Seán McGowan isn’t the kind of guy that you need to use a clichéd introduction for. So like him, this introduction is honest and straight to the point – scrapping all the flowery descriptions that you are used to. If you like pop folk music, that is rough and raw, you will undoubtedly like his authentic approach.
The twenty-one-year-old musician has been playing to crowds of thousands all over the United Kingdom accompanied by his acoustic guitarist Dean Paul. The pair have supported acts including Frank Turner, Reverend, and The Makers.
Seán speaks exclusively to Hannah Carroll about his career so far and what we can expect from him this year.
What made you get into music in the first place?
The realisation I was shite at football. I always wanted to play for QPR. I tried kidding myself for years that I was half decent, I wasn’t. I liked talking, probably too much. Then I tried my hand at poetry. After a while, song writing seemed like the right direction to head in. I never thought anyone would ‘like’ what I was creating, it was just a hobby. It slowly developed from a hobby into a passion.
You have now signed Ian Johnsen and how did that come about?
Yeah, got new management (Mythophonic). Ian came down to my show at the Macbeth on my 21st birthday. We have a few mutual friends. At the time I was speaking to a few different management companies. Ian’s a dude, he knows the score. His politics are spot on, he’s a wicked manager and a good egg. Dan and Burgess at Mythophonic are shit hot too. It fell into place, just made sense.
Is music currently your full-time occupation?
Yeah, s’pose so.
What’s been your career highlight?
There have been so many, in particular, playing Glastonbury. Especially being on stage with Sam Duckworth, Billy Bragg, Kate Nash and others. That’s a memory I’ll forever cherish.
What is your favourite song of yours?
I’ve heard them all so many times, ‘Come Unstuck‘ probably at the moment. It’s a story I’ve wanted to tell in a song for years.
What makes you get up in the morning?
Not being able to get back to sleep? That would be the literal reason. I’m naturally quite a pessimistic person. I have a deep love for people though. I feel optimistic about that. Still got faith in humanity, still got faith that we can look after each other and crack on. Y’know?
Have you got a muse?
Joe Strummer. The man was pretty much everything I want to be. He had love for everyone, time for everyone. He was an incredible songwriter. But most importantly everyone I know who ever met him said he was just a really fucking sound bloke.
Where do you write your music?
It’s nearly always in my bedroom but sometimes on the tube. I get little ideas that go into my notes on my phone everywhere and anywhere. But the actual structuring and writing process happens sat on my bed.
Have you had a bad experience of the music industry?
Yes, loads, especially when I was first getting started out at seventeen. Some geezer wanted to manage me. Gave it all the Billy big bollocks, held meetings in the Mayfair hotel and that. Fortunately, I had good people around me to point out he was a fucking time-wasting chancer out to mug me over. The industry is full of assholes, at every level. (Then again so is every industry). So far, I’ve done well with booting all the arseholes out and only working with good people. Having Ian on board is a massive boost for me, he knows his stuff. Also my agent, Paul Boswell, he’s great, and good at fending off wankers. (laughs)
Was there ever a time when you thought about packing it in?
There have been loads of times. Still think about it from time to time. I’m only human, commitment is scary. The truth is I’m in love with performing, writing and recording. I love meeting new people. I love telling stories. I would be lost without it. There definitely have been times I’ve considered jacking it in though and there’ll probably be more times in the future. I actually quit music when I was on a walk in Ireland. Then I got a signal on my phone and an email from Boswell…I unquit there and then.
In a dream world, who would work with? – Dead or Alive
Strummer. There are loads of people I’ve worked with and will work with. But he would have been ‘the one’, without a shadow of a doubt.
How old were you when you decided you wanted to do music?
I was fifteen when I started playing guitar (pauses), so probably around then. I’m not sure. I was nineteen or twenty when I decided I wanted to do it as a career.
How did you meet your guitarist Dean?
I played a wee show on my fifteenth birthday. I forgot the words to a song and he shouted them out to me. I hated him and all his mates at the time. Then I met them all at college and they’re now some of most loved friends. Funny world,eh?
So you weren’t instantly friends?
(Laughs) No definitely not ’til college. It was a fairy-tale ending really.
So how did it come about and when did you decide to work together?
I can’t remember exactly. He’s so good at guitar. I think I might have begged him to play lead for me. It must be hard working with me. I’m a fucking handful. He’s a very intelligent lad though, nothing would be the same without him. He’s a vital part of the package.
You performed at Bestival. What was that like?
Yeah, I’ve performed at the last two. Other than Glasto, it’s the best festival in the country. Good vibes, all night party. The shows were wicked, stage invasions, crowd-surfing the lot. Bit weird at an acoustic show. Good weird though, like Russell Brands barnet.
Who is your biggest fan?
Well that would probably be my mum. I don’t like the term ‘fan’. It makes it sound as if someone is ‘below’ me. That is not the case and never will be.
Who is your biggest critic?
That’s easy it would have to be myself, definitely. I think you have to be in a creative game.
What is your biggest pet hate?
Chammin’. Noisy eaters, man (shakes his head). I know I shouldn’t get as annoyed as I do, but I just can’t hack it.
Who do you get compared to?
Frank Turner and Billy Bragg usually. I’m so cool with that, I’m friends with the gents. It’s a lazy journalist’s routine to lazily liken artists to each other. I like the writers who can notice similarities and highlight the differences. That’s something worth reading.
Is there anyone you get compared to that annoys you?
George Michael. That’s because I look a bit like him. It doesn’t really annoy me actually. I find it quite funny and just embrace it.
What do you want people to get from your music?
Whatever they want from it. I want to uplift people, bring them together. I also want to tell stories people can relate to. I feel like myself and my friends aren’t represented. Especially with Made in Chelsea and all that fucking rubbish. We can’t afford to go out and spunk thousands etc. Life ain’t like that for normal people. I would love for people to just be.
What’s your favourite way to promote music?
I love playing gigs, meeting and speaking to people. It’s the best way, always has been, always will be.