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New Beginnings album launch for Donegal musician

BY NOEL ATCHESON
 
This Sunday, at Annie’s Bar in Moville, local singer-songwriter Mark McKinney will host a launch party for the official release of his debut album New Beginnings. 
 
Mark and his Whispering Guitars Band will be playing at the launch party, with support from two local double acts – Shane Skelly and Lauren Harkin,  as well as Ciaran Keogh and Martin Moir, also known as Keoster and Marty. Derry singer,  Paul Casey will be making a special appearance. Entry is £5/5euro,  with the show beginning at 9pm. 
 
The ten-track set New Beginnings features a diverse collection of songs – from the classic rock flourishes of Full Circle, Keep on Smiling and Journey, to the country-tinged balladry of tracks like Dreamboat and Seven Years. It is an impressive debut album, with catchy hooks and Mark’s distinctive vocal style layered on top of well-constructed songs. 
 
But it is also the fruition of a decade of hard work, the result of which was “a long time coming” for the Muff resident.
 
“It’s been a labour of love”, Mark admits. “I felt like giving up at times but I’m glad I got there.” 
 
Mark started to learn guitar at age 15, growing up with a lot of exposure to the music of Elvis and “playing air guitar to many Dire Straits songs on an old tennis racket”. But other commitments prevented him from pursuing a musical career. 
 
It was only when he met his fiancé, Elaine,  many years later that he rediscovered his passion for writing music.
 
“Elaine bought me a guitar shortly after we met, I had barely played in a few years. She has a massive love of music too. I started playing again right away.”
Mark credits Elaine as a big influence on the album, stating that “a lot of the songs are about our relationship”. He also says that Elaine came up with the name New Beginnings. 
 
Singer-songwriter Paul Casey will be making a special appearance at the album launch. Casey worked extensively with Mark on New Beginnings, playing bass and lead guitars. The two met by chance after a mutual friend told McKinney to seek out the singer’s help.  
 
“I knew of Paul’s work, and bumped into him by chance in Derry one day, and we had a chat,” says Mark. “We arranged to go to his studio, clicked right away and decided to work together.”
 
“Mark came to see the place and let me hear some of his songs,” says Paul Casey about his meeting Mark. “I loved the songs right away so we pencilled in some dates and we got to work.”
 
The album was recorded at Casey’s Cable Junction studio.  Working with the experienced singer allowed Mark to achieve the vision he had in mind for the songs for New Beginnings. 
 
“Paul knew what I wanted,” says Mark. “I’d play him the music and Paul would be able to connect with it right away.”
 
Using the track Sailing Away as an example, Mark elaborates on how the collaborative process grew organically in the studio.
 
“That song in particular, I had written it as an Irish folk song, but Paul heard something else so I went along with him on it. It ended up being something altogether different from what we both had in mind, but it ended up being one of my favourite tracks on the album.”
 
“Mark would let me hear the songs initially with just a guitar, then I would fire back what ideas I had,” says Paul.
Paul has been full of praise for Mark’s work ethic and talent. 
 
“Mark writes songs that can connect to everyone. He also has a good knack for writing very catchy melodies.”
 
“I’m looking forward to hearing Mark play these songs live,” adds Casey of the upcoming launch gig. “He is a really nice guy which made working with him a pleasure.”
 
And Mark intends to follow up New Beginnings with more original material.
 
“I’ve enough songs written for another two albums.
 
“I’ve another twenty songs sitting ready to record. I’m still writing and I don’t intend to stop”.
 
 

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