During the week leading up to St. Patrick’s day I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to play music every day. Between sessions, practising, gigging and teaching it seemed like I didn’t put down the pipes once. To say that I enjoyed it wouldn’t be good enough.
I’m playing music with two friends at the moment. Both of them sing and one plays the guitar and the other plays the accordion. Their brilliant fun to be around and their playing really suit my mischievous style. When playing together the band is called Eitleán. For those of you using a screen reader to read this, I am sorry but you won’t get the proper pronunciation. Eitleán is Airplane in Irish. I’ll explain how we came up with that name shortly. The band sings a combination of songs from Mary black, Paul Brady, Christy Moore, the Dubliners, Cara Dillon, Julie Fowlis, and dozens of other well-known folk singers. We also play a lot of Irish traditional tunes. We generally try to keep the music diverse so it is rare that during a gig or session you’ll hear a lot of one kind. For example, last night we played a Romanian tune, Something from Spain, a lot of Irish traditional tunes and songs such as Go lassie go, The island, Fisherman’s blues, Rainy night in Soho, Whisky in the jar, Spanish lady and the Irish rover. As you can hopefully see, the range of music is spread right across the Irish traditional and folk genres. The instruments in the band are: Uilleann pipes, accordion, whistles, low whistles, bodhran, mandolin, piano and guitar. Not all at the same time though. There’s only three of us and we’ve only a certain amount of hands. You can see then why I absolutely love nothing more than sitting down at a gig or session with these people. It’s very rewarding playing with two really brilliant musicians. We’re constantly thinking of new ideas and always pushing the boundaries of the sound.
The band is only on the go for about six months now so the number of gigs etc. that we’re getting is still quite low. Plus, I’m working full time so I’m not giving it as much attention as I would like. Still, it’s keeping me entertained. The other two are full time musicians. It’s what they do every day so as you can imagine, they have their fingers in quite a lot of pies.
So, as I was saying, I spent the entire week playing music. From a session in Macs in Dundalk on Friday night the 9th of March right up to the last gig on Sunday the 18th of March. I won’t bore you with all the details. The highlights were playing in the airport on Thursday and Friday morning to greet tourists and emigrants returning to Ireland, the Brilliant session on Friday night, the four or five sessions on St. Patrick’s day and the very enjoyable day I spent with the other two in a modern and very well run recording studio in Dundalk on the Sunday.
While working in a job that seems to constantly have me stressed or worried over something, music is the one thing I can fully depend on to get rid of all apprehension. I don’t remember the last time I was so relaxed. Two weeks in a hot country wouldn’t distress me like that week did. I’ve often thought of playing music full time but I know I never will. I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I work in an industry I really love and when I’m finished work, I get to entertain and teach people with a hobby that I love just as much. It’s a very rare opportunity. I wouldn’t want to jeopardise the enjoyment I get from playing music by having to depend on it as an income.
Before I finish, I better tell you how we came up with the name Eitleán. We had been discussing suitable names for months. Trills and triplets, the button folk, bits and pieces, Folken trad and probably dozens of others but nothing was really sticking. We had one hour to come up with a name on Friday for a recording that the Dublin airport authority wanted to prepare so while driving up the M1 and throwing the most stupid of names around for the craic someone asked what the Irish for air plane was. And so a name was agreed!
I chose the title of this blog post because for a very short time I got to see through the eyes of full time musicians. I was absolutely amazed by the amount of work they put in. Before they turn up to a gig the preparation is quite obvious. You practise, test out the gear, tune instruments, clean everything so it’s presentable and all that kind of thing. What you don’t see is the conversations at 4:30 in the morning about a YouTube video that has just been found with a style that makes you think of a song or a tune in a completely different way. You don’t really see that the band they are playing on Wednesday night with is completely different to the band their playing in on Thursday night and between Wednesday and Thursday they may have played at a funeral, a corporate event or simply a family reunion. I know that one full time musician is in three full time bands and he’s in about four or five session groups. He could be playing hard rock on Mondays, Spanish guitar on Tuesdays, pop on Wednesdays, Country on Thursday, classical on Friday jazz on Saturday and Irish traditional tunes on Sunday. Between all of this he might need to learn twenty songs for the next week and prepare a new composition for a film. It is simply amazing that these people get to have a life at all. The life of a musician is very busy and very demanding. Even as a musician myself, I wasn’t aware of the amount of work a full timer puts in.