Musician who sings, plays guitar, five-string banjo and bodhran. Moved to New York three years ago from his home in Dublin.
Did growing up in Dublin have an influence on your appreciation of trad Irish music?
“To be honest, no. I had always liked it from a young age, but ever since I started playing music I was playing drums in various indie sorts of bands while I was in school and college. Singing the ballads only started when I was over here.
“I was working in a bar in Brooklyn, and one day while I was cleaning a few glasses my boss heard me singing to myself and suggested I do a gig in the bar. I learnt a few chords on the banjo and next thing I was playing there every Wednesday.”
When did you get interested in traditional Irish music?
“My dad only had two cassettes in the car. Every year when I was a kid we would drive down to Wexford, and in and around Wicklow we’d lose reception on the radio. It was either the Dubliners or Chuck Berry. Luke Kelly blew me away. Still today nothing moves me more than the raw passion of his singing.
“I guess that’s when the seed was planted. It’s probably 20 years later now, and I’m singing the same songs off that tape for me supper.”
Who are your musical influences?
“As I said, Luke Kelly and the Dubliners. Then the other obvious ones like Christy Moore, the Dublin City Ramblers, the Clancys and Tommy Makem. I just finished reading Liam Clancy’s autobiography. He tells of how he moved to New York in his early twenties and was trying to make it as an actor and singer while living in Greenwich Village. Sort of rang a few bells. And I’ve been getting into the old school American folkies of late, like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.”
Do you think there is more of an appreciation of Irish trad music in Ireland or the U.S.?
“I’ve never sang ballads to audiences back home. And I get mixed responses from both Irish and American audiences over here. Some of my best gigs have been to off the boat Paddys in Woodside and also to almost solely American crowds in Brooklyn or Times Square. Every gig is different.”
What is your fan base like over here?
“Fairly small at the moment. We have a Sunday night residency in Kitty Kiernan’s in Brooklyn and we have a steady crowd coming down to that. At the end of the month I’m heading out on tour with my cohort Aaron Lowry. We have 29 dates across the Midwest in an Irish chain, Claddagh. We’re really looking forward to that, and hopefully we’ll pick up a few new fans along the road. For more information and tour dates check out http://www.kevinmccormackmusic.com.”
Interview by Molly Muldoon
Where does the term “the luck of the Irish” come from?