Photo by Jack Madeley

As Vancouver locked down and the city was lulled into a slumber, Irish singer-songwriter Paul Caldwell turned to his guitar and his post-it notes filled with lyrics and started writing. With a complete global shut down Caldwell had the time to pause, reflect, and put together his stunning EP, Headlines. The EP is composed of songs he had written pre-pandemic and new tracks that were inspired by the pandemic. 

The title track, “Headlines” was a track that came to Caldwell during the pandemic. “Headlines” tells the story of two boys, from Caldwell’s hometown in Ireland, that were killed in the Omagh bombing in 1998. The bombing is a visceral memory for Caldwell but not something he has been able to put into words until now.

“I think what made me write this song now was the overwhelming feeling of the unknown that COVID brought was the same stark feeling I felt back in 1998. That feeling that comes with reading the paper, seeing the headlines and knowing that things will never be the same,” says Caldwell.

Headlines follows an emotional arc that reflects the seven stages of grief. One deeply emotional track is “Fire of Hope.” It tells a personal story about Caldwell’s friend who was brutally murdered while travelling. The track explores the second last stage of grief, depression, and the scars that it leaves behind.  Following this, the last stage of grief is acceptance and this is told in the final track “Written All Over my Heart.” It’s a groovy, modern jazz track that is a jubilation for love. The song speaks to the imprint that people can leave on you whether they are by your side or are no longer here.

“There is a word in Portuguese, ‘Saudade,’ that means a longing for something or someone and the feeling that the object of that longing might never be had again. But with that emptiness, there is also the need to be hopeful for the future. So, “Saudade” describes both hope for a happy future in honour of what has happened in the past,” says Caldwell.  

Caldwell’s past and growing up in Buncrana (a small town in County Donegal, Ireland) has greatly influenced this EP. Up until he was 19, Caldwell was always in the crowd during shows, not on stage. That all changed when he first picked up the guitar and started to pick out his favourite tunes of Rory Gallagher. As a self-taught guitar player, Caldwell has a unique playing and writing style. It’s a style that allows his soul to pour through the strings and makes his songwriting so visceral.  

Leaving Buncrana when he was 20 and moving to Liverpool then onto Vancouver when he was 25, Caldwell brings not only his luggage with him but a collection of stories and memories of people he has met along his travels. Caldwell has the ability to bring the story of one land into the landscape of another. Seamlessly blending the soul of traditional Irish ballads with the nuances of Canadian folk. Caldwell’s EP Headlines is deeply emotional and subtly evokes nostalgia, heartache, and hope.   

Headlines was recorded by Jeff Zipp at Light Machine Records in Vancouver. It comes out on October 16th on all streaming platforms.