There have been many stories in 2021 about how lockdown helped creatives reassess and reengage with their artform.
Keelan Cunningham never expected to be amongst their number.
It was more than 10 years since he last picked up a guitar to write, but being stuck in the house forced the artist who has started anew as Keelan X to return to his Fender Telecaster.
Hailing from Dublin but now based in London, Cunningham once had a promising music career as part of mid-1990s Irish trio The Marigolds.
Ultimately, they went unsigned by major record labels and the members each went their own way.
Almost 25 years later, Cunningham, under the name Keelan X, is making his solo debut with the single ‘No Fall of Rome’.
It’s still a side project for the man who became a highly successful property consultant in between musical stints, but it is hugely enjoyable.
Essentially, the song is about defiance, particularly in the face of what has happened in the last 18 months.
Keelan said: “No Fall of Rome was born out of a conversation I’ve had with friends who were at times struggling, juxtaposed with the idea of Rome as a symbol for one’s life.”
He added: “I’d seen people in different life-stages entertaining giving up on themselves a bit, blunted by life’s challenges – letting their earlier hopes and dreams slip.
“I liked the metaphor of Rome and your life as having all the attributes of a city and hypothesising that there ain’t no fall of Rome gonna happen on my watch.”
If the inspiration sounds a little negative, then fear not, the song itself definitely isn’t.
Keelan’s guitar work is splendid at creating a sharp, emotional feel and fits well in the contemporary indie rock market, resembling the likes of Blossoms.
The vocal performance is also tight and balanced, with a memorable emphasis on the line that gives the track its title.
Production is excellent throughout, not missing any chance to make the most of Cunningham’s experience in the field whilst also updating his sound.
Lyrically, there could be slightly more depth to proceedings to make audiences keep coming back, and repetition is a slight issue as the song fades out.
Overall, though, it’s an entirely praiseworthy debut that very few artists with a lengthy industry absence would be capable of.
Accompanied by a video that features a trio of young characters living life to the fullest, Keelan’s return to music is a brilliant story.
He is clearly a talented and heartfelt songwriter, with a precise artistic vision.
With more releases on the horizon, hopefully he can continue in that exact vein.
‘No Fall of Rome’ is available now on all major digital streaming platforms, while Keelan X’s debut album is set to be released in Spring 2022.
Feature Image Credit: Quite Great PR