Why you should care

Because our lives are constrained by boundaries, and Pat O’Laoghaire wants his music to transcend all of that. 

Patrick O’Laoghaire spent several years as a musical nomad before adopting the enigmatic title “I Have a Tribe.” The 26-year-old Irish singer-songwriter has created an impressive mystique — complete with a moniker, beard and almost Dylanesque aversion to straight answers. What is clear? O’Laoghaire has a healthy disregard for established barriers and boundaries.

“I don’t think we were built to operate in isolation,” he explains, noting that although he is a solo artist, the concept of the tribe offers comfort and support, breaking down the barrier between performer and audience.

The record is really a glimpse into a soul.

“If I have a tribe, then I am not alone. And that’s important.”

I Have a Tribe’s debut EP launched last month after nearly 18 months in development. Produced by Rob Ellis (of PJ Harvey fame), Yellow Raincoats is a beautifully tuned piece of work. It follows a busy year for O’Laoghaire, who toured Europe supporting Anna Calvi, opened for the Villagers’ homecoming show and played at Electric Picnic in Ireland and CMJ in New York.

When OZY caught up with him, O’Laoghaire had just returned from The Great Escape festival in Brighton, U.K., and was preparing for a gig in the heart of east London before heading back to Dublin for official Yellow Raincoats launch shows.

The record is as elusive and endearing as the man behind it. Across a blend of delicate piano, guitar and electronics, O’Laoghaire’s plaintive vocals (accurately described as “hypnagogic”) define this disquieting offering. The musician describes wanting “to make something from the various ideas and colors that shape me as an individual, so the record is really a glimpse into a soul.”

Growing up beside the sea in Dublin, O’Laoghaire learned piano from a “remarkable lady around the corner” and figured out how to make melodies by listening to jazz. “I studied classical piano and English literature, and Leonard Cohen and Arvo Part,” he says, drawing no distinctions between his formal and informal education.

The concept of borders and boundaries doesn’t sit well with me.

Nor is O’Laoghaire inclined to draw clear lines around his influences or inspirations. Asked if he was influenced by Irish culture, he acknowledged the “lovely affinity” of coming from “a city where lots of important international writers and artists wrote or painted or drank or made love,” but emphasized that he doesn’t want to be associated with a particular location: “The concept of borders and boundaries doesn’t sit well with me.”

Yellow Raincoats, which has been warmly received, features just four tracks, prompting fans to ask for more. Expectations are high, with one music blogger describing the EP as an introduction to “one of the country’s most important songwriters.” So, what’s next for the artist?

Again, O’Laoghaire refuses to be pinned down and remains vague about the future, saying that all he needs is to make rent and have paper to write on.

“There will always be courage and there will always be humor and there will always be honesty,” O’Laoghaire says. “Aside from these certainties, there is no dream, and there is no expectation.”

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