I first came across the artist known as Hally sometime around the end of the 90’s. I saw him play at the small “Stables” venue in Mullingar, which was at that time, a kind of musical church, with a different preacher passing through every weekend. I don’t remember the exact year but it was one of the earlier shows I had attended at the venue. A friend of mine had invited me along to the show, he was keen to see the opening act… some guy that had once been the lead singer with a band called Juniper. That was the first time I ever heard the name Damien Rice. It was the first time I heard those songs. First time I had heard songs of that power in real life.
That was the beginning of my years of enchantment with Damien and with the singer songwriter genre as a whole. In truth the name of Hally only stayed with me because he played that first time I heard Damien. That was it. The name Hally remained there, lodged in some corner of my brain, frozen in frost, preserved, but rarely visited. I had no reason to think of the man. For 17 years I moved through my days happy and Hally-less. Then, earlier this year, a friend of mine sent me a link to a video … “check this out, I think you’ll like it…” and there he was again, this Hally, with his face painted white, dressed in a striped jumper and waistcoat, singing about beach balls and handstands:
My friend was right. I did like it. It turns out that this was the first song of a proposed 52 song project called “Peeling Onions”. The project will run throughout 2017, with one new song & video being released every Sunday. I had never heard of such a thing! What a wonderfully ambitious project ! I loved how Grand the whole thing was, the very idea was seductive. My main thought: Could it be done?. Well so far so good… At time of writing the project is in it’s 14th week, and each week, as promised, a new piece has been released online. It’s been at different times dark, playful, explosive, wild. The quality has been consistently high and the music eclectic. There is a jazz element running through many of the tracks. Some are spoken word, some are half sung – half scatted. All of them are interesting and fall left of field. Already this is becoming an impressive body of work.
In the years of Hally’s “absence”, his time away from live performance, he was still writing, still learning. He spent some years in New York City at the beginning of this century where he became more and more interested in the recording side of the music business. Here, he made his first steps on the road towards becoming a record producer. Upon returning to Ireland, Hally studied Music and Media technologies at Trinity College Dublin and eventually set up his own “Arthouse” studios in Naas, Ireland. This has been the headquarters for the Peeling Onions project for these past months. I had the pleasure of hanging out with him there for a few hours recently, drinking tea and eating biscuits and laughing about the ups and downs of a musical life.
Equally impressive as releasing a new song each week, is the fact that each one has an accompanying music video. These videos are made in collaboration with visual artists, illustrators and creators the world over, many of whom Hally met during his time in New York. Some, I believe are compiled from footage sourced online that is in the public domain, spliced among footage that Hally and team hally have produced themselves. Whatever it takes to get it done. As this project is developing in real time, and there is still some way to go, Hally is always looking for people to collaborate on these videos. So if you read this, and that’s your world, and you think you’d like to be involved with this project, do reach out to Hally on Facebook.
The latest song from the project “White”, is one of the strongest so far. The production and instrumentation is of the highest quality as always. The song opens with the line “White powder falling out my nose, my clothes have been the same for almost a year”. “White” is accompanied by maybe the strangest video of the bunch to date. It was taken down by facebook for excessive nudity. As Hally told me over the phone “It’s not in the least bit sexual”… The video, as with almost everything in this project, is challenging… it pulls you out of your ordinary day and makes you shift your thinking in the way that only art can. You can watch all the skin and nudey parts here:
His is an unusual musical world and this work will not be for everyone. But I’m very excited to see and hear what’s coming down the track. This is a brave and Grandiose project and I for one applaud it! and I really hope that it reaches the audience it deserves.
The first of four album release concerts is happening on Saturday April 8th at Dublin’s Unitarian Church. It’s a full band show for Hally & I’m honoured to have been invited to open up the show. If you’re in the area do come along. I’m planning on playing a bunch of new songs too.
Tickets, €15, are available here.