It’s the middle of October and the talk is that Ireland is headed towards her second full scale lockdown due to an alarming rise in infection rates of Covid 19, nationwide. The trees are getting barer by the day, the skies are getting darker by the minute and the nights are beginning to be filled with a smoky scent, redolent of all the winter’s which have preceded this one. But this will be a winter like no other for a generation that has been witness to a revolution in the transfer of communication, reminiscent of the sci-fi series they used to watch on TV. These days it seems we’re never alone, but when we’re in the company of others are we really there? The current crisis has exposed some of our most basic needs, and person to person contact is one such need. A need which was, until now, largely taken for granted. Other questions also linger, as fears about jobs and the economy swirl and of course people are wondering what shape Christmas 2020 will take. Frustration is palpable! This is the background for this Month’s conversation. But as we meet with Colm it’s implicit in the non-verbal’s that there will be no talk of the crisis, worries or a winter without playing live music. As the weight bears down heavily on all of our shoulders, for November’s entry the focus is on progress, positivity and possibilities!
We’re walking on the outskirts of Killarney town. Colm has his mother’s dog Bruce in toe and the day doesn’t know whether to rain or not, but the light drizzle seems ominous. Though the weather is dreary, Colm’s mood is anything but as we enquire how his October has been, so far. “Great,” he replies. “Yeah. At beginning of the Month we were featured in Black of Hearts, an independent music website out of Melbourne, Australia.” We ask how all that come about? “I came across them one evening in an article I was reading. I liked the website and decided to submit our Album. I corresponded with a nice lady named Maz, who is the editor and a few weeks later she informed me that we’d be featured on the 2nd of October.” That must have been exciting? “I was delighted. It was on a Friday and it just made my whole weekend.” Can you tell us a little more about what it meant to you? “Everything! I submit to a lot of websites and, as anyone who’s ever tried to promote anything will tell you, what you get back is mostly silence or rejection. That sometimes makes all the effort seem futile and you begin to question yourself.” So, it was validating? “There’s definitely a little bit of that, yeah. To think that someone on the other side of the world thought the music was good enough to feature on their website was a big shot in the arm, especially for the Year that’s been.” The Year that’s been has been especially frustrating for the live music sector and it’s understandable that any feedback at all is important to O’Mahony. After all the album was launched at a time when bands are deprived of being just that, and chances for real time physical launches and promotion have been at a bare minium, if they were even given the go ahead!
They Call Me Bruce: The Dog!
As news of the feature piece in Black of Hearts was revealed, we began to wonder just what it means for Hot Touches at large and what they hoped to glean out of it. “Exposure”, replies O’Mahony. “Black of Hearts has a following substantially larger than ours, so we’re really grateful for being featured on the website. Hopefully we can gain a fan or two from the article and move on from there.” So world domination awaits? “Steady on there, Tonto. Haha. When we released the Album all we wanted to do was gauge the reaction. To see if people liked the music. We had zero profile anywhere and within a matter of weeks we had 100 followers on Facebook. It’s nearing 200 now and I’m so thankful to everybody who took the time to check us out. People liked the music. That’s progress. I’m not denying that we don’t have larger ambitions, but if we boil everything down we’re a band with original songs. If people respond well to the songs, that would mean everything. First and foremost, I’d love it if people connected with the material. Music means a lot to me, and has done throughout my life and to think that a song of mine could resonate with someone would be fantastic.” So you’re not interested in fame and fortune, then? “I didn’t say that, haha. Honestly if we could make a living from our own music that would be a dream come true. In any shape or form, that’d would be amazing. That’s why exposure and the Black of Hearts feature meant so much. It’s not Rolling Stone, but it is Black of Hearts and for little ol’ Colm O’Mahony & The Hot Touches from Killarney it’s an opportunity for us to get our music in front of more ears. Opportunities can matter a lot, and we’re hopeful that this one will.”
Above: The Band's feature in Last Month's Black of Hearts
The threatening skies have finally made good on their promise and as a heavy rain begins to fall, we pull in for shelter under an overhanging tree. The dog, Bruce, looks way less than impressed! With winter clawing it’s way ever nearer, as is evidenced by our current predicament, Colm states that it’ll be important to keep busy for the next while. “I’m nearly finished the small studio now so I’ll be in there for the coming months,” he says. “I’ve sent some guitars to a luthier for some upgrades so I’m looking forward to getting them back.” As we did last Month, we ask about a possible second album in the making but we’re informed that this isn’t the case. “I have a few ideas that I’d like to develop and now that I have the time I may as well use it. Hopefully some of these ideas make their way onto a project in the future, but promoting our current album is still the priority though and that’s what will take up most of the time.” Do you struggle with the promotional side of things? “I don’t find it too bad. You’re always learning something new and there’s always room for improvement so, that’s challenging. But it takes a lot of time and while it’s all a part of the process, when you’re doing it you’re not playing, or writing or rehearsing. A few days, or even weeks could go by and you mightn’t pick up a guitar, like. So hopefully now with the space and some new pedals and stuff I’ll be enticed nearly every day to do a bit, even if it’s only a half hour.” So you miss that a lot? “I do. That’s what everything is about. Music, songs, playing. I love playing around with different pedals and that and seeing where it might lead you. I guess it’s that creative outlet that’s important. Losing yourself for a while and engaging in a process that can be revealing, or just fun. It’ll be good to get back to it!”
Awaiting New Arrivals: Guitar Rack in new Studio space
The rain has stopped for now and winter is at bay for just another while. We go our separate ways into the uncertainty of what’s to come. But then, do we ever part in any other circumstance? One thing’s for sure though; Soon the clocks will fall back, days will get colder and nights darker. But as an entire country faces the possibility of shuttering itself once again in order to protect its most vulnerable from an invisible enemy, perhaps we may rediscover those most Irish of traits of storytelling and song in order to amuse ourselves as our forebears once did.
And perhaps; Colm O’Mahony & The Hot Touches will be one step closer to those “larger ambitions.”