ISLAND BLISS Padraig Jack: It’s never quiet on Inis Mór in the summer so the early days of lockdown were a novelty
Visitors to Joe Watty's pub in Kilronan on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, will be familiar with the resident singer Padraig Jack.
Padraig, whose family run the popular tourist bar and restaurant, is a great interpreter of songs by a range of classic artists from James Taylor to Tom Waits.
Through the years, Padraig has also honed his own craft as a songwriter as well as an entertainer, and he's now set to release his debut album, Making Sand.
It should have come out at the start of the summer, but just like all the festivals and tours he was due to play at home and abroad, the album's release was postponed.
The setback, which included support slots with Damien Dempsey, hasn't diminished his sense of humour as he reveals that he spent lockdown between Aran and Oranmore "with my girlfriend Ciara, and helping her deal with the fact that I'm not Connell from Normal People."
He tells Shuffle: "It was nice being on the island with good weather during lockdown because the island is never quiet in summer. During my lifetime it has always been busy with tourists, which is great, but the early days of the lockdown were definitely a novelty as I didn't have to worry about being called in to help out in the bar."
What was it like growing up on the island? "It was great. It's like living in any rural place, except you have to get a boat in and out of it, which can be an annoyance. In bad weather you might have to leave a day early to get somewhere in case the boat doesn't go in the morning. But it's a safe place to live and we have everything we need. And Galway city is a 50-minute boat journey and a 40-minute drive into town."
His father, Barry Ronan, was also a singer and songwriter who had a hit in the '80s with a song called Gave My Soul To Rock And Roll. "It was played a lot on the radio at the time when I was a kid," Padraig says. "People would say to me, 'Who's that on the radio?' He also did Eurosong a couple of times singing in Irish."
Although he has a degree in computer science, Padraig is determined to pursue his dream to be a successful singer and songwriter.
"The degree is a good back up, but music is my passion," he says. "I often think of being older and looking back on your life. I try and have no regrets, and I'm lucky that I have been able to do music so far.
"I've done gigs playing covers while I was in college, rather than getting a different job. And on Saturday nights I fill in with The Mulkerrin Brothers, who are also from Aran and won the first series of The All Ireland Talent Show in 2009.
"They're all grown up now and one of them is playing football for Galway. I have filled in with them a lot in the last few years, doing mostly covers on lively Saturday night gigs.
"But I've been single minded about my own original music. I believe in my songs I feel the songs might be good enough to make it."
Padraig's album is produced by Grammy award winner John Reynolds.
"The fact that John worked with me just reinforced my determination to pursue my original songs. John seemed to like them and the musicians who worked with me had played with him and Sinead O'Connor and Damien Dempsey."
Padraig has also landed a publishing deal with Beautiful World and Downtown Publishing, whose roster includes Ryan Tedder.
"With publishing, if a song gets picked up by a big artist or by a movie, that's the dream scenario," he adds.
- Padraig Jacks' album, Making Sand, is out now.