That’s how Irish folk-rock star Declan O’Rourke characterizes his foray into music. How else to explain the circumstances behind the acquisition of his first guitar, gifted to him by a priest as a ten-year-old boy in Melbourne, Australia?
It’s been a faith-driven journey from there to here, another string-picker on the Dublin open-mic circuit to opener for cult-band Snow Patrol and the legendary Bob Dylan. On October 8th, O’Rourke celebrated his first U.S. release with the album “Mag Pai Zai”, which, along with records “Since Kyabram” (2004) and “Big Bad Beautiful World”(2007), has been a mainstay on the Top Ten charts across the pond. The latest ballads stay true to O’Rourke’s classic, crooning sound, yet unfurl with a newfangled sense of self-assuredness.
“I think they’re more grown-up, I’ve matured personally and as a writer; it was a lovely one to make,” he explained from his London hotel room, in the midst of a short England tour called Sea Sessions. “I’m a bit more sure of my vocal abilities and a little less afraid to say what I want to say.”
His American debut signifies a bit of a pivot, or at least a fresh horizon. On the heels of a swing through the East Coast, including seven sold-out shows at Manhattan’s Irish Arts Center, O’Rourke plans to return in early-2014, with potential stops in Boston, New York, and Nashville, among others.
“I’m going to start focusing on America, I always felt it would be a good home for my music.”
Check out his self-described “folksy, rootsy, old-style jazz” above.
Nate Storey is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter at @StoreysTL.