March 5th, 2006, Los Angeles: A cabal of film and record company executives are at the annual US-Ireland Alliance pre-Oscar party in Los Angeles. The live music is provided by Paddy Casey who only plays for ten minutes. In the audience is Larry Hamby, the man who did the A&R work on the best selling album of all time, Michael Jackson's Thriller. Larry wants to work with Paddy, so much so he insists the young Dubliner records his new album in Los Angeles. Paddy says he'll get back to him.
After the massive success of Paddy's last album, Living, which went eleven times platinum in Ireland with sales in excess of 175,000 (it would easily have been Ireland's biggest selling album in 2005 but for a band called U2 releasing an album the same year), Paddy knew he wanted to break fresh ground on his third album. He was thinking Sly and the Family Stone meet Simon Garfunkel. He was thinking many things. In a boxroom in his Naas home, he came up with the blueprint for songs that would have blues licks, funky wah-wah guitars and Stax-style trumpets. Songs that would sit easily aside the more poignant songs full of personal meaning he already had. He thought of what he had, thought again of Los Angeles and thought "Why not?"
In a studio in the Silverlake area (Los Angeles' equivalent of Greenwich Village), Paddy met up with the producer George Drakoulias, a man who alongside Rick Rubin had helped set up the Def Jam label.
Drakoulias had produced acts as various as Tom Petty and Primal Scream, so Paddy knew this was someone who could put a shape on his extravagantly arranged new material. After hearing the new songs for the first time, Drakoulias immediately got on the phone to some of the best session musicians in the business, ("serious muso heads" as Paddy calls them) - people who had played with Eric Clapton and Beck. And so to work.
Recorded at the end of last year (2006), one of the first songs finished was the title track, "Addicted To Company" - a warm breeze of a song with a delectable Philly Sound undercurrent (check out those soulful backing vocals). On the song Paddy sings "Don't want to sell tragedy and confusion, Don't want to add to these tales of illusion" and he immediately establishes the lyrical pattern of the album - these are the most narrative-driven, people-centred songs he has ever written.
"The funny thing about that song being the title of the album is that we were going to go with it as the title of the last album, Living" says Paddy. "So much so, that we even had "Addicted To Company" t-shirts on sale at some of the gigs.
I love the title and really wanted to use it this time out. For me it just sums up the human condition - in that it's a realisation that sometimes maybe it's enough to just be with the people you're with".
The second song completed, "City" would represent a major creative breakthrough for Paddy. "I had that arranged and everything back in my boxroom in Naas and when I brought it to these really amazing session musicians, I found myself having to give musical directions to these 60 year old legends!" he says. "It's a dark, broody song and the trumpets you hear on it were improvised in the studio. For me, "City" was a key turning point. It's a bold song and I wanted a strong and bold album".
"In the heart of the city on a lonely Friday night, you've been walking in the shadows while the rest walk in the light" he sings on "City", setting up a storyline scenario that isn't resolved until the final verse.
The magical mystery tour continues as another stand-out track, "Tonight" finds Paddy offering support and solace to a loved one over a gentle but insistent rhythm. When played live, the almost tremulous "Tonight" will be Paddy's "lighter in the air" song.
Taking a sharp turn left, the joyous-sounding (but lyrically dark) "Not Out To Get You" sees Paddy pull a ragtime melody out of his bag of tricks. Yes, that's right, the words Paddy Casey and ragtime have just appeared in the same sentence. Put it this way, "Not Out To Get You" wouldn't sound out of place if Liza Minnelli was singing it on the "Cabaret" soundtrack.
By stark contrast, "I Keep", (a song that really gets in on you after a few listens), begins in Mississippi delta blues territory - get that bottleneck guitar sound and harmonica backing - before ending up with a Curtis Mayfield style "touch my girl and you're dead" flourish.
So much musical ground already covered without even mentioning Paddy's sweetest and most full-on love song to date, the almost reverentially played "Become Apart" - a track that unexpectedly but exuberantly bursts into a marching beat rhythm halfway through. And there's also the melancholic and affecting "Leaving", a song as delicately assembled and astutely delivered as Paul McCartney's "Blackbird".
But everyone will find their own personal "Primus Inter Pares" on "Addicted To Company".
For some it will undoubtedly be the anthem-in-waiting closing track "You And I", a song that takes a long, hard look at the world we now live in: "This flag of greed they've raised up high, They blazed it cross a holy sky, This war - this plague on liberty, Will all come back on you and me" he sings. For the song, and the album's, conclusion, Paddy is left with no option but to summon his lovely daughter, Saoirse, and a bunch of close friends, to join him on the chorus. Listen as Paddy, and the company he's addicted to, sing openly, sing freely and sing from the heart.