The Saw Doctors

The Saw Doctors are celebrating 25 years as a band by doing what they do best -- playing in front of adoring crowds thirsty for a taste of home this St. Patrick’s Day.

They also have a new compilation, 25:25 to mark the occasion. For singer and guitarist Leo Moran, the American experience never gets old.

“You grow up listening to Bruce and Buddy Holly to write songs in the west of Ireland and then you’re lucky enough to bring them to New York,” he says. “That’s stuff you should never take for granted. These songs have taken us all over the world and it’s been a brilliant life!”

By the sounds of things, the audience shouldn’t take the Saw Doctors for granted either. Moran confesses that after this tour there is nothing on the books for the band.

You get the sense they are at a crossroads, with some eager to carry on and some set on taking a long -- if not permanent -- break.

Let’s hope this isn’t the last time we hear them “Sing a Powerful Song” but I’d catch them on this tour juuuuust in case. I spoke with Moran over the weekend about his 25 years with the band. Here’s how it went:

What factors would you attribute to the longevity of the band?

We’ve always been organized. We always put money aside to record the next album, things like that. When you do that, you call your own shots and you don’t have a record company dictating to you.

The second thing is that its fun. What a great way to make a living. Your job is playing for the people so that they have a good time, give them a night out.

We play at such marvelous venues and we have such a great crew -- all we have to do is to strap on a guitar and make some noise. Not a bad way to run through life (laughs).

I have to say your manager, Ollie Jennings, might be the most tenacious champion for a band that I have ever seen. He’s always sending me emails on what’s happening with you guys.

Ollie is a unique manager, and his passion for getting the Saw Doctors out to the world is great. He is a fan, first and foremost. It’s not like you’re doing business with an agency.

He’s part of a cottage industry. A small-scale thing, but you can travel.

When you think about the 25 years together, what do you think is a highlight?

The homecoming gig we did, and then there were 10,000 people out to see us.  To be the catalyst for being 1991. That was a great buzz.

New York and playing so many amazing venues is another highlight. The first time you saw us in Tramps is another highlight. I’ll never forget the first time I was in New York City.

I would have to imagine the newer hits must be gratifying as well. Michael D. Higgins was a chart-topper in Ireland, as was “Downtown” with Petula Clark.

It’s like everything. You’ll fall back if you’re not moving forward. We hate the idea of being a nostalgic act.

Even if the new material isn’t good, at least you have new material and say you are real and current and alive.

How have the audiences been in Ireland in light of the economic depression the nation is in at the moment?

Music is more important to people in hard times. When we saw Irish people become prosperous it didn’t suit Irish people that well.

There is a general community spirit during tough times. They need a night out more than ever. They mightn’t get to do it very often. We always try to keep the ticket prices as affordable as ever.

I like to see you at the Stone Pony in New Jersey, which is near my house. I know you are a huge Springsteen fan. What is it like to play there with such Springsteen history all around you?

The Stone Pony is the real thing. The proper rock club. It holds the atmosphere of all the great things before you.

People take those places for granted. These people in there know what it takes to create a great rock and roll atmosphere.

I saw a new energy in the band with the addition of your drummer, Ricky O’Neill.

Ricky is brilliant. Our last drummer did a brilliant job doing a blueprint with him. He is so bright and energetic.

The transition was almost too smooth. It was no work at all. No rearranging to fit the new drummer.
Almost a stupid complaint, but it was too smooth. He is so energetic and animated as well.

You just marked a quarter century with the greatest hits album 25:25. What’s next for the band?

We are going to take a long break. We’re not sure of what the future holds. We’re not going to do more gigs through the rest of 2013. It’s the first time we had nothing planned in the history of the band.

Are you working on new songs?

I go through periods where it’s the easiest thing in the world, and then there are times when nothing comes. I am in a dry period at the moment, though I’ve been collaborating with Padraig Stevens lately.

I haven’t been as creative as I’d like to be in the songwriting department and I want to fix that.

So, is this the end of the band? You’re making me nervous.

If we do get back together we need to have new energy and new songs, and I for one hope that happens. Stay tuned!

The Saw Doctors play on March 14 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, a sold-out gig at New York’s Irving Plaza on the 15th, House of Blues in Boston on the 16th, and Philadelphia’s TLA on the 17th. Check out the full dates on