I've probably listened to music less recently, because the last year has been dominated by my duties as Minister for Finance. But I've taken on a few musical projects to keep me going. The first one was to listen to every Bob Dylan album, and the most recent one is to work my way through The Beatles.
Still, my personal life has been understandably, and correctly, limited. It means I value music even more, and I think we need it more than ever, as a way of finding enjoyment and looking after ourselves right now.
I’m usually a big gig-goer. My formative moments as a person have been in Whelan’s and Vicar Street, venues like that. I’ve seen nearly all of the artists on my list at different points over the course of many years.
I saw Billie Eilish play Bad Guy during an afternoon slot at Glastonbury last year on the TV, and she was awesome. I was probably one of the last people to appreciate her
When I was younger I mostly liked acoustic guitar-based music like The Waterboys. Fisherman's Blues is still my favourite album of all time; Mike Scott is a pioneer. Their lyrics and insights were a deep appreciation of something universal, but they were combining it with extraordinary music that was so enjoyable. They managed to be totally serious yet light at the same time, and both dimensions fed off each other. That's a balance that's difficult to get right. You only see it with particular acts, and they're a group of bands that I listen to so regularly that they've become a part of who I am.
That’s also the reason I picked Cedarwood Road by U2. That song is about growing up on the northside of Dublin, the area that I live in and represent. They talk about big things, yet it’s an absolutely beautiful song.
As I’ve grown, and my life has changed, I’ve found my music tastes have gotten both poppier and rockier. It means I’m suddenly listening to Mike Scott and Beyoncé, which is an interesting development for me.
About a third of my choices seem to be Irish, but I should emphasise I have not picked them because they are Irish. I picked them because they're fantastic musicians who happen to be Irish. I love Ham Sandwich. I thought their last album, White Fox, was great. I'm a big fan of Julie Feeney too; I remember seeing her in a church in Phibsborough a few years ago.
The song that's stuck with me the most during Covid is Choose Carefully, Emily by Oliver Cole. Ollie used to be the lead singer of the incredible Irish rock trio Turn. They were one of the best bands I've ever seen in my life, but he's moved on to more acoustic solo music now. In Choose Carefully, Emily, he's not only singing about his daughter Emily; he's also singing with Emily – and it's a gorgeous song. I have a vinyl copy of his album [Father, Brother, Son] in my office in the Department of Finance. So if you look over my shoulder on Zoom calls, you might see the Ollie Cole album in the background.
The next song on the list is Revelator by Gillian Welch, which is one of the most extraordinary songs in any genre. Listen to it and you'll know why.
I picked Bad Guy by Billie Eilish too. I saw her play the song during an afternoon slot at Glastonbury last year on the TV, and she was absolutely awesome. I was probably one of the last people to appreciate her, because she was already well on her way to becoming a superstar.
I have The Hold Steady’s brand new album, Open Door Policy, on heavy rotation at the moment. I was tempted to pick one of those songs for the list, but there’s something about Stuck Between Stations that I love. It’s the opening song from their album Boys and Girls in America, so it’s got a great energy to it. And if ever there was a band whose name is appropriate to where we are now…
In the coming months, music will continue to be central to us. I think it will be particularly joyful when any kind of live performance happens again. When do I think that will be? I have hopes, but I don't know for sure. We have a little bit more work to do with the disease and its progress, but we'll all meet again soon. – As told to Shilpa Ganatra