In the Middle with The Saw Doctors
We got down with one of Ireland’s most successful bands and talked touring, committed fans and music-themed cakes.
Having had such a long break from touring, how was it to finally get back on the road?
During the break from Saw Doctors’ touring, Anto and myself did numerous tours – Ireland, the US, Britain and even Russia, and Davy and I did one tour of the US. Doing the two-man show is very different from touring with a large band – you drive your own car, get your own accommodation and devise and perform a show that, due to there being only two people onstage, is actually much more intense than a large and loud band show. So getting ‘back on the road with the big band’ is really the question – it’s easier in many ways, you have very little to do other than a soundcheck and the gig, you don’t have a new sound-person each night, you don’t sell CDs, you don’t meet almost every member of the audience and the bus takes you from A to B without any need to consult the SatNav. Either set-up has its own distinctive pleasures.
Following on from this, what did you do with the time you took off touring?
Other than those tours mentioned above I played and recorded with some friends locally – Seamus Ruttledge being one of them, a wonderful songwriter with whom I’ve done loads of both gigs and recording over the years. Lately I’ve been doing some shows with Padraig Stevens who was a founding member of The Saw Doctors and whose songbook is one of the finest of all time.
My girlfriend Eleanor and I went to India for a few weeks in 2015 and that was truly an exceptional time in many ways. What a country!
While I was hanging out I was asked to present a couple of short slots on the Irish language TV Station, TG4 – with two super artists, Aideen Barry and Little John Nee. My Irish isn’t great though so it’s not something I could be doing too much of!
Other than that, just knocking around, have a few pints, going to gigs like The Whileaways – two of whose members Nicola and Noelie will be our support act for the British tour and taking each day as it comes.
You’ve got a pretty big list of places your’e playing at on your upcoming tour, is there anywhere you’re excited about playing most?
You never know where you’ll have an exceptional night and we’re very privileged to be able to play in such top class venues. So the answer is ‘No’ – they’re all good and we’re very lucky.
Do you feel a notable difference when you play in Ireland or the UK?
There’s no major differences between audiences anywhere as far as we’ve found. Though Irish crowds do tend to want to come out and turn up later for gigs. You meet a few Irish lads a few hours before a gig and when you ask them what they’re doing they say, “Going to the pub for a few pints – sure we couldn’t listen to ye sober.”
We’ve been told when you play in Japan that the audience is particularly quiet and attentive and that the gentle applause after songs is actually their strongest possible demonstration of appreciation, but we haven’t gotten to play in Japan so I can’t verify it myself.
Have you got any plans for the years ahead? What can your fans expect?
No plans beyond June of 2017 at the moment so neither band nor fans can have any idea what to expect. I really want to go back to India though.
As you have such a massive fan base who pride themselves on seeing the band as much as possible, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve experienced regarding fans?
We’ve had very seriously committed fans over the years but I suppose that’s not unusual – there’s bound to be a small percentage of exceptional people in any large group. I remember one time a woman insisted on giving Pearse her extremely fancy and expensive-looking golden coat. We’ve had fans who would go to numerous gigs, sometimes whole tours. There’s a woman in Glasgow, a master confectioner who, on each of our visits to the city would deliver us a cake in the afternoon themed to one of our songs – we had ‘Hay Wrap’ and ‘Joyce Country Cêili Band’ amongst others of her wonderfully witty creations. Mostly people like to say hello and grab a selfie and I’d be the same myself.
Do you have a favourite song when performing live?
I don’t have a favourite but I do like to perform new ones or ones we haven’t played in a while as that gives you that bit of nervy edge to the playing.
Why do you think your fan base has still remained so strong over all these years?
Our fans are extremely proprietorial and they love to bring their ‘virgin’ friends along to the next visit. Word of mouth isn’t the fastest way of building a fan-base but it’s probably the strongest. People enjoy the experience of the gigs – they like the songs and the singing along and the dancing and the socialising and the other-worldly handsomeness of the fit young men on stage.
(Image: Good Seed PR)