‘I pretended I was Enya when I was running through those fields’

Influencer and presenter James Kavanagh shares his Spotify playlist of favourite tracks

Enya: ‘Orinoco Flow is probably my all-time favourite song,’ says James Kavanagh. ‘It takes me back to my schooldays’

My friends would say my palate for music isn’t very diverse. I enjoy bangers and the main A-side songs only, and I’m okay with that. Like, I’m a fan of Kate Bush and love Wuthering Heights, but I don’t dig into her back catalogue. I’m happy to be lowbrow in my music choices.

Because of that, I always control the music at parties, because I’m not going to put on weird songs with a guitar in it – I’m going to put bangers on, and you’re going to get up and dance.

My boyfriend says I like wailing women – I love powerful female voices like Enya, Kate Bush, Florence + the Machine and London Grammar. Their songs are transcendental, and they tell stories that take you into a fantasy land.

As soon as nightclubs are back open again, DJs should have a 2020 night where we play all the tracks that didn't get a good go of the nightclubs

Orinoco Flow is probably my all-time favourite song. It takes me back to my schooldays. I used to have to stay at the weekends in boarding school in Multyfarnham, in Westmeath, and I was on my own a lot, but I used to play that and go for runs down the back lanes where all the hay bales were. The dramatic countryside plus the uplifting, over-the-top song was an attack of the senses, and I loved it. I used to pretend I was Enya when I was running through those lanes and the fields.


I love Madonna. I remember when I was growing up, and I was only 10 or 11, and my older sister would be in her room with all her friends, blaring out Madonna. I was always, like, ‘I want to be in there, spritzing hair spray and dancing into the mirror.’ She definitely influenced my taste and love of Madonna. I’m a big fan of Vogue. Though they obviously sound different, Wuthering Heights, Orinoco Flow and Vogue are similar in that they’re very theatrical.

Even the music video for Vogue is performance-orientated. And when it comes on the dancefloor, everyone vogues. I wanted to be an actor – I never quite made it – and these songs bring the inner performer out of me.

Me and my friend Stefan are obsessed with American Pie, and we always put it on at parties in the wee hours. It’s a lovely one to sing along and bop to. When you listen to the lyrics it tells this gorgeous story in music, and there’s a darker element to it as well. You go on a journey with the song, which makes it all the more interesting to me.

Back in the 1990s, at functions like 21sts or 18th birthdays, Abba was a given. I remember having amazing times with my aunties all dancing in a circle to Dancing Queen – it brings up a lovely nostalgic feel for me. I hate people who lie and say they don’t like Abba. It’s just incorrect to say you don’t like Abba. As soon as someone has a few drinks and Dancing Queen comes on, they’re tearing up the dance floor.

James Kavanagh

Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat tells the story of a gay guy who was beaten up, and it goes on this journey of him leaving his small town and finding himself in the big city and. It really spoke to me. When I was younger I wasn’t very comfortable with my sexuality, and I used to play songs like that and fantasise about being more confident when I was older.

Children by Robert Miles is another big song for me. It reminds me of being lost in a rave in the woods in Electric Picnic, and hearing a song like that. I really miss those festival experiences and dancing with thousands of people.

I tend to live in the past when it comes to music. Lyra is probably my favourite artist who’s new. For me, she’s this generation’s Enya. She’s from Cork, and she has such a huge voice. She’s going to be a classic. I’ll be loving her in 50 years for sure.

Rain on Me and WAP came out during Covid, and they're two songs that I would die to dance to in a nightclub. As soon as nightclubs are back open again, DJs should have a 2020 night where we play songs like that and Dua Lipa and all the people that didn't get a good go of the nightclubs.

James Kavanagh of Currabinny Foods and team are hosting a pop-up pavilion at Design Pop, running in Cork from August 27th to 29th

This article was amended on August 24th, 2021, to incorporate updated event information