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Kevin Walsh’s Emotional Rendition of a Meat Loaf Classic.

As a major Meat Loaf fan, I grasped at the opportunity to speak with Kevin Walsh… who is probably a bigger one than me. Kevin Walsh has a fair set of pipes on him and he sure knows how to put them to good use. In his latest release, Kevin Walsh dedicates his own rendition of “Not A Dry Eye In The House” to the late and great Meat Loaf.

Upon listening I just knew I had to speak with Kevin as the emotion and dedication to the legendary artist is evident from beginning to end. The music video matches the energy and in classic Meat Loaf style is as dramatic as his performances.

You can read an exclusive Void interview with Kevin Walsh below!

Not a Dry Eye in the House is a cover song. It was written by Diane Warren and it was originally recorded by Meat Loaf for his 1995 album Welcome to the Neighbourhood. It was one of the very first Meat Loaf videos I came across. I am autistic and was non-verbal as a child so my way of communicating was to watch MTV for hours on end (back when they actually did music!) and just hum along with the songs. The videos of the day were these sweeping, epic narratives. Most special of all was Not a Dry Eye in the House by Meat Loaf.

It’s this big, breakup power ballad where the protagonist compares their lost relationship to a theatrical play or movie. And it’s filled with these metaphors throughout: “The scene has changed… It was almost like a movie… After love’s curtain comes down,” stuff like that. Then you get to the bridge where the stages of the relationship are summarised in acts.

I’m perhaps only realising this now but even as a child, what drew me to Meat Loaf even then was that he radiated difference. He stood out automatically. He was a little bit older and a little bit heavier-set than the other people whose videos you’d see on the television. There was just that extra edge, that extra bit of visceral emotion coming out of him. When he sings that opening stanza, you can literally feel him crying, such is the expressiveness of his voice. Then you have the video. The image I remember most striking out to me is this beautiful, pale dark haired girl. Her jealous ex-lover appears to her and runs a sword through her, all while the music swells into this big crescendo with this moving piano hook that sounds like a mixture of Aladdin and Eastenders. And you have Meat Loaf all alone in an abandoned cinema watching this. I just wanted to watch that video all the time.

So I’ve been a lifelong fan ever since. As I got older and started communicating, I started connecting more and more with the music. I didn’t want to just watch the video anymore. I wanted to be the video. To sing it. Live it. Feel it. Know every little snare drum fill and every passing little chord change.

Every Meat Loaf single and album that came out afterwards, I could mark with a significant milestone in my life. Couldn’t Have Said It Better came out as I was entering the teenage years. Bat Out of Hell III came out when I went from special needs school into mainstream school. Hell in a Handbasket came out when I started college. Braver Than We Are came out as I was going through my first really bad breakup. So the songs are very much a cornerstone of my life. The morning I got the email that my Masters thesis had been accepted for recommendation, Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through was playing on the radio at exactly the same time. So there were always these little moments, I’ve so many I can mention.

So about how Not a Dry Eye in the House came to be artistically for me, it was a song I always wanted to sing and make my own of. However, it’s such a driven, powerful song with a wide vocal range, just under two octaves, that you can’t sing it as an untrained person.

without it hurting. I knew I needed to train. It wasn’t going to work otherwise. So I went to MTU Cork School Of Music to get my music degree and to train vocally. Took a side road from rock for a bit and got very into musical theatre, acted in several local productions semi-professionally in around Cork. Not unlike Meat Loaf actually come to think of it. I did everything I could, local musicals, opera choruses, whatever showcases I could get into. I even did a little bit of film. My notion during those years is I wanted to be a musical theatre actor. Musical theatre is very type-set however, most roles are built around these archetypes and unless you fit very clearly into one or the other, it’s not easy. And even if you do, it still isn’t easy. So what are you supposed to do? I was trying to find some way to make it work for me. Then Covid hit.

I had other interests like songwriting and such, but I’m very stubborn like a dog with a bone. Because musical theatre wasn’t working, I was more determined to make it work so I could defy the archetypes associated with it, but I was just getting more and more frustrated. I’m going through the pandemic in no-man’s land, with the feeling that I haven’t found the groove to fit me musically and probably never will at that stage. I was pretty much resigned to fate. However, by chance, this online comic convention comes up with virtual meet-and-greets, and Meat Loaf is one of the attendees. I had a notion of going to see him at a convention in London that year, but again Covid, plus you’re talking at least a grand. Now I get to meet him from the comfort of my bunker for under a hundred.

We get talking. Ireland was one of Meat Loaf’s favourite places to play. He actually played just about anywhere and everywhere in Ireland in the late 80s / early 90s, those years in between Bat Out of Hell and I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That). Like, if you mention Meat Loaf to any of the sound engineers here in Cork, they’d either have worked or knew someone who did sound for him at those events. I bought my very first microphone off a guy who did sound for a Meat Loaf concert at a little sports hall called Neptune Stadium. That was Meat’s intro. I had a lot of posters up from musicals and various other bits I had done over the years and those could be seen in my webcam. “What are those about?” he asks.

I explain like a good little fan. Shows I’d acted in, one benefit musical I even had a song I’d written in it, a song called Hot Air Balloon. It’s a folky Disney-ballad along the line of Do You Wanna Build A Snowman, this person is trying to connect with another person but there’s just this wall in the way. I may record it yet.

“That’s really cool. So you’re a writer?” asks Meat.

“Yes.”

“Send me on your stuff! I’d to hear it. Get in contact with my manager.”

That invite was the turning point. We spent the rest of the meeting talking as two artists rather than fan-and-artist. I felt like the key to that permission inside to be what I wanted to be was unlocked, no longer constrained by musical theatre archetypes or stupid local egomaniacs who think they’re the be-all-and-end-all. I was going to be me. I was going to knuckle down and send my material on to Meat Loaf! I sung and wrote over the next few weeks with a renewed energy. And one song that came out of this was my debut single Embrace the World. A supergroup single for autism awareness. Because I’m autistic myself and I wanted to put the flag down. I wasn’t going to hide about that anymore either. I worked with a whole host of amazing artists on that. The refrain goes: “It starts with you, reach out and embrace the world” and that’s exactly what I was going to do. I worked with artists on that track who I only dreamed of working with. People like Emma Langford who I’d been following since their beginning but never had the confidence to put the ask out to work with. Got very close to getting some really big names on there, but I’m not going to say who. I will say, however, it got pretty far along with Meat Loaf’s team and we were in talks of setting up a meeting before his passing. His wife Deborah was very generous.

But it did quite well. I got a couple of TV appearances out of it on Virgin Media and I headlined AsIAm’s Same Chance conference in 2022 performing the song. They’re the national Autism charity of Ireland and again, some amazing people at that who I’ve admired for years and only dreamt of meeting; Stefanie Preissner, Miriam O’Callaghan and several other names from Irish media and showbusiness were all there to witness this performance. Then it got to #1 on the Irish iTunes and #19 on the Irish Homegrown Charts. Not bad for a first independent release.

So the question after that is what to do next? I wanted to write this breakup song with a Disney lilt to it. Build towards an EP. I got some lyrics down, and a bit of a melody, but it wasn’t really working for me. It has to jive and it has to work on a core level, but I wasn’t feeling it. I’d gotten complete writer’s block. So I went back to the drawing board and thought about what I wanted – a dramatic breakup song with that Disney flair. Powerful, moving and visual, something that would lend itself naturally towards a sweeping music video. So I thought, instead of trying to write a song like Not a Dry Eye in the House, why not just do a cover of Not a Dry Eye in the House? When I made that decision, it was like a domino fell into place. I get to put my name out there some more, while also showcasing how much I’ve loved Meat Loaf’s music and what an influence he has been.

The production process was very simple. I met a producer named Taylor Harris through the website Fiverr and said “this is what I want to do” and so we did it. He created a click track from the original Meat Loaf recording, I laid down the piano part and then he built the rest of the instrumental track around it with the guitar, bass, drums and synths. I really wanted to recreate the background vocals as they’re one of my favourite parts of the original production. They’re basically your choral “aahs”, but I love the tensions and suspensions they create against the lead melody. They remind me of something like a John Williams film score in the emotion that they evoke. Like in Return of the Jedi where Luke Skywalker almost strikes down Darth Vader in the peak of his rage and this choir vocalises under it. In this song, it’s the same thing. It really brings out that character’s hopelessness, sadness and his deepest longing for her, or “is it even a her?” as Meat Loaf once said in an interview about this song, “You assume it’s her because it’s a man singing it but for all we know, it could be someone singing to his horse” I put a callout on Facebook for those parts and hired the people who I felt would be best suited; Luna, Joey and Marie. And they really captured that.

I was so proud of how well the production was coming along that I said to myself “this totally deserves a music video”. I’ve said at the beginning how much I love the art of music video. And Not a Dry Eye in the House is such a visual song that it practically lends itself to a video. It started out with this image of my character and this girl auditioning to be hired by an agent. However, it turns out like a scenario you’d see on The X-Factor where he says “I only want to take her because she’s the one with the star quality, not you”. So I wrote a treatment based on that and took it to the guys Stephen, Emmet and Phil at deepRed Productions. We refined a few of the details, like we made the duo buskers / street performers for example, but what you see is pretty much one-to-one of that treatment from page to screen. We wrote it then put the word out for the girl part and we gave the role to one Claudia de Luca from Dublin. She’s studying acting at Bow Street Academy. This was her first ever music video and she was simply fantastic! She’s half-Italian half-Spanish which was brilliant synergy as I’ve always envisioned the female leads in my original songs as Latino / Hispanic. Plus, Meat Loaf had an Italian-American singer named Patti Russo as his counterpart for the majority of his career so there was that synergy too as a tribute piece, because I wanted to recreate the tropes Meat Loaf would’ve used in his performances and Claudia had that vibe, but also with the qualities of this tween-idol which was perfect for the storyline for my version. While X-Factor was the starting point for inspiring the dramatic tension with the audition scenario, I took elements from A Star Is Born (the singing couple where the woman becomes this massive superstar singer who overshadows the male), Phantom of the Opera (the forlorn tragic love story) and the original Meat Loaf video (the setting of the theatre, which in this case was in my alma mater Cork School of Music). We also used a red scarf in a key moment which I designed to represent various levels of consciousness if you will. My character gives it to Claudia’s character which on the base level, is him giving her the piece of his heart and love that will always be with her, yet it is also me as an artist making peace with Meat Loaf’s passing – the red scarf was very much part of his stage persona. I’m carrying the music forward and introducing it to people like Claudia, and hopefully the rest of the world, who might not of heard of Meat Loaf otherwise.

The experience of shooting the video was almost as smooth as the production of the track. We also had Timmy Dowd (Patrick Dempsey’s stand-in on Disenchanted) and influencer / Miss Universe Cork 2020 Leila Ecker as two of the judges. Everyone was so professional and open-minded. Nothing was a problem and everybody was so supportive of the work. I do have one funny story from it alright, though. I have some hang-ups about my height so I bought these boots and got these really high heels added in. I’m a little bit shorter on the side of average. Claudia is on the centre side of average. All this stuff from traditional musical theatre casting, modern culture, Love Island, all of that stuff: if you’re not a strapping six foot+ tall man then forget about romance. I let get into my head and I’d built up this crazy anxiety about it. I’m playing the romantic lead in my own video (how else would I), so who’s going to believe in it if they see my actual height? My Mom was like “How are you gonna wear these? They look ridiculous!” and some of my close friends said it too but I was stubborn as always. It’s the one area as an autistic person I still struggle with.

If I get an idea into my head, it’s impossible to get rid of. I was going to wear them and keep them on, and not advertise my shortness at all to the rest of the cast. In other words, I was going to “kayfabe” it – it’s the term they use in professional wrestling for maintaining the illusion of it being a competitive sport with the rivals being actual hated enemies and not friends in real life. I was in pain at the end of the shooting day. More fool me! Lo and behold, at the Irish premiere screening for the music video recently, Claudia and I were talking and she says to me: “Those heels were not necessary. You didn’t need them. The story makes the character’s relationship believable”. I’ll let that be a lesson to talk through my anxieties with people instead of living inside my own head about them. Thank you Claudia! For the next music video, I actually am going to cast a tall girl as my counterpart and blow this whole cultural bias to smithereens – watch this space!

I mentioned Irish premiere; the music video has done the rounds at film festivals internationally. I couldn’t be any happier with how it’s performed. Got three awards for Best Music Video at various festivals in USA, India and Romania, a heap of Finalist nominations and selections in two Irish film festivals: Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival and Waterford International Film Festival. The former was its premiere and we had it a couple of weeks ago. My cast were there and we had cast from shows like Love/Hate and Fair City there, very big Irish actors and there was me, an independent artist from Cork. Film festivals are just fantastic, period, because you get such a wide range of different topics and genres in the one programme. So you’d have a music video like mine, to a sci-fi piece to a documentary to a horror film. Different ingredients in the melting pot of creativity. Having my castmates meet these people was a very proud moment for me, because too often in showbusiness, people are only interested in self-elevation and knocking other people down. I believe in the power of collaboration and building people up. I see myself as someone charting a path in a woodland, so that the people with me, we can find new, unexplored beautiful views that we can all enjoy together.

So what am I hoping for next? I’m hoping this single enjoys a fraction of the success Embrace the World did. It’s a lot more nerve-wracking this time because this is the first one that I’m putting just my name to, without any collaboration or such. I’ve a couple of live performances coming up at the end of the year. A couple of more screenings for the music video. The single itself releases on October 27th. I’m going to start back on this EP once I get over the writer’s block, get another single out next year. Kind of standard stuff but what I really want to do is start developing a musical movie that is an expanded version of the story from this current music video. Kind of like a martial arts rivalry concept but set to music – she’s become this big star so he has to start training and doing whatever he can so he can catch up to her and win her back. But when you chase a memory like that, there’s always a price to be paid.

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