An Interview with Gaelic Storm by Michael Lohr
From having a guest role on the blockbuster movie ‘Titanic,’ to releasing eight top notch studio albums including “Cabbage” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Charts as well as one concert DVD, forming their own music label, Lost Again Records and touring the world nonstop, Gaelic Storm has built a reputation as one of the hardest playing, hardest working bands in Celtic music today. Formed in 1996 at O’Brien’s Irish Pub in Santa Monica, California, bandmates Patrick Murphy, Steve Twigger, Ryan Lacey and company have not looked back.
I recently had the pleasure to converse with founding member Patrick Murphy about all things Gaelic Storm.
ML: Your first single, “Raised on Black & Tans” is a celebration of Irish American culture. What are the primary differences between distinctive Irish culture and Irish-American culture?
GS: Is it a generalization to say there is a romanticized picture postcard notion of Ireland over here? you know Just because it’s a stereotype doesn’t mean it’s not true.
ML: Gaelic Storm performed recently with the Zac Brown Band on a cruise ship. How did this gig come about? How was it?
GS: We have performed on a number of Sixthman cruises; a few times on the Bare Naked Ladies boats once on the Cayamo cruise with Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris and John Hyait and multiple times on the Rock boat with bands like Sister Hazel, Better than Ezra, Collective Soul and the Zac Brown Band. When Zac got his own boat we were one of the first bands they chose.
It was one of our favorite boats, the music was great and the partying was epic.
ML: Speaking of cruise ships, did the band’s 1997 appearance in the mega movie, Titanic provide any momentum for the band? How did you get the gig as the movie’s steerage band?
(I’m still amazed at how much people still remember you guys from that movie. When I mentioned to another writer that I was interviewing you all, she said, “oh yes, that band from Titanic).
GS: I don’t know how many times I have answered this question in the last 13 years, but to sum up… Yes. Right place, right time, right music. (I think I’ll print a t-shirt with this on it)
ML: What motivated you to establish your own music label, Lost Again Records? Do you have other acts on the label?
GS: We really were not getting much help from our label. Recording budgets were getting smaller, marketing was nonexistent and royalties were rare. It seemed like we were doing all the hard work ourselves slogging it out on the road. I have a degree in design and worked for 12 years as an art director both in London and Los Angeles. Patrick has a degree in economics and worked in finance before the band. We had the skills to make it work and what we lacked was more than made up for by our incredible management team, ROAR. We have been so busy touring and working on our own music we have not had time to develop any other acts. We have been talking about it for some time, the template is there, and we have spoken to a few artists so maybe next year.
ML: What song do you believe exemplifies the quintessential Gaelic Storm sound?
GS: I think the song “What’s the Rumpus” is pretty close. It came from a true story all be it a little “embellished” by us, its about a legendary house party at Pat’s old place in Santa Monica. It has a sense of humor, it’s upbeat with an energy you can dance around to, it has some spirited fiddle playing and a chorus you can sing along to. The crowd really gets into this one, it’s a lot of fun to perform.
ML: What are your favorite traditional Irish and Scottish songs to perform live?
GS: We still do Johnny Jump Up and Courting in the Kitchen.
ML: So what is the song “Space Race” from Cabbage, actually about?
GS: It’s straight forward enough. Over a few beers one night we were discussing the abundance of great writers and poets from Ireland, someone remarked that there were no astronauts, we thought it would make a good song. It goes back to that romanticized view; the reluctance to give up on the old ways. it’s about one of those living breathing examples: “my legs have been getting me around quite successfully for years, what do I need a spaceship for?”
ML: Another song from Cabbage, “Chucky Timm,” is about a fellow from Dayton, Ohio who was on the 1968 Olympic US bobsled team. So what’s the story about him? Why dedicate a song to him?
GS: You know we meet hundreds of people all over the place, I guess Chucky stuck in our heads because he seems to embody the spirit of what we do with our music and shows night after night. Every time we see him with that big smile it makes us happy it lifts us up a bit takes us away from our worries for a while. And you better have your “drinking boots” on because you could be in for a long night of funny stories.
ML: Do you guys see yourselves in the same peer group as Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys?
GS: No not at all, they have had more success in what we would say is a different genre of the music. We are in the middle there somewhere. We get all age groups at our shows, just the other day we had an 84 year old woman and a 4 year old down the front at the same show.
ML: Who is a musical influence for the band that people would be surprised to learn about?
GS: Depeche Mode, The Specials, Kila.
ML: Gaelic Storm has toured with everyone from Lyle Lovett to the Barenaked Ladies. Who has been your favorite group to share the bill with? What was the oddest pairing?
GS: Our favorite just happened on the Sailing Southern Ground cruise when we got to play with Michael Franti and Spearhead. They are so fun to watch Michael just makes everyone happy.
The strangest night would have to be with The Beach Boys (I think there was just one of the originals in the band) The Bill Conti Orchestra and Wilson Philips all hosted by Debbie Reynolds (yes the “singing in the rain” Debbie Reynolds)
ML: What’s next for Gaelic Storm?
GS: We take a couple of months off and write some new songs for the next album, maybe a trip to Ireland then it’s back out on the road for another hard year of touring, including Canada.
To learn more about Gaelic Storm please go to their official webpage http://www.gaelicstorm.com/ or their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/gaelicstorm