Duke Special [March 2007]

A lost boy in a musical neverland, he transmits an aura of pure, innocent exuberance. As he prepares to take on Galway and Limerick next month, Andrew Hamilton caught up with Duke Special.

WHAT a difference a year makes. In the opening exchanges of 2006, a question about Duke Special would more likely lead you to a conceited member of the British aristocracy than to a shy Belfast singer/songwriter. Yes, things have definitely changed for Peter Wilson, AKA Duke Special.
A series of high-profile media appearances and a touring schedule that would leave even the hardest of metal bands crying for their mammy have catapulted him from Peter Who? to Duke Special.
Indeed, February and March will see Wilson take on an incredible 27 gigs across Ireland, the UK and Europe in just 32 days. This is a familiar road for the workaholic. The only difference is, this time, people have finally started to listen.
“I have slept in cars, on dressing room floors and on many, many different floors of people’s houses and, yeah, I got to be hardcore. I mean, I was looking at my friends and they were earning a packet after leaving...

Erin McKeown [March 2007] - The Podcast

Okay, after falling foul of Soundclouds uber efficient copyright software, we are back up and running with a new... ahem... rustic intro which is definitely all my own copyright. So here we go, the Erin McKeown podcast.

Erin McKeown [March 2007]

Well, not exactly. We're hit a stumbling block with the podcast archive. Our use of a tiny segment of Airs' 'Sexy Boy' in the intro has been flagged as a copyright infringement. We're trying to find a way around this - a way that doesn't include rerecording the intro to all 150 podcasts - but in the mean time here is the print version of the feature. Cheers Andy 

IT WAS bound to happen sooner or later. A miscommunication as two transatlantic publicists miss each other in the mist and an interview time of 2pm Daylight Saving time in California is somehow transformed from 2pm Irish time.
The nagging jingle of the phone pulls at American funky folk queen Erin McKeown as she sleeps. The phone rings again, this time somehow a little more urgently - “Hello Los Angeles, Ennis calling”. As it turns out, 2pm Irish time translates to very bloody early in Los Angeles. Unperturbed, and well able for a nagging Irishman (even before her first cup of coffee), the charming McKeown describes what drew her to pull together her latest collection of songs.
“It was all about that word, fun. I spent the four previous records working really hard on writing my
own songs and really committed to the idea of putting new music into the world at all times. And concentrating on my own life and other people life.
“Meanwhile, this is the music that I play for myself and I play for fun. I was actually in Ireland when the idea for this came to me. I was finishing up a tour over there. I was sitting down and thinking that this is fun, it’s quick, it’s instinctive and it’s music that other people will love.”
Sing You Sinners is a collection of 13 songs of mischief and verve collected from the forgotten corners of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway. It’s an album of old-fashioned covers, but one that has allowed McKeown to truly express herself and explore a unique take on the music.
“It totally frees me up to play with the music and I worked a lot on the production side of it. When you write songs, in some ways they are never done. Every time you sing them you wonder have you made all the right choices or do you want to change something.
“And, of course, these songs have been done for 70 years so they are really quite cooked. Every one of the tunes has a story to it — there is some really specific reason for each of the songs. Each of them came to me at some point over the last 10 years. You have a song like ‘Coucou’ which I found on a Django Reinhart boxset years ago. I don’t even speak French but I really liked the melody of the tune. I didn’t know what it was about but something made sense in it.
“So I would just sing it for fun and stumble my way through the French words. When I finally decided to do the record, I though that here is something that I should learn properly and make it part of it.
“Then you have a turn like ‘Rhode Island is Famous for You’, which I started singing five years ago. It was just something live, for fun, and the response was so great that it was almost the impetus of the record. People keep asking for the song so maybe I should do a whole record of these.”
‘The Great American Songbook’ is a term that has become somehow fashionable in recent years. Everyone has had a shot at it."
For McKeown, Sing You Sinners is as close as she can conceive to ‘The Alternative American Songbook’.
“For some reason or another, there are 40 or so songs which have been recorded over and over again. There are so many other songs which were recorded at the same time which were just as interesting, just as vibrant, just as well written and were just as vital as ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Beholden’, which is a fantastic song, but we have all heard it.
“My own taste flows towards the more obscure things anyway so I was fortunate enough to have a deep knowledge of this music. It also leaves me in a better position to make a mark on these songs for people who haven’t heard of them already. You’re not thinking of how Ella Fitzgerald sang it or how Miles Davis interpreted it.”
Despite its success, this kind of album is not likely to become the norm for McKeown.
“It is a one-time gig for me. People have been asking is there another one coming up next and what’s next is already done. It is a group of original songs and I will probably be recording them this summer. They are mostly done and I will be playing some of them on this tour.
“They are, I think, more intimate and smaller than some of the pop songs I have written over the last couple of year. I learned a lot on this album about working quickly and not over-thinking things in the studio.
“I have been coming to Ireland at least once a year for the last seven or eight years. I first came over with a friend of mine and we just travelled around and played gigs in pubs an things like that. I have been coming over and releasing records for the last five years.
“I can’t claim any kind of affinity with Ireland, other than I like being there and there’s something about my music that people really dig. It’s a cool feeling.”

I'm From Barcelona [January 2007]

Every so often, the world of music throws up something truly original. Ahead of their gig in Galway next month, Andrew Hamilton speaks with Emanuel Lundgren from Swedish music collective I’m From Barcelona, the group that is changing the way music is made all over the world.

IT was one of those moments. For a tiniest of instants, time stood still as the rational mind gave way to a pure creativity that is beyond thought. And then it came: a truly original idea.
Like Newton’s apple adventure, the idea for Swedish band I’m From Barcelona is based in simplicity. So effortlessly easy, in fact, that once you hear it, you can’t believe that someone hadn’t thought of it earlier.
Spend a few weeks during your summer holidays writing five or six
catchy pop tunes. Then simply gather 25 or 30 of your mates together — many of whom have never sang a note or played a musical instrument before — and take them on the road.
That’s exactly what Emanuel Lundgren did in the Summer of 2005.
“It was really coincidental. My only plan for this band was to fill my four-week vacation in the summer of 2005. I wanted to try something new, because earlier I had been very focused on bands and that became very serious and boring after a while. Music is supposed to be something fun, something that can help people escape everyday life. This time, I asked the friends that I hang out with and I didn’t even know that they could sing some of them. It was a real experiment.

The Stunning [December 2006]

In December of 2006, fans of The Stunning got what they'd been wanting for more than a decade - a new album and a tour. In the lead up to the released of the Tightrope live album, I spoke to Steve Wall about the band's highs and the regrets of what might have been.

[apologies for the less than perfect sound quality on this podcast]

Duke Special [November 2006]

In late 2006, the world was just beginning to take notice of Peter Wilson [AKA Duke Special]. Days before his first appearance on the Late with Jool Holland he spoke to ma about this quick rise to stardom and his brilliant version of 'Clare to Here'. Cheers,