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Interview: Tony Benn
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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I’ve always loved music and singing so at the end of the summer when I was 15 I had saved my money and I was trying to decide between getting a surf board and a guitar, because it was coming into winter I went for the guitar. No regrets.
If I hadn’t gotten into music I’d say I would be a gambler or a baker, my family had a small bakery when I was growing up so I’d say I would have gone into that, how successful I would be is up for debate but I could see how it could have happened.
What do you like to do when your not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I read a lot, all kinds of stuff, I am emotionally attached to my Xbox and I’ve taken up drawing since the lockdowns started, I always wanted to learn and now I have all the time in the world .
How long has your band been around?
I had my first gig when I was 15 and I’ve been giging ever since.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based out of a small town on the west coast of Ireland called Miltown Malbay and It is has been a huge influence on my music, Miltown is famous for traditional Irish music and even though I don’t play trad (as we call it ) I think the essence of it comes through in my stuff.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you.
I use my own name so my parents came up with it and I think they did a good job it’s served me well.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
This is a tough question and I’m sure I’ll change my mind more than a few times but this second I’d say it was the first time I played the engine room in Tallahassee Florida (which is no longer open unfortunately). I pulled in after driving all day, had no idea what it was like, no expectations at all except that no one would know who I was, only to be greated by a full welcoming committee of people who already had my CD who came early to buy a second copy for their, friends that stuff never happens ! So I was the headliner that night got on stage and everyone knew the words of every song, I did two encores it was pure magic!
The worst how could you pick! One that comes to mind was about ten years ago playing the marquee at the Willy Clancy festival in my home town (Miltown Malbay) with Tommy(my brother) and Johnny Clancy (drummer).
Have you ever heard the expression that happiness is a functional of expectation?
Well I love this festival! I have my whole life, it is everything that is good about music so I was looking forward to this since the day after we played it the year before. This particular night it was pouring rain, we had to start late, the crowd was Olympic level messy, the P.A. was too small and they expected a DJ .
The crowd had made up their minds before we played a note, so we started playing fast and loud, they got into it then they were louder than us so the energy left the room. We rallied back and the place was jumping, the bouncer pulled the plug because a fight broke out. We started again undaunted for about ten minutes until another one started and we had to call it a night. You think that would be it but as we were finishing one dainty young lady felt that we should play her a request as an encore, a song we had just finished mind you, but she was too drunk to notice. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, tried to use her feminine wiles to convince my brother, ended up smacking him in the teeth with his mic braking the lead and spilling drink all over my pedal board and all that would have been just a regular bad day at the office but I expected it to be great.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already?
Tough question. My favourite place to play is Kenny’s bar Lahinch great place, great food, great crowds, not too small, not to big, everyone who works there is lovely and the owners are wonderful people.
I’d love to play the Olympia in Dublin absolutely beautiful place, loads of balconies and fancy curtains, I’ve wanted to play there since my brother brought me to see the frames there about 15 years ago.
If you could play any show with any lineup who would be on the ticket?
Is it weird that I’d want to be the opening act ?
If it was Totally up to me I’d like it to be Glastonbury.
I’d start play half a set alone the other half with my brother on bass ,Johnny Clancy on drums and Rebecca Massey on backing vocals.
Then a acoustic set from Ani Difranco.
A set by Damien Jurado.
Paul Wellar acoustic ( I saw him like this once in a packed tent in a deluge and it was magic)
Grant Lee Buffallo
Then the main man MrBruce Springsteen to shut it all down.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
To start as soon as you can, don’t let praise or criticism affect how you feel about yourself as a person (easy to say not so easy to do) and to most importantly enjoy it, music is the best, it has given me so much I met my wife, I’ve made loads friends and had loads of adventures I never would have had without it .
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
To stop eating from the take away after gigs sooner, the order of large taco fries after a hard gig seems like a great idea at the time but it isn’t.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I recorded a song years ago with Johnette Napolitano (concrete blonde) called I’m yours and the fact that someone like her, who has had all the success in the world, thought that It was worth singing with me gave me more confidence in my songwriting when I needed it and gave me encouragement to keep at it.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My favourite to play is if I cross your mind from my new album because the rhythm is tricky and the melody just starts suddenly so there is a split second of anticipation for me before I start to sing because I could make such a mess of it if I get it wrong .
The most requested song I have is Black Horse no question, there’s a line in the chorus where I sing “I will not be broken I will only bend “ and in Clare (my home county) people sing I am Tony Benn instead which is good fun .
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
For me writing songs happens one of two ways, planned where I get my notebook and pen, make a coffee and make a conscious effort to work on songs, and unplanned where the guitar calls me from across the room, I pick it up and something just comes out, nice and organic and simple.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I’d like to think that the messages are mostly about being hopeful, to be honest with yourself about who you are and what you want and accepting of yourself in success or failure .
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Some times, I find the best way to get past it is to give yourself a good talking too in the mirror
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up?
I just released a single this week “if we make it through the winter“ and I’m delighted with all the interest it is getting, so I’ll release two more singles before Christmas hopefully to even more success and fingers crossed go on a uk and Ireland tour after all the lockdowns are finished and the apocalypse is over.