Ryley Walker: Walking a Golden Mile

Ryley Walker has, in recent years, become a hot property the world over for his own mathy, odd leanings on the folk oeuvre. Cork in particular seems to have taken to the American troubadour, with repeat sellouts for Leeside excursions over the years. This month’s swing through Ireland is no different, with a full-band Easter Monday show having sold out at Coughlan’s, and an additional solo date the following night at Gulpd Café likely to do similar. It’s a testament to his name and the groundwork he’s put in, but the mindset is business as usual heading into it, with one goal in mind as per any night. “To put on the best show possible. Maybe have a pint of Murphy’s after. Happy to get back to Cork, My mom says some of our people, way back, are from there.”

The solo show on Tuesday night occurs in Gulpd Cafe, and will be a call-back to aforementioned Cork visits. To his own mind, it seems, it marks out the Coughlan’s night prior as noteworthy, in addition to his trip out to Clonakilty on Tuesday the 19th for another band show in DeBarra’s. “This is the first time I’ll have a band in Cork. Every other gig there has been solo. While they were all great- I’m excited to really crank the energy with this crew.”

Third album Golden Sings That Have Been Sung is a personal affair, gleaned from road miles, ethereal experiences from in front of ever-swelling crowds, and seemingly sepia-toned, geographically distinct childhood memories. Walker keeps his cards close to his chest, however, when cornered on the specific experiences that spurred on the album’s creation. “It’s definitely a road record. Lots of ideas, born from just being in weird corners of the world. A lot of themes centring around regret, with a hint of joy.”

The successes he’s encountered on the road have indeed spurred on that process, with the record being written seemingly as European touring wound on. In September of last year, new song The Roundabout literally came together on stage at Amsterdam’s Paradiso, a stream of consciousness drawn from Walker’s aforementioned childhood mind-map. “I didn’t really have any lyrics at that point. All I had was ‘You could find me at the Roundabout’. I was thinking about a bar just outside of Appleton, Wisconsin, called The Roundabout, that I’d sometimes go to with my parents.”

For a record steeped in melancholia, however, the process itself has seemingly been straightforward, an insight, perhaps, into Walker’s pragmatic thought process on creativity and the attendant rigmarole. “It didn’t really differ much from other projects. It was a lot of fun, though. Made it around Christmas-time, and spirits were high.” The breakthrough for Walker and producer Leroy Bach (formerly of Wilco) came at the end of the heavy lifting. “It isn’t always obvious to you, when you’re in the thick of it, but, for the first time, I thought we had something that corresponds to what I was hearing in my head.”

The press trail for the album has been comprehensive to say the least, with The Guardian and others in the UK press rowing in behind it. When quizzed on the reception, Walker is wont to cast a cold eye on the whole matter of publicity and critique, aside from the knock-on effects. “Paid attention the first week or so, and it was all generally positive. I’m thankful to have people on board who seem to give a shit. I’m working my hardest out here. It’s real tough to make a living in music, and a lot of people get burnt out. I’m still just working towards stability in life. So it means a lot when a big publication takes a chance on me.”

The conversation moves quickly back to Cork. Walker’s establishment in this neck of the woods is down in no small part to an ongoing working relationship with Cork gig promoter/blogger The G-Man on your excursions here. The importance of these relationships on the road is paramount to Walker’s stated goal of sustainability. “I show up on time, do my best, and always try to be professional with promoters. They keep me employed and I love gigs. Its a friendly partnership.”

Just as well that he does love the gigging grind, then: he has albums to sell and people to see through summer and autumn.“I’m going to Japan in May, followed by another excursion of the UK and Europe. I’ll be working on new music, and probably taking another relax this fall. I need to see nature a bit more.”

Ryley Walker plays a sold-out show with his band at Coughlan’s on Douglas Street on Easter Monday. Tuesday the 18th sees him heading to Gulpd for a solo excursion, and the band returns for a full show at DeBarra’s on the 19th.

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