You can sum up the journey of Seán McGowan, the son of the smith, with the title of his first EP on Xtra Mile: Graft & Grief. Work and stress. Life at the anvil and hammer, bearing the brunt of life’s weight. Since 2009 he’s been at that grindstone, gathering stories and carving melodies while working late nights in bars between shows armed with just an acoustic guitar. Somehow the perpetual “new artist”, even as others adorned with that title come and go, and Seán is still at it allowing the songs to pour forth like the finest lager.
It wasn’t until he spent time (starting in 2015) touring with rum-fuelled punk-folk sextet and now-labelmates Skinny Lister – a riotous test of your touring mettle, however long you’ve been on the road – that Seán felt ready to tackle the hard work, to keep at his craft. It was the confidence boost and the inspiration he needed to plough into his songwriting and keep touring.
With deep family ties to London’s Shepherd’s Bush area, a stint living in Camberwell while recording Graft & Grief in 2017, and coming from an Irish family – whose name translates to his debut album title, Son of the Smith – his voice is one of authentic young working class Britain. Whether in the lyrics of his songs or the aspirations he holds, even his musical influences ranging from Mike Skinner of The Streets, Kate Tempest and grime to Billy Bragg, Seán has more to say about ordinary people than a lot of singer-songwriters of his age and standing.