Dublin-based folk singer Gar Cox has just released his new single “Too Late for Christmas”. An alternative to standard festive fare, “Too Late for Christmas” is about Christmas among the Irish diaspora. Gar, who’s been playing since the mid-1990s, knows the subject first hand, having spent extended periods living abroad in Europe and the U.K., before returning to Ireland a few years ago.
Here he talks about his favourite Christmases, his favourite Christmas songs, and why there’s nowhere else like a gay bar on Christmas eve…
Would you describe your song, “Too Late for Christmas”, as a “Christmas song”?
I’d say it’s more a song about Christmas. It’s not really about the “ho ho ho” Christmas, but about how people actually feel at this time of year, and how it sometimes makes them think about their place in the world.
Is that why there are no sleigh bells?
Well, that’s mostly because I’m notoriously uncoordinated, and if I’d been put on percussion somebody might have ended up getting injured!
Not many songs about Christmas are specific to the experiences of a particular group. Your own song is unusual because it’s about Christmas for the Irish diaspora. Do you think this is a particularly relevant subject right now?
There’s a poignancy about being Irish that stems from our terribly screwed up, abusive history. What makes us unique and separates us from other countries and identities isn’t the ability to drink lots or to have the craic – it’s the thinly veiled sadness that we all carry, wherever we go. I suppose my song is about the memory of an idealized Christmas that people take with them when they leave home. Christmas is a time to reflect, but sometimes the memory we reflect on is an ideal memory, because the real one maybe isn’t what we’d want it to be.
You’ve been a member of the diaspora yourself. What are some of your memories of spending Christmas abroad?
I’ve spent many Christmases away from home; some were great and some were terrible. When I lived in Edinburgh, every Christmas day we would climb Arthur’s Seat, which is the giant volcanic plug in the middle of Hollywood Park. Paris has a beautiful secular numb coldness at Christmas –.the shops are closed for one day but the Alimentation stores and Chinese restaurants are open. Also, the most beautifully wrapped presents I’ve ever bought were from a bookshop in Paris.
Do you have any unusual Christmas traditions?
I have a few traditions at Christmas, but I suppose my most unusual is “The Gay Bar Christmas Eve”. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, from Boston to Brighton, there is such a melancholic beauty and comradeship in a gay bar on Christmas eve. There’s a commonality of exclusion, of people coming together who don’t always have somewhere else to go and feel welcome – like the little person in Habana in Edinburgh who always reminded me of my Aunt Trudy, or a drag queen Santa Claus on roller-skates I met in a tiny corner bar in Brussels. People are careful of each other in gay bars at Christmas – there’s an understanding that “this is what we have, let’s make the best of it”.
What are your musical plans for the New Year?
I’m having a wonderful and very exciting time finishing an EP that I’ll be releasing in February. It’s short, tidy and workable, so I’m planning to play it all over the country. I’m looking forward to getting out to West Clare and all those crazy places. After that, it’ll be on to my album in the summer.
Gar Cox’s “Too Late for Christmas” is out now on iTunes.