Singer, songwriter and Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan takes to the National Concert Hall stage on June 5 for the second installment of the National Concert Hall's NCH Livestream Series.

Below, he talks about the many different facets of his career, his relationship with the NCH plus life during lockdown...

What are your first musical memories and what music affected you at an early age?

We had lots of 45s in the house; Boney-M's double A-side of Brown Girl In The Ring and By The Rivers Of Babylon, Nicole’s Eurovision winning A Little Peace, Charlie Pride records and The Beatles. My first musical memory is playing kazoo to Supertramp’s It’s Raining Again. 

 You started writing songs in your teens - who were your influences at this time?

Oh, all the feels…and R.E.M., The Sundays, The Christians, Sting… sorry! 

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 You started out as a drummer and then became a frontman. Was it a difficult transition?

I had nothing to lose but my chains! There was some awkwardness, for sure, I remember feeling very exposed without the drums and chrome and cymbals to get behind. But I loved singing and being able to wander and engage with everyone. 

Bell X1 have enjoyed huge success since forming over 20 years ago. What is your proudest moment?

Keeping it together for that long! Also, getting letters and emails from people for whom we are one of the bands that they fell in love with music through. I remember the intensity of my own falling for music, and to think that we might be part of someone else’s is very sweet

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You started Printer Clips in 2011. What was the thinking behind the project and can we expect another release?

At the time, the band were making very involved recordings, with many layers and colours and smells (?!). I saw a Gillian Welch show and was floored by the simplicity of two voices and two guitars. I wrote some songs that I saw working like this, and asked some amazing female singers to record with me. It was tremendously refreshing to take photographs of the songs played simply and live and leave them at that. I would love to do more, for sure! 

In 2016 you curated Starboard Home as part of the 2016 Centenary commemorations. How did you approach the task and what was the biggest challenge?

The project was such a joy, really. To speak to such an evocative thing as the place of Dublin’s port and river in the city was something that artists readily embraced. We spoke a lot about it before making the music and improvised as a house band around the theme before tackling songs that the writers brought. I think this gave the record a coherence and a consistent palette. 

The fact that we made an album of the songs, as well as a concert, meant that it lives on, and I suppose a challenge was making both of those things work. 

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You have had a lengthy relationship with the National Concert Hall. In addition to the above, you co-curated Imagining Ireland in 2018 and have performed in the venue numerous times. What does the NCH mean to you? What do you enjoy most about performing here?

Yep, I’ve been lucky enough to have been a writer in residence on the Writers Bloc at NCH. It’s great the way the Hall has been reaching out to the creative community like this and going forward I think this will continue to help in broadening its audience. 

I was a member of the Lucan Concert Band as a child and teenager and we would play a Christmas concert every year at NCH. Much excitement! 

It’s been a great connector for me - Bell X1 met the composer and violinist Éna Brennan through the Hall, and we’ve been playing shows with her Dowry strings for a couple of years now and are working on new material together. I’ve also recorded with Thomas Bartlett of The Gloaming in the building when the band have been in town for shows 

What was your thinking behind the selection of pieces for your upcoming performance? 

It’s hard to avoid songs taking on new or enhanced significance at ‘this time’ and there are tunes that have certainly done that for me. I think the trick will be in finding the balance between embracing this and speaking to what we’re going through and escaping from it for moments of relief. 

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As we are all faced with adapting to new circumstances and overcoming challenges, what has given you most solace and comfort during this time? 

The essential goodness of people, mostly. That and the odd socially distanced drink and actual facetime in the front garden of an evening.

Are you reading anything interesting at the moment? 

The #BrokenRecord campaign on Twitter, around addressing the unfairness of how music streaming revenue is distributed. With live music gone, this has become a hugely more pressing issue.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Real Emotional Girl - Randy Newman

Love$ick - Mura Masa Featuring. A$ap Rocky 

Something Has to Change – The Japanese House 

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What experience are you most looking forward to when restrictions are lifted or when we get to other side of the pandemic?

Oh lordy, a chaotic wider-family meal, trips to see friends and playing music with/to people in the same room. 

Paul Noonan plays on Friday, June 5th at 7.30 pm - watch it live here on RTÉ Culture.