At any place that affords a scenic view of the land whether that is from the top of a mountain, a lookout point or a cliff edge, visitors can take in a broad view of the land which stretches out before them. From this elevated height it is possible to appreciate the world from a completely different perspective. All those things you once looked at from the ground and dismissed as being uninteresting like a soaring skyscraper, the curve of a river bank or the arch of a bridge suddenly take on new life when viewed from above. Returning to ground level you have a new found respect and deeper appreciation for those everyday and commonplace visions of life.
However there are another group of people, a particularly rare breed known as singer-songwriters who are able to view life from such unique perspectives at any time without needing to go in search of impressive vistas. Fionn Regan is one such musician who through his album ‘The End of History’ allows us to experience the world through his own eyes for a time.
Since the album’s release in 2006, Regan has met with widespread praise and appreciation for his musical abilities and songwriting prowess. Like anything though there is a story which sits beneath the finished product and shows us that the production of music is equal parts talent and tenacity. ‘Making this record was like building an ocean liner with a butter knife, that’s how it felt. Like you’re standing around trying to build it and you don’t have the tools, the crew or the money bankrolling you. Everyone is looking around and whispering to eachother, ‘what’s he up to?’
From the outside making music can seem like a romantic process. However for people embarking on this journey exposure to the darker side of the music industry can be a perilous experience. ‘Relatively speaking I had a bit of a bumpy entrance to the music industry and I also got to see the plastic side, the knife in the back side of it very early on. I don’t really know anyone my age that would have been able to handle the kind of pressure that came with regards to negotiations and also trying to keep everything together. I got to the point where I got disillusioned with all that and it’s very easy to get quite cynical about things. I think for me the journey that I embarked on and the place that I found myself at I realised that I needed to go off on my own and do it my own way.’ However following his own path did not necessarily mean that he was without help, with much support coming from other musicians. ‘I’ve been lucky to the point that many songwriters and big bands have appreciated what I do and I’ve been very lucky in that sense that people have wanted to help me out. That doesn’t always happen.’
While some artists are willing to compromise their artistic integrity and pursue fame at any cost, Regan has stayed true to his original goals. ‘I got to a place where I just wanted to make a record and not really have any sort of ideas about what was going to happen with it. The only idea was to make the record and document the sounds as they were happening.’
And what drives his songwriting and lyrical inspiration? ‘Songs are often evidence of some kind of struggle and evidence of some kind of triumph at the end of the struggle. That’s what really makes a songwriter, you are providing people with evidence of the internal dialogue with a conversation that happened and things that happened along the way. I don’t know whether there’s any one glowing thing that inspires me. I’m not sure whether I even like the word. Songwriting is an extension of your character. If you’ve got dirt under your fingernails sing about that, if you don’t sing about that.’
Regan has been praised throughout the industry, has received positive reviews from the media and has caught the attention of many. It seems though that all this buzz has not impacted negatively on Regan’s creative processes, ‘External things are very fickle. It’s better to have people deciding that what you do is great than people not paying it any attention.’
This positive attitude has allowed Regan to look beyond the frustrations and restrictions which have presented themselves. ‘I’ve done a huge amount with this record which is considered to be pretty much a miracle in some circles. We had good people around us, but practically no money to promote the album. So everyone had to come looking for us which has been great because it’s been a very organic process. One person finds out about it and then that person turns into five people, which then turn into ten people and so on.’
Rather than be weighed down by a lack of resources, Regan’s experience shows that if you produce a quality product than it will find its own path to success. ‘I went from playing in England before the record to something like 60 people and then ended up playing to 250 people and the last venue was like 800 people so it’s as if every single thing has been growing. Usually it takes a lot of brown envelopes filled with cash to make those sorts of things happen. In our case there wasn’t even enough money for the envelope never mind the cash. So we’ve come a long way so far. Now it’s time to figure out what to do next.’
One thing that Regan will be doing next is a visit to Australia for a series of live performances. Regan adopts a flexible and spontaneous attitude towards what can be expected from his live performances, ‘It’s all hypothetical at this stage I don’t even know what to expect from myself later tonight. I’ll be there and I can only react to my surroundings. I’m not going to sit down and calculate it. I would say expect nothing and we’ll see what happens.’
The challenge of balancing his time between the competing priorities of promoting, writing, recording and performing has not really had an impact on Regan to date, but from the sounds of the coming year he has busy times ahead. ‘After I tour England I’ll be in Australia and then America, on to Paris and then back to England. It’s only just becoming apparent to me that I have to manage my time a bit more so that I can take some time off. People sitting in a room don’t really understand what it takes to go out and play. It takes its toll on you in one way or another; it would be ridiculous to think that it doesn’t.’
With his album announcing ‘The End of History’, after listening to his music and talking to him about his craft I think he may just be right. History is behind us and Regan has joined those rewriting the future as he ushers in a new era of reflection and beauty.
I originally wrote this article for ‘The Dwarf‘.