called The Chronicles of John Brute. I'm so excited about this! It's also looking like we'll be releasing the debut album from Mike Only (ex King Blues) later in the year. Both of these should give the label some great exposure.

Describe your ideal night out in Nottingham...
Dinner at Fade, followed by a gig at The Maze, then a walk home across the Forest. Simple, but it suits me.

Liam O’Kane performs at Nottingham Playhouse for Cultural Vibrations (Unity Through Music) on Saturday 16 June. Tickets can be bought online or from the Playhouse Box Office on 0115 9419419

Liam O'Kane MySpace

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