Born in Hong Kong, and raised just outside of Boston by an Australian mother and Irish father, Kiernan McMullen has never been boxed into one setting. This is readily apparent in multiple facets of his life, including his music.
“I guess music started for me when I was six with piano lessons,” said McMullan. “After a while, my piano teacher pulled out a book that was 500 songs with handwritten chord progressions and the melody behind it, so he taught me how take those and play around with them.”
McMullan began playing the guitar at 15 after moving to Ireland and into boarding school.
“I realized that all the improvisational stuff [my teacher] had taught me meant that I could write my own music. After that, I played a lot of bar gigs, trying to get my chaps up as far as not being terrified to play in front of people,” said McMullan.
McMullan tends to write albums that are meant to be listened to as a whole, while his individual songs are meant to be heard nonlinearly. An individual song will have a central theme, but the lines within it can be inspired by many people and scenarios, both real and hypothetical.
“Sometimes I’ll be sitting on a piece of music for a couple of years before I decide what I want to write about,” said McMullan. “Recently, I’ve tried to write songs, as a whole, for a new experience, but usually, I write the pieces separately then zoom out to fit the music and lyrics together.”
McMullan self-produces all of his music with the help of Irish music producer and former classmate, Owen Lewis.
Influenced by Hip Hop, Motown, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, and Rage Against the Machine, McMullan is a singer-songwriter with a simple production and a message in every song he sings.
“It’s a cultural movement, and people forget that’s what music is supposed to be,” McMullan said listing The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Elvis as examples. “Relevancy doesn’t matter. I like listening to people who float to the top for the right reasons.”
After signing with 111 Records in 2007, McMullan embarked on a three month long string of shows in which he took buses and hitchhiked his way from place to place with nothing but his hiking pack and a guitar.
“I remember every single second of those three months. Literally, ask me what I had for breakfast on so-and-so date and I’ll be able to tell you what bagel,” he laughed. “For people that work a 9-to-5 [time] passes by, but hour by hour everything was constantly moving, and I remember it so vividly.”
McMullan will tour the states this November, and plans to tour Europe next year. A new album is in the works for the spring. For more information go to http://www.kiernanmcmullan.com/ .
“Basically, I write music because I can’t afford a therapist, and so I don’t become an axe murderer or meth head or something,” said McMullan. “I love that music is good for coping, and I can use it to get any frustration out, and help other people in the process.”