The Kilkennys: We See It More Like A Family
Two weeks before taking new album “Blowin’ In The Wind” to stages across Germany, The Kilkenny’s Davey Cashin talks about the record, their journey from school band to international stars of the Irish folk scene and how they manage to stay together without falling out.
Q: You started touring together in 1998, so congratulations on your 20th anniversary! Would you tell us a bit how it all started, how the idea for the band was born and how your first ever show went?
A: The band started when we were in school in Kilkenny in our final year of exams. Myself, my brother Adam and Tommy Mackey. We called ourselves Uisce Beatha which is Irish for Whiskey (water of life) and played at weekends in pubs for pocket money and practice.
Q: Music and especially the folk scene have changed a lot during those two decades. The internet and the access to music it brought changed the recording industry, artists are playing a lot more live shows per year and are touring almost constantly, and Irish trad and folk music have seen massive revivals over the last years. How have these developments changed your musical lives? How does being a full time musician in 2018 differ from what it was like in 1998?
A: The industry has changed a lot over the years, there are very few record stores in Ireland now. So people are not buying CDs as much as they used to. Most people now stream and download music so it’s important to move with the times and have a strong online presence across all streaming and social media platforms. We still sell a lot of albums at our concerts because it’s nice for fans to take home a souvenir from the shows. That’s why bands are touring more now, they have to roll up the sleeves and get on the road. That’s the way it should be. Bands no longer have the luxury of recording an album and sitting back to watch the royalty cheques roll in, they have to get out and perform for their fans and their bread.
Q: Your own tour schedule looks unbelievably busy. How do you manage to balance that with writing music and recording albums?
A: It’s difficult to find time to record and write when you’re touring as much as we do. So we usually write and arrange when we are on the road, and when we have a spare day here or there we lay down some tracks in the studio.
Q: It is very unusual for a band to stay together in the same line-up that long, so congratulations on that as well! It says in your bio you’re all schoolmates so you’ve been together for most of your lives as friends and performers. What’s your recipe for such a long-lasting musical and personal relationship? Was there ever a moment when you wanted to quit and do something else?
A: A band is one of the hardest things to keep together for an extended length of time. With different opinions, ideas and personalities it can be testing at times. We see it more like a family. Families fall out and argue at times, but at the end of the day they stick together.
Q: German audiences are among the first to get to hear your new songs, so tell us a bit about your new album!
A: The new album is a mix and a representation of the wide range of styles the band like to perform. We have chosen pieces that we have been performing for years with good reactions from audiences but never had a chance to record. We cover the full spectrum, from Trad to Folk, fast to slow, classic covers to old favorites and hidden gems. The title track and single from the album is Bob Dylan’s old hit and classic Blowing in the Wind.
Q: A lot of Irish musicians leave their home country because they find it increasingly difficult to make a living playing shows at home, but you succeeded doing that. Again, what’s your recipe for success?
A: Give the audience what they want. Always leave them wanting a bit more, get the audience involved with singing and dancing and if it looks good and sounds good they usually come back for more.
Q: You’ve often been compared to the Clancy Brothers or the hugely successful Dubliners. Were they an influence for you guys?
A: There’s no doubt we were/are influenced by The Dubliners and the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Mackem. They were the true pioneers of the Irish folk and ballad scene as we know it today and we sing some of their songs in our shows and have recorded them on the album. However, the aim is not to imitate, but more pay tribute to these legends in our own original and modern way.
Q: You’ve performed and collaborated with some of the most acclaimed Irish artists of our time, such as Shane McGowan, Sharon Shannon or songwriter Mick Hanley, whose “Homeland” you released as a single ahead of the new album and the tour. Are there any artist cooperations you’re still dreaming of?
A: Beyoncé and The Kilkennys could be interesting. The Eagles would be a cool collaboration.
Q: Tell us a bit about your connection to Ireland’s rich musical and cultural heritage. You grew up in a time when it was not as popular as it is today, so how did you and the other band members get introduced to trad music first?
A: I personally got my love for folk music and singing from my Dad Adrian Cashin who is a folk musician and still performs on a nightly basis. Robbie and Mick have a strong background in traditional Irish music and learned the ropes from the Trad music schools that are in operation throughout Ireland and indeed the world. Tommy has been playing guitar and singing for as long as he can remember.
Q: From the past to the future: One of the reasons traditional music is in such high demand now is because contemporary artists like yourselves are adding new and exciting ideas and styles to it. What do you see yourselves doing ten years down the line? Will you still be touring the world as a live folk act, or would you like to try something totally different?
A: We tend not to think too far ahead, we usually take it as it comes. My guess is we’ll still be performing and touring in the future. Maybe put more emphasis on the recording side of things and work towards that No. 1 hit!
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