Focused: Keith Mannion is taking his act Slow Place Like Home to the FOCUS Wales music event next month
From beginning to record music at his Ballyshannon home eight years ago, next month electronic music producer Keith Mannion and his band will be the only Irish act to appear at a prestigious UK music event.
Donegal act Slow Place Like Home will appear at FOCUS Wales, the annual new music showcase event for the Welsh music industry. It is an achievement that Mannion, described as one of the finest producers in Ireland, is proud of.
“It's quite ego-stroking to be offered a place at such an illustrious festival,” he said.
“The acts alone... I would like to think that if they are peers then I am in a good place.”
He has been making music under the moniker Slow Place Like Home (SPLH) since 2011.
The act has merged into a live band with Rossnowlagh musicians Ciaran Patton and Sean Reynolds.
SPLH initially started off as a bedroom project. “It was never supposed to be a live project but it was (because of) encouragement and mingling with the locals. I would never have been a session musician in pubs. There were better players than me and I would leave it to the professionals.”
He set up the project after returning home to Ballyshannon from Galway.
“I just started from scratch. I had plenty of time at nighttime and I amalgamated loads of silly bits of machinery and had a sort of DIY venture.”
Eventually, through sharing music with friends he began to take it seriously and it took up more of his time.
He quickly found inspiration around him on his return to south Donegal.
“I think in general what I was doing, the south west coast here of Donegal is indicative of the theme of the music I was making at the time.
“It was a different time back then but definitely the environment and the coastline - we have a beautiful county and if you can draw inspiration from that you are a lucky person. It was not necessarily a career but it has turned into one.”
He began releasing music onto the internet and it began getting noticed by music radio luminaries such as Donal Dineen, Dan Hegarty of RTÉ 2FM, and Stephen McCauley of BBC Radio Ulster.
After the release of a series of EPs, two albums followed - Romola in 2015 and When I See You... Ice Cream! in 2017.
Meeting Ciaran and Sean has been another blessing that being in Donegal has given him.
“I’m lucky in a way I have to say. It’s great that there are people that can at least attempt to feel interested in what it is because I am not sure that everyone quite gets it. I am not exactly contemporary but I am definitely not borderline alternative. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is when I can’t even describe it myself.”
Getting out and playing live in the current climate of the industry is the best way for getting exposure for the music, Keith says.
“Definitely the instant reaction, it's like an actor in the movies or on the stage. You want that instant sort of punch, that instant result. And I think you can only get that self-gratifying feeling when you are playing in front of people.
“It is a great thing to be able to test songs out there, to be able to play and find the temperature of the water.”
A musical departure in recent times has been his involvement with acclaimed musician Laura McGarrigle, originally from Strabane. Based in Edinburgh she performs as Gaze is Ghost. Laura guested on Keith’s last album and he is now playing regularly in her band and is working on an album with her.
Keith will be recording and releasing his own music in the coming months and the Welsh show will be his first appearance in Britain after a previous appearance was cancelled.
He does not play much in his own county.
“Online I know from sales and the record label telling me, most of the attention drawn is from the UK and places like France and Scandinavia.
“It travels, the music travels and is played a lot in the west coast of the United States on student radio and in Canada. It seems to appeal to places outside of Ireland.”