Nealo is a Dublin rapper and artist who is a regular on this site since first appearing in 2018. 2020’s All The Leaves Are Falling was a Choice Music Prize-nominated debut album, an album exploring loss, friendship, family and the ties that keep us searching for home.
Fresh from the release of new song ‘Forest’ with Morgana of Saint Sister on vocals, Nealo is teasing a new album at a later date, and along with last week’s guest Celaviedmai, is playing at The Hennessy Hip-Hop House at Body & Soul Festival this summer.
We’ve been talking to Nealo about getting him on the podcast for a long time, so we’re delighted to finally bring him in with Niall and Andrea.
On this episode we discuss what Nealo has been up to by asking him about some songs that are inspiring him and he loves right now, along with chats about making and releasing music in 2023, sobriety, going to see Post Malone, and possibly controversial opinions about Taylor Swift.
Listen to the chat here, or read the abbreviated choices below
Nealo’s current favourite track:
Medium Build – Never Learned To Dance
“I was just going through Tik-Tok one night and I came across this guy, and I absolutely love him. I’ve been obsessed with him ever since. He’s on tour with Lewis Capaldi at the moment, but I feel like that does him an injustice.
“No offence to Lewis Capaldi, but he just writes really honest lyrics. And when it’s stripped back to him and a guitar, I don’t know, there’s something about him that I just love.
“He just says there ‘has to be better shit to give a shit about other than wondering what people think about us now, that just really hits me and it’s very simple and it’s very direct.
“And I think that’s the way I write as well, so it really kind of hits me. I don’t really write songs in riddles so much. I know people love cryptic lyrics. And I know the idea that if you make people work for an understanding of a song that they love it more sometimes.
“But I’ve tried that and I’m not very good at it, and I’m not very good at listening to music that’s like that. I need to really directly connect with the lyrics and that’s what that does for me. “I think there can be a balance with that kind of cryptic lyric thing.”
Nealo’s influential tracks…
Sufjan Stevens – The Only Thing
“I just think he’s magic. I think that album is magic. I don’t know, there’s just something about him. That song just speaks to me in so many ways. It. You know, like essentially he’s talking about like the only reason he lives is because of these mystical experiences that he has or maybe like moments of awe that he has in his life.
“And I think that’s just a beautiful concept to me, that there’s always something to live for. No matter how much you think that you should leave the world. It’s like you could always be in a sea lion cave at some point in your life.
I think that’s on a Monday morning when you’re going somewhere that you don’t want to go and you’re feeling really bad. I think that’s a beautiful thing to remember and that’s really the nature of what art is, to remind us of.”
Navy Blue – To Give Praise
“So I found out about this guy through Jehnova, I think, around 2020. He was over in my gaff, and he was like, ‘have you heard of this guy?’
“And we were on my balcony, COVID looking out on the sunset, and we were just like, ‘yeah, this is nice’. I started listening to him, and he’s just unbelievable. He’s, like, the most talented.
“He makes beats, he raps, he’s a model, he’s a painter, he’s a professional skateboarder. He’s like multiple different things.
“The lack of drums on a lot of his tracks definitely influenced my new record. And I felt when I started taking drums away from some of my songs, I felt a lot more free to tell stories as well. A lot of the time I felt like drums in my songs were a bit of a cage that I had to stick to, whereas it felt easy to get emotions out when the drums were taken away for some reason.
“So that’s kind of why I picked Navy Blue Boy. He’s also just been a really big influence on me over the last two years. It’s nice to find an artist, like, later in life that you’re that into, you know, usually a lot of the artists you find are in your twenties and you kind of stick with them forever.
“But like, this guy is is one of my top three artists of all time. And I went see him in the Academy Green Room. He was amazing. It was like a really unique concert in a way that he demanded respect from the crowd. Like he wouldn’t let people talk. He did these meditations halfway through I know what Irish people are like halfway through meditation.
Some guy’s like ‘any hash?’ and he’s like, ‘you just lost two songs out of the set for that’.. It was like being in class and it’s not the way I would operate at all. I’m very informal when I play, but it was nice to see someone demand respect for their art.”
Tyler Childers – Feathered Indians
“I fucking love country music so much, I probably listen to more country music than I do any other genre, but only really new stuff. Like, I don’t really go back to Willie Nelson or anything like that.
I do like a little bit of Garth Brooks or whatever, only because my dad used to play it when I was young boy. Mostly newer country artists. So. Yeah, I love this guy.
But that song I actually have tattooed on me stomach as well. The line is looking over West Virginia, smoking spirits on the roof. She asked, Ain’t anybody tell you that those things are bad for you? I said, many folks have warned me. I’ve seen several people try, but up to now, there ain’t been nothing that I couldn’t leave behind”. I just think that’s a fucking savage line.
Ka – I Love (Mimi, Moms, Kev)
“Kaz is another artist from New York, like, kind of like the father of Navy Blue. And again, very into that drumless experimental loop and sample kind of style. He’s actually the head of a fire department in New York, which is crazy.
“He’s just amazing. I just love the song because he breaks down love into three different things. Like, one of them is a love for his mom, one of them is the love for his wife, and then another one is his friend that died. And it’s just like the different types of love.
“And his wordplay is just crazy. He’s just an amazing storyteller. A really accomplished artist, but someone who’s not successful, we’ll say, financially from it, he’s more of the equivalent of a journeyman rapper, but top of his trade, you know what I mean? Like a trades person of rap.
Noname – Bye Bye Baby
“The reason I put her on list is she was just a big influence on my earlier hip hop stuff. And I don’t know, I just love the way she writes. It’s like really kind of like stream of consciousness. Really friendly, beautiful. It’s a real nice morning record.
” And I’m always really struck by how she manages to do that [exist between singing and rapping]. That was a big lesson for me when I started to listen to her because I was really just learning how to rap when I first heard of Noname. And it just kind of struck a core of me because I was like, oh, I don’t know. I like that mix of talking and half singing kind of thing and also just saying what’s on your mind rather than having some big overarching theme.”
Have Heart – The Machinist
“Have Heart is a band that were around in Boston in the early 2000s. And they just kind of like the melodic hardcore genre they just did the best out of anybody. Oftentimes that’s toilet music.
But if you go back to the lyrics of that album (Purgatory, 2006), they’re so fucking amazing. And that song just hit me at a time where I was working in an insurance company out in Blanch, Hating in my life. And the song is basically all about corporations treating human beings like machines and it’s kind of like a protest song in that way.
I remember just like there was like one lyric website I used to be able to access from the work computer and I would just like obsessively read over the lyrics over and over again.
So it spoke to me in my early twenties, so I was like yeah, ‘fuck this, I’m going to move’. So I moved to Vancouver based on pretty much that album. And I also wanted to just expose you to some mad shit that you probably never listened to before from the 2000s in Boston.
The Hennessy Hip-Hop House announces its lineup at Body & Soul Festival this June 16th to 18th at Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath.
Denise Chaila, Gemma Dunleavy, Kojaque, Fabio & Grooverider and The Outlook Orchestra (A/V Show) are among the headliners for the Hennessy Music Trail and The Hennessy Hip-Hop House has an extensive lineup of hip-hop to celebrate the genre’s 50th year in tandem this year. Names like Daddy G (Massive Attack), Nightmares on Wax, Stevie G Soundsystem, Tee Cardaci, DJ Mek, Aby Coulibaly and Negro Impacto are on the bill this year.
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