Home For Christmas Day

Mick Redmond is ready to bring his music to the world. Photo by Peter McNamara.

There are many things that might inspire an artist. They might be looking at a sunset, and want to capture its beauty. They might see a striking face and feel the urge to express its charm.

For Mick Redmond, a musician living on Shelbourne Road, a cluster of bubbles on his bathroom mirror sent him running for his guitar. It was the height of summer. Of all things, he sat down to write a Christmas song.

“I always wanted to write one,” explains Mick. “That day I was working away on something else. I popped into the bathroom, and was there washing my hands when I noticed something on the mirror.” He shoots me a smile: “It looked like the letters X-M-A-S were written out in bubbles.”

When the muses speak an artist must abide. Mick returned to his couch, picked up his guitar, and started composing his wonderful song, Home for Christmas Day.

“It was a strange situation alright. It was the middle of June last year. The sun was beating down outside and there I was singing about snow and Santa and all that.”

Just Go for It

Chance plays a mysterious part in the life of many artists. And this seems doubly true for Mick. Two days before receiving that message in bubbles, he had a remarkable encounter with a fellow musician, David Brophy. Brophy is a world-renowned conductor and the man behind the High Hopes choir.

Formed in 2014, this remarkable choir brings homeless people together to sing. Brophy set it up to help these people change their lives through music. As well as having an RTÉ prime-time series, the High Hopes choir have performed in major venues in Ireland and around the world.

Redmond bumped into Brophy in a Dublin 4 pub

“I had to go and say something. He’s such a great guy and a wonderful artist. We talked about music. I said I wanted to get back into writing, and he told me, just go for it. Whether it’s good or bad just give it a try.”

Two days later Mick did exactly that. And the results are most certainly good. Home for Christmas Day genuinely sounds like a Christmas classic. The vocals and lyrics have a heartfelt ring that isn’t overplayed. At times Redmond’s singing has the same warm grain as Elvis Costello’s. What’s more, the production gives an authentic tone that makes the song seem a long-lost hit, unearthed from the 1970s.

“After I saw those bubbles, I sat down and wrote the thing in one go. I mean,” Mick adds, modestly, “I’d been trying so long, I’d started and scrapped so many others. That day it just came together. I found the riff straight away. And after that, I could hear the bells, the harmonies.”

A Special Time of Year

Mick chose the subject of coming home for Christmas with his daughter in mind. Indeed, holiday reunions are a regular part of many Irish lives, given this country’s history of immigration. “I was thinking of the airport,” he explains, “friends and family hugging each other. I wanted to capture the warmth of that.”

I asked him why he kept trying to write a festive song.

“I loved Christmas as a child. But then,” he grins, “I really began to despise it. I thought that by writing a song about it that would help me remember the joy of it. And I wanted my song to do the same for others. It’s not always possible, but Christmas can be the best time of year.”

It’s a touching subject and a catchy tune. Once he’d the song written, Mick had to think about taking the next steps with it. He took it to Michael MacLennon, a Scottish songwriter based in Dublin. MacLennon has performed all around the world, and even recorded in the famous Sun Studios in Memphis. Mick figured he would put him straight on whether the song was any good.

On July 17th he visited MacLennon in his studio. It was the hottest day of the summer. Again, Mick wryly tells me, it was hardly the time for them to be thinking about Christmas.

“I sat down in front of him and started to play the song. I was nervous enough, but I got through the first verse and chorus okay. I was there in the middle of the second chorus, trying to sing with a bit of feeling, you know, when I see Michael raise up a hand. He was telling me to stop. Was it really that bad, I thought?”

It turned out MacLennon was so taken with the tune he decided to record it with Mick that very afternoon. He jammed with Redmond in the studio, wrote a few melodic lines for piano and cello, and added in a few backing vocal harmonies. Like the song itself, the arrangement came together with remarkable speed, and the whole recording was completed in a matter of hours.

Upcoming Gigs and a Possible Album

Mick has a lot of experience as a gigging musician, but most of it has been confined to playing covers. A few years ago, a point came where he couldn’t stand to perform other people’s material, and he realised he would have to start writing for himself. His work has a strong emotional range. Along with this upbeat Christmas song, he’s written about bereavements and break-ups, from male and female perspectives. He’s even penned a bluesy number which he thinks would be perfect for Imelda May. So far he has recorded four songs with Michael MacLennon. He wants to get together enough material for an album.

“With Home for Christmas,” he tells me, as our chat winds up, “I’m really not looking for a number one or anything like that. I just thought it would be a nice thing to share around, to try to connect with people, and maybe bring a smile to their faces.”

Along with the single release, he plans to do a few gigs, which will include some Dublin 4 venues. Mick hopes to put on a show in The Oarsman on Bridge Street, Ringsend, which is his local.

“The Oarsman is a great spot for gigs. There’s a lovely atmosphere in the place. And you always meet good people there.”

With so much live experience to his credit, and a growing repertoire of fresh, affecting songs, any upcoming gig promises to be a treat. Who knows where the music will take him. Judging by the success of his recent writing, an album release seems a real possibility.

For now, his latest single Home for Christmas Day is available to stream and buy. Give it a spin. It sounds like an old favourite, and it might put a smile on your face.

Home for Christmas Day by Mick Redmond is available on iTunes and Spotify. Keep an eye out in Dublin 4 for local gig updates.