June 2004 saw the release of the third album from Irish singer songwriter Alan 'Roesy' Roe, Only Love is Real. Received warmly by most critics, and rapturously by his small but loyal army of fans, it is an optimistic and atmospheric record which, although not dazzling in its originality, is nonetheless a beguiling listening experience. The release was also marked by an extensive touring schedule of over 40 dates in both Ireland and Australia. The man himself modestly describes himself as being “very happy” with the positive media response to the record, while live audiences around the country have given him their vote of confidence by packing out venues and singing along enthusiastically to all his songs. His having been voted number 8 in the Best Trad/Folk Act category of the 2004 Hot Press reader's Poll is more evidence of this growing popularity within Irish music circles.
Many artists complain about the strain put on them by gruelling promotional tours but such an intensive live schedule does not seem to be something that has dampened Roesy's spirits. “I find the live thing is where I tend to exorcise my demons,” he explains, “each song opens up old emotions that might have crept its way back inside without me knowing and it's affecting the network like a computer virus that you only find when you go looking for it.”
Roesy's current reputation is the result of his two previous albums, Sketch the Day, Paint the Night and The Spirit Store (of which one reviewer has said “the health of the nation would be greatly improved if The Spirit Store was available on prescription”), which were both re-released on the same day as Only Love is Real hit the shelves. This happened “to give the public an opportunity to purchase my music more easily – says Roesy – I changed my distribution to RMG and in order to make the transition easier we re-released the first two albums”. Apart from acquiring a distributor, Roesy is still very much an independent artist whose albums are self funded, more on which will be written later.
Something that has had an obvious impact on all three records, and Only Love is Real in particular, has been Roesy's experiences abroad. Over the last few years he has travelled extensively to such varying destinations as Bolivia and Nepal and such journeying has served to fire his creativity in a way that the bland normality of daily life simply could not. “[Travel] is where the veil of the mundane is lifted and the words are more easily found. There are no things to distract me, no phone, family, friends, bills, appointments, even your language is no longer in the way. I find I am far more unique and imaginative with how I'll rhyme my lines, stuff like that”, he says. While travelling has served to focus his mind on his creative work, it has also affected him in a deeper, more spiritual sense and this is something which he also brings to his writing, with the result that, he explains, “most of my subject matter leans towards the spiritual growth and the dark and the light within it.”
Roesy credits a family friend with having inspired this love of travelling: “For me my first impulse came very young. When I was about 10, friends of my parents came to our house and the man's name was Robin. He was always going on these adventures. He reminded me of the uncle in Fraggle Rock. One time he had slides from a trip he had done where he built a ship with this group of men in Africa and they sailed in it from the East coast of Africa to Madagascar. I wasn't the same again – once I turned old enough I wanted to be just like him, plus the fact his name was Robin was an added bonus as it stirred up ideas of heroic adventures, like Robin Hood or Batman and Robin”.
Despite the clarity and inspiration granted by his periods abroad, Roesy also emphasises that physical location comes second place to what is happening internally when it comes to songwriting. “I can only speak for myself but I think first and foremost where you're at in your mind will influence your writing. I mean, if you're in a beautiful place with some heavy stuff going on in your head you mightn't feel all that loved up.” He qualifies this by adding “though if all is going well inside then yes, I do believe that the environment influences your writing greatly. A beautiful environment in nature is what I look for anyway when I feel bad…to get the perspective right”.