UK Open Mic

Vincent O’Brien

Meet Dublin-born UK Open Mic performer Vincent O’Brien:

Vincent O'Brien

Hi Vincent O’Brien, thanks for joining us! Let’s get into it:

Do you play solo only, or also in a group?


How old are you?


Where were you born?


Where did you grow up?


How did that place influence your music? (if at all!)

Growing up in the 60’s as a migrant Irish child I felt most at home with American music songs of peace love and protest.

Where are you based now, and why?

Lived in many different places in England over the years (London, Bristol the West Midlands and the North West). I was lucky enough to be able to travel and work in may other countries too. Now I’m based in Manchester but travel up and down to London fairly regularly.

What got you into making music in the first place?

I started playing guitar when I was 13 inspired by watching the Beatles and stones on top of the pops. But very quickly moved on to listening to blues (Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters etc) as well as Neil Young, Captain Beefheart, Ry Cooder, The Band….. I started writing my own songs more than 25 years ago but only got the courage to play them solo about 7 years ago. In the last 5 years I have completed 5 albums of original songs. I also play guitar and lap steel in a couple of bands too.

What instrument/s do you play?

Singing, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Lap Steel, 5 String Banjo, Harmonica, keyboards

Who would be in your top 10 musical influences, and why?

Blues: I started listening to blues when I cam across Robert Johnson, Howling Wolf and Muddy waters in the lcal record libabraty when I was about 14. I was fascinated by the guitar sounds they made that was so different to anything I had ever heard played by white musicians. So emotional powerful and expressive.
Folk, Country Rock and alternative music of the 60’s and 70’s (Neil Young, The Grateful Dead, Captain Beefheart, Ry Cooder….) Listening to this music over time helped me to understand song structure and inspired me to explore a whole range of musical styles that these artists used for inspiration.

Do you write your own songs?


How many years have you been writing songs for?


What process, or processes, do you often find yourself using when you write songs?

I tend to write down brief song ideas, phrases etc as I go along. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and try to write down what I recall from a dream. These words then sit on my phone or computer and when I have my guitar with me I grab some of the words. Occasionally I have a more or less fully formed narrative (usually some kind of social commentary) that turns into a song. I write music and lyrics at the same time just repeating musical phrase that sound interesting until I have a verse I can work with. Currently exploring flamenco guitar styles and wondering how that might be filtered into my next songs.

How long have you been playing open mic nights?


Why did you get into playing them in the first place?

Moved to Manchester where there are 4 music schools and lots of open mics.

What advice would you give new performers who are just starting out playing their first open mics?

Listen to what other people are doing and try to spot things that work and things that don’t. For example: introduce a song with a reference to something that flows into the narrative of your song but don’t tell the story until you are singing it. Never say ” this is a new song so I might mess it up.” It will always be new to an audience that have never heard you before. If you tell the audience that you think you will make a mistake they will be waiting for it to happen. If you make a mistake just laugh make a joke and keep going- or start again if you are at the beginning of the song/verse.

What’s the hardest thing, for you, about playing open mics?

Not knowing if the PA will be good enough for me to get the kind of sound I want. That’s why I prefer to play acoustic guitar rather than electric. Electric can sound so disappointing and dry f the PA is very basic.

What’s the most bizarre, or fun, open mic, or gig, you’ve ever played, and why?

I have played a good number of solo bar gigs in Belgium over the last few years and when I first went there I was worried that audiences would not be able to understand my lyrics or ‘jokes’ withing and in between songs. But it has always been really good even with language differences. People are listening for something engaging and that’s something that is a s much about the performance as it is about the lyrics.

If it’s not already, are you hoping to make music your full-time career?


What do you currently find the hardest and biggest obstacles to moving your music career forward?

My AGE!!! Though that seems to matter less to the audiences when they hear me perform.

What’s the one truth about you that people often find surprising?

I’m happier than most of my songs suggest!

What’s the most exciting project you’re working on at the moment?

Just finished a 5th solo album but I think the next one will be a little less singer songwriter and more Post Punk Americana. So simple, electric and maybe more experimental sounds?

Do you have your own music video, channel or playlist you’d like to share?

Do you have music on streaming? What’s you main streaming channel to send people to?

Where is the main place should people go to find out more about you?

What other sites/profiles should people go to to find out more about you?

We’re done! Anything else ou want to share before we go?

No thanks!

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