This revolution of free music is radical to me

By Beverley Knight

Tony Tyrrell isn’t sure where his music sits in his home of Dublin, Ireland. He can’t position himself with pure folk, but he’s not thoroughly modern either. So what is it? “People have said my music is progressive folk, but even that feels artificial.” It doesn’t bother Tony too much. His priority is to go where the creativity takes him. “I let each song demand its individual sound.”

Apart from singing, Tyrrell learnt the recorder as a child, leading neatly to the clarinet. He joined a marching band when he was ten because his mother took him, but he’s rather glad she did. “It led to me studying at the College of Music, taking grade exams, teaching and playing semi-professional.” He found it a doddle to play the sax after the clarinet. And Tony did just that when a friend asked him to play in a theatrical production. “It opened up the world of bands to me and, ultimately, The Afternoons.”

In orchestras, you mostly play other composers’ music. Some folks live for this; some desire adventure. “Beethoven is my favourite composer, and I think his ninth symphony is perhaps the pinnacle of Western culture.” However, Tony became addicted to the kick of writing and playing compositions he devised, but classical music will always be a part of him. “I’d never leave orchestral music behind and still listen to classical and jazz and folk, rock and pop.”

Back when he was in The Afternoons, Tyrrell constructed folk-rock lyrics with a co-writer for a female singer. “The vibe was so different. We’d bring the draft material to the band, flesh it out, edit it and then it was born.” Nowadays, the songs are Tony’s full responsibility. Rather than bouncing ideas around with a co-writer, he often devises work in his head while walking. He takes audio notes on his phone and works them up when he gets home.

He describes his solo music as ‘literate, adult contemporary’. “There are straight narratives but also more introspective, abstract or figurative pieces.” For Conviction, his 2022 album, you’ll find brief songs lasting 91 seconds, charging in a post-punk style and classic crooner tunes lasting longer than six minutes. Having the sense to follow where his sound goes comes from Tony’s training. He’s not afraid to move from one style to the next and feels ready to work on something lavish, with strings, horns and more orchestral energy. “Unfortunately, the cost and logistics of recording with a lineup like that needs consideration.”

So, from The Afternoons and his solo work, Tony must have seen a lot of change in the industry over the years. Although music is never cost-free to produce, it’s a different story for listeners. This revolution of free music is radical to him. “There also appears to be a much greater emphasis on ready-made stars. The rap scene has added different dimensions as it has the prominence of sounds to dance to that are no longer songs.”

Tony Tyrrell followed his calling and heart. “I’m proud of my album; it represents me. I gave it my best shot.” What more can we ask?

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