Originally appeared in the Event Guide
By Aoife Barry
Patrick (Pat) Barrett is probably best known for being the vocalist/guitarist in Dublin’s beloved Ten Speed Racer, who were one of the capital’s most prominent bands in the early millennium. Now he’s back with a solo record that’s heavily inspired by a life-changing incident that occurred four years ago, when he suffered a brain aneurism. Last month Pat realised his first solo album, the glorious ‘Never Leave Anywhere’, under the moniker The Hedge Schools.
“It was important to me from the word go that it was going to be an honest record.” Pat Barrett’s sitting in the Central Hotel’s Library Bar, quietly contemplating the creation of his debut album, a work that’s nothing other than sincere and honest. “There’s one thing that just annoys me these days and it’s the insincerity of people when they’re just sitting writing songs,” he adds by means of comparison. “Everything that’s on that record is as real to me as what you’re hearing…two or three people have already said it to me about the record, that it’s just really, really raw and emotional.”
Really raw and emotional indeed – for ‘Never Leave Anywhere’ is a warts-and-all depiction of life after a brush with death, with songs that explore the meaning of life, love, and the appreciation of every living day. And for Pat, hearing that others see the truth, the honesty and the love that’s in his record is something that validates its creation. “It’s refreshing for people to hear that and it’s refreshing for me to hear that – it means it’s set in stone,” he smiles. “I just stuck to my guns with it and made my own record, and it worked.”
For many musicians, releasing a record can be an emotional process – particularly when, as in this case, it’s documenting a very emotional event, something that’s very personal and raw. But for Pat, there came a time to relinquish any feelings of trepidation he had about its release – he had to let it go, and accept that it was time for others to hear it. “A lot of these songs have been knocking around in my head for four years, and I think I had barrier to putting them out, and the barrier was actually what people are going to think,” he explains. “And then I just had to get over that and go ‘right ok’, get a few good people around me. Joe [Chester, friend and former bandmate], who produced the record, I’ve known him for years and Joe was like ‘just get put the record out.”
‘Never Leave Anywhere’ is the sort of record that inspires the listener to sit back, relax and just be in the moment – something which was foremost in Pat’s mind during the recording. “We live in a society where people forget sometimes to sit down and look around, and if for one minute I thought my record would make people stop and think, brilliant,” Pat enthuses. “If it does it’s great, then I’ve achieved what I basically…we move so fast these days, everything is just bang, bang bang, you just don’t stop. It took what happened to me a few years ago to make me actually stop and think. I don’t take it for granted at all; there’s at least five minutes of every day where I just sit still or stand still and just appreciate what’s around me. You have to do that – everyone has to do that.”
There’s a sense with ‘Never Leave Anywhere’ that it turned out exactly as it was meant to; that things clicked into place to ensure that all went smoothly. The partnership between Joe Chester and Pat is one example. Says Pat: “When we sat down to record it, it was never going to be any other record because I knew what I wanted when I went in and myself and Joe started it; and he knew what I wanted, which was why I worked with him because we just read each other’s minds.”
Joe himself told Pat that “when we worked on the record, every idea we threw at it, it would just stick,” laughs Pat. “We were both painting from the same palette the whole way through.”
Key to the album’s contemplative sound is the use of a Hammond organ – the only working Hammond in the country, in fact. “I knew I wanted a Hammond organ; but when we put it down on one track, we just sort of looked at each other,” remembers Pat. “I think it was like 2am in the morning and we put it down on a track and we just knew we had to put it on everything. It just creates a tone…It adds a certain spirituality to it that I love. It brings me home – it’s always been a sound that when I hear it…I just feel comfortable.”
Some might be wondering why Pat decided to release under the name The Hedge Schools, rather than his own name. “For a start, I didn’t want the record to come out under my name because you just get put into the same corner as every singer-songwriter in the city,” he explains. “So in terms of the musical community of this country being singer songwriters in one corner and bands in the other, I’ll always be standing at the bar, ‘cos I’m neither.” Then there’s the history behind the name. “The Hedge School was something that was always underground, and you had to go looking for it, in the Penal Law days…if people have to go looking for my record, at least I feel that when they find it, they’ll enjoy it. It is very much going to be word of mouth.”
Having spent so many years playing with Ten Speed Racer, Pat’s able to approach his solo career with a mature and informed attitude. “[They were] amazing times; great times, but at the end of it all, I think we made some good records, but it’s just a case of we just slipped through the cracks,” he says. “Because in terms of business acumen, you need the two sides of the scales to balance up, not just the creativity and whatever else, or the tunes or whatever else; you need the other side of it, and so many people don’t realise that.” With The Hedge Schools, Pat’s content to let things simmer, not to force the release of the album or go hell for leather straight away. He has the official launch this month, and then a small Irish tour planned for next February, where he’ll team up with some old friends; then, perhaps next summer, work might start on the second album.
For now, he’s giving thanks for the rapturous reception that ‘Never Leave Anywhere’ has received.
“I’ve taken nearly four years to record it…well not record it, but certainly four years to actually sit down and go, ‘right, now I’ll make a record’, so there’s certainly no pressure from Independent Records’ end of it, or my end of it. It’s just very much step by step, and see where we’re going and see where we end up.”