Artist in Association

SJ McArdle: Composer, Musician, Songwriter - 2018/2019

Hailed as “the man with the most distinctive voice in Irish music”, musician/composer SJ McArdle joins us in 2018, as our Artist in Association, and will spend the year devising and composing a song cycle around the deep and rich history of Drogheda’s Port, culminating in a not to be missed performance in January 2019. Our Artist in Association Scheme is supported by Louth County Council Arts Office for 2018/2019. 

Stephen Joseph McArdle is a Drogheda-born musician, songwriter and occasional actor. He is currently the singer and guitarist in contemporary Irish folk band Kern with Brendan McCreanor (uilleann pipes) and Barry Kieran (fiddle). The band’s debut album False Deceiver was produced by Trevor Hutchinson (Lúnasa, The Waterboys). It is a mix of songs and tunes from the band's home County of Louth along with SJ's songs and has extensive national airplay in Ireland (including RTE Lyric FM and Radio 1), including live appearances on Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show and Raidio na Gaeltachta. The album has also received some impressive reviews. As a singer-songwriter, SJ has released three albums most recently Blood and Bones in  2014. The songs were mostly recorded in Nashville and feature contributions from some of SJ’s heroes like Rodney Crowell, guitarist Richard Bennett (Steve Earle’s Guitar Town) and the Love Sponge Strings (Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising).

The album's lead-off song, "Two Steps From Heaven" was the main song in the Cecelia Ahern-written movie Between Heaven and Here. Accompanying the album release was some significant media attention and reviews and very successful German and Irish tours.

Another of SJ's songs, "Till The Docklands Drown", is performed during Element Pictures' A Date For Mad Mary (2016).

SJ has performed at the “Oscar Wilde” Oscars event in Hollywood and toured extensively in Ireland and Germany as solo act, as a member of Kern and as a session musician, playing mandolin for Ricky Warwick as they opened shows for Bob Dylan (Odyssey, Belfast) and Sheryl Crow (Point, Dublin).

False Deceiver:

"Quite lovely ... an intriguing release. Those interested in trad music that crosses over into singer/songwriter territory will find this album particularly attractive, but its accessibility will have easy appeal to general audiences. Thumbs up!" - The Irish Echo

"A Louth based trio with a solid grasp of traditional and contemporary forms: rich sonorous blending of uilleann pipes and fiddle lift the instrumentals, while SJ McArdle's gritty voice and dexterous songs add an interesting extra lustre."

Blood and Bones:

"Bravo for an artist who has taken contemporary Irish music to parts it far too seldom reaches" - Hot Press

"SJ's deep, sonorous voice brings authority to the songs. If Whipping Boy were raised in Nashville they might sound like this" - Mail On Sunday

"Spare couplets conjuring entire vistas with the focus of David Lynch" - The Irish Times


Previous Residencies - Artist in residence Michael McLoughlin 2016

Over 2016 a year long visual art project took place in Drogheda called ‘Cumann’. The project was a partnership between Droichead Art Centre and artist Michael McLoughlin. The ambitious artwork involved people from all over Drogheda and the result was a piece of work in Droichead Arts Centre and around the town during Drogheda Arts Festival in 2016.

The word “Cumann” tends to be associated with politics and party branches. The word translates as society, as association, as club, as community, as friendship, as company. Cumann reflects that idea of togetherness that this body of work aims to represent. It celebrates connection between people, which has such importance to the wellbeing of us all.

The new artwork looked at this in the context of active citizenship and belonging.

“I’m really looking forward to starting into this piece of work and particularly exploring the wonderful networks of clubs, groups and associations in the town. The work is people centred, specific to Drogheda and it celebrates community.” says McLoughlin.

For Cumann, Michael recorded audio conversations and connections between people representing society in its broadest sense. His aim was to celebrate friendships, bonds and connections between communities of interest in Drogheda, within it’s surroundings and explore the potentials relationships between them.  McLoughlin’s arts practice involves soundwork, drawings, sculptural objects, video and installations. A recurring element in the work he has made over the last 20 years has focused on what brings groups of people together, what is the connection that drives them, where does the balance between personal relationships, friendships, ideas, ideals or common goals lie. What is the actual common bond? This project was generously funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.