Graham Reid | | 4 min read
For many decades now Sharon Shannon and her band have been in the vanguard of broadening the parameters of traditional Irish music into something a kin to folk-rock and bridges to reggae and country.
She mostly plays accordion but is also respected as a fiddle player and over the years has worked with artists as diverse Dennis Bovell, Elvis Costello, Nigel Kennedy, Kate Bush, Steve Earle and many others . . . as well as the roll-call of great Irish artists such as Sinead O'Connor, Donal Lunny, Christy Moore and Kirsty MacColl.
With over a dozen albums to her credit and a formidable live reputation she and her band will be one of the most enjoyable acts on the bill at the 2019 Womad in Taranaki (details below).
So obviously it was time to ask her some questions . . .
The first musician whose music really affected you was . . .
Donegal fiddler and composer Tommy Peoples.
Your first appearance on stage before an audience was . . . (And you were how old?)
I started playing the tin whistle when I was 8 years old and I used to play regularly on stage with other musicians and sound system for ceili dances every weekend.
If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .
I think I would probably have ended up working with animals in some way or another..I also love sewing and altering my clothes and shoes, so I would like to have worked somehow in the area of fashion design or at least some sort of a career working with a sewing machine and drawing out ideas.
I was also very hooked on the notion of becoming a top hair dresser when I was a kid.
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are so emotionally moving are . . .
1. Saints and Angels by Mike Scott
2. Songbird by Christine McVie
3. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground by Willie Nelson
The most unusual place you have performed would be . . .?
Native American Reservation Acoma New Mexico.
Also I played recently in a vegetable glass tunnel at a mini festival in an amazing community garden in Lahinch Co.Clare which feeds over 90 local families. Amazing atmosphere with all the garden volunteers and locals socialising and dancing around wildly in their wellies and working boots.
The most important book you have read is . . .? And why?
The Sustainability Secret. This book is the companion to the documentary 'Cowspiracy'. It explores the impacts of the most environmentally destructive industry on the planet: ANIMAL AGRICULTURE.
If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)
Philip Wollen... An Australian philanthropist who passionately defends animals and has made some very famous and hugely inspiring speeches about animal rights.
I would probably play some sort of a heart-breaking haunting melody
The three films you'd like anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .
'Cowspiracy' ... a movie with which details the link between animal agriculture and ecological crises such as climate change, ocean dead zones, and water shortages.
' Dare to Be Wild' tells the fascinating and inspiring true story of Irish woman Mary Reynolds, who became the youngest recipient of the Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal in 2002 for her garden, designed to bring back the beauty of wild nature to the sterile and unnatural design of urban and private gardens.
She was daring and brave in the fact that she presented a wild garden including weeds and rabbit droppings.
'Forks over Knives' ...a fantastic movie that promotes the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet
The last CD, vinyl album or download you bought was . . .
Co. Clare accordion player Josephine Marsh latest beautiful CD. 'Music in the frame'. Also the new CD by John Prine 'The tree of forgiveness'.
When you travel, what is it you most miss about your home country?
My rescued animals at home. My family and my friends and the music sessions at parties.
The artist you most admire would be . . .
Amazing Irish musician and composer Tommy Peoples.
Also, people like Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Mike Scott, John Prine and Van Morrison who seem to have a never-ending supply of creativity and beautiful timeless music.
Your favourite meal to share with friends would be . . .? (Care to share a simple recipe?)
A huge top-quality vegan feast with a huge variety of food including starters and a wide variety of ice cream and desserts that hopefully would be so good that the meat eaters would consider veggie options more often when they are shopping in the supermarket or that they would be inspired to try the veggie options in a restaurant.
Do you practice every day, and if so for how long?
No, not every day. Often, I don't have time to play at all. But when I do take out an instrument, 3 or 4 hours can often slip by very easily. I do most of the writing of melodies while I'm out walking my dogs or driving the car. The tunes just race around inside in my head and I just sing them to my phone using the recording app
David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” If that were true, you would spend them where, doing . . .?
Have as much fun as humanly possible. Socialise more. Spend as much time as possible with my family and my friends and animals and try to go on as many unusual and memorable adventures as possible. Get together more often with musician friends for music sessions and more fun and laughter. Treat my family and friends and myself and my animals as much as possible.
Do lots of parachute jumps, paragliding, helicopter rides and other dare-devil type exciting things with friends and family. Take my family on sunny holidays. Skiing holidays.
De-clutter my house for once and for all.
And finally, do you have any unrealised goals in music?
I need to get up off my ass and set some goals. I don't have any at the moment which isn't really a great thing.
Tickets are on sale now (at the Womad site here) for the three day Womad festival of music, food, conversation and culture. Elsewhere has profiled (with video clips) the artists attending the 2019 Womad festival in Taranaki, March 15-17 here.
[For Elsewhere's coverage of previous Womad festivals and artists start your reading here, it's a global trip]