After being a mainstay in the Irish music scene for over a decade, it’s a rarity to see Niall Jackson in Dublin these days, so when we bumped into the Autumn Owls, Bouts and Swimmers alumni (now trading as Swimmers Jackson at Hard Working Class Heroes) we couldn’t pass up the chance to catch up with him.
When 3 become 1: why did Swimmers split?
Swimmers haven't really split, we just live in different countries. I don't want to continue using the name when it was about the three of us then and it's usually just me now, but the lads hopped up on stage during my HWCH performance for the last three or four songs. That said, it's Swimmers Jackson now whether it's just me or three...more of a name modification than anything. Also there is a SWMRS from America who are starting to do quite well so avoids confusion.
Rather than come up with an entirely new moniker why did you punt for Swimmers Jackson?
I was happy with the name Swimmers as I write the songs, and also I hate the idea of going under my own name - fair play to those that do, but it's just not for me. Even thinking of my own name makes me instantly less interested in listening.
Did you leave the apostrophe out of your branding because you’re a mad rock'n'roll bastard?
Well, on top of the fact apostrophes are a pain in the hole when using predictive text, I don't actually require one as the Swimmers substitutes in as a name and doesn't form ownership over the Jackson part.
Are you still playing material from your Swimmers career or is it a clean sweep of the broom, and if so was it a hard decision?
Yes absolutely, they're all my songs and are still structured as I wrote them, less the bass and drums.... I sound like Noel Gallagher now, don't I? No, the lads (Barry and Steve) are two of my best mates and I have their blessing too, so why not? All those stellar hits that no-one has heard are less than five years old - in fact they still could feature on any album I do in the future.
You’re living in London now (splitter) - how was the transition from a country where you know all the industry players to one where you don’t?
Yes, I had to deal with this question quite a lot over the last tour in Ireland and at HWCH at the weekend. Look, I put a decade in to playing around Ireland in Autumn Owls, Bouts and Swimmers among others, so obviously I have gone from knowing and loving a serious amount of people to not knowing and not being cared about by anyone. London is a tough town, but I'm trying to just keep my head down and play as much as possible. The advantage of being on my own is I can set up in any corner of any bar, house, or tech start-up pool party (one of these has never happened).
Are you embedded in the Irish music community in London or are you trying to break free and branch out on your own?
I am and I am not. I do a radio show every Tuesday night called The Irish Jam which tries to bring all the wonderful music from Ireland to London ears and beyond. I am also keenly aware of what people like Gary Dunne are doing at The London Irish Centre in Camden, and closer to me The Irish-Cultural centre in Hammersmith has just had a refurb, and they are doing good stuff. That said, most of my gigs so far have been either opening for people I've met over here or just down in the local bars in Battersea. No-one gives a shit who you are over here, which has its advantages for working on new stuff live, but can be a bit disheartening for any potential progress/ ego. Maybe it's a good thing.
Recent single Summer’s Here explored homesickness in a blissful manner. Are you torn between going home and moving forwards?
No, I don't think I could move home now, but Dublin is still a huge part of me and will never not be. This train is only going forwards, but I'm quite happy to go back to pick up passengers in any county in Ireland at the drop of a hat (unless Ryanair actually go bust!)
Are you responsible for the rake of nakedness on the canal this summer?
Yes, have you not seen the Bouts video for Pliable Me?
When you glance home across the water now what makes you proud and displeased about Ireland?
What makes me pleased is how diverse the music scene has become, how great the community continues to be and of course the quality of acts. What displeases me is almost everything else - poor funding of the arts, poor policies at almost every government level, repressive [stance] against women's bodily autonomy, horrible church-state ownership of schools, student fees increasing, cost of living more expensive than London, arsehole landlords, homelessness on the increase. Ireland is basically a joke country full of beautiful scenery, great pubs and deadly people.
Life’s Short (Embrace It), comes from the get in, get out, sub two-minute Buddy Holly school of song-writing. Was this intentional? And what prompted this life affirming mission statement?
Well, despite my previous answer I actually like to think I'm a largely positive person. I would be out and about playing or supporting the arts seven nights a week if I could, the song is called Life's Short (EMBRACE IT) on purpose. I'm encouraging people to enjoy life where they can despite the darkness. As far as the length goes, I just cut it in half to echo the sentiment of the song with time. No-one needed a sub-standard guitar solo by me, followed by a third verse, repeated chorus, key change and/or an outro to decide whether they like this song. Some songs tell a longer story, this one's message was simple. You like it or you don't. The person from Spotify who faded it out after a minute during our meeting at HWCH defo made their mind up less than half way through. Two minutes must've seemed ages to them. LOL!
What’s next for Swimmers Jackson?
Keep writing songs I enjoy playing and singing, keep playing gigs that pay cash money, try not get beaten down by people slinging shit or ignoring my emails. Release an album and have some fun. Life's Short (Embrace It).