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Daoirí guy

Daoirí Farrell told David Hennessy about his current UK tour, how recession turned him from an electrician into a musician and now sharing the stage with people who used to be his musical heroes like Ralph McTell, Sharon Shannon and Donal Lunny.

Daoirí Farrell is back in the UK for an extensive tour that comes off the back of his latest single Blackwater Side.

The multi-award-winning Dublin traditional singer and bouzouki player has received endorsements from the likes of Christy Moore (‘Daoirí has assumed the mantle of Luke [Kelly]’), Mark Radcliffe (‘What a voice’) and Dónal Lunny (‘Daoirí is one of the most important traditional singers to emerge in the last decade’).

He has also recently toured the USA as vocalist for Lúnasa and played to a live and TV audience at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards at London’s Royal Albert Hall where he won two awards for best traditional track and best newcomer.

Nominated for Best Folk Singer in the 2024 RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards in Ireland, Daoirí’s upcoming tour includes dates at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith.

Daoirí has just returned from touring Australia where The Weekend Australian describe him as: “The finest Irish male folk singer-storyteller this side of Christy Moore and Paul Brady.”

You have just returned from Australia, how was it?

“It was fantastic. It was really great to get over and just see the place. It’s a beautiful country and the audiences are wonderful.

“Everybody was really just lovely.

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“I had a great time.

“For definite a highlight was getting to see Tasmania again.

“It was absolutely beautiful.”

We all know a lot headed down there in the recession and it was recession that brought you to music, isn’t that right? You were an electrician and then recession sent you in a different direction..

“It really did. It was something that I always had an interest in, music and something that I thought I would love to know a bit more about and study.

“The recession gave me a perfect opportunity to go back to school and study in music school, and that’s what I did.

“I really loved my job as an electrician, all joking aside.

“I’m always telling jokes about how bad of an electrician I was, it’s not the case.

“I really loved being an electrician but it was just something that I was really eager, probably a little bit more eager to just find out a bit more about music, so I went back to college and studied it for five years.

“It was like an apprenticeship in itself, so it’s like two apprenticeships in one lifetime which is something that I thought I would have never done.

“I love it.”

So was it a case that music was the dream but you were reluctant to go for it because it seemed so unrealistic?

“No, it was that music was merely a hobby.

“Guitar was really all I played.

“My mates like at the time, we’d kind of sit around and they’d say, ‘Hey Daoirí, get the guitar down and play’. And I’d do that maybe and that would be it. It would go away then again.

“I never even really sang actually.

“That was kind of my experience at the time.

“I was a massive lover of music and stuff.

“When I was started working, I was able to buy a bouzouki and then I kind of started teaching myself how to play it.”

If there was no recession, where would you be? Still an electrician?

“Yeah, I’d probably still be wiring up.

“I’d probably be over in Australia or someplace.”

It’s gone down a completely different path.

You have been nominated for both BBC Folk Awards and RTE Folk Awards. Are they things you are particularly proud of?

“Absolutely, those things are something that I would be really proud of.
“Some of these tours, like that tour that I have just been on, that was incredible getting to play with these musicians, Lunasa and all these different kinds of acts.

“When I was in Australia, Luka Bloom was out there and Sharon Shannon and Ralph McTell.

“And I was hanging out with these guys.

“I don’t want to make them feel old or anything, but I remember listening to them when I was a young boy.

“Their music really means something to me.

“Now here I am in Australia calling Ralph and saying, ‘Hey, we’ll meet up for a coffee later’.

“It’s kind of not real, you have to pinch yourself every now and again.

“They’re all lovely people as well. That’s the thing about it.

“They’re all really easy to get on with and massive inspirations for me.”

Christy Moore and Donal Lunny are two people who have spoken highly of you, that must be surreal. Donal has produced an album for you, again that must be incredible..

“It really is, and they’re great.

“Not only are they great musicians, they’re great people and I learned a lot off them.

“I try my best to keep in touch as much as I can.

“It’s a great thing: The music.

“I’ve made an awful lot of friendships out of it.”

You have also played at the Royal Albert Hall, how did that come about?
“I played the BBC folk awards in 2016. They were held in the Royal Albert Hall.

“The place was packed to the absolute gills. It was a fantastic night altogether.

“I remember just standing on stage and looking up…

“It was an amazing experience.

“One of the highlights of my life.”

That was around the time of your album True Born Irishman which you were nominated for those awards for.

Your second album, that was really the breakthrough one for you, wasn’t it?

“I suppose it was.

“It was a wonderful album.

“I’d be really, really proud of it.

“One of the things that I’m proud of is my albums.

“I’d be quite proud of them and that one in particular.

“It was a lovely one, really enjoyed the experience making it.

“The whole experience making it was just wonderful

“Enjoyed every minute of it.”

Your following album, A Lifetime of Happiness, saw you working with Donal Lunny so I suppose that one is special in a different way..

“Oh, absolutely.

“I was so nervous when I put it to him (Donal).

“I rang him and I asked him would he mind having a listen to a couple of tracks and then next thing both of us were knee deep in this album recording it with Manus Lunny, his brother and it was the first time I think that they worked together on a project in a long time even though they would be quite close to each other.

“It was the first time that they worked musically together in a long time.

“I recorded the bulk of it in Manus Lunny’s place in Donegal which is an absolutely wonderful studio.

“I love that album.

“I actually listen to that album all the time myself.

“There’s just a few songs that I really love, The Galway Shawl being one of them, not that I like listening to myself, I just love listening to the arrangements.

“It just brings me back to the system that Donal uses when he’s in the studio.

“It’s really incredible. It’s very exciting.”

You got started with An Góilín Singers Club, isn’t that right?

“Yeah, that’s correct. Yeah, An Góilín Singers Circle is a place where I’ve been going to.

“It’s a wonderful place and everyone is welcome. That’s the very important thing about it: Always welcome to come in and sing a song or even just to come in and listen.”

Another place that you have played and is important in the Dublin folk music scene is The Cobblestone..

“It’s a place where I used to frequent all the time, not so much anymore now because we’ve got kids and I don’t get in as often as I’d love to.

“I made an awful lot of friends in there as well.

“It’s a really, really hip and cool place to be playing music at the moment actually, The Cobblestone. Couldn’t recommend it high enough to be honest with you. Great spot.”

The Cobblestone has been under threat of closure but Daoiri says: “The sessions are still absolutely mighty in there.

“It’s a real musicians’ pub.
“You’ve got a lot of listeners that come in, fanatics of the Irish music that come from everywhere, all over the world. You could meet anyone there. It’s incredible. It’s a great place.”

You have just toured with Lunasa in both the US and down under, what was it like to be on the road with them?

“It was really amazing.

“I really, really enjoyed being on the road with Lunasa.

“They’re just so organised and they’ve been at it so long.

“I felt really relaxed going out there and we pretty much fell straight back into that tour very, very easy.

“I thought it was incredible.

“They’re a very, very inspiring bunch of people for me musically and just in general.

“They just have it down.

“They know what they’re doing and it’s because of years of practice.

“In every single way they have it down.

“So yeah, it was wonderful.

“It was wonderful to experience it, you know?”

Are you looking forward to coming over to the UK?

“I really am.

“I’m looking forward to it.

“At this stage coming over to England, I know that many people over there, I feel like I have to come over because there’s people that I need to go over and see and catch up with.

“I’ve made kind of a family of people that I’ve become really close with over the years from going back and forward to various different festivals and gigs over there in the UK.

“I’m really looking forward to going back and hitting every single one of the venues, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it.

“My dad will be coming with me actually, as he has been for the past five or six years.

“He’s just great craic altogether. He’s so funny.

“He doesn’t play music and he doesn’t really sing but he helps me as much as he can in every way.

“It wouldn’t be odd to see him sweeping the stage while I’m playing the song or something.

“We have great craic together the two of us, best mates.”

He’s not the only one you’re bringing as most of the dates are you on your own and one at the ICC is the trio.

“Some are solo and some are the trio.

“The trio this time will consist of- and normally does consist of- Robbie Walsh on the bodhran. He’s an incredible bodhran player and then the other guy who’s playing with us is another really good friend of mine, a guy called Mark Redmond who plays the uilleann pipes and whistles, and I have to say- and I’m not just saying this because he’s my best mate and he’s bigger than me- He’s one of the best in the world, I really mean that. He’s highly sought after and the three of us are actually quite close friends.

“I’m absolutely delighted that they’re coming out.

“It’s a real powerhouse of a gig.

“If someone is looking for tickets, they should get on it really quick and get tickets for that gig because they’re definitely gonna sell out.

“It’s gonna be incredible. We’ve put a bit of practice in and we’ll do another little bit before I go away as well.

“I’m looking forward to getting on stage and it’s normally a great bit of fun.

“They’re very funny as well the two guys so there’s never a dull moment with them.”

Have you have played the Irish Cultural Centre before? “I have, I’ve played it a few times now and it’s a wonderful place.

“We always get a wonderful reception there and the people that work there are just incredible. They really are.

“They couldn’t make you feel more at home when you arrive.

“And the audiences, what can I say? We always get a great reception there.

“I love the Cultural Centre and the people there are just so nice.

“They always look after us really well when we get there and the audiences to date have just been absolutely fantastic: Really, really into it and they sing along.

“Sometimes they get up and jump around, its’ great craic.

“I’ve played there a few different times now at this stage.

“I feel like I know it fairly well so I’m looking forward to it.”

The last time we spoke to you, you were set to play the ICC along with some other dates but I think COVID came along and scuppered those particular gigs. What effect did the pandemic have on you?

“It was fantastic,” Daoirí says surprisingly.

“I was talking to a taxi man in Australia about this the other day and he was saying that it was the worst time of his life, but it was actually the best time of my life.

“I really enjoyed it.

“I found a whole new world of online music and I learned a couple of different skills like film editing and things that I really wanted to do in my life.

“I felt like that the time during COVID was absolutely the perfect opportunity to do it.

“I lost a big pile of weight because I used to go running every day, kind of back at that  now a little bit as well.

“It was just a great time to be fit and healthy and just spend time with the immediate family.

“I didn’t take it for granted.

“I just took it and I said, ‘Look, I’m going to make the best out of this’, and that’s what we tried to do here in our house.”

I saw from your social media that you were running again and even trying to do 5k every day you were in Australia recently…

“Everyone was calling me Farrell Gump when I was over there.

“The first couple of days were absolute agony but now I’m back into it, I really, really enjoy it.

“I try and get it done early in the morning as opposed to in the nighttime or anything like that.

“It just sets you up for the day and fills you with energy.

“Again I couldn’t recommend a walk or some form of exercise in the morning before breakfast highly enough, before you do anything else.

“I think it’s a great thing.”

Would your namesake Dessie Farrell be calling up for the Dublin team any time soon?
“Absolutely not. I’ve still got a big fat belly on me now.

“I played GAA when I was in school. Hurling was my thing though.

“I really loved the hurling. It’s a great game.”

What about the other famous Farrell, Colin. You’re not related are you?

“Oh, no.

“I definitely do believe that I got his good looks but that’s probably about it.

“He’s a great actor.”

You’re probably more likely to bump into his Banshees of Inisherin co- star Brendan with his love for traditional music..

“Yeah, I did. I came across Brendan a couple of times and I’ve spoken to him.

“He rang me one day actually.

“He was chatting away to me and I thought it was somebody joking, but I would know Brendan and I would know his brother as well.

“His brother’s a fantastic singer actually really great guy.

“Barry is his name. I got some really nice songs off Barry over the years.

“They’re good guys.”

You released an album just last year but are there already plans for the next one? “Yeah, absolutely. “There is plans for something.

“I’m going to be doing something but at the moment, I’m just trying to fight this jet lag after getting back off the plane.

“That was a fairly heavy tour, I’m back for a few days and I’m trying to hang out with the family and then get to the UK.

“Then when I come back, I’m going to start on a new project.

“I’m really looking forward to it.

“There’s also that little thing of.. We’re getting married this year as well.

“That’s a little thing in the middle there somewhere.

“That’s happening in June.

“There’s probably going to be probably thousands because if I’m having a drink at a gig or something, I invite the whole audience.

“We might have to have two weddings.”

Congratulations and best of luck with that, it does sound like you have a busy year.

Daoirí Farrell is touring the UK.

He plays Otley Courthouse on 11 April, Brewery Arts in Kendal on 12 April, Temperancec in Leamington Spa on 14 April, Cambridge Junction on 15 April, Regal in Tenbury Wells on 16 April, Chapel Arts Centre on 17 April, St Edith Folk in Sevenoaks on 19 April, Lewes Saturday Folk Club on 20 April, Uxbridge Folk Club on 25 April.

He plays The Irish Cultural Centre with his trio on Friday 26 April and solo on Saturday 27 April.

He finishes the tour at The Welfare in Ystradgynlais on 28 April. 

For more information, click here.

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