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Matthew Jacobson interviews Liverpool, singer songwriter Alan O’Hare

Explore Liverpool Music Writer Matt Jacobson interviews Liverpool, singer songwriter Alan O’Hare.

Liverpool, singer songwriter Alan O’Hare, aka Only Child, makes emotional, real , observational  and relevant music. Since forming in 2012, his band have released three acclaimed albums, EPs & a live album recorded with a string quartet. And now, 2022 sees Only Child celebrate their tenth anniversary and launch a brand new album, ‘Straight Lines’. 

The group headline The Music Room inside Liverpool’s iconic Philharmonic Hall on Friday March 18th to launch their 4th LP. ‘Another Sunday Comes’ is the last pre-release song before the album is released.

I recently interviewed Alan O’Hare about the new album, the songwriting process and on the road playing live.

Congratulations on the release of the album – with lockdown etc, has it felt like a long time coming?

It really has! We started recording the album at the start of 2020 and then… well, you know what happened then! I didn’t want to record this record remotely so we changed tact when lockdown hit, remotely recorded a covers EP of my favourite Liverpool songs called the ‘Sound’ EP and then slowly started back to work on ‘Straight Lines’, which will be our fourth album. As a result of the delays, and to get some pre-orders in, we made a decision to release four of the songs as ‘singles’ as and when they were ready and that really helped me to refocus on what the album could be. A long time coming, yes, but all the better for it. 

Are you constantly thinking of writing or do you find yourself thinking ‘ its time to write a song”

I never think it’s time to write a song, they just arrive. I’m always ready to receive whatever is around me and in the air, so I’m constantly writing I suppose. Lyrics, phrases, titles, melodies, chord sequences, riffs… they’re always dancing around my architecture and I feel half the job, at least, is to be ready and grateful to receive them when they fall out of the sky. 

The recent single, ‘Another Sunday Comes’ –  I feel sees the transition of the old quiet Sundays into a normal day of the week – it’s just as busy on a Sunday as any other day !….is that a fair reflection?

It might well be! That song was written during lockdown with a Cormac McCarthy book in one hand and my head in the other! As I hope the music captures, it’s about the intangible things we can’t grasp existing alongside the things that just happen: “the day moves on like it usually does”. I have a seven year old daughter and Sunday is one of our busiest days with her… lockdown changed that and the Sundays of my eighties childhood kind of reappeared in my mind’s eye: shops shut, streets empty and days dragging on and on. That song sounds like my memories of childhood feel in the ever-growing distance. 

Do you prefer the Sundays of the past or to steal a lyric – did you see them as silent and grey?

Well, there is “strange dust” on the song so the comparison is fair! I’m not sure which I prefer, I just want there to be many more in my future. 

The album has collaborations with Jon Lawton and Amy Chalmers. How did you select the two and what can they offer?

Jon is the producer of the album and guitarist in the band. He’s a mate and has been my main collaborator for many years now. He brings the ability to get done what the songs tell me need doing. He’s also a great facilitator and has a feel for my music. When things can go either way on a song; a nod, wink or joke from one of us to the other will help whatever is in the air get onto tape. I love working with him. Amy is a brilliant musician who plays fiddle on all my songs and adds her own colour, with string suggestions and parts. Another longtime collaborator of mine, she is so easy to work alongside and her playing is second to none.

The album launch, with a plethora of songs behind you – how will you select your setlist?

I’ve just written it! It’s tough… I’m very proud to say that some of our older material now has fans and enjoy sing-a-longs at gigs so those tunes have to make it. I want to play my new music. And some songs the live band bring to life in a way the record can never capture, so they’re included too. I always like to play a cover in a set that tells people where the music might be coming from, so that’s always fun. Whatever we end up playing, I’ll work hard to make sure we tell a story that’s older than the music we’re putting out there. It’s a show with Only Child and an all-inclusive one at that. 

How will it feel to play songs from the album in the Music Room at the Philharmonic?

The whole point of writing songs to me is to play them live to a room full of people, so I can’t wait and it’ll feel great I’m sure. You’re always nervous with new songs, but that high-wire act is part of the gig and, in some ways, exactly why I do it. On-stage is where the songs sink or swim… 

Have you played there before and what does a venue like the Philharmonic add to the night?

We’ve launched two of our four albums with gigs inside The Music Room at the Phil. It’s a favourite room of the band because the sound is perfect and the stage is wide. Being in the Phil, you can’t help but be aware of all those who have come before you, both in the main hall and the rest of the building. 

And finally, what next for Alan O’Hare?

This album will come out in March, we’ll launch it with a few gigs and then Only Child will be celebrating our tenth anniversary as a band later in the year. We’ve got one or two support slots coming up too – we’re at St Michael’s in Aigburth with My Darling Clementine in May – but the big one later in the year is our annual gig with a string quartet… this year it’ll be extra special as we’ll be returning to Leaf on Bold Street where we played our first gig a decade ago! There’ll be a special vinyl release to go with it and that’s a night I can’t wait for. To be recording and releasing music for ten years as Only Child is something I’m very proud of. 

Thank you Alan, very best wishes for the album launch!

Matthew Jacobson

Explore Liverpool

Only Child – Friday 18 March 2022 8pm

Philharmonic Music Room


READ MORE: Matt Jacobson interviews singer songwriter Cal Ruddy

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