Local, award winning Irish-American artist John Munnelly wants to make you laugh about the biting social issues of our times.
And his newly-recorded song about living in gentrifying Brooklyn gets at the heart of this mission. The song is a witty, “a gluten free, Non GMO, facial-haired, skinny-jean, grass fed, free range musical hipster romp,” according to reviewers. And there’s a lyrical line devoted just to Ditmas Park.
The song’s protagonist is a transplant from Ohio who loves artisinal beer, kale chips, and fixed-gear bikes. Oh, and they’re gratefully accepting rent money from the ‘rents.
“I like to have an intelligent wit, if possible, in my songs. In the Brooklyn song, I wanted to perform about the troupes of our life, about the things that are trendy for this moment but next year they won’t be trendy. These little metaphors, like kale chips, are signifiers. I can say a lot with a little, like a compressed narrative, and make them laugh.”
Munnelly moved to New York from Ireland in 2003, and was drawn to Ditmas Park because it was where he launched his American musical career 10 years prior, at the old Cornerstone Bar on Cortelyou Road (now the home of Manchego Wine and Tapas Bar.)
B.R.O.O.K.L.Y.N. straddles the pop-electronic-folk genre. “There are electronic parts, acoustic parts, and it’s comedy which makes it a pop song,” he said. “There’s lots of beeps and blips that have a glitchy feel, and textured layers of noises that are less predominant in folk music.”
Munnelly’s brand of mischievous humor originates from his Irish heritage. “We were a colonized country for a thousand years,” he says of Ireland, “We had to find a way to say what we had to say without getting too much revenge. Humor is a good way to say stuff that you can’t say straight out to somebody. There can be a crossover where you can use humor to be subversive.”
Munelly’s mother encouraged him to write funny songs because laughter leaves a stronger impression than anger. “She was my best audience,” Munnelley said of his mother, who passed away in November. “I’d send her demos and the strangest songs would pique her interest.”
Like many artistic breakthroughs, B.R.O.O.K.L.Y.N. was inspired while Munnelly was idling, in this case sitting on his sofa watching a movie. “I discover things in the writing that I didn’t know,” he says about songwriting. “Part of it is art, skill, craft, and pure inspiration — being in the right place at the right time.”
But part of being an artist is knowing how to harness the spritely muse. “I always have a notebook nearby,” he said. “I’d freak out if I left the house without a pen.”
This isn’t Munnelly’s first musical accomplishment. In 2009, he won the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award for a recession-themed song The Unemployment Blues — a modern response to the anthem of the Great Depression, ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’
On releasing ‘B.R.O.O.K.L.Y.N.’ Munnelly says, “It’s scary to let your stuff out in the world but it has to be done. Like all pieces of art, I have to put it out there and let it live on its own.”
You can support ‘Brooklyn’ by playing, downloading, and sharing the video with family and friends. Follow more of Munnelly’s artistic exploits by signing up for his mailing list here or checking out his website.