Paul Noonan (Bell X1)

Bell X1’s Singer/Songwriter, Paul Noonan

Mike Fitzpatrick Interviews Bell X1’s Singer/Songwriter Paul Noonan

You’ll not see Bell X1’s singer/songwriter Paul Noonan on ‘American Idol’, performing an a cappella version of ‘Like A Virgin’, for the amusement of three insanely wealthy ‘talent’ spotters and an audience starved for entertainment.

Nor will you witness the band’s rhythm section, Dominic Philips and Tim O’Donovan, parade their newly toned physiques, as they stroll in full view along the celebrity-filled beaches of Saint Tropez, desperately avoiding the paparazzi.

As for guitarists David Geraghty and Brian Crosby, well, there are relatively few opportunities to catch a glimpse of either of these two particular axemen falling out of a Hollywood nightclub, with Lindsay, Paris, Britney, or even Dame Judi in tow. It’s not that the Bell X1 boys don’t want to, it’s just, well, they’re a tad busy these days.

The old rock star lifestyle is so much more than just throwing televisions from hotel rooms, driving cars into swimming pools and wearing enormous trousers you see.

Were it not for the usual band business to attend to, such as North American tours, writing, rehearsing and recording new material, dealing with music industry types, interacting with their loyal legions of fans and escaping with their lives as their tour bus goes up in flames (seriously), well, it’s possible that that this act from eastern Ireland (that’s right), would misbehave with the best of them.

With the band having recently embarked upon another successful tour of the US, following a brief jaunt stateside earlier this year, things continue looking up for the guys. Appearances on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’, ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’, ‘The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson’, as well as several radio slots and a live performance on MTV Canada added to their embryonic Stateside fame, and within days of the Letterman show in particular, US gigs started to sell out.

Their songs have been featured on hit shows such as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘The O.C.’, and such were the audience reactions towards their guest appearances, that it’ll not be so surprising to witness Bell X1 appearing on a late night chat show near you in the coming weeks.

Having suffered several teething problems last time around, the airline misplacing their luggage and instruments, the tour bus going up in flames outside a hotel in Boston, while Noonan and Geraghty were nearby (thankfully the guys escaped unscathed), this time around, things have gone so much smoother.

With three albums; 2000’s ‘Neither Am I’, ‘Music in Mouth’ (2003) and the chart-topping ‘Flock’ (2005), behind them, the guys continue to develop their ever widening fanbase, all the while wowing the critics with their versatility.

We caught up with the band’s lead singer Paul Noonan recently, as he and the band were on their way to another sold out show in Boston.

Mike Fitzpatrick (MF): It’s been quite an eventful year for Bell X1 in the US, with appearances on Letterman, Craig Ferguson, and now an extensive tour, how’s the American adventure been going this time around?
Paul Noonan (PN): It’s taken off in a great way. Especially in New York. Back in January we played in Joe’s Pub, then in March we played the Bowery. Now we’re playing in Irving Plaza. Just how we’ve been embraced, we’ve wanted to tour the US since we started out, and the reason we’ve come back so soon is, we still have that hunger. We’re touring all over this time around. People sometimes say that the record’s over two years old in Ireland, but it’s still fresh here, people are still coming to the album, things are just starting off for us here in the US.

“Touring has given us such a good chance to see the world, especially places like Nashville, a city where so much good music has come from.”

MF: You’ve quite a following in the US, particularly in cities with strong Irish connections, such as New York and Boston. This tour, you’ll be taking in Maryland, West Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee, what does that hold in store for the band?
PN: We’re really looking forward to it. Hopefully, there’ll be plenty of people there to see us. Touring has given us such a good chance to see the world, especially places like Nashville, a city where so much good music has come from.

MF: When Bell X1 started out, as all bands do, you performed many cover versions. Is there ever a time on stage where you just launch into a favorite track from your youth?
PN: Yes definitely, and we do regularly! I have a tendency to break into something, occasionally in the middle of another song. (Tracks such as) ‘Enjoy the Silence’ by Depeche Mode, ‘Boys of Summer’ by Don Henley, and sometimes Talking Heads, I really enjoy their approach to music.

MF: You mentioned the last time we spoke, that Radiohead were one of your favorite acts. How did you feel about their recent decision to allow fans to name their price for their latest album?
PN: I really loved the idea. It’s something that generated a great debate. It really questioned the whole value of music. The fact that you can still get stuff for free, it hasn’t devalued music. I admire so much what they do.

MF: Speaking of all things online, you’re quite the blogger. Is that something you enjoy doing, or is it merely part of the job?
PN: It’s something I enjoy, I enjoy writing, and knowing that there’s an audience for it. It makes me feel as if I’ve enjoyed a tour, writing about it afterwards.

MF: After you’ve completed a tour, or a series of recording sessions, what happens when you return home to Dublin?
PN: Well, we never really switch off. It’s great in a way, it’s not that type of job. We’re always writing or recording. It’s what we want to do, what we’ve always wanted to do.

MF: How is the Irish music scene these days, is it an exciting time for new artists?
PN: It’s always been good, there are great things happening (there). Lots of bands are creating great music. There’s Cathy Davey (for example), who’s got a fantastic record out, so hopefully it’ll happen for her. In New York City, we have Gemma Hayes supporting us, she played with us as far back as 1999 in Dublin, and I play drums for her on occasion.

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