Christy Moore: ‘Some of the things I did back then would make me wince now’
After almost 45 years of recording, Christy Moore has gathered his 45 best songs on a triple CD, ‘Where I Come From’
From the heart: Christy Moore
Early days: Christy Moore in 1973. Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty
Christy Moore is thinking about the songs he never wrote. The ones that remained unfinished, the ones that resisted polishing, the ones that failed to do their subject matter justice.
He can feel certain stories nagging at him to be preserved in music – Savita Halappanavar, the Corrib gas controversy and Johnny Carthy, the 27-year-old man shot by gardaí in the Abbeylara siege – but their channelling has proved elusive.
The trouble is that Moore couldn’t be less cavalier about the craft. He will spend years honing songs he didn’t write himself, obsessively reshaping them into the right fit. You can see signs of the process all over Moore’s music room at his home in Monkstown, in south Dublin: a clutter of potential set lists, Post-it notes, ornaments and instruments. Just last night he wrote a new verse to Delirium Tremens, a song he composed 28 years ago.
“It’s difficult,” he says. “I’m working on a bunch of new songs now, and none of them are coming. I may never write another song . . . and it doesn’t matter if I don’t, because the ones I have are great.”
Moore has never been prolific. By his own count he has written about 100 songs since he began recording, in 1969, 45 of which he reckons are decent. For the first time he has gathered that output in one place: a triple album entitled Where I Come From. The artwork, already hanging on a wall outside, depicts an atlas of inspiration, a blending of pathways that have shaped his life.
“My songs are scattered across so many albums that you think, Wouldn’t it be nice to have them as one body of work? If I die tomorrow some record company might just bang them all together. At least I feel it’s done now, and my family have a collection of my songs. They won’t have to go rooting through 30 albums to find them.”
Moore being Moore, all the songs have been recorded anew. Those that didn’t measure up have been scrapped; those that felt timeless have been pared back to shine unhindered.
“It’s been an interesting journey to go back through it all, because while you move on, the work stays there,” he says. “Take a song I wrote in the ’70s or ’80s: all these years later I’m a much older man and I hear things differently. Some of the things I did back then would make me wince now – even the way I sang. My melodies are very basic, my guitar playing is limited, so there was an opportunity to improve certain songs musically, and some of them are now much better than the original recordings.”
Life in song
Moore, who is 68, is sitting at his desk, a guitar and bodhrán by his side, taking his glasses on and off as he recounts a life in song. Having grown up in Newbridge in Co Kildare, he initially became enamoured with rock’n’roll – Bill Haley, Elvis, Buddy Holly – until the sound of The Clancy Brothers eclipsed everything else. They weren’t just singing about Ireland, he says, they were speaking his language.