Celebrated for his unique take on electronic music, impressive guest vocalists and innovative production, Clare native Daithí Ó Drónaí, or Daithí as he's best known, reveals how the Wild Atlantic Way has become an endless source of musical inspiration and how he's created an unusual niche using the sounds of nature itself.
About two years ago I was about to quit my music career completely and get a 'real person job'. I had spent three years working with a major record label, creating what I thought was an album of good, radio-friendly pop songs, all under three and a half minutes long with big, sing-along choruses. But it just wasn't working. Nobody was going to my shows and I had no money or prospects.
After a few months of confusion and despair, I realised something. In the process of writing 'the perfect pop song' I had totally removed my identity from the music. Anyone from anywhere in the world could have written those songs; they just didn't stand out.
Daithí performing live at Electric Picnic - credit Ruth Medjber
I had lived in the west of Ireland my whole life, and knew the culture and the area like the back of my hand. I began thinking about writing music inspired by where I was from, so that the songs would have more emotional weight.
"I've spent weeks at a time on islands like Achill and Valentia, building makeshift recording studios"
The first track I recorded with this idea in mind was 'Mary Keane's Introduction', a five-minute track with a minute's intro of spoken word from my grandmother, talking about growing up and falling in love in County Clare. The track went to number one on Spotify's Viral Chart, staying there - to my amazement - for six weeks.
People were drawn to the track because they could identify with it, and loved hearing something distinctly Irish. I was on to something.
Since then I've spent a year travelling along the ever-inspiring Wild Atlantic Way with a portable recorder, capturing the natural sounds of the countryside and tracking down old Irish records. Once I have enough sounds, I start mixing them into my songs, combining them with synth sounds and my signature fiddle melodies.
Each track sounds unique because I'm using sounds that no one else has. Every audio sample has a story, because I recorded it while exploring the west coast's many nooks and crannies. When I go sound hunting I usually don't have a plan; most of the time I just turn off my phone and follow those blue Wild Atlantic Way signs, happy to discover where they may take me.
Beautiful Sligo, snapped on Daithí's travels
Following the route, you end up in tiny little fishing villages in the middle of nowhere, places I would otherwise never have known existed. I have spent weeks at a time on islands like Achill and Valentia, building makeshift recording studios to record guest vocalists in.
'Falling For You' is a track filled with natural samples collected while travelling along the Wild Atlantic Way. The atmospheric sea sounds are from Inch beach in Cork, while the bell sounds are cut up samples from a wind chime I found in an AirBnB on Achill Island. Singer Sinéad White recorded the vocals on Valentia Island with me. I think out of all the vocals I've ever worked on, those have to be my favourite. It’s all so undeniably Irish but feels modern at the same time, which is kind of my buzz.
Each individual sound on the track relates to a part of my trip. Everytime I listen to it, I'm taken right back there. It really means a lot to me. It also stands out from the thousands upon thousands of songs released every day as the samples of this magnetic coast give it an entirely one-off sound.
The people in rural Ireland have that amazing friendly curiosity, they are dying to find out what you're doing there, and will bend over backwards to help you. There's also currently a fantastic community of young people in this country falling in love with the west coast, creating really special music festivals like Turk Fest on Inis Turk and Drop Everything on Inis Oírr.
Making music beside the sea, away from the stress of recording studios, is incredible. If you ever feel uninspired you just get up and go for a walk along one of the most beautiful coasts in the world.
A seascape to create sounds to, taken by Daithí on Valentia Island
If you're an artist looking for somewhere to go for inspiration, I cannot recommend the Wild Atlantic Way enough. I'm incredibly proud to live and work here, and I wouldn't trade it for absolutely anything.
Find out more about Daithí here, check out his music here or follow his wild Atlantic travels @daithimusic. Looking for more excellent Irish music? Find out what the band Walking On Cars love about the route too. And don't forget to discover it for yourself, right here.