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Column: Why politics and music aren’t a million miles apart, by Paul Gogarty

Paul Gogarty launched his new single this week. Here he explains how he left politics for music – and why the journey from the Dáil to the recording desk isn’t too far.

Paul Gogarty

I HAVE ALWAYS been into music, from a very early age. As teenager in Lucan my ghetto blaster preceded me. While in college I busked regularly on the streets of Dublin, something that continued on and off for 13 years. I wrote songs. I recorded demos. But after being elected as a TD I stopped writing songs and I rarely sang.

Political life was incredibly busy and intense. But you know what? In hindsight, I regret not leaving some time aside for music.

It was always at the back of my mind. As part of the filming of the “Naked Election” documentary, I was asked what I would like to do if I didn’t get back into the Dáil. I replied wistfully that I’d love to write a book, or record an album, But I also pointed out on camera that I was a journalist by profession and that as such I’d most likely try and get some media work.

When the programme was actually broadcast, my comments were edited down to “write a book or record an album”. It did, however, lead to RTE’s John Murray show getting in touch to suggest a slot where I would pretend that I was releasing my debut single, as part of an April Fool’s joke.

And so, at the ungodly hour of 9:15am, I sauntered into the studio and sang an old nearly-completed acoustic number, “One Clear Day”. I was initially apprehensive about doing this fearing I might come across as the joke rather than come across as someone who was game for a laugh. But I took a chance, figuring that staying in the public eye might get me a few income openings on the media front.

Bashful bunch

Following this I also got asked onto the Saturday Night Show, to discuss politics and sing a song. This exposure also resulted in my being asked to participate in two reality TV series. One, Charity ICA Bootcamp, helped raise money for Pieta House. The second, Celebrity Bainisteoir, saw me spend four wonderful months travelling up and down to Oughterard for training sessions and matches. Both of these programmes featured me singing. In the former I serenaded the ICA ladies, while for the latter the production team suggested I bring a bashful bunch of footballers into the studio to record a team song (a reworded cover of “I’ve Gotta Feeling”).

Having been back in a recording studio for the first time since 1994, I decided to try my luck with recording an original song. I was already due to sing at a benefit concert in December and added in the vocals as an afterthought to doing a backing track. It turned out way better than I’d expected. The bug had hit me. I had to do it again as soon as possible and in early January 2012 I was back in the recording studio armed with the up-tempo “Know You All My Life”. It was the first song I had written in ages and one which received a very positive response from those that heard it.

This spurred me on to write more new material and as I did so, I thought to myself, why shouldn’t I record an album after all? And so, for the last eight months or so -punctuated by the death of my mother in February and the birth of our third child in July – I have been writing, recording and more recently, publicising my work. The debut single, “Wishing On A Photograph” was launched this week and the album is getting closer and closer to the final editing and mastering process.

Put yourself out there

My music is being sold under the name of His Sweet Surprise. The thoughts of a former politician, especially a ‘controversial’ one, recording music would generally be perceived as more cringe-factor than X Factor, so I felt that my stage name should reflect these expectations but also challenge people to listen for themselves and see if they could overcome their understandable suspicions.

In many ways, promoting music is like politics. And just like politics you know that there are some people who will appreciate what you are doing, some who are open to persuasion but leading extremely busy lives and others still who will never give you a fair hearing, no matter what.

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You don’t get to knock on half as many doors, but you do have to put yourself out there and try and persuade people to give you a shot. My journalistic training has again come in handy in terms of the communications work required; mountains of letters, emails, tweets and posts, design and printing of promo CDs and cover art, shooting of videos, all similar types of work to what politicians do to communicate with constituents.

Wherever my musical journey brings me, I plan to enjoy it. All you can do is your best, to stay positive and remain true to yourself. Life has thrown me an opportunity to do something different that I love and I am grabbing it with open arms.

His Sweet Surprise’s debut single Wishing On A Photograph is available to download now on iTunes and selected digital media. The debut album, His Sweet Surprise, is scheduled for release in late 2012/early 2013.

Pictures: What’s Paul Gogarty up to in his new music video?>

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