Interview: Seán Finn

Credit: Seán Finn

Christmas came early when singer-songwriter, Seán Finn, answered the phone with a beautiful piano ballad, playing an impromptu melody. It was like something out of the best romantic films. 

Originating from rural Ireland, but now based in London, Seán Finn is a multi-instrumental songwriter, grounded in pop and jazz. With a few years of songwriting under his belt, Seán’s homespun style provides a warm and inviting soundscape for his listeners.

Seán is currently working together with sound engineer Jack Roulston on his debut album. But, before diving into his upcoming work, it seemed only fitting, especially after such a charming introduction, that the first question to be asked was about love. 

The Indiependent: When did you first fall in love with creating music?

Seán Finn: I developed a passion for creating music when I was about 18. Before then, I played piano, but it was around this time that I began listening to a lot more pop music. And it was also probably the first time I wanted to sing; something that I wasn’t really interested in prior to that either. So, my first year at college was when I started writing a lot, and it immediately became something that I became obsessed with. I think most writers do find it enchanting when they begin to write songs that they really like. When a particular song comes along and really — even for the writer — hits you in a certain way… That’s a special moment.

The Indiependent: That’s lovely! And it’s interesting that you kind of found this drive and enthusiasm later in life. 

Seán Finn: Yeah, well, I did play for many years. But I feel like I’m a bit of a late bloomer in that sense. Even when I did play music when I was younger, I guess I was technically good, but there’s a big difference between playing classical music note for note and actually writing your own stuff and putting yourself into the music.

The Indiependent: What then is your process for your writing your songs? Do the lyrics come first and then the melodies or vice versa? 

Seán Finn: I remember years ago, I was walking to my friend’s house in Dublin, and I was humming this melody, and I really liked it and didn’t want to lose it. So, I ended up recording it on my phone as I was walking down the street. Later, when I got home, I figured it out on my piano by listening to the recording!

But at the time, if I did write something, it was often with a melody first. Recently, I’ve been trying to focus a lot more on lyrics. I’ve been trying to write more meaningful things that aren’t generic. So, I’ve been trying to write lyrics separately from the actual music writing process to give more attention to what the song is saying. Lately, I’ve found that when I have the lyrics written a melody will begin to form on the lyrics alone, so then I go and figure it out on piano.

The Indiependent: What inspires your musical creations? Other artists? People in your life? Experiences?

Seán Finn: For the most part, by other people in my life or life experiences. At the moment, I’m taking a different approach to writing, I am considering the purpose of the lyrics a bit more. It feels like a more serious approach. But, I guess, I’m trying to make my music more serious in a way. I like to use a mixture of my own experiences and fictional scenarios to create something that is really impactful. 

The Indiependent: How would you describe your sound? You say you’re trying to make your music more serious, so is there a certain tone that you’re trying to emulate in your sound?

Seán Finn: I wouldn’t say I aim to make a certain sound, really. One thing I’ve always enjoyed is making each song I write different. I used to listen to the Beatles a lot, and I loved that they were constantly changing and evolving. Almost every song, on their later albums anyway, was different from the one before and the one after. I always found that very admirable because every song was something new. It wasn’t using the same two-song formats for the entire album. And from a writing perspective, it’s more challenging and exciting and more fun because you’re not writing the same song over and over again. 

The Indiependent: Do you have a favourite Beatles song?

Seán Finn: I don’t have one single favourite, but if I had to name a few: definitely ‘Oh! Darling’ from Abbey Road and ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ are favourites, I would say. There are just too many good ones!   

The Indiependent: What feeling or sensation do you want your audience to feel when listening to your music?

Seán Finn: Prior to this, I was writing a lot more honky-tonk piano music that was more jaunty, jumpy music — which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing — but it was sort of like a bad habit of mine. So I’m really trying to steer away from that by making a more serious sound. I’m thinking a bit more about what the songs represent and what the listener can get from them. 

I have an upcoming album, which is more or less complete, and a lot of the songs on that are much more melancholy than what I have released thus far. The singles that I’ve released from the album are much more upbeat and quirky because — well, because they’re singles and that’s the nature of them. So, those are really the most upbeat songs from the album. But the remaining songs, I would say are more emotional — some of these songs really make me look quite vulnerable… In a selfish way, I guess, I want people to feel a little bit sad, a little bittersweet when they listen to this album. If somebody said they teared up listening to my album, then I might feel sort of happy about it (chuckles). Because I would know that I painted a very good picture of what I was trying to communicate.

The Indiependent: You will have created a tone and a musical narrative that is able to speak to someone else despite them, perhaps, not sharing the same experiences as you or even knowing you. It’s like the song is so versatile that it is able to talk to someone else’s life story!

Seán Finn: Yeah, basically! I want the vulnerability to resonate with the listener. There’s a good quote by Bob Marley that goes, ‘one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.’ I think that’s a pretty accurate statement. 

The Indiependent: So, can you give us the scoop on this upcoming album? What can we expect from it?

Seán Finn: Well, I don’t want to give too much away. But I will say that the cover features a cherry blossom, so if you know anything about the cherry blossom tree, then you’ll get a good idea of the themes that are playing within it. 

The Indiependent: Ooh, I guess we’ll have to do some digging! And it’s fitting with the sort of rural, landscape vibe you have going with your other album work. 

Seán Finn: Yeah, exactly! The album is pretty much finished at this point, so you won’t have to wait much longer. There are 10 songs on the album that were written and recorded during lockdown. I made the album while at home in rural Ireland almost entirely by myself. I recorded it in a shed, playing all the instruments except for percussion. It was a good environment, with no neighbours I could play any time of day, and experiment as much as I like. So the whole thing feels very intimate and personal to me, and I’m excited to share it.

Be the first to know when Seán Finn’s debut album is released by following his social media. Instagram: @seanfinnsta_music and Twitter: @seanfinnmusic

Interview conducted by Shelby Cooke

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