FT: You’re known for your travels, and there can’t be too many spots in the world you haven’t been to. Many artists complain about life on the road, but you seem to thrive on it. Why so?
AI: I’ve always been excited by travel. When I was about 13 I started collecting maps and planning journeys on my bicycle. I started hitchhiking when I was about 17 and often travelled to places just to see what they looked like! I bought a motor bike when I was 19 and travelled all over Ireland on it. I don’t know where all this love of travel came from but it still drives me on.
FT: The new album, ‘Precious Heroes’ is a collaboration with Australian musician Luke Plumb. Can you tell us a bit about it and how it came to be?
AI: I heard Luke Plumb playing at a session in Tasmania, where he comes from and made a mental note to remember him. He joined the Scottish band – Shooglenifty – and a few years later he produced an album for a couple of Australian friends of mine, and did a really good job. I wanted to do something a little bit different and asked him if he’d produce it. That’s how it came about.
FT: The new album celebrates working class heroes, people who have fought the system and that theme has run through your music throughout your career. People like Damien Dempsey and Mick Blake are keeping that tradition of protest alive. Folk music rather than any other type of music, has always been seen, and continues to be seen as the perfect medium for such protests. Why do think that’s so, and is it still the case?
AI: Yes, I think it is the perfect medium for songs of protest and more, for me, a medium of reminding the listener of people who had fought the bad things of the system they lived under. I was always horrified that history in school was about kings and rulers and never even made a mention of those who had fought for the shorter working day and better wages.
FT: Over the years you’ve played with some of the finest musicians in the world. Difficult I’m sure to narrow down, but which stand out? Either in terms of sheer musicality or just who they are?
AI: I’ve spent a lot of my life playing with Donal Lunny, certainly one of the finest musicians in the world. All the bands I’ve been in were made up of great musicians. Mozaik for instance, playing with Bruce Molsky and Nikola Parov, Usher’s Island, playing with Mike McGoldrick, John Doyle and Paddy Glackin, playing as a duo with Paul Brady, Planxty, Liam O’Flynn, Christy Moore, I can’t think of any world famous household names that I’ve played with though! Just the usual suspects!
FT: Are there any musicians that you haven’t played with, that you would like to?
AI – Can’t really think of any! I’m pretty happy with my own set!
FT: Do you listen to other styles of music. Who are listening to at the moment?
AI: I listen to jazz a lot. Miles Davis, Coltrane. I started listening to Charlie Parker many years ago and then got stuck in the 1960s with Miles etc.!
FT: Have you heard any new acts or artists of late, and thought, they are worth keeping an eye on?
AI: I’m very impressed with many of the new young musicians that I’ve heard. I met the Friel Sisters in Newfoundland last summer and our plane home was delayed so they played there while we waited and were wonderful. I also love the girl singer in Lankum, Radie. She’s the best female singer I’ve heard since Dolores Keane.
FT: What the plans for this year?
AI: Solo Tours of Norway and Sweden in April, Canada in July, UK in October and Japan in November. Never tire of the road!