Interview: Ren

renThese days singer/songwriters are ten-a-penny, but the best among them, those that genuinely move you and earn a place in your heart, are worth their weight in gold. Conor Owen, better known by his moniker Ren, is set to be one of the finest new acts to emerge this year. His debut EP is one of the most assured and affecting collections of songs you could hope to come across. I caught up with him to talk about the release:

Thanks for your time! You’ve just released your debut EP A Calling From The Shore. Are you happy with the way it turned out and with the response it’s had thus far?
I’m delighted with the way that it has turned out! I’m really pleased with the arrangements of the songs, especially the strings. Basically I just made a few songs that I’d like to listen to. The response has been great so far and I think your review in particular really gets what I was trying to achieve when putting this EP together.

Did these songs come to you quite quickly once inspiration struck or were they a more lengthy labour of love?
Individually the songs came to me quite quickly. However, these songs were chosen from a back catalogue of songs I’ve written over the last 5 years or so. I think ‘Piece of your Heart’ was written in 2012 and the most recent song on the EP was ‘My Heart Belongs To Ireland’ which was written in 2015.

Are you more a “music first” or a “lyrics first” kinda guy?
It’s either or for me. Sometimes a lyric pops in to my head and I try to find the music that fits its theme. Other times I come up with a chord progression and write lyrics after.

There’s a real theme of wanderlust and adventure that keeps cropping up in the EP. I know that you do a lot of travelling around Europe with your music; how do the audiences differ in the different places you’ve been and do you have a favourite place to visit?
There’s quite a noticeable difference between audiences from the U.K and continental Europe. Sometimes I feel that there’s a demand to be entertained by UK audiences whereas in Europe I feel they appreciate the diversity of music more and are happy to just listen and connect with the music. I like playing shows in Germany.

It’s clear from your stunning track ‘My Heart Belongs To Ireland’ that the Emerald Isle made quite the impression on you. Are there any particular memories or experiences that inspired the song?
One of the lines in the song ‘John McDermott takes me fishing’ was a reference to a really memorable experience I had on the west Coast of Ireland. I was sitting in the local pub ‘Keoughs’ and I got chatting to a local man called John and he found out that I’d never been rising before. So, a couple of days later he just turned up at my house and took me down to the harbour and we went fishing and hauling in his crab pots. It was a great day and something that was done completely selflessly on his part. The overall friendliness and kindness of the locals really made an impression on me.

Where in the world, that you haven’t yet been to, would you most like to take your music to next?
I’ve never been to Canada so I’d like to go there next. I think I’d have a great time travelling and playing music around there.

Who would you say were your biggest influences when writing the EP?
I think you can hear elements of Dick Gaughan, James Taylor and Foy Vance in the EP and they are all big influences of mine.

What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
I’m about to start recording an acoustic E.P with a friend of mine in France in March. With a bit of luck I’ll release that towards the end of the year. I’m hoping to do a house concert tour around Europe in July too.

Massive thanks to Ren, and best of luck with all your future travels! His debut EP A Calling From The Shore is out now!