Typically, when you get two Irishmen chatting the conversation will meander. So it was that Davey Cashin of The Kilkennys found out more about me than I him to begin with. Once we got my interview out of the way we then sat down and talked about him, his band, the recession in Ireland, freedom and along the way we coined a new phrase…
Now, tell us about this band of yours, The Kilkenneys.
We are a four piece; we are from Kilkenny. We got together in secondary school in Kieran’s College in KIlkenny. We were playing guitars, singing some folk songs that we got from our Dads, stuff like that. My Dad encouraged us, one weekend we went in and did a Sunday afternoon session in one of the pubs – it was great fun. The pub said come back and we’ll do thus session every Sunday and it kinda grew from there, we fell in love with the gig scene, the pub scene which is how it all started out.
Then we moved on to college and it was a great way of earning a bit of pocket money at the weekends, Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights in the pubs and then back to college on Monday. Then we realised, because it was really all about the music, we couldn’t wait for the weekend plus there was a bit of money to be made and it progressed from there and we decided that we were going to tour the pub scene around Ireland for a couple of years and see how it went. We all dropped out of college and we gave it a go. We got a van, got some equipment and we went on the road.
We did that nicely, just made a nice little livin’ for a good few years and then the recession hit in Ireland. The economic crisis around 2008. The music scene in the pubs seemed to die out, they couldn’t afford to get big bands in so it went to kinda one and two piece things. So we had to make a decision and see what we wanted to do so we looked outside of Ireland, w looked to England, Europe, America and we started touring in those countries and that’s what we have been doing since maybe 2008 and it has been constantly evolving so we’ve gone from the pubs to festivals and tours around Europe, America and England.
You don’t tour in what I would call traditional Irish heartlands, Belgium and Scandinavia are not known for their Irish tradition, or are they?
That’s what I was surprised about. Our manager came and said we are going to try a couple of tours of Europe – we are going to do Holland, Germany, Belgium and Denmark. And I said, that’s great, but who is our audience going to be? Is it going to be Irish people there or is it going to be the locals? He said let’s wait and see…
So what we found out was that The Dubliners, the famous ballad group from Dublin, had been touring Europe for fifty years. They had built up over that time a massive fan base from the top of Scandinavia right down to Austria and back again. They didn’t do much in the States, The Dubliners concentrated on Ireland and Europe. When they retired about three, four years ago their promoter put us into all of their venues, so we are basically keeping the tradition goin’ now.
It is phenomenal, you wouldn’t believe the following that the Irish songs have in these countries. We don’t see many Irish people there so if we go to Belgium, it a Belgian audience. In the Netherlands it is a Dutch audience and they can sing The Wild Rover or Dirty Old Town as good as any Irish person!
That must be surreal from your point of view on stage?
We didn’t know what to expect at the start but now we are five years in and it has kinda become home to us now. They come back every year and they bring friends and more friends and more family and the audience and the fan base is growing in Europe. We are playing less and less in Ireland now, which is not a great thing but it is good to be spreading the wings and spreading our music to other territories.
I was chatting with Gerry O’Connor of The Dublin Legends recently and he was saying that is amazing what a common thread Irish music is around the world, how it brings people together.
You wouldn’t believe it and again, I don’t know what the secret sauce is or the secret ingredient but we celebrated St Patrick’s Day and we were in Luxembourg, we did a concert there, and it was better than any concert you’d see in Dublin or Killarney or Cork! The Irish Ambassador was there, the Mayor was there and they presented us with gifts, it was unbelievable. The Mayor said to me, he said, why is Irish music and St Patrick’s Day celebrated all over the world and no other saint is? I couldn’t answer him, I don’t know what the entreating is, so I said if people are having fun and they are singing along, or even if they can’t sing, they can dance along and have a pint and have a good conversation in any Irish pub around the world then that’s a good thing! If people are having fun then they are going to come back.
It’s all down to the craic!
Yep, if you have the craic, you’re gonna come back! There you are, we’ve just coined a phrase! We’ve co-written that one so we’ll both take claim for that!
I found a video of you guys on YouTube while I was doing my research. It is a video of you guys playing the “Fields of Athenry” which someone has gone to the trouble of putting Spanish subtitles on!
No way! Well now that is news to me! I can’t believe that. I know of a YouTube post from Australia, where there are these two guys with their guitars, in their home with The Kilkennys playing on a DVD and they are playing along to the “Fields of Athenry” in these deep Australian accents which is hilarious to me but very flattering at the same time.
But of course you don’t stick to traditional Irissh, you mix it up with rock and pop, famously mixing Chelsea Dagger with the Divil is in Killarney.
We try to keep it entertaining. We are young enough guys, we are not the traditional Irish folk band – you think maybe of guys with beards sittin’ around the fire in their 50s or 60s. We are pretty energetic; we like to move around the stage. We get people up onto the stage dancin’, we get the audience involved, it is high energy mixed with some sentimental songs – you know the show has to ebb and flow but generally it is high energy, high excitement, audience involved, everybody singing, a bit of dancin’ – anything goes really. If we are having fun the audience has fun and it is like viscous circle and they come back for more.
Tell us about the album, in particular the title “The Colour of Freedom” where did that come from?
That is a lyric from one of the original songs which s called “Fainleog”. Fainleog is the Irish word for The Swallow. We picked it as a symbol of freedom, the swallow going back to Africa. It is the free as a bird, that kind of symbolism and it is what the swallow could see as he was flying, he could see the Northern Lights as he was flying over Ireland or he would see the Congo on fire as he was flying into Africa. They are the type of lyrics in the song and the opening lyric is “Show me the colour of freedom”. Irish music, as you know yourself, a lot of the lyrics in a lot of the songs deals with freedom and how important freedom is. Especially in modern times when there is all these atrocities goin’ on around the world. We try and tie in Ireland’s past and the struggle for freedom and what is going on right now in the world.
We were in the Netherlands on tour when the atrocities took place in Paris. We were on stage at the same time when that awful incident occurred in the Bataclan with the Eagles of Death Metal. It was horrific, we found out right after the show. For the rest of the tour we dedicated that song “The Colour of Freedom” to the men and women of Paris. It got standing ovations every night because people realise how important your freedom actually is. From now on we will dedicate that song to the people of Paris and what happened that night.
One of the songs that is not on the album, one which strikes a chord with all us exiles, is “The Gathering”
Yeah, that was a single we brought out to coincide with the Irish Government initiative of 2013 to get people back home. A lot of the young Irish people have gone to Australia, America… different parts of the world. We felt that the economy had turned a corner, it was getting a little bit better, things were looking positive so they put a spin on it, a campaign to get the Irish people back home, even if it was only for a holiday. So we released that song in conjunction with that idea but we didn’t feel that it was an album track.
You guys are far to young to remember the classics by The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, The Wolfe Tones – where did your influences come from?
That’s the thing, with traditional music, the tradition has to be kept going otherwise it is not a tradition anymore, if you understand me. At one point all those traditional songs were original songs, it could have been one hundred years ago, it could have been two hundred years ago but a one point somebody sat down and wrote that song. The reason we are still hearing it two hundred years on is because the people carried on the tradition and I find that very important, which is what we are doing.
But to get back to your question, I got it personally from my Dad. He is a folk singer, he plays around Kilkenny, he is a singer, an entertainer, he tells loads of stories and jokes, plays the banjo. When I was young I couldn’t understand this – you are listening to the radio or the TV and my Dad is doing all this other stuff. Somehow it soaked into me and in my mid teens I realised, yeah, there is so much of this great music out there.
Davey it has been great talking to you. Thank you for giving us your time today.
The full Kilkennys tour schedule is as follows:
Wed 15 June, Grand Theatre, Lancaster
Thu 16 June, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury
Fri 17 June, Theatre Royal, St Helens
Sat 18 June, Central Theatre, Chatham
Sun 19 June, Gladstone Theatre, Wirral
Wed 22 June, The Thwaits Empire Theatre
Thr 23 June, Public Halls, Harpenden
Fri 24 June, The Princess Theatre, Hunstanton
Sat 25 June, Barnes Leisure
Sun 26 June, The Core, Corby
Tue 28 June, Solihull Arts Centre
Thr 30 June, Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe