This is Nick from Music for the Head and Heart and I’m with Brian Cullen and Sarah Mulvee in Nagoya.

Brian Cullen:                    Japan.

Sarah Mulvey                   Japan.

Nick:                                  In Japan, would you believe? How does an Irishman and…

Sarah Mulvey                   Canadian.

Nick:                                  Canadian? How did you end up doing music and other things in Japan?

Brian Cullen:                    Well, one night, an Irishman went into a bar…

Sarah Mulvey                   Into a pub.

Brian Cullen:                    Into a pub, yeah.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah, that’s right.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah, I was playing in this Irish pub. And then Sarah came in.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah, I just walked in. I’d been here for about a month and my friend and I were looking for a pub to walk into, just to have a beer or drink and checked it online. The first one that came up was called Bumfee’s Pub in a neighbourhood called [inaudible 00:00:01:03], and we could walk there. So I said, let’s walk in. And there he was, he was playing.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah, and I was playing with this piano player and I saw Sarah over and I said, she’s cute. And he goes, get me another pint. So I got Sarah, he got his pint.

Nick:                                  So you’re here in the Nagoya, and I know that you wrote a musical, for God’s sake. Was this a year or two years ago?

Sarah Mulvey                   It’s almost three now.

Brian Cullen:                    Three years ago, yeah.

Sarah Mulvey                   It’s almost 3 years ago.

Nick:                                  Which sounds incredibly ambitious.

Brian Cullen:                    It was a lot of work, yeah. And the idea was in my head for over 20 years and then eventually I got enough songs together, and it was a local group, and they were looking for stuff. And so I went and pitched it to them and they were all enthusiastic.

Sarah Mulvey                   Got a director and a producer and then…

Brian Cullen:                    It was a big thing. I mean, it was a cast of what, about 20 in the cast and then there were dancers and a troupe of dancers, and then you’ve got your lights and on your sound. You’ve got a live band onstage. It’s a huge thing.

Sarah Mulvey                   It took a year to prepare with rehearsals and everything.

Nick:                                  Wow.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah. The amount of work involved in these things is colossal.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah.

Brian Cullen:                    It was fun. I won’t be rushing to do it again.

Nick:                                  There’s not going to be the part two version?

Sarah Mulvey                   No.

Brian Cullen:                    Well, I was thinking maybe in another 25 years.

Sarah Mulvey                   That sounds about right.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah. Yeah.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah.

Nick:                                  So as well as writing for that, you have an album which is out.

Brian Cullen:                    Yep.

Nick:                                  Almost out.

Brian Cullen:                    Almost out.

Nick:                                  Which is Bubbles.

Sarah Mulvey                   Bubbles.

Nick:                                  And tell us something about the writing and recording process for that.

Brian Cullen:                    Bubbles.

Sarah Mulvey                   Bubbles. Yeah. We found a producer here in Nagoya. His name is Nigel, Nigel Grover. And we approached him and we said, we have this idea, Brian has a bunch of original songs. What do you think? Can you put them together? And he’s like, let’s do it. And in Japan there’s a week called golden week, and it’s five straight days of holiday. So we camped out here in this living room.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah, this room.

Sarah Mulvey:                  We set it up, all the equipment was here and we just pretty much stayed here for five days and recorded and that’s what came out of it. And we have the release party on Saturday.

Nick:                                  Wow.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah. We’ve got… What do we have? We have 12 songs on it. We recorded 13 but that would be an unlucky number, so we decided one of them didn’t make the cut. We’ve got one traditional song, one the old blues song, Frankie and Johnny, all the rest are original. And some of the songs date back over 20 years or more. And some of them… Bubbles itself…

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah, Bubbles was kind of an organic.

Brian Cullen:                    That was kind of an organic song that developed during the process. We had a great bunch of musicians. We had this cello player… Cello player, Ashley, she’s got a cello and it’s 250 years old. It’s glorious.

Sarah Mulvey                   She came and brought it in here and it just filled up the room. I don’t know, there’s there’s an open concept here. You probably can’t see that, but it’s open. And then she just goes… And it was just beautiful.

Nick:                                  So did he have an idea for the instruments you wanted beforehand and you sort of thought, okay, who do I know who can do this, this and this?

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah, pretty much. We’ve got a mandolin fiddler player on it called [inaudible 00:04:31]. I played with him for 20 almost 30 years now, and he was definite. Our producer does bass and percussion, and then the other main player was Dave Freeman.

Sarah Mulvey                   Dave Freeman on piano.

Brian Cullen:                    These are all remarkable musicians.

Sarah Mulvey                   These longterm Nagoya musicians, they’ve been here years and just… yeah.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah, I mean, Dave plays, he plays six nights a week in clubs. That’s what he does.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah.

Brian Cullen:                    So for him it’s just instinct. He comes in and just play the thing.

Nick:                                  So what’s your, with the writing material, is it… do you start with lyrics and then music or music then lyrics, or does it depend upon the actual track?

Brian Cullen:                    It can be either. I mean it tends to be a phrase, some kind of like phrase, a linguistic phrase that catches my ear and a couple of words. And then words, they naturally have a rhythm in themselves and then it’s so easy to add a melody to it.

Sarah Mulvey                   Then sometimes it’s environment. We were in Okinawa a few years ago and then the waves were crashing and we could hear them, and then all these things came together and suddenly we had a song. We had the foundations for it, but it was the sights, the sounds and all that came together too to say, yeah, this could really work.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah. I did my PhD on songwriting and I spent six years researching song writers. It’s a fascinating area, but it really just comes down to you’ve just got to do it and everything is a stimulus. It’s the people who are willing to suspend the editing process and just get on and actually create something. And then go back and…

Sarah Mulvey                   Did you se the Elton John movie?

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah.

Sarah Mulvey                   Elton John wanted to know how to write songs. He was asking that musicians travelling around with him, and what did the musician say to them?

Brian Cullen:                    Oh, he said I want to be a songwriter. How can I be a songwriter? And then the black singer says, well maybe you should write some songs.

Sarah Mulvey                   Isn’t that right?

Brian Cullen:                    And that’s all it comes down to. People make much more work out of it than it needs to be. Anything is a stimulus.

Nick:                                  Well, let’s hear something from you guys. What are you going to start off with?

Brian Cullen:                    Why don’t we do Life’s Sweet Surprise?

Sarah Mulvey                   Sure.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah?

Sarah Mulvey                   Sounds good.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah.

Sarah Mulvey                   We’ll do that.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah. This is the song I wrote on banjo years ago and like I say, it’s a stimulus. I don’t really like the banjo. I picked it up about three times and every time I played it, it would lead to a song, and this is one of them.

Sarah Mulvey                   The pic’s in there.

Brian Cullen:                    Oh, yeah.

Sarah Mulvey                   This one, it’s kind of a sweet one. It’s the one that starts the whole album and it was Nigel who decided to put this at the front. He thought it’d be a good way to open up the album or is it too much changing on the tuning there?

Brian Cullen:                    Oh, its okay. It’ll take a second to retune, but Sarah will tell you a joke.

Sarah Mulvey                   Well, I think one of the things about this album is that you might have noticed the last song we sang, it’s quite positive and Brian has a real knack for using positive language in his songwriting. And it started way back when. How old were you when you started song writing? 16, 17?

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah, I wrote this one when I was maybe 19.

Sarah Mulvey                   19 years old, and you can see the seeds for that really positive way of thinking were planted way back then, and he unearths these songs. Sometimes he’ll bring up one even now and I’ll go, where did that come from? It’s like, well, it was in my mind when I was 20, 21, 22. Wow. It’s great.

Nick:                                  For a 25 year old guy, and he doesn’t look that old, does he?

Sarah Mulvey                   Oh, I know, right?

Brian Cullen:                    I know, but I have the value of two 25 year old guys.

Sarah Mulvey                   This Saturday.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah, it is actually. Our album release is on Saturday and it’s also my 50th birthday party.

Nick:                                  Great.

Brian Cullen:                    So anybody listening, I don’t mind if the presents are late. You can still send them, honestly. Or you can just buy a CD.

Nick:                                  And if people want to hear about your music, what’s the best site or place to go to?

Brian Cullen:                    We’re doing the whole digital release in the next few days. So it’ll be available on Apple music, Google music, Spotify, all the major streaming services. Whatever you listen to, it’s probably up there.

Nick:                                  And they’re going to search for what?

Brian Cullen:                    Oh, they’re going to search for Brian Cullen and Sarah Mulvey, Bubbles.

Sarah Mulvey                   Bubbles. And we also have in brackets there, Brian Cullen, Sarah Mulvey and Some Cats from Japan. Some people might get that reference, but those cats, they were the people who really helped us. They came to play cello, like we said, they came in this room and they really made this album what it is. So the cats from Japan are very important too.

Nick:                                  Right.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah. Sara was big David Bowie fan. That’s kind of a David Bowie reference.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah, it is.

Brian Cullen:                    This is in a standard tuning. Recently, I don’t play in standard tuning very often, but I think I remember.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah, this one’s called You are my Song, written by a much younger Brian. But being 50 in Japan also means that Brian has spent almost 30 years here. You came here when you were 21, correct?

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah. I’ve been in Japan longer than I’ve been in Ireland or anywhere else. Yeah. In fact, we spent some time back in Europe last year. It’s nice and all. But Japan is…

Sarah Mulvey                   But it’s good to come back to Japan.

Brian Cullen:                    But we love it here.

Sarah Mulvey                   Japan is home.

Brian Cullen:                    Japan is home, yeah. Things work here.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yeah.

Brian Cullen:                    Yeah.

Nick:                                  Well, I can definitely endorse that.

Sarah Mulvey                   Yes.


Nick:                                  Thank you very much for being on

Brian Cullen:                    Thank you.

Sarah Mulvey                   Thank you.

Brian Cullen:                    Bubbles.

Nick:                                  And look out for the album, Bubbles.

Brian Cullen:                    Thank you very much.