Part of what I love about being a DJ at WMOT is the consistent new music discovery. Dan O’Rourke reached out to me for airplay consideration on The Local Brew Hour, WMOT’s weekly local music show, with what he described as a very timely, cultural song. “For That Matter” knocked me out. I had to hear it again immediately. After many listens, it steered me to Dan’s previous releases. His 2019 album, Desert Rose reflects his passion for the history and beauty of the southwest and Traveling Soul is a six-song ep, released in 2016. I decided this was an artist I had to know more about.
AnaLee: I’m so glad you reached out with your song, “For That Matter”. What a pleasant surprise. When you sent it to me last month, you said you had just written, recorded and released it in the previous week. You were clearly moved to write and share this song. It has a sense of urgency. Tell us about writing it and about putting together the video, which happened pretty quickly as well!
Dan: Hey AnaLee! Thank you so much for such positive feedback. “For That Matter” really was one that flowed out. All in all, it probably took about 5 minutes to write. Which I could see some may think I’m exaggerating, but in reality, it really was that fast. Besides the last line of the chorus, that was changed after the fact to ensure it hit as hard as it needed. I think with everything going on and now-a-days with social media, I felt like I was getting bombarded with raw emotion everywhere I looked. I thought back to a lot of the early Bob Dylan “protest songs” that he had written and I remembered how graphic some of the lyrics were. I didn’t want to shy away from how graphic the reality actually is. Once the opening line was about having that image of a knee to the neck permanently imprinted in my brain, I really couldn't stop.
There was somewhat a sense of urgency to get the song out, particularly because I was worried this would become yet another issue that divides this country. My hope was that the lyrics could serve those who were taking in the same raw emotion as I was and help them understand their own feelings a little better. So many people told me that song gave them words that they couldn’t find themselves. I think that the more you can understand yourself, the better equipped you are to understand others. It was written, recorded and filmed within the span of less than 48 hours. In part thanks to COVID, and with the help of friends Zack Knudsen and John Cirillo, we had the time and resources to get it done so quickly.
AnaLee: I went back and listened to the two previous releases I found, your 2016 ep Traveling Soul and last year’s full-length release, Desert Rose. Your bio says you were raised on your parent’s music and I can definitely hear the influences of some of our great storytellers like Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne. But in listening to the progression of your releases, I can hear you finding your own voice. Where did you grow up and was there something specific that put you on this songwriting storytelling path?
Dan: My parents did a great job in raising me on good music, and while we are unconventionally musically talented as a family, the music was only ever there for listening purposes. I wasn't being groomed to be a musician or anything like that. So, as I started diving into writing and playing, I immediately gravitated towards a lot of the artists that my subconscious sponged up from when I was younger. Of course as time passed, and I grew to have more authentic views and opinions as an adult, I was able to find out what my voice was and what it wanted to say.
I grew up all over the United States. I’m originally from northern New Jersey. Then we moved to Cleveland, Ohio when I was eight and then as a sophomore in high school we moved to Philadelphia, PA. After that I sort of kept moving to places like Denver, Seattle, California and then Tucson before I finally made my way to Nashville. It wasn’t really till I moved to Nashville over 4 years that I started taking music seriously. The storytelling likely stems from a few different places. Traveling and moving as much as I did broadened my horizons and showed me there are stories everywhere you look. In particular, I love history. I studied it in college. I love learning about real life narratives that were so fascinating and unbelievable sometimes it's hard to believe that they’re real. Outside of that, my name is Daniel Patrick O’Rourke. So, as you can presume, I’m pretty Irish. If there’s one thing the Irish know how to do, it's tell stories.
AnaLee: I’ve been trying to find anything positive that might come from all of this isolation. While there’s not much, one thing I’ve seen already is artists like yourself creating and speaking for so many of us who don’t have the gift of expression through art. It’s refreshing and quite welcomed and a reminder that music can heal. What’s keeping you going right now? Are you writing, recording, planning a new record? Any other hobbies or interests that are helping you stay grounded?
Dan: It’s definitely been crazy these days. Isolation brings a lot of things to light that would normally get left in the dark. We’ve all been forced into slowing our lives down. Naturally, I’ve still been writing, but this period has afforded me the time to record new music. I have another solo record in the works that should be completed and hopefully released before the end of the year. But in addition to that, I’ve got another set of songs that I’ve been working on that revolve around three-part harmonies. We’ve been doing live streams online and I’ve been working on putting together videos and recordings to release that in the near future as well. It’s been really nice to still find ways to be productive and fortunately with the technology these days, you can do a lot of things remotely now.
Outside of being productive, I’ve really enjoyed this extra time to just relax. With the weather being nice it's just been great to be outside. I love playing soccer and cycling. I live right next to the lake so I’ve been going there a few times a week. I’ve been able to pick up a few more books than I’d normally have time for. And I’ve started a vegetable garden which is a first for me.
AnaLee: Thank you for this song, Dan and for taking the time to chat with me about it!
Dan: Thank you so much for reaching out and wanting to know more about me and my music. And thank you for playing “For That Matter” I’m really just thrilled with how much good that song continues to do. That’s really the intention of any musician, or person for that matter, is to put some good out in the world.
Ana Lee is on middays at WMOT, and is also the host of The Local Brew Hour, which airs Sundays at 7am and Mondays at 7pm on 89.5 WMOT and wmot.org.