Released in August 2019 without promo or backing, Belfast singer-songwriter Niall McDowell’s ‘Valentine’ flew mostly under the radar. Left to speak entirely for itself, the EPs glittering-yet-hazy guitar melodies and nostalgic lyrics were picked up on by a keen few with an ear for its soft, pensive melancholia. Despite the classically trained artist having only posted the six track EP to social media once after its release, his queer country single ‘Find Your Man’ nestled itself in at #34 on Chordblossom’s Northern Irish Songs of the Year 2019.
His next standalone single, "You Have My Heart" was released in April, which is a raw, thrashing track that toys with the notions of ghosting and isolation. It acts as a transitional vessel between Valentine’s solemn energy and the genre-shifting influences McDowell is incorporating into his new musical projects. The release of the song coincided with a lockdown live session for Chordblossom's Songs from Home series on Facebook and an interview with The Jumble Magazine about Valentine. McDowell’s subtlety in making and releasing queer music that is raw, lo-fi yet touching and accessible has allowed a small following to form, building momentum for his next project and eventual continuation of live performances. However, at the same time, “Valentine” continues to be appreciated more and more for what it is over time.
“…the track that piqued my interest initially, the wonderful country-crooner ‘Find Your Man’. Musically, McDowell’s melancholic voice and understated guitar playing have got off to a strong start in a live setting.” —Chordblossom