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Catching up with Leo Moran of The Saw Doctors

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With The Saw Doctors on sabbatical after the hoopla around their 25th anniversary, band members Anthony Thistlewaite and Leo Moran have had itchy feet. The two friends put together a show and an acoustic EP that creates different takes on well-known Saw Doctors’ songs, versions of lesser-known and less-played songs, a few from Anthony’s solo-albums and other songs written recently with Padraig Stevens. 

The boys are back with Pushin’ It, a new EP of those songs. You’ll hear re-workings of “Villians,” “Red Cortina,” and “Friday Town,” along with some tasty new tracks. In keeping with the Saw Doctors’ knack for perfectly articulating the sentiment on the west of Ireland, “Credit Union” is a new song that Moran was asked to write for the opening of the local Credit Union in Tuam. While praising the home spun business, he also comments on the bank collapse in Ireland and how the Irish have rallied around one another for support in recent years.

“Sometimes we’re up and sometimes we’re down/we’re all for one around this town/the neighbors all help out/they’re fairly sound/I’ve always survived on rich man’s crumbs but it’s scandalous what these banks have done/the credit union’s a local bank with local people/they treat you like a person not a pimple/join up sign up,save, and invest/put in a biteen/and they give you the rest,” he sings in the song.

I spoke to Moran about the new tour and the future of The Saw Doctors. Here’s how it went:

Was there something you discovered for yourself in the songs when you pared them down to a bare acoustic level? Anything surprise you?

First of all, I had to choose the songs that I could deliver convincingly; ones I could get into and be myself with. Then I had to figure out how I'd sing them in my own way. I'm not under any illusions about my singing ability so I have to work as best I can with what I have. For it to work you can only do it your very own way. When it came down to it, I found that I was most comfortable presenting the songs in a fairly quiet way. In doing so, the words have taken more of a front seat than they did when the full band's musical arrangements were competing. It's kind of like skeletal versions. While this didn't surprise me so much, I think it's something that interests the audience and allows them to hear all the words and more easily visualize the images.

The reaction that I saw in Asbury was great—like playing in front of old friends. What has the acoustic tour been like for you?

The acoustic tour has been, and is, a whole new experience for myself and Anthony. It certainly is like playing in front of old friends. We get to meet everyone - twice. In fact, you'd do well to come to a show and avoid meeting us. It's been a big challenge for us to devise a show that works but we're delighted with the reaction we've been getting. It's a much slower-moving show than what we've been doing with the big band sound. We take our time, have a bit of banter with the audience, tell a few stories and allow whatever happens to happen. In that way it's very liberating, spontaneous and sometimes scary, in a nice way.

I see on your blogs where you chose to drive yourselves instead of getting on a tour bus: what’s that been like?

Because it's just the two of us, we're driving ourselves, seeing all the bits in between the towns and cities that we'd never seen before, learning our geography, booking the hotels and motels along the way, meeting the sound-person and the owner and the manager and the merchandise person and the box-office person and the janitor at all the venues. It's all hands on and intense and satisfying and fun.

When we were in the big bus with the band, we'd go for a drink after the gig in a nearby bar, meet a good few fans and then hit the road on the bus and drive through the night. These days, our accommodation can be fifteen miles from the venue and we have to drive there and put the gear away before we go for a drink. If we happen to find a bar we can walk to, the bar person not only has never heard of any of our musical activities, they haven't even heard of the venue we've just played at. We're like aliens landing in a random bar, and it's an interesting, stimulating sensation.

Any news on the whereabouts of the Saw Doctors?

No news on The Saw Doctors yet. People are asking if we'll get back at it or not and we genuinely don't know ourselves. I'd hate to say we called it a day and further on down the line decide we'd like to do it again and have to do a 'Re-Union Tour' - that's something I'd like to avoid!

Dates include 4/13. West Orange NJ - Shillelagh Club, 4/16 Rockwood Music Hall, NYC, 4/18-19 Tin Angel, Philadelphia. For more information, go to www.leoandanto.com

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