When you meet Conor Moore, you wouldn’t think anxiety was an issue for him. And when you hear that, as a drummer, he has supported artists as big as American singer Kelly Clarkson in Wembley, you don’t think anxiety should be an issue for him.
And, yet, like thousands of Irish people, anxiety has crossed his path and he works hard to manage it. And he’s incorporating one coping strategy – drum therapy – into his new drumming tuition business in Gorey, Co Wexford.
“Drum therapy is where you jam with three or four people at different tempos and feel your heart beat to that rate for 16 bars. It’s very relaxing,” says Conor (24) who has worked as a professional drummer since the age of 17, first with Wexford drumming ensemble Extreme Rhythm and then with bilingual band Seo Linnformed out of the infamous Irish college Colaiste Lurgan.
His interest in drum therapy lies in his own story. “I had stage anxiety and I used drum therapy when I was with Seo Linn. I’d get more nervous in front of 100 people than I would in front of 10,000. I’ve been in gigs where you’d be trying to keep the gig going and I’d forget to breathe or I’d do a wrong note. Then I’d tell the lads to do a slow song and I’d just have to go off stage for three or four minutes to regroup. For me, I thought the last place I’d experience anxiety would be on stage.
“But drum therapy is a great tool and works with people who have anxiety or chronic pain or for teenagers or disadvantaged kids. I can relate to them in terms of the anxiety and pass on my learning. It’s about facing your fear and managing it.”
He’s also keen to introduce people to drum fitness. “I experienced this with Extreme Rhythm in terms of how drumming can keep you fit and it gives you great upper body strength.” He’s currently undertaking training in the US-originated Pound fitness programme – Pound is a cardio jam session inspired by the sweat-dripping fun of playing the drums.
Drumming wasn’t just about making noise for Conor when he was a boy – it was a form of expression. “I had a stammer and felt the only way for me to express myself was naturally,” he says. That phrase – expressing myself – pops up regularly, indicating the importance of it to Conor and, in fact, his authenticity as an artist.
“I’m self-taught in hand percussion instruments, bodhran, and drumming,” he said, “and picked out my own style along the way. I never tried to copy a style and I think that’s what makes you an artist. And, you’re never influenced by whether someone else likes it; if it sounds good to you, go with it. Have faith and confidence in yourself.”
That faith and confidence saw him play with Gorey Pipe Band and come to the attention of his music teacher in Gorey Community School, Roisin Dempsey, a former singer with Celtic Woman, Anuna, and Riverdance. She introduced him to her husband, Nick Bailey, a world-class drummer (ex-Riverdance, Celtic Woman and more). Nick had set up Extreme Rhythm, a band of percussionists, and Conor joined them for a number of years.
Very soon, he was playing with Extreme Rhythm on the Celtic Woman CD, Songs from the Heart, recorded in Powerscourt House and Gardens in 2009.
Other gigs followed, including Kelly Clarkson and the X Factor. “Kelly Clarkson can sell out an arena in 10 minutes. Wembley takes 16,000 people, the 3 Arena 8,000 and they were some experiences. The hair stands up at the back of your neck and you just have to relax and enjoy it.”
Not surprisingly, he was noticed and got a call from Colaiste Lurgan to work on theBeo video in 2012. The following year, Conor was invited back to contribute to the creativity and choreography for the Avicii track. “That got one million hits on YouTube in under a week.” A Late Late Show appearance followed, Seo Linn was formed, they needed a drummer and he was off again …
Gigs followed in Boston, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, and Belfast to name just a few venues. “I wasn’t an Irish speaker so I treated this like a classroom and I can hold my own now in conversations with Irish speakers!”
And, yet, here he is at 24, setting off on another chapter, taking another risk, starting his own business, Sound Out Rhythm. This is a service that provides tuition, workshops, seminars, performance, and advice on all things rhythmical including drums, bodhran, cajon (boom box), djembe, snare drum and all other hand percussion.
“I always dreamed of being my own boss and I have a way with teaching children and speaking. People say it’s a risk, but I get a thrill out of succeeding – this is about doing what I want to do.”
Now, he is his own competition – “I’m the one setting the bar. I don’t think there are any limits.”
This feature first appeared on AboutRealPeople.com