Raphoe's Dean Maywood who has invited Dean to perform at the AmericanaFest UK 2020 Showcase Festival in London in January. Picture: Wrapped In Plastic Photography
Working towards the development of a sound that you can be true to while it's giving you the ammunition to get across a good tune is a search every singer-songwriter embarks on.
Raphoe's Dean Maywood freely admits he's taken that path and enjoying not only being true to himself but crafting special sounds.
A quiet but assured 34-year-old, Dean, has been immersed in music since he can remember. Well-known guitarist father, Patsy Gallagher and mum, Liz, have both been major influences on his listening choices and he freely admits it was thanks to them that he ended up dipping in and out of bands like The Eagles, Queen and Thin Lizzy to Dr. Hook, Nancy Griffith and Dwight Yokham.
His recent marriage to long-time girlfriend, Jennifer, has also been a big event and indeed he says, an inspiration.
In musical terms Dean is also a devout fan of the likes of John Prine, Neil Young and Jackson Browne Christy Moore and currently cites American singer-songwriter and guitarist from Alabama, Jason Isbell, as an artist he can relate to. Quite an influential bunch in anyone's collection.
Born in Drogheda, the young Dean lived in Monaghan before moving to Raphoe when he was five years old. With dad Patsy gigging all over the country with the likes of Big Tom, Kathy Durcan as well as playing locally with the likes of the legendary Misty Blue and currently Goats Don't Shave, music was always in the blood.
Dean carved out his early career playing in a Raphoe-Convoy band called Comrade before eventually developing into a solo artist and taking that big step from band member to the man in the spotlight, something he admits took a little getting used to.
Dean at a recent gig. Picture: Michael Gillespie, MDG Photography
"I'm not afraid to sing but I was a little scared of the responsibility that goes with playing the guitar," he jokes.
He need not have worried. Dean's first release told the story of Oileán Na Marbh, a tale depicting the story of that tiny island at Carrickfinn in west Donegal where an estimated 500 bodies of the unbaptised children, born mainly between the years of the Great Famine and 1912. Sadly they were carried to the tiny island by night for secret burial as they could not be buried in consecrated ground.
A weighty subject but according to Dean, one that resonated with many people and to such an extent locally that he receives an annual invitation to sing that song at the ceremony on the island every summer.
And Dean has many arrows in his quiver, not least the work ethic that has seen him in big demand at venues all over the country. He's also continuously refining his songwriting skills
"I never set out to write songs, they just happened. I would start in the room myself, playing chords on the guitar when an idea would come to me and after a while if I liked the feeling I got, it would be added to there and then or over the space of weeks and even months."
Dean is hard to put into any one musical category as he traverses a number of genres. He is however happy to admit he draws huge influences from Americana, music formed by the confluence of the shared and varied traditions that make up the musical ethos of the United States, specifically those sounds that are merged from folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, gospel, and other external influences.
"I'm probably writing about seven years but only started doing my own stuff live about four years. If people like them that's great and I hope they like them but I write them for myself too. It's not pop music, they are essentially sad songs. When a song comes out I go with it, there's no defined genre," he says.
Locally he hosts the monthly Ghostlight Sessions at the Balor Arts Centre in Ballybofey. It provides an opportunity for artists to perform original live music, something he's very proud of.
Dean doesn't really seek the limelight but the sound he produces does. On stage he shines with an authentic voice and honed musicianship. His music distils themes down to the common theme they all hold, simple beautiful melody and lyrics with heart.
Since the release of his mini self-titled five track album in June his reach has increased with a few tracks receiving regular plays on RTE and BBC Radio Ulster as well as many other stations here and in the UK and US. It was an album of the week on KCLR fm. It also got lots of great reviews including in Hot Press magazine.
The past three years have been spent trekking over 17 counties throughout Ireland, in an attempt to get his music to a wider audience and gain a foothold of his own. He aims to reach all 32 as soon as possible. He has been lucky enough to support some great artists along the way, Padddy Goodwin (Drogheda), Jason Wilber (USA), Mulligan Brothers (USA), Brace Cooper and Jutz (USA), Pat Reedy (USA), The 4 Of Us, Johnny Fean and Jim Lockhart (Horslips), The Whileaways, The Remedy Club, The Southern Fold, and Gareth Dunlop.
Dean in action in McHugh's Pub, Drogheda, recently. Picture: Eibhlin Coll
His nearest local gig takes place at the Alley Theatre, Strabane, on Thursday, November 28.
He has also recently received news that he has been booked for a major gig in England.
"I can't say where just yet but it's definitely the biggest thing to happen for me yet.
And further recordings? "Let's just say I've written load of songs and not all of them made it on to my last recording."
One gets the feeling we'll be hearing a lot more of Dean Maywood in the coming months.
Stop Press: News has just come in that the Americana Music Association UK has invited Dean to perform at the AmericanaFest UK 2020 Showcase Festival in London in January.
This is not a drill people, this is a big deal.
Tickets on sale now: https://bit.ly/33BoRzt