Q&A: Belfast’s Nathan O’Regan pays homage to Northern Irish Music With Latest Single ‘It’ll Be Alright’

Q&A: Belfast’s Nathan O’Regan pays homage to Northern Irish Music With Latest Single ‘It’ll Be Alright’

What have you been up to recently?

I had a small tour of the UK in May which was a lot of fun – so just trying to take what we’ve learned there and figuring out how to put my next foot forward. The next single off the EP is coming out on July 5th as well so I’m getting all my social media ducks in a row before that! We’re also in the mixing phase of the new album which has been really exciting, so looking forward to having that in my hands soon too!

Your new single, ‘It’ll Be Alright’, was released on May 14th via Zenith Cafe. Why did you choose this single as an introduction to your solo career?

For years, I hosted “Songbook,” a Belfast night featuring local songwriters. It fueled my love for Northern Irish music and the idea for a covers EP. Zenith Cafe, my supportive label, loved the concept. “It’ll Be Alright,” a song by my friend Gareth Dunlop that blew me away at Songbook years ago, became the perfect first choice. He hadn’t released it, and it’s a feel-good banger – a no-brainer for the EP!

What is your creative process?

Ah it’s probably pretty boring – I don’t know if I’ve ever read an answer to this question that wasn’t just essentially “sometimes I come up with the words first” or “sometimes it starts on the guitar/piano”. The reality is that I sit down with a pen and I try and think of something that I haven’t thought of before! With lyrics, I try and make sure that every word is serving the point of the song and is furthering whatever the narrative of the song is. Musically, with the guitar I can find myself in a rut quite easily just falling back on old habits so I’ll change to the piano sometimes to get me through something – but only because I’m terrible at the piano and so the unfamiliarity can lead to unexpected turns here and there. I told you it’d be boring!

During the recording of ‘It’ll Be Alright’, did you come across any creative breakthroughs or challenges, and how did you overcome then?

I think generally the aim for the record was to try and recreate the simplicity of performing with my friends in a small 3 or 4 piece set up and not throwing too much extra at it. In the modern day studio where you’ve got hard drives full of amazing samples and toys, I can easily be tempted to throw everything at a song when it’s only a click away. The goal for this EP was to keep it simple – that can be a challenge in itself. But the answer to a challenge like that is surrounding yourself with people that are way more talented than you – and thankfully, in my case, there’s no shortage of those people here in Belfast.

Your EP ‘Undiscovered Vol.1’ is on the way – how are you preparing for its release?

Just like any indie artist, it’s just pure panic with a hint of constantly refreshing social media screens to see if anything has changed in the last 45 seconds, or if I’ve unexpectedly gone viral or something helpful like that. But outside of that – just work. This stage of a release can feel a little like a desk job. Lots of admin to take care of – I’m lucky with Zenith there’s a great team in place that help me with that side of stuff so I don’t feel quite as lost all the time but there’s still a lot to it – I’m learning as I go. If Santa Claus had told me when I asked for a guitar for Christmas all those years ago how many spreadsheets were going to be involved I wouldn’t have believed him. He did try to warn me in his letter but like every 8 year old I thought I knew more than him.

Can you give us an insight into what listeners can expect?

I’m terrible at answering “who do you sound like?” questions but after consultation with my mother and my legal team mainly – I think if you like Brittany Howard or a bit of Lake Street Dive or even a hint of James Morrison all wrapped up in a sort of bluesy, Soul sort of vibe you’ll get on well with this EP. I tried ChatGPT for this answer but it hadn’t a clue so that’s my best guess! Someone once said I look like if their Geography teacher could sing like Marvin Gaye which I thought was absolutely hilarious. I’ll take it!

The EP is made up of songs written exclusively by friends and fellow artists from Northern Ireland – if you could add a new cover to the collection, what would it be?

I had a great time making this EP – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m constantly blown away by the talent and the writing chops of my peers here in Northern Ireland. I could do 10 more EPs like this just made up of the talent here alone.

To wrap up, what are your plans for 2024?

I’ll be rolling with more releases from this EP for the rest of the year, starting with the next single, “Follow You Down” written by Ciaran Lavery coming out on July 5th. Lots of fun stuff to do to get those out into the world. We’re also in the final stages of mixing the album which will be coming out next year so a little work left on that and then I imagine we’ll be making some videos etc for that to round the year out in preparation for the madness of 2025.