Andy work if you can get it
Most people slow down a bit when they turn 60, but not trad legend Andy Irvine. Colm O’Hare hears about his latest collaboration with Donal Lunny, the Planxty reunion and the perils of being stranded in small German towns.
Andy Irvine is not all that keen to go to Germany tomorrow. Just back from the States after yet another gruelling tour he is sitting comfortably in a plush Dublin hotel. The notion of hopping on an early morning plane for a 15-date trek around Germany and Switzerland isn’t as appealing to him right now as it might sound, he insists
“Don’t get me wrong,” he says. “The German audiences are great and they’ve always been very supportive of my music. But every time I go back I’m reminded of a time years ago when I was stuck on my own in a small town in the north of Germany on a bleak winter’s day. I walked around and the place was dead, everything was closed. I went back to my hotel room and got even more depressed. Anytime I go back today something always reminds me of that time and the memories come flooding back and I can find myself getting depressed again.”
Now in his sixties Irvine has been playing his own distinctive blend of Irish, world, traditional and folk music for well over forty years; firstly as a member of Sweeney’s Men in the 60’s, with Planxty and Paul Brady in the 70’s and with Patrick Street in the 80’s and 90’s. He has recently toured and recorded with Mosaik, a “global string-band ensemble”, featuring Donal Lunny and some American and European musicians, all the while continuing a successful solo recording and performing career.
Does he ever feel like slowing down?
“I probably should,” he laughs. “But there’s not much sign of it happening yet. We’re committed to another Mosaik tour in the US in May, then I do a solo tour in August/September. But I want to get home for a while and do some work on the house which we’ve been planning to extend.”
Earlier this year Irvine joined up with his old mates Christy Moore, Donal Lunny and Liam O Flynn in Planxty who reformed after 20 years off the road for a series of sell-out gigs at Vicar St.
“It was better than any of us could have hoped,” he enthuses. “I think we were playing better then we ever did in the old days. The whole pressure was off us and it was all about enjoying ourselves. The venue was perfect for it too, and the atmosphere was wonderful. I remember the last night going into the dressing room and the promoters had left a hamper for each of us – a kind of a thank-you for the success of the gigs. It was a really nice touch – nobody had ever done anything like that for me before.”
Mosaik’s Live From the Powerhouse is out now on Hummingbird Records.
Music/Interview: 25 May 2004