Niall McNamee is an Irish singer-songwriter and actor, known for his own passionate, thoughtful and full-blooded songs. He has starred opposite Pierce Brosnan, fought with Jackie Chan, played comic foil to Bono, and romantically duetted with Imelda May. Next up is a starring role in feature film Love Without Walls, performing his own compositions, as Niall’s art and life come together.
A self-taught musician, McNamee has been immersed in music his whole life. Throughout years as a struggling young actor, he supported himself performing Irish folk songs, resulting in his knowledge of traditional music growing rich and deep. But all the while, he was writing his own material, drawing on that heritage but pushing into contemporary rock and pop territory. He finds inspiration from artists like Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Pogues, Christy Moore and more recently The Undertones.
His latest EP Step By Step, showcases the musicians deep love for storytelling lyrics. Touching on life experiences and human emotions, the five-track release narrates heartbreak, nights out, ecstatic joy and reflection.
“I’ve been wanting to release my music for a long time now and whilst it always felt like I didn’t have the means or the money or even know where to start, I realize now that it wasn’t the right time,” he said. “These things always happen when they should. And now it’s released.
“Looking at it now, the most surprising thing is that three of the five songs are reasonably new. I’ve been writing for such a long time now that the last thing I thought I’d fit on my first EP would be brand new.”
McNamee dropped a track-by-track for readers of American Songwriter. Press play, and see if the inspiration matches the melody!
‘Fishpond’ was the song I wrote at the start of lockdown. I’ve often written about heartbreak romantically but found myself moved out and away from my five best friends who I had lived with for 6 years in Tooting. The memories of that mad time flooded my mind, the big nights, the teamwork and the craic. Our house was on Fishpond Road in Tooting and our house became known as ‘The Fishpond’. The song arrived in about 25 minutes.
‘Step By Step’ the title track of the EP would be the finisher at many a gig of mine over the last few years. I wrote it about that euphoric moment when your ‘crush’ or the person you’re in love with shows themselves in some way to feel the same. I love the naive nature of it. That young love, optimism and melancholy. What a night!
‘China In A Box’ for me explores the fragile nature of any relationship. When you’re in a couple or partnership, the responsibility is massive. In the most basic of ways, their happiness lies on your shoulders. And you have to get past any previous bad experience you have and try to trust this person. ‘We’re wrapped up together like china in a box’
‘When she goes’ links with that. The late night arguments, the moments when you feel like things just aren’t going to work out no matter how hard you try. I imagine most people know the feeling of being on a sinking ship with a loved one. I suppose ‘When She Goes’ is the question and ‘China In A Box’ is the answer.
‘5 hours’ is linked with ‘Step by Step’ in many ways. The same girl, the same country (Scotland)
I wrote it when I was up in Scotland watching Ireland in the Euro qualifiers. I bumped into this ‘old flame’ we’ll call her and it felt strange. And ultimately it opened up a feeling I had not had in a while. A mixture of it getting me down and Ireland losing 1-0 to Scotland at Celtic Park led me to write the song on the ‘5 hour’ train journey back to London.