On ‘claiming’ a song

The Lake Isle of Innisfree is a 12-line poem written by W. B. Yeats about a small island in Lough Gill, Sligo. The Isle of Innisfree is a song written by Irishman Dick Farrelly which was recorded by many artists, including Bing Crosby and was chosen by director John Ford as the main musical theme for The 1952 film The Quiet Man. There is absolutely no connection between them bar the similarity in the title. The Isle in Farrelly’s song represents Ireland as a whole and hence has nothing to do with the small island in the middle of a lake in Co. Sligo. Yet the way that Sandy Kelly delivers the vocal on this version of the song – when she clenches her fist and delivers the last few lines on a stage full of Sligo people, you would swear otherwise. You see a great singer can convince an audience a song means whatever he/she wants it to mean,

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Pop quiz

A student of mine asked to learn this song recently. I had never heard it before, but within the first twenty seconds I heard segments that reminded me strongly of three fairly major pop songs from the last 40 years. Is it just me, or can you hear them too? Answers tomorrow.

Cheating (a little)…

Seth Godin is the guy who inspired me to start my daily blogging habit. He writes a daily blog – in fact has done so for almost 20 years, and I feel the same way about it that some of you guys probably feel about my blog. Some days it’s not quite for me, but other days the message (I hope anyway) hits a little closer to home. Some of his messages have influenced me greatly, and I’m sure have found their way in different ways into my blogs over the last few months. Today’s blog however is my favourite one of his yet. In fact it’s so good that for my blog today, I’m going to cheat a little, and just share his. I hope you get something out of it. Thankyou Seth.

Starting again from scratch…

Xira is an Australian singer-songwriter who had considerable success with her first two singles, just months after beginning to write music. She was Matthew Carey’s guest on Episode 21 of his Studio Time podcast, and as always on this podcast, there were some great insights. 1 – The right words, from the right person, can make a huge difference. Xira’s grandpa was a professional musician. After her first singing performance in high school, her grandpa complimented her on it. Because it came from him, it meant an awful lot to her, and helped to set her on the road to being a professional. 2 – It can be tough to to start learning a new skill, to go back to being bad at something, especially when you’re good at something else, but it’s worth it. In her mid-twenties, Xira felt established as a singer, felt she was good and that there was a future for her in it. She was

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Roald Dahl Audiobooks…

…are brilliant. And it’s not even the stories I’m talking about – there could be a whole other blog written on them. But the skill of the actors reading them is something to behold. I recently heard Kate Winslet doing Matilda and Chris O’Dowd doing Fantastic Mr. Fox. And wow. The delivery of the lines, the changes of pace, the conviction behind each word – all incredible. Most of all though – the voices and accents. Each book features a big cast of characters, and the actor reading the story has a different voice and accent for each. Their ability to be consistent with these but also to change quickly from one to the other is remarkable. Now I have no idea if this is a difficult gig or an easy gig for them. A boring gig or a fun gig. I have no idea what mood they were in when they recorded them – whether they loved going to

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Seamie in the studio..

David Attenborough would describe the studio as Seamie O’Dowd’s natural environment. Multi-instrumental, full of ideas, it’s always a joy to share a recording process with him. “I might just try one more thing”, he often says. I never know what it will be or what instrument he will take out, but it’s always gold. This video shows him at his best. The track is laid down at this stage bar the fiddle melody. I give him a rough sketch of the melody I had in mind, and literally 5 minutes later he has 3 flawless but different takes laid down. And they’re fast! A real pleasure.

Why estimate at all?

A colleague of mine recently told me about a gig he played, before which he underestimated the number of people who were going to be there. When he arrived at the venue, the size of the audience and the attention they paid him surprised him, and he told me that he would have prepared better if he knew the full story beforehand. Overestimating an audience size can also bring difficulties. For example, if the crowd is significantly smaller than you hoped it would be, you will most likely feel disappointment – which may lead to a flatness in your performance. The lesson – maybe there’s no need to estimate at all. Treat all gigs, all people, all situations with the respect they deserve. If you can give your best to each one, you’re less likely to be disappointed, surprised or caught unprepared.

Vicar St – Part 2.

I had an interesting day yesterday. I got a call late on Tuesday night asking if I would like to play a gig in Vicar St less than 24 hours later with a Scottish singer-songwriter – as support to Eddi Reader. So yesterday at 11am I met Ross for the first time in Riverstown, and yesterday at 8.30pm we played 7 songs in front of 1000 people. If I wasn’t a musician, I would be wondering how this happens – how two people who have never met before can play on a big stage like that only a few hours later. So while this blog never has been and never will be a diary, I thought readers may be interested in the various stages we went through yesterday. So from 11-12.30 Ross played me his songs – live on guitar – one by one. I listened for the chords and made some notes, while Ross guided me through the structures

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When you feel silly…

At about 6.30pm on the day of the recent Theme Night #22 in Vicar St, our soundcheck and rehearsal finished. I had a look at my phone before retiring upstairs for some dinner, and there was a text from a friend of mine saying she was on the road up from Sligo to the gig but had forgotten her tickets. Was there anything I could do?? We got her sorted, and she sent me a message a few days later saying she felt embarrassed having to text me at that moment after having made the fairly basic mistake of forgetting the tickets. I told her it was fine and not to worry about it, but there is a special feeling you get when you have done something silly like that, and it usually takes more than a kind word to get rid of it. I know this now, because of something that happened last night. My car is sick at

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What if there is no deadline?

Most of us have no problem putting the work in when the deadline is clear. When the date of the gig is approaching, when the exam is tomorrow, when that presentation you have to give is looming. But what about when there is nothing imminent? Or when your target is weeks or months away? The final outcome could be so much better if you adopted the same working mindset now as you do in the final few days.