Matt McGinn

Hilltown, County Down

2020 has been quite a year for Matt McGinn. He released his 4th studio album titled 'Lessons of War' where he collaborated with musicians and artists from areas involved in war or conflict around the world. From it the 1st single 'Bubblegum', which was co-written with Mick Flannery, was one of last years most played songs on BBC's Radio Ulster. It was touted by Hotpress Magazine as one of the best singles you will hear this year, making them list Matt as 'One to Watch' in 2020. He has begun working closely with agents Terry O'Brien's 'Playpen Music' in England, Zwaardvis Music in Europe and Turning Pirate in Ireland.

"What a beauty...” Fiachna Ó Braonáin RTÉ Radio 1

“Well isn't that just extraordinary?...A tune that jumps out of the speakers and shakes hands with your ears” Tom Robinson BBC Radio 6

“This dark folk song is one of the best singles you'll hear this year” The Sunday Life

“A track that puts goosebumps on your goosebumps, one of the finest singles of the year” Hotpress

“Fantastic...stops you in your tracks.” Lynette Fay BBC Radio Ulster’s Folk Club

“The folk revival’s Derry Girls: a plaintive and devastating reassessment of the futilities of war” The Line of Best Fit

“It just keeps getting better and better with every listen” Ralph McLean BBC Radio Ulster

On the album itself it was said...

“This music is alert, engaged and fiercely compassionate. On 'Lessons of War', Matt McGinn concerns himself with trauma, innocent parties and patriot games. He has massed up a body of writers and performers, and the sing about distressful scenes while searching for the grace that might yet be the saving of us”
Stuart Bailie Author, Music Journalist, Former NME Editor

The Lessons of War album sees Irish singer/songwriter Matt McGinn collaborate with musicians from war affected areas across the world resulting in a stunning collection of songs that explore the futility of war, its horrors, its effects, and after effects. For the last three years Matt has reached out to musicians from war torn areas across the world and top Irish songwriters, leading their songs and voices in a collaboration that can be described only as a Global Music Project. It speaks out against the futility of war, something that Matt knows about only too well, having seen the end of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland and cherishing what peace truly means.

"I didn’t mean to write an album of anti-war songs, it just kind of happened. The first time I saw the image of the young refugee washed up on the shore, it triggered something in me. I felt I had to do something, and writing was all I could do." It seemed that everyone Matt approached about collaborating on this project were drawn to
the anti-war message portrayed in this album's ethos.

Brooklyn based, Northern Irish Artist Oliver Jeffers, a top selling author, illustrator and animator, jumped at the chance to be able to design the Lessons of War front cover.
But to go back to the very beginning, with help from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Matt set about reaching out to musicians from areas across the world that had been scarred by conflict. It was to be the beginning of an incredible three year journey that took Matt, from his home in the Mourne Mountains, to working with some of the most incredible individuals. One of the key collaborators on the album is Yazan Ibrahim, a young virtuosi Flamenco Guitarist from the Golan Heights, occupied territory that borders Syria who Matt found through friend and ex-Energy Orchard member, Joby Fox, and brought to Ireland. Over five days they wrote and recorded anti-war songs, designed to try and show mistakes of the past in the hope they might never be repeated. Other contributions on the album came from Citizens of the World Choir, a London based choir of refugees from all over the world; Seydu a percussionist and philanthropist from Sierra Leone; Richard Moore a guitarist and producer from Derry who was blinded by a plastic bullet, aged 11, founding the worldwide charity, Children in Crossfire, and Mark Kelly , a band manager and music engineer who lost his legs in a bomb blast, aged 18.

Belfast film maker Colm Laverty was on hand to capture much of what happened over these years and has created a documentary, also titled 'Lessons of War', soon to be released. To get as many different perspectives as possible, Matt brought in some of Ireland's finest songwriters, Mick Flannery, Ciaran Lavery, Ben Glover, Stephen Scullion (Malojian), Brigid O'Neill & Grainne Holland... well as some of the best Irish and international musicians John McCullough (Sinead O'Connor/Waterboys) Colm McClean (Foy Vance/Gretchen Peters) Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson) Vivyenne Long (Damien Rice) Barry Walsh (Gretchen Peters) Jon Thorne (LAMB)

'Bubblegum' was the first single released from the album, and inspired by the teenage diaries of Bronagh McAtasney (@NrnIrnGirl1981) who recently took to Twitter to comment,

“I am overwhelmed by this beautiful song. Over the years, many fantastic things have come from the diary. I think this is the best.”

Matt recalls:
“In a writing session one day with [Irish Songwriter] Mick Flannery, I told him about an interview I’d heard on RTE Radio on the journey down. It was a lady from the North reading from her teenage diary and it was amazing how her everyday teenage experiences were surrounded by the darkness of ‘The Troubles’. It was enough to start myself and Mick off and it wasn’t long before ‘Bubblegum’ was finished.”

Matt asked friend and fellow Co. Down songwriter Ciara O’Neill to help out on vocals.

“It’s a bit weird ‘not singing’ one of my own songs on my own album, but I have always loved the purity of Ciara’s voice. It made sense to get her involved as the song is from the point of view of a young woman. As soon as I heard her sing it, I knew I’d made the right decision”

Matt also approached Vyvienne Long to play cello on ‘Bubblegum’.

“I have loved Vyvienne’s playing since the first time I heard ‘O’ {Damian Rice}. I was delighted that she got what the song was about and was happy to play on it.”


'Lyra' is a song Matt wrote on the morning of the funeral of Lyra McKee, a young female Journalist who was shot whilst witnessing a riot on the streets of Derry. It was hoped at the time by Matt and many others, that her death would be a catalyst in returning a sitting Government to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Unfortunately this was proved to not be the case. Here it is sung by Co. Down's Ria Maguire. Matt says

“I originally asked Ria in to sing some backing vocals, but once I heard how she connected so emotively with the song, I asked her to sing it all. She heard it once, and sang it once, and that was the take.”

'Lessons of War', the title track of the album, was recorded on location all over the world. It is the song that opened the flood gates for the rest of the album as the UK bombed Syria and Matt heard a government spokesman laugh off as 'unorthodox', a suggestion that they actually try speaking first.

'Suaimhneas' was a song penned with Gaelic singer songwriter, Grainne Holland. Having always regretted not being able to carry on Irish at school, and due to 2019 being the UNESCO year of the indigenous language, Matt decided to throw himself right back into the language by penning and learning a song in Irish with Grainne's help. It is a song depicting a yearning for the most basic of human rights, peace.

'Refugees' was written with Co. Down songwriter Brigid O'Neill, as a result of Matt, a father of three young children, being deeply affected by seeing the photo of the young Refugee boy washed up on the shore some years back. Matt and Brigid wanted to portray the human story behind these people leaving their homes, when all over the news and social media, they were not being being represented in that way. It features Willie Nelson's long-standing harmonica player Mickey
Raphael, Gretchen Peters accordionist Barry Walsh, and Jon Thorne on double bass.

'When will we Learn' is a beautiful folk song written by Matt, based around a simple concept that we have to constantly learn from the mistakes of our past to guarantee a better and safer future.

MATT McGINN is a songwriter/producer and performer from the foothills of the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down. He is a father of 3 and has been a proudly independent music creator of the last 15 years. He worked his way up the Belfast Music scene special guesting for legends like Peter green and John Hammond Jnr. He won 2FM's Play the Picnic in 2014 and is considered one of the North of Ireland's finest songwriters.

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