VIDEO FEATURE: The Music Maker: Patrick McDonagh

A young Derry man said he is nervous but excited as he prepares to depart for Manchester after securing a coveted university place at The British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM).

Patrick McDonagh (19) from Knockena has already been making a name for himself locally as a talented songwriter and as a performer after taking the plunge into the world of live gigs earlier this year.

Patrick McDonagh is heading off to BIMM in Manchester this September.

Patrick McDonagh is heading off to BIMM in Manchester this September.

Patrick is a former pupil of St Therese’s Primary School in Lenamore, Oakgrove College, St Peter’s Boys School and St Joseph’s High School. He has also undertaken a Level 3 Music Performance course at the North West Regional College.

Now Patrick is gearing up to undertake a Songwriting Degree at BIMM- the same course world-class artists including Tom Odell and George Ezra have completed before going on to attain global success in the music industry.

Despite being a relatively new private university, BIMM is widely regarded as attracting and training the calibre of musicians akin to those who came through the Brit School in London, which turned out performers such as Adele, Amy Winehouse and Leona Lewis, although the two institutions are not connected.

Speaking after hearing that he has secured a place there, Patrick said:

Patrick McDonagh is heading off to BIMM in Manchester this September.

Patrick McDonagh is heading off to BIMM in Manchester this September.

“It didn’t hit me for a good week and then it was a matter of waiting until I got my results back. I got them back last week and I’ve got in.

“The audition for that was very nerve wracking. It was my first time in England and I was more nervous about finding it. And then whenever I found it, the nerves kicked in and I lost my voice and everything before the audition so it was a complete nightmare.”

But things improved during the audition, as the judging panel examined Patrick’s songs and listened to some recordings.

Patrick said he started writing songs at the age of 15 but has only started performing earlier this year with his good friend and fellow talented singer Edel Bowen.

As well as performing as Patrick and Edel, he has also undertaken a number of solo gigs around various venues in Derry recently, with plans to continue gigging in both capacities through the summer.

“I only really started singing because- there were a couple of reasons really- but the main reason was I couldn’t get people to sing my songs. I got them to sing them at the start, but it was getting hard to get more people and new people.

“I have recordings of me singing my songs but they aren’t released yet. People might have heard me singing a few of them live but they haven’t heard me on a recording.

“I’ve performed in the ‘Bound For’, The Castle, The Central, Bennigans- that’s home. They gave us our start.

“Derry is the only place I’ve played but it’s the best, it’s very warm, the reception. They kind of give us that push. They are the reason we go back on stage. It could very easily just knock you and you might never want to do it again.

“I was nervous the first time; absolutely terrified. There was a wee old man sitting crying during one of the songs. I didn’t know until I came off stage. I knew it had affected somebody; somebody had connected and that’s what you want. It’s alright getting applause from so many people but it’s whenever somebody connects with the song, that’s when it hits you the most. I think it was actually during one of my own songs it happened. That’s happened a few times but I think it was only the once with my own song. Different wee old men by the way, it’s not the same person,” he laughs.

Patrick has written the lyrics and music for dozens of songs on varying themes.

“Different things,” he says. “Some really dark, deep stuff and then some of the new stuff people haven’t heard is more upbeat. I’m keeping that sound until I release a lot of stuff together. People are on about my stuff was too downbeat, need to cheer up a bit!” he laughs. “But I was getting more people telling me to keep it than telling me to change. I didn’t change because anybody told me to change. I changed because that was what I was feeling whenever I was writing it.”

He said that as well as gaining confidence, he hoped his degree would broaden his song writing out to include different genres, with collaboration a central plank of the degree course.

The new batch of recruits will also get the chance to perform during Freshers’ Week and Patrick is also hoping to secure gigs in Manchester.

“I’m hoping to get a load of contacts as well, hopefully get some success, get some stuff sold. It would be nice to start making a living off what I do because it is my job, especially now that I’m focusing my full degree on it. That is going to be so many years of my education that I’m focusing this on, so it’s a matter of I need it to work more than I want it to work.

“It’s scary, but I’m very excited for it.”

Prior to that he’ll be going into the Nerve Centre soon to record a new track, and said having such professional facilities in Derry are a great bonus and a necessity for achieving professional soundscapes.

And supporting him through all of this are parents Paddy and Roisin along with his three sisters and brother, wider family and friends.

He says of his family: “They are the reason for the fan base on social media to be honest. I hadn’t got the confidence to push my stuff. I’m hoping to get confidence out of the course and to just develop as a songwriter.

“I feel more fulfilled writing a song than going on stage. The very best thing though would be to take my own stuff on stage, as there is nothing beats that. It’s more nerve wracking as well doing that though, because people haven’t heard it and it is more risky doing a song people haven’t heard.”

Patrick said he has had a good grounding in music here on his home patch, not least from fellow musicians.

“There’s so much talent it’s crazy. It’s not even that it’s like a competitive amount of talent, the majority of people are very friendly. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have a clue, I went into it so blind. All I knew how to do was perform.”

To see more of Patrick’s work, check out: