How did you meet David and Martin, and ultimately, form the group?
Ireland is pretty small and the Irish music community evem smaller! Martin was originally taught by a guy who I had taught once upon a time. He then came to me for lessons for a short while, as did David when he once played mandolin. I knew they had great chops and when I had the idea of a passion project based on the journey of the banjo into Irish music, they were an obvious choice. They lived close by, were excellent musicians and good people.
How do you incorporate your skills and experience with We Banjo 3?
I had toured with The Brock McGuire band for 10 years prior to We Banjo 3 beginning. During that time I had the privilege of playing many of the great U.S. festivals (including Milwaukee of course!) and traveling the length and breadth of the U.S. I learned a huge amount about running a band and a business from Paul Brock and Manus McGuire, and I was able to bring this experience to We Banjo 3 when it came to our first U.S. trips.
When you work up new material, where do you draw inspiration from?
Each of us individually have different sources of inspiration and when we bring it together it makes up We Banjo 3. We all have a love for both Irish traditional and American Bluegrass music, and there are so many great bands and musicians available to listen to. We all contribute both music and songs to the band, not everything makes it into the final cut and the process is pretty democratic!
What's your favorite song to perform?
That totaly depends on the night in question! "Soldier's Joy" has always been a favorite of mine. I learned the bluegrass version from an album called The Three Pickers by Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs. It's a really special album and a brilliant piece of music. It's one of the sets we do onstage that has a very strong visual narrative and the audience always responds well to it.
What was your reaction after performing at Milwaukee Irish Fest for the first time?
A combination of shock, awe and relief! Prior to Milwaukee 2012, We Banjo 3 had been three lads with three banjos playing a relaxed mix of Irish and American music. We were selling out shows all over Ireland because people were attracted to the banjo, but we knew the sound wasn't big enough for the stages at Milwaukee. That's why we invited Fergal Scahill to come with us for the weekend. We had no idea how we would go across at the festival, and ultimately the reaction from the crowd blew us away. It was one of the most memorable musical experiences of our lives, and really was the starting point for what now is a very successful career. We'll always be hugely grateful for the start that Milwaukee Irish Fest gave us.
Being Irish Fest regulars now, what do you guys do to keep your shows fresh and exciting [because they always are!]?
We view Milwaukee Irish Fest as the pinnacle of the Irish/Celtic circuit in the U.S. When we develop new shows, new songs, new ideas, it's always with Milwaukee in mind first. It's a huge stage for the band and we let our imaginations run wild with ideas for our shows there. We've got show development ideas running about 3 years ahead. So we know what we're going to be doing in 2018, 2019, etc. In fact, our 2018 idea is very exciting altogether, but we can't tell you now!!