Villagers Conor O'Brien says he was 'chased down a street for holding hands with someone'

The Villagers' frontman described how he grew up at a time of 'changing tide' in Ireland for the LGBT+ community.

Villagers frontman Conor O'Brien with a beard posing moodily against a wall

Musician Conor O’Brien of Villagers has spoken out about his experience of homophobia as a gay man growing up in Ireland.

The vocalist and guitarist said he grew up during a “changing tide” but nonetheless he had “experiences of being chased down a street for holding hands with somebody”.

O’Brien has previously addressed his experiences as a young gay man growing up in Ireland through his music, most notably, on Villagers 2015 album Darling Arithmetic. On the tracks ‘Hot Scary Summer’ and ‘Little Bigot’ he directly addressed homophobia. 

O’Brien said talking about his sexuality and what came with it through song was a “very cathartic experience” for him that “might have been attached to there being something in the air in Ireland. The timing of releasing of the album was so magic. We played big Dublin shows two days before the marriage equality referendum, the whole thing felt like there was this energy in the air.”

Darling Arithmetic won an Ivor Novello award for best album and touched the hearts of many people in the LGBT+ community. 

Speaking to the Irish Times last year, Conor O’Brien recalled a woman approaching him to tell him that her 17 year-old son had come out to her four months beforehand. “Initially, she didn’t react to the news very well. She spent the next few months walking her dog with Darling Arithmetic constantly on her headphones, which she claimed greatly sped up the process of making peace with him. She was in floods of tears and gave me such a lovely letter,” he said, adding: “There have been a lot of teary moments at the merchandise desk and loads of coming-out stories.”

On his feelings about living in Dublin as a gay man, O’Brien said “I remember being a teenager and thinking ‘I can’t wait to get out of this place’. It’s not like we’re suddenly this perfect society, but I feel a lot more comfortable existing here now.”

After touring with Villagers at several festivals throughout the summer, O’Brien will return to Dublin.

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