Michael McDonagh caught up with award winning Irish trad musician (and former electrician) Daoiri Farrell after his performance at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith
When Daoiri Farrell left school in Crumlin he worked as an apprentice electrician. When he was 16 he heard Planxty’s Andy Irvine and Johnny Moynihan and saw Christy Moore playing a bodhran on The Late, Late Show.
When Ireland’s construction industry and property market collapsed after the banking crisis and recession he was among thousands and thousands who lost their jobs. But he was living at home with a loving and supportive family so went to Ballyfermot College, then on to a degree in Applied Music at Dundalk’s Institute of Technology, and then on to do an MA in Music Performance at the World Academy of Music at the University of Limerick.
He recorded his first album, The First Turn, while studying for his Ceoiltoir Higher National Certificate in Irish Traditional Music Performance. That album brought him to the attention of trad music lovers over here as well as across Ireland.
He won the All Ireland Champion Singer at the Fleadh in Derry in 2013 and won the Danny Kyle Award at Celtic Connections in 2015 with his then group FourWinds.
In 2016 he launched himself as a solo artist at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, has supported Cara Dillon on stage and played theCambridge Folk Festival to great acclaim.
How did you get started in music?
“I was watching the TV and Christy Moore was on playing the bodhran and I remember saying I’d love to be able to do that. I remember the way he commanded the audience and had them in the palm of his hand and my dad picked up that I liked the bodhran so I got a bodhran out of it and started on that.
“Then went to the guitar, listening to Oasis and stuff like that and was just playing around and then went for classical guitar lessons.
“I bought a banjo and was having some lessons and when I bought it I bought an old bouzouki. I left it in the shop to be repaired and it got stolen but the man in the shop was great.
“He said I could have any bouzouki off the wall for free as I don’t want the robbery to put you off, which was so good of him.
“So I got the bouzouki then listened to Planxty and thought wow this is way more tricky than I thought but the guitar went back on the wall and I have not stopped playing the bouzouki since”.
“Do you recognise that instrument up on the stage here? That is a bouzouki that was given to me by Andy Irvine, it is a really nice one and I am going to play it tonight. Planxty made gorgeous albums and Andy is such a nice guy.
“When the recession happened hundreds of people were let go from the job, and it was terrible for some, but I had a good family behind me.
“Anyway, my girlfriend at the time said look why don’t you go with the music – so that’s when I went to Ballfyermot to study and from there went to Dundalk and then on to university in Limerick to do an MA.
“I was going to go on and do a PhD but by then I was getting really busy with the music gigs. I’d recorded my second album seven years after the first and everybody was asking for it and for me to play gigs.”
How do you pick your songs?
“Up until last year I was still picking songs I loved from when I was a child but now it could be anything that would spark me and I will put my own slant on it.
“If I like something that has been fairly recently composed I may take it and work on it, like the song Pat Rainey which is a new song which I will do tonight as my relations were Raineys.”
So what next?
“I am doing Sidmouth Folk Festival and I am doing the Cambridge Folk Festival again and I am doing a new album and we will also do the Milwaukee Festival and then I’m doing a Trad Cruise with Sharon Shannon, which sounds mad.
“I have never been on it before it will be great craic.”
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