In the decades between the Tommy Keyes of the 1970s and the Tommy Keyes of today, I had a long career in a very different field. I kept the details under wraps when I returned to music but now, after three years away from that life, I’m no longer as reticent about revealing the secret. As you’ll see from this article in the Sunday Times.
SUNDAY TIMES 2 DECEMBER 2018 – BY SHAUNA BOWERS
A former secretary-general of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has launched a post-retirement career as a pop singer at the age of 63.
Tom O’Mahony, under the stage name Tommy Keyes, has recently self-released Temptation Once Again, an album of love songs.
O’Mahony, who retired from the civil service in 2015 following a career spanning 43 years, said he had always had a passion for music but put it to one side as he moved up the ranks of the transport department.
While he wrote songs in his spare time, he did not do anything with them. Once he finished his contract as secretary- general, he decided it was time to launch himself as a singer.
O’Mahony has released four albums since his retirement, mostly featuring songs written while he worked in the civil service. He is now touring Leinster to promote the release of his fourth and longest record to date, and has already played venues such as Whelan’s, the Button Factory and the Sugar Club in Dublin.
In a review of the album, the music magazine Hot Press said: “It’s all there: love, loss, success, failure, pain, loneliness, friends and family.”
O’Mahony said “I had a fixed-term contract [as secretary-general] and, when my contract was up, it was always understood I would leave. I felt that it would be the perfect time to go back to what I did originally and make music.
“If you go into public service it’s because you want to serve your country. I was working during the crash, we were in a real financial struggle, and it was a lot of work. We managed to pull everything around and so now, for my own personal satisfaction, I have music.”
The Meath man, who says that his music is reminiscent of love songs from the 1970s, believes that his career in the civil service may even have improved his songwriting ability.
“I haven’t yet written any songs about the joys of a parliamentary question but they are about people and, certainly in politics, you end up meeting all kinds of characters from the brilliant to the awful,” said the songwriter.
“Some of them might end up appearing in my songs but in a completely different guise. What a songwriter does is draw on their life experience, and the more life experience you have, the more things you can write about.”
His latest album features his son Cian and daughter Ellen, both musicians in their own right, who according to O’Mahony support his new career.
Typical song titles on his latest album include Just a Simple Love Song, By My Side, and Something’s Broken.
The lyrics of Just a Simple Love Song say: “After all this time / be certain that it’s true/ If my words come out wrong / here’s what I depend on / It’s just a simple love song for you.”
Taking inspiration from veteran performers such as Bruce Springsteen, 69, and Mick Jagger, 75, the former civil servant believes that his age will help distinguish him from other up-and-coming artists.
“At songwriter sessions, there would be a lot of people who are obviously students who attend music colleges or young singer-songwriters in their late teens and early twenties,” he said.
“Then I rock in, I look like I got lost on the way to the bingo, and I do look out of place.” However, he added: “Once I start to play, people listen to my music and they like it because it’s very, very different from everyone else at the session. My age actually gives me an edge.”
Asked if he hopes to get signed by a record company, the musician said a deal did not interest him and he was quite happy self-releasing his own albums. “I don’t need them and they don’t need me,” he said of the music industry.
O’Mahony insists that he is not looking for fame or fortune, just to enjoy the satisfaction of other people hearing his music. “I really just want these songs to be heard because I think they’re good,” he said.