The Panti Personals S3 E2 Daithí
Panti Bliss is with the Ballyvaughan native, and electronic meets traditional music artist Daithí, in this episode of The Panti Personals.
Daithí grew up in the heartland of Irish traditional music in Co.Clare, he was playing the fiddle by the age of six and his grandfather was the legendary concertina player Chris Dorney, but while his music draws on that well, and his own sense of place, his artistry is shaped by digital tools.
He had a viral hit ‘Mary Keane’s Introduction’ (2015) sampling an audio recording of his grandmother talking about her young days and how she fell in love.
His work is highly original, sound-rich and evocative, and his side hustle is a collaboration with BellX1 singer Paul Noonan as the band ‘House Plants’.
Music in this episode:
Daithí – Carraroe (Feat. Elaine Mai)
Daithí – Mary Keanes Introduction
Daithí – Submarines (feat. Ailbhe Reddy)
Daithí – Sleep Like A Stone
Daithí – Lavender
Daithí – An Irish Goodbye
HousePlants – What’s With All The Pine
HousePlants – Companero
Daithí – Familial
Chris Droney, Francis Droney & Áine McGrath – Tigh Greene, Baile Uí Bheacháin
Well, hello, and welcome back to The Panti Personals, your escape room from all the repeated horrors of the daily news. I’m Panti Bliss, Queen of Capel Street, and with me, in the parlor today is a man who, much like Madonna and Beyonce, gets by on and just his first name. It’s musician extraordinaire Daithí who crosses Irish trad and culture with techno-pop and house music. He had a viral hit a few years back, mixing his 90 year old granny, Mary Keane, telling the story of her young days and falling in love with synth and bass. But more about that later.
In the Parish of Ballyvaughan, County Clare, where he’s from, he’s known as Daithí Ó Drónaí, one of the Drónaís, steeped in traditional music. His grandfather was Chris Droney, the well known concertina player. But while Daithí was playing the fiddle as a six year old, somewhere along the line, he picked up the bass guitar. And later, when he dipped into digital tech, a very electronic Irish star was born. Rooted in the sounds and culture of the west of Ireland.
He’s twice choice prize nominee with his own work. But he’s also got a side hustle with Bell X1’s Paul Noonan performing as the HousePlants. And they just got a nod this year for their recent album. And over Paddy’s day festivities or Paddy’s week, I guess these days, Daithí broke the dry spell of the endless lockdowns by performing for a flock of 30,000 in Dubai with the legendary Clare fiddle player Martin Hayes.
Thank you. Hello. How are you getting on?
That was a great intro. You really covered everything there.
Well, I do my best. Nice to finally get to chat to you because you’ve been on our hit list for quite a while. Talking about the beginnings of the whole Daithí phenomenon maybe. Because we have some things in common.
We’re both culchies.
We are. Both from out the west.
Small towns in the west of Ireland. I’m the child of the local vet. You are deeply steeped, soaked, dripping in Trad, really music, aren’t you?
Yeah, for sure. My family would be kind of quite a well known traditional Irish musician family. Chris, my grandfather, who recently passed away, was one of the great Concertina players in the country and was a really amazing musician. To be honest, when I was younger, there was no real option to do anything but pick up music. There was no real like, oh, do you want to play music or something? It was like, okay, well, you have to pick an instrument. Which instrument are you picking? You know? I picked fiddle. My Auntie in law taught me fiddle from a very young age. I was learning traditional Irish music the whole way through.
In a way that felt like a chore, or you loved it?
Honestly, it was one of those things I think most kids will experience at some point where they kind of pick up an instrument and they’re kind of forced to pick it up and they kind of have to go to that class every week and that kind of thing. And I didn’t have a massive amount of interest in it at the time. And then I went to secondary school and I started playing in these bands with, like, mates of mine and stuff like that. And I was playing bass guitar.
And then I went to boarding school for two years and I basically hated boarding school. Really didn’t like it at all. It’s was like really sports orientated. And I had no interest in rugby or anything like that.
That’s another thing we have in common.
Yeah, right you went to boarding school as well.
I also went off to boarding school. Mine was not a rugby playing boarding school. I went to Gormanston in County Meath.
Sort of no longer there as a boarding school. It is deeply GAA. We weren’t allowed to play, what they considered English foreign field sports.
No soccer, no rugby.
Yeah. My one was Rockwell College. I had kind of decided to go there because I was like, oh, this will be great. It will be like Hogwarts or something like that, you know, that’s what I was kind of thinking. And it really wasn’t that. So being in a band in that boarding school was like one of the most rebellious things you could possibly do.
I used to always laugh, even at the time with mine, the parents, they would come in the front, which had these sort of ornate gates and a lovely drive and even, like, some golf poles along the way. And that’s what the parents taught the school was, but we weren’t even allowed out that side of the building, you know, that was just for the priest.
Yeah. We had, like a lake on our side and everything like that. And you come in and the main halls are these huge, big hallowed halls, and there’d be, like, pictures of the principals from years and years and years back.
Well, that does sound quite Hogwarts.
Yeah. But as like, a kid, I was just like, oh, my God, I so shouldn’t be here. I was like, this is really not right. But the blessing in that was that I had nothing else to do but write music with friends. And we didn’t even have a band room. We’d have to break into a room and they’d let us off and let us play there. And I did nothing but play music for two years, just nothing else.
And at that time, was it all modern, you know, rock or pop or whatever?
Yeah. I was wearing a leather jacket and I was listening to The Libertines and we were doing, like, indie music kind of stuff. The Cribs as well.
Okay. So you weren’t, you know, picking up your fiddle and doing gigs in Rockwell?
Yeah. So then just at the end of that, I discovered, I thing called a loop station, if you know what a lopp station is, where basically you kind of record loops over and over again with an instrument. And I picked up the fiddle again there because you can do so much with a violin, you know, like a violin has these big long bow sounds. So you can make almost like these synthesized long sounds. You can pluck it. So it has these little staccato rhythms as well. So with a loop station, you could create all these. And then when I got to College, I was in College in Connemara. We did TV, radio and journalism in Carraroe, and it was in the middle of Connemara. So if you had a house party, there was 100 people going to your house party and there was nothing you could do about it. So that was where I started performing to people in those house parties. And that’s where I slowly started to get into the kind of the more electronic stuff. And then I discovered the amazing Galway DJ and House scene in places like the Blue Note and stuff like that.
But all through this part of the story, is the trad music somehow going along with you for the ride?
Absolutely. I’m pushing away against it as much as I possibly can. Like, at that age, I was pushing back against it the whole time. And I was rolling along and doing all this kind of music and stuff, but I kind of wasn’t really thinking about it at all as a kind of a traditional thing. And I think, like most young people at that age, and around your early 20s, I was, like, pushing away from where I was from. Pushing away from the culture that I grew up in and stuff like that.
Sleep Like A Stone by Daithí plays.
I did that for years, and I did two TV talent shows, and then I signed a major record deal. And the record deal was kind of a bit of a disaster because I was trying to sound like everybody else outside of Ireland as much as I could. And yeah the turning point was then Mary Keanes, that brought me back to who I am, I think, you know.
Well let’s rewind here. You skipped right over the talent show. So sort of famously in your story, you know, people, I guess, outside of your own social circle got to know you through the All Ireland Talent Show, which was like an Irish version of X Factor or something at the time. And I went back and looked at it on YouTube, and it’s actually fecking adorable.
First of all, you look so young.
Clip from The All Ireland Talent Show plays.
Like you’re a kid.
The, kind of the bowl haircut and everything like that on the side.
You’re so fresh faced and just so eager about it all. And then they do those little inserts before.
Before you do your bit on the stage and everything. And even they are so adorable. Your grandfather features heavily.
Because that was the angle, you know? For the talent show that was the real angle that I was coming from, traditional Irish background.
And he’s so proud of you in it. He says at one point something like, I’m so lucky to have a grandson like Daithí or something. Like, he’s so into it all. And it constantly cuts away to him in the audience during your thing.
I have to say it’s great to have a grandson like Daithi to be his grandfather. Something special.
He was like centre place in the crowd.
It’s very adorable. But you almost accidentally ended up in that, right?
Yeah. So I was doing journalism in school pretty much. And we were kind of big into TV and how the cameras worked and everything. And we got an email in the school saying like, oh, there’s going to be this kind of audition thing in NUIG for this new RTÉ show. And if you want to see how a real TV crew works, it would be really good to enter this because you get to see them or whatever. So myself and three other friends from that college course went in and I kind of entered and it was over the course of the weekend and I started getting through the kind of the ranks of the people. It started getting a bit serious because I was like, okay, actually, there’s something actually happening here. And I remember calling, I worked as a tour guide in the Aillwee Caves at that time.
Oh my God, you’re like the cliché. The kid from Ballyvaughan is an actual tour guide in the Aillwee Caves. We loved the Aillwee Caves
Man, it was amazing. And it was such a well paying job because there was tips at the end of the tour and I was a young Irish fella and you’d ham up the Irish accent really heavily and you’d get a load of Americans in through. And it’d be brilliant, it’d be great. But then I remember having to call the cave on the Sunday kind of going like.
Call the cave.
Yeah, I had to call the cave. Yeah. And I had to tell them that I was like, I think I’m actually getting through something here. And then, okay, cool, you’re into these semi finals. And the thing that people kind of don’t really realize about The All Ireland Talent Show was that it was like a hybrid of like a talent show of a political campaign. And they had split everybody up into the sections of Ireland, right? So you had to kind of mobilize your side of Ireland and they had this real almost like a county kind of GAA.
The vibe to it, you know what I mean? And I remember I was going to.
Represent the West.
Representing the west, representing Clare and everything. And you had to go. And like I was doing like, my mother was driving me to secondary schools and I would play in the secondary schools and go, I need your vote on Sunday or whatever, like that and do that whole thing. It really had absolutely nothing to do with the music, you know what I mean? Like, it’s to do with the performance, the story, getting people mobilised. And that was the thing.
I love that it was kind of an accidental entry to it.
Yeah. Like, I had never planned to do music as a thing and that was the first time that I was kind of like, maybe I could do music as like one of the things that I would want to.
It actually reminds me, because when I was in College, I was in Art College. I was in the sort of design side. And then there was the TV and film people also. And once a year we would collaborate with our equivalents in the TV and film.
And we would film these puppet shows, like make our own TV puppet shows. We would design the puppets and make them and then the TV people, you know, students would film. And then one year RTÉ came and said, we need some puppets for a thing, does anybody have? And two guys who are in the year above me said, oh, well, we’ve just done. We’ll do it. And who do they end up being? Zig and Zag.
Oh my God. Wow, there you go.
They’d be like leaving after lunch every day to go and be Zig and Zag.
And like, you do fall into those things as well, especially in College where you’re kind of just rattling through and kind of saying yes to everything and messing around, you know? It was quite funny because I hadn’t really played any live shows on a stage, do you know what I mean?
So you had not really done the looping either. Doing the looping.
Doing the looping is pretty close.
Doing the looping, you hadn’t been doing the looping. You hadn’t been using what was new technology to you at the time. You hadn’t done it live for people until you did enter that.
Yeah, I mean, I had just been doing it in the house parties in the College and that was in my first year in College. And then you were put onto this full on TV stage and it was like giant. It was huge. And then I came out of it afterwards and I did that one and then I did a show called Must Be The Music, which was like a Sky One version in the UK. And that one was insane on a scale that was just absolutely crazy. And I got to the final of that was basically like, you know, they had one person from Scotland and one person from Ireland and one person from England, and that one was wild because it was kind of supposed to be against The X Factor, where everybody was writing their own original music instead of doing covers and stuff.
But the big thing was, and their big kind of twist was that they were like, okay, well, when you perform that track on that night, we will put your track up on itunes and people can buy it on the night.
Carraroe by Daithí (Feat. Elaine Mai) plays.
And it got to number six in the UK charts, like, the first day I did it. And no label and all the money. So it was actually the basis point of me being able to do music full time.
Carraroe by Daithí (Feat. Elaine Mai) plays.
You kind of get what you get out of those shows, you know what I mean? And it’s 100% not a basis to make a music career. And you learn that really the hard way when you come out of it. Because I remember I had up on my MySpace page, I was like, I will play any gig. Just give me any gig at all. And then I got lucky where I met the owner and promoted the Róisín Dubh, Gugai. And I kind of told him that I wanted to play music a lot. And he put me upstairs in the Róisín Dubh every Wednesday for like two or three months. And I was just playing improv, looped sets with the violin for two to three hours and literally just learned, learned how to play in front of an audience. And that’s where I kind of then started, like, doing music kind of full time, you know?
Go back a little bit to your granddad, who’s the breakout star of The All Ireland Talent Show, because he died just recently.
Yeah, he died last year. And it was quite sad because, you know, it was during the middle of one of those kind of really intense lockdowns. And for my money, it would have been almost like a state funeral kind of thing. He had so many connections between all the kind of the Irish traditional scene and everything. And even as you said in that intro, like, I played with Martin Hayes in Dubai, and every single traditional musician who was there would come up and kind of go, I met Chris at this, and I met Chris at this, and they all had these amazing stories about him, and he had more of a social life than I did. He was like traveling to Boston to play in all these places. And he used to play on these cruises. They’d invite him onto a cruise, and then he’d play for the entire cruise, and then he’d come back and stuff.
Tigh Greene, Baile Uí Bheacháin by Chris Droney, Francis Droney & Áine McGrath plays.
He started a Céilí band called the Four Courts Céilí Band. They were really well known. And yeah, he was a really amazing musician. Like, really incredible.
Tigh Greene, Baile Uí Bheacháin by Chris Droney, Francis Droney & Áine McGrath plays.
And it’s interesting because he being so steeped in traditional everything and then it’s even interesting watching him watching you on The All Ireland Tallent Show, so proud and all, and yet he’s kind of, like, looking across, you know, these cultural expanses between what he’s doing and what you were doing on stage in front of those people. Did he really appreciate what you were doing, do you think?
Yeah, it was quite interesting. So my grandfather would be known in the traditional world as being, like, really down the line in terms of traditional music. Like, he really stays, say there’s no, like, in his playing. His style playing is kind of like, there’s a special playing from that part of Clare where it’s like there’s no kind of fanciness to it at all. It’s straight down the line.
Tigh Greene, Baile Uí Bheacháin by Chris Droney, Francis Droney & Áine McGrath plays.
It’s not too fast. It’s like this really set style of playing. So even in the traditional world, he would be quite lined in a very kind of conservative level of traditional music. So I was super nervous. Showing it to him was like a really kind of a weird thing for me. I had to bring him into the bedroom in my house and show him, like, here’s a loop station, and here’s the violin. It’s plugged into this thing. And then I played it for him, and I was super nervous that he kind of wasn’t going to take it at all. But I think that the blessing about it was that I was actually at that stage so far removed from traditional music that I wasn’t sullying traditional music in any way by kind of trying to inject all this stuff.
And at this stage, I kind of completely agree with him. You know, traditional music is so so beautiful, but if you start trying to mess with it too much, suddenly you’ve kind of ruined the beauty of the traditional music. So it’s a thing that I’m super conscious about when using any type of traditional Irish music in my own music as well. It’s like there’s a certain tradition there that if you mess with it too much, you take away the power that it has, you know?
I read a quote from you, I don’t know how old it is, talking about your own fiddle playing and saying that, you know, you weren’t a great, you know, master player, but really what was good about yours was really the energy you were throwing into it.
Do you still feel that way?
Yeah, for sure. I mean I wouldn’t be a very, very good violin player or a good fiddle player. I just wouldn’t have the kind of, like a traditional Irish musician who plays fiddle is like, it’s such a vocation. And you sit down and you do hours every day, just the violin and nothing else, and you concentrate on that. Whereas with me, I have a much more technical mind. I’m more of like a music producer and a performer rather than just a set musician who plays the fiddle. So for me, the thing about the violin that is strong in my own music is basically I’m playing live, and you pick it up and you pull the bow across the whole thing, and it has this, like, powerful effect on an audience.
Lavender by Daithí plays.
They see this very physical instrument coming through the electronic music. And the power of a violin is that when you play it with a bow or you play with a pluck, it’s so expressive that you can really pull emotions out of an instrument like that very well. And that’s what makes it so powerful, because you can move that bow along the string seven different ways and it would denote seven different emotions the whole way through. And you get to feed off a crowd, and then you pull it, and then it’s like you’re feeding off that crowd and the cycle starts, you know? That’s what’s really special about the violin in this electronic stuff. I think, you know?
I want to talk to you about the song where your granny ended up going viral. And for people who are already familiar with that, we’ll hear parts of it now. But for people who are familiar with it they will probably be assuming that the grandfather we’re talking about is the same husband that your grandmother and so on. But that’s actually not true.
That’s not the case. Yeah. And my grandmother on the other side, Margaret gets it all the time. Apparently people go up, it’s like, Jesus, you don’t sound a bit like you do on the track. Yeah. So Mary Keane is my mother’s mother, and she lived on the other side of Ballyvaughan in a thatched cottage in a valley.
Her house, kind of place, was called Lismactigue. My mother’s mother, she actually also passed away recently as well. She actually passed just before the pandemic. So she didn’t actually experience the pandemic at all, which kind of is a bit of a blessing I think.
I think it’s lovely, by the way, that both of them, the grandfather from your dad’s side, and your mother’s mother, that they both got to see you succeed, and your grandfather got to see that you’d become an accomplished musician in your own right and had success. And your grandmother, of course, got to enjoy becoming a hit maker herself.
Yes, absolutely. Especially with Mary Keane, she lived up in a cottage. She was very much involved in the valley that she was from and Ballyvaughan, and that was about it. And when the track came out and it started going really kind of crazy, there was like a moment where Ryan Tubridy was contacting someone to have her on the radio show or on The Late, Late and stuff. And I was trying to explain to her.
Who Ryan Tubridy was.
Yeah. And just even like the internet, I was like, you know, you have to explain to somebody, it’s really big on the Internet. She was like, okay, cool. And she’s like, has it been playing on Clare FM yet? And I was like, no, I don’t think it has. And she was like, all right, okay, cool. Well, tell me when it’s been played on Clare FM, because obviously she could just show off to her friends then that it was on Clare FM. So I had to go to Clare FM and go like, look, I know you don’t usually do this, but would you do an interview with me for this thing? It’s kind of blowing up or whatever. And then it did, and I was like, okay, I’m going to be on now in 2 seconds or whatever.
Just after the death notices.
And then I was like, how am I going to explain to her the splits? And you know what I mean? How do I, she is owed 50% of this track and everything. And I was like, so how would I even get you into this thing? And she was like, all I want is a great grandson or a great granddaughter. I was like, Oh God. That was always her pull.
Well, I mean, anybody who hears that song will sort of immediately fall in love with her.
Mary Keanes Introduction by Daithí plays.
She has a great turn of phrase. She has a great classic accent. She has the heartiest, but also dirtiest little laugh.
And you mentioned that she lives in an thatched cottage in the valley. One of my favorite parts, you know, is her describing the valley and talking about her valley and Lisdoon Valley and about, you know, young fellas on the run going up the side of the mountain to hide. She speaks about the landscape in a way that I just don’t think people speak about the landscape anymore.
Right. The sense of place is pretty rare for people my age anyway, where it’s kind of like you’re not tied to any one place because you’re kind of on the internet all the time, say, whereas like, my grandmother was like her entire being, her entire world was this one valley and everybody in it. And like, that idea and that sense of identity is kind of lost on us, I think, a lot of the time.
Yeah. Well, I think we have formed our sense of place and identity, through different avenues.
There’s something very, I don’t know, refreshing now to hear somebody really place themselves on planet Earth based on the actual rocks that are around her.
Yeah, yeah. And I have a minimal amount of appreciation for that now as well myself, because I’ve started coming back to Ballyvaughan a lot more now since before the lockdown. And if you had told me at 22, 23, oh, you’re going to really enjoy being back in Ballyvaughan, I would have told you you were nuts. And just the idea of you start getting older and you start seeing the stuff that other people are there and why you would appreciate places like that, and then you start getting quite a strong pride of the village and it’s more outward facing. It’s like, what can you do to help bring this place up?
And I see it in people my age all over the place. The Connolly’s of Leap in West Cork is the same thing where there’s a fantastic scene in Birr, where these people have come back and are like, breathing new life into these areas. It’s one of my favorite things that’s happening in the West of Ireland, that people are coming back to their areas and kind of taking ownership of them a little bit more, which is great.
And also in particular, the part of the West of Ireland you are has this sort of clash of old and new because it still has the great musical trad traditions. People are drawn to the area for that. Other trad musicians end up moving there specifically for that. And then at the same time, there’s this whole other, a new culture based around surfing and all that. Cheek by jowl, it’s kind of reinvigorated the whole area.
When I was there, when I was younger, I wasn’t really aware of it, but now coming back, you start seeing where there’s like a farming local level, which is like one line, and they completely would have nothing to do with surfers, the guys who opened coffee shops and everything. But they’re all in the same kind of area. They’re all in the same kind of melting pot. And like, that’s what makes a really special kind of area.
In a weird way, I think you personally very much kind of represent that whole new version.
But because you are steeped in this tradition and all that, yet rather than bringing surfing in, you’re bringing electronic music into it all, it doesn’t surprise me that you’re very at home there now.
Yeah. Again, as we’re saying about Mary Keane, there’s like this kind of sense of identity that I have a fierce pride of where I’m kind of from, you know what I mean? And for me, my entire career has been built around this idea of where I’m from makes the music unique. And it’s an incredibly easy way to make your music different to everybody else’s because you take samples and sounds that nobody else could take cause they’re your own and, like putting them into your music and it sets you apart from everybody else, which is a big thing.
And so let’s go back to Mary now. First of all, I’ve seen a picture of her cottage and everything. If you were Mr Hollywood producer who wanted to make a movie in the West of Ireland, you’d go to Mary’s house and you’d use it as a location in Mary’s Valley. Like, it couldn’t be more perfectly, you know?
Yeah. I used it as the artwork for the track as well. So if anybody needs to see it, it’s like if you go on to Spotify and give me an auld 0.08 cent, you can have a listen to it. But it’s like, yeah, it’s a perfect thatched cottage which has been thatched by my uncles for years. And it’s an amazing spot. Like, it’s great.
And so tell me the actual story of how that track happened, because your source material is this interview. And I think I, along with, I guess most people who listen to it, assumed lazily, that you had gone and done the interview, but that isn’t actually.
Yeah, no, I wish I had done it. So basically I was helping her clean her house one weekend and she had one of these amazing dressers, you know, those dressers in the old houses. Like the cups are hung along the side and there’s every single.
Highly sought after nowadays.
Seriously sought after. This one is amazing. It’s still in the house, but it had loads of stuff underneath. And in one of the drawers in it, there was just like a CD, blank CD in a case with just her name written on it. And I was like, what is this? It was in amongst like, you know, Daniel O’Donnell and all the other stuff as well. And she was like, oh, that was like an interview that I did with this lady. She was doing a radio show where she was interviewing one person from every county, one older person to kind of talk about what life was growing up. And apparently the interview is amazing because my auntie was there when she was actually doing the interview. And my auntie was there with my grandmother because my grandmother could say anything on an interview. Like, she could say anything.
So she was like my auntie was super nervous about kind of just letting her let loose. And she would start saying something and apparently my auntie would kind of interrupt her and kind of go like, no, that’s not true. Like, that’s not actually a thing that happened. And then the interviewer very smartly went like, okay, you don’t say anything anymore and you just let Mary Keane talk or whatever. So the interview is like 2 hours long. It covers all of these wild, different things about kind of growing up in Clare when she was really young and what that was like. And my grandmother wasn’t somebody who would be in the house all the time. She was very much like a farmer. She would like, be out of the house all the time. Farming, farming, farming. That was what she was really into. So she was a really active woman. She was like the main farmer in the family. And it was all of this different things. And then she talked about kind of growing up and everything. She talks about raising chickens as well, all of these really weird kind of farming stuff.
And she talks about a gay cock.
She talks about a gay cock as well. She does. And she pulls out all these things. And then I kind of like lifted the CD out of her dresser. And I was like, I need to listen to this. And I was like driving back in my car with it in the CD. And then like, this part comes over where she kind of talks about where she met my grandfather. And it was just like this amazing moment, listening to it in my car because it was just so honest.
All the time when you’d be at home, your father and they’d be always looking for a good man for you, do you know? Of course I didn’t ever expect to get someone I fell in love with.
You can hear her voice crack in a certain point of it. It’s just such an incredible sample because you just could never get like, nobody could perform it. It was a natural. She was actually speaking from the heart. And it didn’t even matter that there was a microphone in front of her, you know?
It’s also, it’s delivered in a way, beautifully sparse in a way. So, like when she says the line that everybody remembers.
And my father would come and my uncle would come and he’d say, Mary, this man over in town has a big farm and land. You’ll have to go over and meet. So, no, I didn’t. I met my future husband down in Kilfenora, and I fell in love with him.
I met my husband down in Kilfenora, yeah.
I met my husband down in Kilfenora and I fell in love with him. You know, an actor, no matter how good they are, would somehow embellish that last point. There’d be some flourish to it. And she doesn’t, she just says it.
And it’s so stark. And one of the things that really amazes me about it as well, and I don’t know what this is like for the rest of the country, but I always feel like in Clare saying you fell in love with somebody, there’s so much emotion on show there that is totally not how we would say it. You find any possible way not to say that and say something else like, oh, yeah, I went away with him. Or like, you’d say something that just totally isn’t, I fell in love with somebody. It’s so honest and so open. And I think, yeah, that’s one of the main reasons as well why it’s like so strong. And I think it really struck a chord with people because it was, first of all, the Irish accent, I mean, you don’t hear that type of accent in any type of songs.
When it started blowing up and stuff, there was a lot of people who wanted to interview my grandmother and wanted to kind of put her on TV shows and stuff. But we made a very kind of conscious decision that I didn’t want to actually show her face anywhere because I felt like every single person who listened to it is picking their own grandmother or their own grandparents and, like, planting their grandparent on it instead of your own.
So not having the face out there doesn’t put a face to the name. And suddenly you can plant any imagination of who you put in there, you know? And I think the only image that you ever see of her is in the actual music video. I just have her hands and nothing else. So you don’t see anything else but her hands. And that’s the only public picture of my grandmother that’s out there, you know, which was very important to me. And I think it really kind of stands to the track as well, you know?
And when you’re listening to it in the car and she gets to that part, are you immediately like, that’s the goal right there and I’m going to do something with that.
Absolutely. I kind of shortened the narrative from 2 hours to however long and short it is. And, yeah, I remember being in my house in Galway and just writing the chords as this kind of, like, hopeful kind of thing, and then just locking in and over the top and then doing the drop. And, yeah, it just worked so well.
Mary Keanes Introduction by Daithí plays.
And I didn’t really do a huge amount of an iteration. And at the time, you know, like, I had just left a major label, and I was kind of, I’d been doing these, like, three and a half minute pop songs kind of things because I thought that was the only way you could get on radio or anything. I mean, that song is like five minutes long. And I was like, there’s no way this is a single. It’s just way too long. And there’s like a woman talking for the first half or whatever. And then we put it up and it’s like the biggest radio play that I’ve ever gotten.
Mary Keanes Introduction by Daithí plays.
There was just such a kind of a lesson for me where I was just kind of like, stop worrying kind of what other people think. You kind of run with what you’re creating, and whatever happens, happens. And if people like it, they like it. And that was a big lesson for me, you know?
And I know, obviously she got to be on Clare FM.
Did she really understand that it was an actual hit and that people were out there listening to her story?
Apparently, a lot of her friends had said that their grandkids had told them about it, but again, it really didn’t matter to her how big it was. As long as I was doing grand and doing okay and still doing music, that was a big thing for her. So, yeah, I don’t really know if she realized the scale of it. And in the grand scheme of things, you know, like, in her world, it probably isn’t the biggest thing in the world, you know.
Yeah, there was bigger things in the valley.
Exactly. And there’s a beauty to that as well, I think.
But as you said, everybody can transfer their own grandmother or whatever onto her in a way, even though the accent might be different, there is this essence of.
Yeah, for sure.
And her laugh is gorgeous.
It is. It’s really amazing and it’s honest and like, you know, she’s not pretending to be somebody else. She’s really having the craic. So, yeah, she was a brilliant woman.
Well, God bless Mary Keane. Well, you’re going to do a song for us here in the studio?
I am, yeah. I’m going to do a track called An Irish Goodbye, written just at the start of the lockdown. When the lockdown came down, I was in Vietnam. I was doing a gig in Vietnam. I was supposed to be playing on St. Patrick’s Day to 2000 people in Ho Chi Minh City. And I went over and at that time, there were three cases in Clare, and there was no case in Vietnam. So I was like, yeah, I’ll be grand. I’ll go over to Vietnam, it’ll be fine. Like, yeah, if there’s cases over here, then we’ll be fine. And at the time, we didn’t even realize what was going on. They had to cancel the gig. The promoters, who were like a Camogie team in Ho Chi Minh City and a couple of other business people, had lost a ton of money on this gig so I said, I’d play, like, a smaller gig in a bar a little bit beforehand, like two or three days before. So I rescheduled my flights, played the gig. It was packed out full of Irish people. And I got into a taxi. And as the gig finished, the government in Vietnam decided to shut down everything in Vietnam.
And with the type of government that it is, the army came out and started shutting down all of the shops and the bars one by one by one. And I was in a taxi, as they were like, the army was out shutting down all the stuff, got to the flight.
Shutting down everything right there and then.
Every single thing. Yeah.
You didn’t even get a balloon of nitrous oxide. I’ve been to Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City and it is a lot more fun than you would imagine.
It is. It’s a lot of fun.
The weirdness of you’re in a nightclub or whatever, and they’re, like, wandering around selling balloons of nitrous oxide that people are just, like inhaling.
And there’s a big Irish community there and everything as well.
Yes, I met Irish people when I was there.
The whole place was shutting down and I got into the airport, and I was the last flight out of Saigon, and all the American flights had been canceled, and there was all these Americans freaking out. And if I hadn’t gotten that flight, like, I would have been there for two or three months, you know? But I had done all these recordings.
Worse places to spend three months I have to say.
Well, true, but everything would have been closed, so it would have been no joke I think. I had been recording all these kind of stuff while I was there with this little kind of hand recorder that I had. And when I got home, I decided because we were in lockdown, there was nothing else to do. And it was that moment where I think a lot of creative people were kind of going like, what the hell do I do now? How do I do this thing? So I did, like, a live stream over the course of, like, two or three days and wrote this song called An Irish Goodbye. And it was kind of interesting because it was like, you know, I was doing it in front of a whole pile of people who were experiencing the same thing I was.
And everybody was kind of hanging out in this live stream. The song kind of turned out quite kind of, there’s a kind of a cool, kind of a melancholy happiness kind of thing going on, which I really liked. So that’s what An Irish Goodbye is.
And I assume that the title is a reference to what Americans call An Irish Goodbye. Is it?
Americans refer to an Irish goodbye to being you’re at a party, and you don’t say goodbye to people. You just leave, slip out and disappear. And they think it’s rude. Whereas I’m, like, I always do an Irish goodbye at a party, and it makes sense to me. And I think maybe it makes sense in Ireland more.
Because you’ll get stuck.
Yeah. If you start saying goodbye to everyone, you’d be there for another hour, you have to say goodbye to everybody. And then they’ll all be like, have one more, stay for dinner, ah you will, you will, all that stuff.
At 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning at an after party it’s vital. It’s an absolutely vital act that you’re, like, kind of leaving without telling anybody and just disappearing into the ether. It’s got a nice, kind of mysterious feel to it as well, I think, you know.
Well, let’s have our, you know, Irish Goodbye.
Daithí performs An Irish Goodbye.
That was lovely. Thank you.
Thank you. Thanks very much.
You’re one of these people also who I kind of hate because you had a very productive lockdown. But I will say, in a way that you were kind of lucky that you had a project that was outside of your normal stuff, that was also creative. And tell me about The Beekeepers retreat.
Yeah. So after I spent about two or three weeks in the first lockdown in Dublin, and I started realizing that it was going to get very quiet in Dublin. So I said that I would go back to Clare when I could. And I had always wanted to do this thing when I was older. I write all of my music, not in studios. I write it, I rent somewhere in the West of Ireland, bring all my gear to a singular place and just work on music. And I kind of always thought that there should be a dedicated place that somebody can do that. So instead of a music studio, you have a kind of almost like an artist retreat thing where you can go and just create completely on your own with no distractions and have the entire thing to yourself.
And I had always wanted to do that. And the lockdown kind of brought the whole thing forward. So myself and my family were given a kind of a chance to take on this house that was this amazingly gorgeous, incredible house very close to where my parents live in Ballyvaughan. It’s an absolutely gorgeous house. And it had been not lived in for quite some time, so it needed a bit of TLC. So I spent most of the lockdown doing the DIY of building back up this house and kind of.
Are you a DIY guy generally?
I would be kind of DIY. I’m a lot more DIY now after taking on this.
You could plaster a wall.
Yeah. There’s a toolbox in the car now, that’s the real, that’s my identity now. I mean, I guess it’s the same as the bar, right? Suddenly it was this thing where it was like, okay, this is amazing. It’s like a kind of thing that I can do with my family as well, who are kind of there, you know, I kind of connected much more with my family. You know, my auntie runs a B&B, so she has these big sheet cleaning machines, so she cleans the sheets. And we do the turnovers with my mother and any of the kind of the bigger stuff my dad helps me with. So it was a real kind of a family thing. And I did it with my partner Norma and we lived in the house for whatever the six months it took to build it back up.
And it was just a really, really nice time. And because music wasn’t really happening at that stage, I felt a bit useless. You’d spent ten years working on this craft that you couldn’t do anymore, and you feel like you’re kind of, well, what good am I? You know? And then you could kind of go out and you could do gardening for a couple of hours and you’d know that you’d done something useful with yourself.
And now Beekeepers has become this really amazing artist retreat. We’re in our second year now. It’s been kind of booked out solidly throughout the year. The general idea is if you’re a musician, let’s say you spend $300 for a day in a studio, you could spend that and do two or three nights in the Beekeepers instead, you know? So it’s an affordable way to go, get out of your apartment or wherever you’re staying, be completely on your own or be there with your band. Write completely in a beautiful location and really experience Ballyvaughan in a great way. It’s been fantastic. It’s been great.
And it’s not just musicians who’ve been using it, right?
Yeah. Writers, script writers. My partner Norma is in film so we get a lot of those type of people as well.
You know, those type of people. But we get lots of scriptwriters and we get all sorts and painters and all sorts of stuff.
I read a brief list of various people who have been there, quite a few from our great podcast guests.
Yes. Yeah. Nealo was there, actually, and is going back again pretty soon. Elaine has worked there. Saint Sister has worked there.
Submarines by Daithí (feat. Ailbhe Reddy) plays.
Ailbhe Reddy was down with me. So there’s plenty of people going down. And it’s been going really well. Yeah.
Submarines by Daithí (feat. Ailbhe Reddy) plays.
You are now living there full time.
Pretty much. Yeah.
But beginning lockdown you were living in Dublin.
So I’m still kind of in both worlds, to be honest. I do that two and a half hour drive plenty, plenty, plenty. But yeah, I mean, I thought that when we started doing Beekeepers I’d be like, oh this’ll be great. Now I’ll have two weeks in a month that I’ll be able to kind of live there and work and stuff. But it’s filled with artists now. So I’m renting another place and I’m kind of out there. I’m going to build a proper studio in Ballyvaughan. And this change has kind of slowly been happening over the last say year or so. I’m kind of more and more going out that way more and more. Yeah. Look, it’s just a really amazing place to write, and it’s a really great place to kind of create music.
Well, speaking of places and all, talk to me about the new album, in particular, this song and video, Familial.
Familial by Daithí plays.
That’s a big question so.
Yeah. So Familial is kind of an audio visual kind of music paired with a video that was filmed in New Zealand. It was directed and kind of created by a woman called Ayla Amano, who is this incredible director who now lives in Ireland. But the way I met her was that one of my very good friends, Brendan Canty, is her fiancé. And he was living in New York and she was living in Canada. And she was planning to go to visit Ireland for the first time and kind of stay there for a while. And Brendan was planning on coming back. So they set their Hinge dating profiles to Ireland, both of them. And they matched from Canada and from America.
So they weren’t a couple yet?
Yeah. They weren’t a couple yet.
They matched while she was in Canada and he was in America on this dating website.
Even though both of them were in Ireland only virtually.
Only virtually. Yeah. And then they got on like a house on fire, and then she came to Ireland and he came to Ireland and they were a year here. And then he was going to go meet the parents in New Zealand. So he flew to New Zealand, they were going to stay in New Zealand for three months to meet the parents. And Brendan and Ayla found out in the quarantine in New Zealand that they were pregnant. So baby Hazel was born. But he stayed in New Zealand for nine months, almost a year, I guess. And Brendan would be one of my best friends and Ayla I know very well now. And Brendan and Ayla found themselves living in New Zealand for this like year to cook this baby.
This whole story.
Yeah. It’s pretty wild.
And so she had planned to do a music video for me in Ireland. And we were hoping to do this kind of I’m kind of very interested in kind of how males in the West of Ireland interact with each other. And there’s a kind of a beauty in how, as we were saying before, they’d never say what they’re really going to mean. And there’s no kind of like showing your kind of emotions, which is like a blessing and a curse I think. There’s like a poetic beauty to it that’s also frustrating at times.
But she found that there was a massive link and I think it would only take somebody from the outside to actually see this stuff, that there was a massive link between how people in the country talk to each other and how people in the Pasifika communities in New Zealand talk to each other. So she was like, we should do the video in New Zealand with the Pasifika communities. I met all these amazing people who are going to do this and she made this absolutely incredible, gorgeous video over in New Zealand.
Familial by Daithí plays.
And the thing that excites me about it most is that you can see all these links. They’re extremely religious as well and you know, they have this long history of religion and stuff as well. And you can see all these links, but it’s so completely removed from my own culture. But you can find all these links and that’s the thing that’s been really exciting to me and it’s kind of one of the main basis of the album as well is this idea where it’s like looking at other parts of the world and finding connections between the Irish and abroad and stuff.
Yeah. So for listeners, they should definitely check it out. It is a beautiful film. Familial.
Yeah, that’s right.
That’ll come up.
It will come up. Yeah, you can check it on YouTube.
But the bigger project here is all about taking your pieces and then matching them with filmmakers.
Yeah, for sure. I’ve kind of always really loved the visual side of stuff as well. It’s been a really big push. We’ve done a good few videos that are based around kind of Clare and stuff like that as well. But for me I’m doing a lot more score work as well and stuff like that. So the visual thing is this kind of amazing way where if you mix it with music, you get like a kind of a fully 360 piece of art that you can kind of really stand behind. And there’s a huge amount of effort that goes into it. It’s extremely difficult. Making music videos is so hard. It’s like really difficult. But when you do it, you can kind of stand behind something. And it’s one of the only times that I’ve really found that like if I write a piece of music and put it to a piece of video, it’s the only time where the pride of the piece stays with me throughout and never fades kind of thing. Like I’m always massively proud of that stuff. And as well it’s another really good way to kind of collaborate with a broad range of artists and stuff as well.
Yeah, because you are very collaborative and get off on all of that. And in a way I feel like, obviously people have collaborated throughout history, that’s not new, but there is something about younger artists and all of that nowadays. And we’ve met a lot of them on here, people like the X Collective.
People like that where it’s all interdisciplinary. People who’ve taught themselves how to video edit because they kind of have to to use their socials. It’s just like younger people are less afraid to just cross or learn something new, learn a new thing by watching a YouTube video that teaches you how to do something.
And then using that and then working with other people who have also self taught themselves things. And it becoming this sort of interesting new mash.
And you’re really into that.
Yeah, for sure. And even down to that YouTube thing you’re bang on. Like, I never went to College for music. I can’t read sheet music or anything like that. And pretty much I would say 80% of what I’ve learned in terms of mixing music and writing and stuff has all come from YouTube videos. I don’t know, there’s a kind of a grim site to it where I’ve learned how to Photoshop and I’ve learned how to edit video and stuff like that because it’s keeping the costs low.
Listen even old Granny here had to do it in the beginning of the lockdown. I spent hours and hours and hours and hours, you know, learning how to video edit and do green screen and all of that. There’s one other thing I really am going to have to talk to you about, and that’s your collaboration with Paul from Bell X1.
Paul Noonan. Yeah.
Yeah. Tell me how that started out.
Yeah. So the Choice Awards just before the lockdown was just in March, I think, before the lockdown happened in 2020. And Paul was performing with me. And at that time, he was like, by the way, I’m kind of working on this song and I might send it to you. And I was like, okay, cool. Then the lockdown happened, and a couple of months later, he was like, hey, man. And he was just kind of checking in to say hello and stuff. And he was like, by the way, here’s this kind of track I’m working on. And that track was called Companero.
Companero by HousePlants plays.
And I started working on it with him, kind of producing it for him kind of thing. And I was kind of like, okay, I’ll produce this track.
How did you gotten connected with him in the first place?
So he was on a record of mine called Loss. So he did the opening track to it, and that was a cold email. I was like a huge Bell X1 fan when I was younger and absolutely love everything they’ve ever done. And I cold emailed him and just went like, hey, Paul, I’m a big fan. I think you’d really suit this track. And he came back and wrote something on to it. And Paul, for me, is one of the best songwriters in the country. He has this amazing way of taking, like an Irish turn of phrase and turning it into kind of something cool and mix it into music. So immediately that would resonate something with me, you know. And we kind of struck up a friendship just from that track, but I didn’t really know him that well. And then we did that Companero track and we were doing it in lockdown and it was like The Postal Service, the band The Postal Service. It was like I would do a bit on the track and send him the files and then he would do a bit on the track and send me back the files.
And it started becoming apparent that it didn’t fit in the Paul Noonan school and it didn’t fit in the Daithí school. So we started a band called HousePlants.
Companero by HousePlants plays.
And then after the lockdown we kind of released a record called Dry Goods and we’ve been playing gigs as a full band for that now. So it’s like proper drummer, bassist and kind of piano player, Sinead is doing piano and vocals and stuff. Paul out the front is a frontman. We all wear suits. It’s very cool altogether and yeah, it’s been brilliant. It’s been really, really good. And I think it’s played a role in myself and Paul’s life of this like we didn’t have a huge amount of social musical outlet during the lockdown and now we get to go for a meal together before the gig and everybody hangs out and everybody is having a good time and everybody’s having really fun at the gigs and stuff like that. So that’s the role I think it’s playing in our lives. Like, so it’s been lovely. It’s been really nice.
I love the song. You know What’s With All The Pine.
What’s With All The Pine by HousePlants plays.
It’s so quirky and fun and I was watching the video and it’s very cute and all that. But also I’m just like, this is a lockdown video and I never want to look at another lockdown video. I can just tell. It’s very cute and lovely, but I know that this was made because you couldn’t get together.
Yeah. And What’s With All The Pine is based on, you’ll know this yourself as well. There seems to be some weird thing that has happened to the West of Ireland where every single house has this orangey pine everywhere. And I remember Paul sending that track to me. Like I had done the beats and he had sent on the lyrics and I was sitting in my parent’s house with pine everywhere. Like my family’s kitchen was all pine and I was like, what? Fuck you anyway, like, Jesus. So he nailed it on the head and it’s a lovely track.
It is true about the pine, although I think it as being yellowy and that’s why it bothers me.
It’s like the doors to the floor, to the skirting boards everywhere. Like some guy made a killing on pine in like the 80s and 90s. I don’t know.
Well, I have a thing about the creeping middle classisation, good taste, and I’m putting that in inverted commas, off the countryside is kind of killing it because in the old days, every West of Ireland village, you had the insane colour of all the houses and everything and that was because people literally went up to the local paint shop and says what do you have? What’s cheapest? I’ll take the one I find least offensive or whatever. But the overall effect of that was this riot of colour and everything and now everybody’s got taste. So now they’re all beginning to paint their houses greys and creams.
Yeah. The set modern colours.
And I’m like no. Where’s the puce?
I’m a big fan of the Ballyvaughan cottage is my push.
But you come from a high bar.
That’s true. That’s true.
You can’t all live in that. Daithí it’s been absolutely lovely to talk to you.
Thank you for having me. I’m a big fan of the show.
Thank you. Did you come all the way up from Ballyvaughan?
I actually came from Rome. I was in Rome.
You came from Rome.
Yes, I was in Rome yesterday. So I’ve come back especially.
Well, From glamour to glamour.
Anyway, I’ve very much enjoyed our chat.
And I’m excited to see what comes out of this whole project with videos and all that and, of course, the album and I’ll have to get me and my collaborators down to The Beekeepers at some point.
That would be brilliant. Anytime.
Wreck the gaff. Thanks so much.
Thank you. Thanks very much.