I catch Irish singer-songwriter Kieran Goss on a particularly busy day of promo for his 200-odd date tour of the UK and Europe and comment that his life must just be non-stop at the moment. “Yes, but it’s a nice problem to have” he says, cheerily.
He radiates positive energy, refusing to be anything but optimistic about everything we talk about. Hugely successful in his native Ireland, Kieran has been a musician for twenty five years and his twelfth album came out last year – he is clearly a man who enjoys his work.
The album – I’ll Be Seeing You, was recorded in Austin, Texas whilst Kieran was living in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a sort of creative pilgrimage which took Kieran to the writer’s haven of Tennessee, and a desire to work with seminal producer Joe Gracey which fuelled his travels to Austin.
The artist describes the album as being ‘reflective’ and ‘mature’ which is understandable given the difficult circumstances he was going through at the time of making it. During the process, he sadly lost his mother and his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing a career break and a move back to Ireland.
This time of sadness in the singer’s life inevitably influenced his work and he admits that there is a strong autobiographical process to his song-writing.
“I always seem to write about what’s going on in my life. But although there was a lot of sadness it was not an entirely dark time. It’s a very personal album, but there is also a lot of hope on there too.” The album reflects on the complex ups and downs that life brings – and hope did come for Kieran as his wife is now getting better and is five years clear of cancer.
One track on the album which particularly strikes a chord for the singer is One Boy’s Treasure- a song looking back fondly on his childhood. “It looks at the idea of memories being treasure, not necessarily photographs, but what I like to call ‘secret anniversaries’ – it’s what you have in your head.”
Growing up in County Down, Northern Ireland, Kieran was the tenth of fifteen children: “I come from a very musical family. I was bought my first guitar at the age of 9 and my older brother Liam taught me a few chords. As most people do I wanted to follow my big brother – but I also wanted to find my own voice.
“I was always surrounded by music and people like James Taylor and Paul Simon really influenced me. I also appreciate a great pop song, so I loved the Beatles, but as I got older, gradually the various influences started to fuse into a sound which wasn’t so derivative.”
His sound is difficult to define, but with folk being the closest genre, Kieran also brings in pop melodies and great storytelling – a quality often associated with country music.
Although Christmas get-togethers invariably result in mass jams, Kieran is the only one in the family now professionally working in music. However, things could have worked out differently for the singer-songwriter, who actually qualified as a lawyer in the mid-1980s. Clearly someone who craves change, he soon left law and moved to France and Germany – unsure of where his journey would take him.
“After law – I didn’t know I would become a singer exactly, I just knew that I wanted to do something more exciting. And having a guitar really helps with travelling, so I ended up playing in lots of pubs and clubs.”
His relentless positivity kicks in again: “I’m so glad I started out that way – it was the best way for me to learn audience interaction. If you’re playing in a noisy pub in Berlin, you have to work really hard to engage people’s attention, and that’s something I still think is important now. Even when I’m playing bigger venues – I always talk between songs and give the audience some background on them.”
Kieran is warm, open and keen to talk about the personal aspects of his lyrics. This unguarded nature is what you can expect from his show at the Gatehouse this week. Stafford music fans may remember him from his support slot with The Fairport Convention last year. “I loved the Stafford audience – it was a really friendly crowd.”
For someone who has had such immense success in his home country and such a long and varied career, there must be some standout highlights, I ask? “There’s been lots of highlights.” He pauses. “I’m not avoiding your question!” I quickly realise that someone whose approach is so wholly positive, must enjoy every aspect of working.
“Obviously the number one albums in Ireland were great. Phoning your parents to tell them you have a number one is every musician’s dream. But even if you feel you’ve played a song particularly well at a gig – no matter how small – that can feel like a real highlight.
“Success is doing something that you love, and I feel very privileged to be doing this.”
Hoping to translate his success in Ireland over to the UK, Kieran will be bringing his autobiographical songs and infectious optimism to The MET Studio on Wednesday 2nd October, and promises a fun night. “I’m really looking forward to coming back to Stafford. There is a bit of a misconception about singer-songwriters being really dark – but I want people to leave my show with a smile on their face – if they don’t, I feel like I haven’t done my job properly.”
Somehow, I have no doubt that they will.
For tickets to the show, go to www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk, or phone the box office on 01785 254 653.