Getting to Know: Peco

Introducing Irish musician Peco

Peco Mc Loughlin

Dublin based musician Peco has re-launched as a solo-act following the demise of popular band Valentine Black. Touring the UK, US and Canada, Valentine Black enjoyed a lot of success but due to life circumstances getting in the way they were forced to part.

His hometown not far away, hailing originally from Kildare, Peco has lived in Dublin for a number of years where he pursues his musical passion. Having recently signed a management deal with Live Loud Music, Peco’s career is going from strength to strength. His talent is evident and has been recognised with extensive airplay all across Ireland and abroad. He has twice reached the semi-finals of the UK Songwriting Contest and one of his songs has debuted on TV in the US earlier this year.

Wanting to learn a bit more about this rising star, Ceol Caint had a chat with Peco to find out how things have differed since the band split and his hopes for the future.

When Valentine Black split, how did you feel?

I’d have to say I’d describe it as a feeling of acceptance. It came to a natural end. Three of the boys had to emigrate over a couple of years, my first child was born and the other lads were getting busy with other projects so it was time for a change. I also felt grateful, obviously it would have been great if we could have taken it further, but we were also very lucky. We had some amazing nights that I’ll never forget from The Village Pump in Rathangan, to packing out Whelans in Dublin, to gigs further afield in Toronto and Orlando. We were a gang of friends who loved playing music together and we still are!

Where did you feel that left you as a musician?

I had to take a step back and really look at what music I wanted to write and play. I needed to take time out from playing and that coincided with my first son being born. I still played, with friends in different bands. But I literally didn’t have the time to rehearse a six piece band of my own again and get it all up to that tight live standard that Valentine Black had. So going solo seemed the only option and I thought well I can’t write songs that suit a big band so that gave me a framework. I decided to use my limitations and not be restricted by them and it was actually liberating in a way. I began writing again, all the time, even in the middle of the night, humming lines and melodies to my son to get him to sleep.

What was the next step for you?

I recorded some songs myself on my banjaxed little Zoom MRS1044 home studio. I was planning on releasing an EP on my own and get back out playing live. I had passed a few songs around to some friends for feedback and James from Live Loud Music heard one, ‘Safe Haven’, and got in touch. We knew each other pretty well from the playing live circuit. We had a few chats and were on the same page in our aims and how we wanted to do things. So I signed with his label/management company Live Loud Music.

How does being a solo act differ from the band?

There’s not as much gear to carry anyway! It’s different, you really have to be able to stand over everything you do because you alone carry the thing so there’s a bit more pressure in that way. There’s great camaraderie when you’re in a band which is such a strong security buffer for anything going wrong, you always have each other. But being a solo act you still have a team behind you, they’re just not all on stage with you. Musically it’s also a bit looser and freer than a band. I can change things a lot quicker and easier or try new things. You can write a song in the afternoon and play it that night. In the past I’ve always had the band there too to create the big sound on stage, as a solo artist it’s made me adapt the way I play and the techniques I use when playing and that’s definitely influenced my music and allowed me to create a new sound for myself.

Is there a bit more safety in that band structure or are you happy braving it alone?

There’s definitely more safety with a band, you have the power of numbers and noise and dynamics and the charisma of the other musicians to help win over a crowd. It’s trickier do that on your own, but not impossible. I love playing with a band but there’s a lot more to do behind the scenes. But I’ve always been a sucker for that solo guy or girl doing their thing, like Bob Dylan or Laura Marling. They have nowhere to hide and always seem to have plenty of swagger and balls!

How do you feel performing alone without the band for support?

I always did solo gigs here and there no matter what band I was in to keep on top of it. It’s like anything, it’s hard at first then you work at it and fight it until you shape it the way you want and master it. It’s all about confidence I suppose and some nights you’re more confident than others. But I do really love playing with other musicians too, there’s such joy and fun in that interaction – that’s why we started bands as teenagers and we never get away from that. I’d never want to. So I’ve roped in my good friend Kumbo Robinson, who played lead guitar with Valentine Black, and he does a lot of gigs with me. We’ll also be having a full band for some gigs when we tour the single next year. So depending on the gig it could be me solo, a two piece or a full band.

How many solo gigs have you played?

A lot over the years. But with this new stuff we’ve just started playing gigs since the summer really.

Any favourites?

Yeah, had a few good nights so far. Kenny’s in Lahinch for The Whitehorse Sessions – such a brilliant spot for original music. Supporting the Hothouse Flowers in Monroe’s Galway was a great buzz, big stage and big crowd! And I always love playing Whelan’s, supported Bunoscionn there over the summer and it turned into a Valentine Black reunion afterwards! I’m supporting Hail The Ghost there on Nov 13th too.

What can people expect from your upcoming release?

Well it’s folk music basically but there’s lots of influences in there from Dylan to Nick Cave to Wilco. The first single, ‘Safe Haven’ will be out on March 18th. It’s a slow burner and it’s one of the most honest songs I’ve ever written. I’m leaving myself fairly wide open in the lyrics but I hope it connects with some people. Overall people can expect folk songs but with plenty of edge, interesting lyrics, strong melodies, and lots of heart!

What are your hopes for the future?

Kildare to win an All-Ireland, just one in my lifetime, for the love of God! Bono to retire; Bob Dylan to get his voice back. Seriously though my hopes for the future are happiness and health for my family. And to be able to keep writing and playing music and have that music connect with people, as many people as possible.

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