Will Sheff “Tommy McHugh” – bad things lead, perversely, to good

Photo: Bret Curry

Will Sheff – of Okkervil River – released his debut solo album last year which, to be honest and rather unsurprisingly, sounded quite like Okkervil River.  He’s following that up now with a double A-sided single, of which ‘Tommy McHugh‘ is one A-side.

Will Sheff explains the song and the new release: “To celebrate my upcoming tour of Europe and the United Kingdom, I’m proud to announce a new double-sided single featuring two songs that were recorded for Nothing Special but which both felt like little worlds unto themselves, so I set them aside to shine together.   For the first of these songs, ‘Tommy McHugh,’ I was beyond honoured to sing with the brilliant Bridget St. John, whose music I have treasured for a long time.  

Written with Christian Lee Hutson, ‘Tommy McHugh’ is a song based on a real person who grew up in in Liverpool. As a young man, he was involved in theft and violent crime and did some time in prison. And then, at age 51, he suffered a massive haemorrhage on both sides of his brain. After a week in a coma, McHugh woke up to discover that he had a compulsive urge to paint and to speak in rhyme. He also found that his personality had changed. In his own words:  “I wasn’t the person they were telling me who I was. I wasn’t the Tommy McHugh they knew… My head was full of rhymes and images and pictures… I’ll paint three or six nine pictures at a time. Canvasses became too costly, so I started painting the ceilings and the wallpaper and the floor. I can’t stop painting and sculpting. It’s like Mount Etna exploding… I like what I’m being, what I am. I’m happy being the Tommy I am now, not the Tommy people remember. Whatever happened inside my brain I find it absolutely fantastic.”  McHugh went on to open a gallery in Birkenhead for amateur artists suffering from illness. Shortly before his 2012 death from cancer, he commented, “My two strokes have given me 11 years of a magnificent adventure.””

The UK tour dates are at the end of this month:

Mon 27 Nov – Bush Hall – London
Tue 28 Nov – St Mary’s Centre – Chester
Wed 29 Nov – Clwb Ifor Bach – Cardiff
Thu 30 Nov – The Cornish Bank – Falmouth

About Jonathan Aird 2746 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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