Mind open or mind closed?

My musical education in school was largely classical. There wasn’t really much else around. However I had one teacher in my later secondary school years who fought with the powers-that-be on my behalf so that I would be allowed play the more contemporary stuff I was into at the school concert each year. She was a classical teacher and player herself, but the fact that she was open to me playing and performing this music meant a lot to me and sowed some pretty important seeds in my life. A good teacher can make all the difference, and did to me, but I know now from the other side of the fence that the same lesson from the same teacher can affect different students in different ways. I was hungry, open, ready to learn. I had had enough of classical music and gobbled up any info about pop/rock/jazz or anything else I could find. My teacher recognised this in me

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Perception – does it matter?

I am an Everton fan. Ever since they scored a last minute equaliser vs Sheffield Wednesday in a televised match in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup in January 1988. The tie went to three replays before Everton won 5-0 and I was hooked.   Today Everton got rid of their manager, Sam Allardyce. He has built up a reputation of being a very practical manager who will save struggling teams from being relegated while playing fairly basic, unattractive football.   He did exactly this with Everton this season. The problem is, Everton see themselves as a big club who traditionally aren’t in relegation trouble and play attractive football, and so Allardyce’s record and reputation counted against him when Everton were looking for someone to bring them forward next season.   I was once told – by someone I look up to – that while I was putting so much energy and time into theme nights, that I would

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The creative spark

This is a really interesting experiment. I am now on day 23 of my 35-day blogging journey and here are some of the things I have learned so far.   Don’t try to write when you’re tired. The ideas come a lot faster in the morning than at night. Every blog post doesn’t have to be a m a z i n g. If you’re creating something daily it’s not realistic to think they will be. Do your best each day. Not everyone wants to hear from you every day. Understandable! If you make a decision to do something and are committed to that decision, it’s usually possible to find a way to do it. Do it for yourself – if others come with you it’s a bonus, but if the reason you are doing it is to get likes/comments/positive feedback, it won’t last. However, all that being said, to all those who have read what I have had to

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Residencies and investment

Musicians love residencies. It means a regular live environment in which to hone your set, as well as regular income of course. A weekly gig is also a great way to keep your playing sharp. When successful, they can last for years, and I have had some great ones in my time as a musician.   The challenge I have always found with a residency is to prevent it from going stale. In my experience, you either need regular personnel changes or regular changes to the set to prevent both the audience and the band getting tired of the same faces and songs every week.   Seamie O’Dowd and I currently have a residency in Thomas Connolly’s every Monday night. It’s on the go now for almost 4 years, and its one of the highlights of my week. Paul O’Donnell, the main man in Connolly’s, asked Seamie and I about a year and a half into the residency if we

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Peaceful Easy Feeling.

Peace Be With You. Easy Like Sunday Morning. The song and quote above are two of my biggest associations with Sundays over the years. So I thought it appropriate to share this video today – myself, Eddie Lee (bass) and Ken McDonald (drums) having a bit of fun with the Eagles classic Peaceful Easy Feeling.

‘2FM Music’.

My 7 yr-old daughter recently went through a phase of wanting to listen to ‘2FM music’. The favourite song of my 9-11 yr old piano students is God’s Plan – no not by Derek Ryan, but Drake. Some of the teenagers involved in this weekend’s big showcase are missing one night or the other because they’re going to see Ed Sheeran. My initial (internal) reaction to these people – ah lads, there’s better music than that that you could be listening to. And then I think and reflect, and realise that my parents/music teachers had the same reaction to me listening to Oasis or Blur at 15, and their parents probably had the same reaction to them listening to The Beatles, and my daughter in 30 years time will probably have the same reaction to whatever her children are listening to. It’s human – it’s the ‘things weren’t like that in my day’ syndrome, but it’s also lazy. Go back

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Make someone’s day…

One winter’s evening after a show a good few years ago, a friend of my Dad’s took me outside and told me some nice things about myself. He said his piece, and followed it up by saying, “I always think if you have something nice to say to somebody, you should say it”. He was right – I felt great. I have tried to follow his advice since, and as a result many things that may have gone unsaid didn’t, and hopefully a few other people felt great as a result. The strange thing is though, as long as what I am saying is true, I find that it makes me feel good also, as good as if I was the one receiving the compliment. Last night I was thanked and told some nice things about myself by a wonderful bunch of people in a meaningful, genuine, stylish and embarassing (!) way. Once again, it felt great. Go ahead, make

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The Unwanted Summer of ’08.

The summer of 2008 was a funny one in Ireland. It was becoming clear that the economic boom of the previous decade was coming to an end, but no-one knew yet how bad it was going to be, and people were still clinging on to the good times as best as they could. I remember that summer for a Monday night session that the Strand Bar in Strandhill hosted. It was packed every week for three months, and only partly because people still had a few quid in their pocket. The main reason was because of the three musicians involved. Cathy Jordan, Seamie O’Dowd and Rick Epping had combined to produce a formidable musical force. The growl of Rick’s mouthorgan, the drive from Seamie’s guitar or fiddle, and Cathy’s hard-hitting vocals and easy way with the crowd made for a winning mix. Patsy Cline’s Walking After Midnight was always one of the encores and you could bounce up the hill

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Isle of Hope…

In 1892, 17 yr-old Annie Moore from Co. Cork was the first ever immigrant to pass through federal immigrant inspection at the Ellis Island station in New York. The Irish songwriter Brendan Graham wrote a song about her called Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears – where he deals with her imagined emotions on leaving her homeland and starting over in an entirely new place. I was learning the song recently for a performance this weekend – and I kept coming back to one chord in the song. It happens just before the chorus each time e.g. at 0:51 here as Tommy Fleming sings the word ‘Isle’. It’s the 1 over 3 and works because the chorus starts on the 4 chord, creating a sense of movement into the chorus.

Leave by lunchtime

You’ve heard all the cliches – ‘if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life’, or ‘you spend the majority of your adult life working so you may as well find something you enjoy doing’. It was brought home to me when I was 25 – after finishing college, travelling for a bit, working in a few odd jobs, not really sure what I wanted to do, I went to a recruitment company. They got me a job in data entry with a construction company. I can remember cycling 45 mins there, not really sure what data entry was but determined to give it a go. By lunchtime I knew it wasn’t for me, so I made my apologies and left. By the end of the cycle home that afternoon I had resolved to give music a go. I had no idea if it would work out or not, but it was the only area

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