For years, friends of the talented Tipperary multi-instrumentalist, Seán Bermingham, have been waiting for him to finally release some music, and now the wait is over. Bermingham grew up surrounded by music, with his father, John, being a highly respected and esteemed folk musician in Ireland in his own right, and this influence lead Seán to developing a love of music from an early age.
Bermingham started songwriting and live performing in his early teens, performing with friends at home in Mullinahone and with Tipperary band We Looked Like Giants. Throughout these years, Bermingham continued to cultivate his playing technique, resulting in a musician who is able to captivate and draw in the listener on every song with interesting and engaging melodies on guitar, bouzouki, or whatever he happens to have to hand. It makes for more of a compelling listening experience, that is added to by a vocal texture that adds a sincerity and credibility to the music that is hard to fake.
In recent years, the Dublin-based primary school teacher has started releasing some music online both as a solo artist, as well as with good friend and fellow Tipperary native, Paul O’Gusain.
In two weeks time (28 August 2020) we will see the release of his first official debut single…
By Lake or Sea serves as a tremendous introduction to the narrative ability of the Mullinahone man, and his ability to invite listeners into a story in a way that makes them feel as though they are being made privy to the intimate thoughts of the protagonist in the music. In this song we are shown a situation that will be familiar and relatable to many as Bermingham writes about unrequited love and the role that music can play in how we remember and interpret these events.
Something that I have hinted at numerous times in other posts on this site is just how important music is for how we understand different people and the events in our lives. Many of us will be able to think of a song that has the ability to transport us back to a memory or a moment upon hearing it, and it becomes near impossible to disassociate the song from those thoughts or those people. A sentiment that is central to By Lake or Sea.
Throughout the song, the songwriter shows us some of the memories that have stayed with him from the time he spent with his love interest, and the listener is shown a sense of the little things that made this person special in his eyes. Music plays a key role in their relationship, between his love interest sending him messages with songs that she’s heard and thought he might like, and singing songs loudly while they’re driving that he doesn’t know or wouldn’t normally listen to. Personally, I found this to be a particularly touching sentiment and one that I was able to project upon quite easily. I have always found myself associating good times in my life with the music that I was listening to at the time, and there’s few things better than if someone has heard a song and thought of you once they heard it. Bermingham recognises the power of this sensation and puts it at the core of his songwriting.
“You send me a text, of a new song you heard”
However, ultimately this song is about how music is just as likely to soundtrack an unhappy or disappointing memory as much as it is a happy one. Throughout the song the songwriter reveals to us that despite the seemingly happy memories that he is telling us about there is a downside coming in the form of a romantic rival.
“But you forgot to tell me, that there was somebody…”
Which ultimately comes to a head at the end of the song when we learn that Bermingham is no longer getting messages telling him about random songs – one of the things that seemed a cornerstone of his interactions with the girl in the song has come to an end – rendering the end of the relationship.
Bermingham has always demonstrated an ability to use minimalist instrumentation with maximum effect to create elaborate and heart-wrenching stories throughout his music. These qualities are again on display here, as the Tipperary songwriter puts the lyrics to the forefront to recount how we often soundtrack our lives with the music we’re listening to at the time. The song is lead by a strummed guitar rhythm that never attempts to draw or dominate the attention of the listener and instead simply acts as a background to add to the melancholic feel of the song created by the lyrics.
Songs like this help you to remember just how important music is in our lives and how we remember different events, and that is further testament to the quality of songwriting on show.
Great stuff, Seán.