Paj: “I had a vivid sense of my place in the world even before lockdown”

by James Hendicott

Stepping out from the shadows into the limelight, Paj (a.k.a Paddy Groenland) – who has previously worked with everyone from Hozier to Ensemble Eriu – is slowly stepping out and starting to release music himself.

Recent single ‘Superman’, for example, is a groovy ode to dealing with self-pressure and applying self-respect.

“I’d been messing with it since 2018 – a former Motown Records employee called the chorus ‘golden’ – and I had a basic demo.” Paj says of the track. “During lockdown, I was thinking about re-recording it.

“Fiachra Kinder was advertising that he wanted to lay down drum parts for people just to keep busy, I took him up on it and then it just spiralled. Joe Furlong and Uly agreed to play on it and my fellow Dutch/ Irishman Rob de Boer (whom I play bass for) and Zeenie Summers (who I play the guitar with) were enthusiastic to sing parts.”

“I guess it has that nice combination of feel-good, kind of self-aware but with a relatable and useful message. The lyrics are for me really, telling myself not to be too ambitious, to not compare with others and to accept my mortality”

Paj released an EP entitled ‘Pastels’ last year, but life has been dramatic since, and he feels he’s moved on, almost to the point that he wants to forget it. It wasn’t about corona, either.

“A lot has changed,” he explains. “I cringe a bit now as my approach and message has developed. Earlier this year I was in Brazil with my wife and we had a transformative experience doing Ayahuasca and travelling in Brazil; I had a vivid sense of my place in the world and of starting a new phase even before lockdown.”

“Last year the music I released came from a place of trying to tick every box, striving to be cool, funky, big. I’m really a quiet person, introspective, I like being hypnotised by music and that’s where the next music is going: acoustic, minimal, more focused lyrics and a bit darker to reflect the world around us.”

“I’m in a phase of prioritising ‘campfire test’ songwriting (i.e. does it work just with acoustic guitar). I love manipulating sounds but, they have to serve the feeling & the message.”

As the music industry struggles to survive, Paj has been one of the minority still performing, playing a set to a very small crowd at the Workmans’ Club on the Dublin Quays last week.

“Surprisingly I never felt more relaxed,” he said of the show. “Everyone was just buzzing to be out at a show and I felt that. It made me so happy and comfortable. I live-streamed the show for family living in Romania and in Scotland so I felt really connected and present.

“It was beautiful and kind of unexpected because many venues pulled all of their bookings, thankfully the Workman’s didn’t. It’s nice because people now know it’s possible to do a gig safely and we’re going to see more shows announced.”

“I may have to suspend the dream of working just through music for a bit but my hope is that by next year we’re almost back to normal. I’d like to play a festival again, feel the sweaty smiles, the electricity of a big crowd, and the boom of the subby speaker.”

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