One of Ireland’s most well-known musicians, Dónal Lunny has been at the forefront of Irish trad for over three decades, playing in genre-defining acts including The Bothy Band, Planxty, Moving Hearts and many more.
Ahead of his gig at the Kilkenny TradFest (March 14th – 17th), we had a quick chat about his illustrious career, his thoughts on the music biz today, and of course, the important question of his favourite takeaway dish. You can buy tickets for his gig, of course – and all gigs at Kilkenny TradFest – via entertainment.ie/tickets now.
What’s the music that you listened to growing up, that you still listen to today?
Along with my brothers and sisters I was mad about early rock ‘n roll, listened to Radio Luxembourg every night, mesmerised by the occasional jazz track that would pop up, like Brubeck’s Take Five, or Ella Fitzgerald singing Stardust Bossa Nova. I still enjoy all that and more..
When did you first realise you wanted a career in music?
I can’t remember thinking to myself that I wanted to be a professional musician; it was more that I gradually realised that I had become a professional musician. I was designing and making jewellery for a living for 2 years after art college when Planxty came along and made up my mind for me about what I wanted to do..
In three words, describe the minute before you walk on stage.
Apprehension, anticipation, adrenalin.
How do you wind down after a gig?
I think I’m now immune to post-gig anticlimax; I used to want to stay on the high, and often the easiest way to do that was to have a few drinks and play or listen to more music.
What’s the one song you wish you’d written or recorded first?
Any of the songs on Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks – but I don’t, really. I just love them.
What’s your favourite venue to perform in, in Ireland?
Vicar St.; well-designed auditorium, proper stage facilities, great staff. Always a pleasure.
Your best and worst gig so far?
Recent high point, last April, Royal Albert Hall, Pres. Michael D’s state visit. Distant low point, in a student band playing during dinner at a UCD graduates’ ball in the Gresham Hotel. We were showered with bread rolls when the soup was served.
Whose career do you envy and why?
I wouldn’t be inclined to envy other artists’ careers at face value, as there are often two sides to the story; but there are many who I love and respect for their warmth and generosity of spirit, and regard them as being a good influence on the people around them.
Vinyl or digital downloads?
Ideal world, vinyl. Quality of music has deteriorated drastically; vinyl to mp3 is like reducing a hi-res iPad-size photo to a postage stamp and looking at it through a tea-strainer.. Quality of music downloads needs to be seriously improved.
Give us your thoughts on Spotify in three words.
Criminal Ripoff of Musicians’ Intellectual Property. Class action urgently needed. Sorry, how many words is that?
You can only have three albums on your phone/in your house at any one time – what three would you pick for today?
Bob Dylan, Shadows In The Night; Guy Clark, My Favourite Picture Of You, Thought-Fox, My Guess.
Name one piece of music memorabilia that you wish you owned.
Elvis Presley’s pink Cadillac in Viva Las Vegas…
Name one record, one book and one film that everyone should hear / read / see.
Steely Dan, Aja; Taking Measure, Scott Onstott; The Skeleton Key (for John Hurt’s performance; terrifying).
Pick the director and lead actor(s) for a biopic about your life.
Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford…
You’re ordering take-away, what do you get?
Indian; Something like Chicken or Lamb Madras, rice and/or naan bread. Or, very occasionally, smoked cod and chips.
You’ve been given €100,000 to spend, but only 1 hour to spend it. What do you buy?
Easy; hire Dennis O’Brien’s new €40 million €324,000-a-week yacht for 2 days. Sorted.
Describe your perfect day off.
Clement weather in Donegal, walking for a few hours by the sea or across the landscape around Errigal (actually climbing Errigal might be hard work these days… )
Donal Lunny performs with Paddy Glackin, Notify, Pauline Scanlon & Sylvain Barou as part of Kilkenny Tradfest 2015 at Set Theatre, Kilkenny on Monday 16th March. For full details visit www.kilkennytradfest.com.