International Writers Magazine: Interview:
Discussion with Fiachna Ó Braonáin
From Hothouse Flowers to Prenup
Fiachna Ó Braonáin is a songwriter, a singer and a
guitarist. A child of the sixties; A fabled decade where there was
a revolution and an explosion in music that caught his attention
at a very young age. That musical revolution happened accross the
board in terms of the types of music that he was exposed to growing
up in an Irish speaking family listening to a lot of traditional
Photo: © A. Montfrond 2008
Towards the late
sixties , musicians like Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine travelled all over
Europe and particularly Eastern Europe and started to introduce new
and exciting instruments into Irish traditional music.
to take Irish traditional music out of the museum back into the streets
and into the concert halls. It brought it back to life at a time when
it was getting a little bit too dour and precious. And at the same time
in the sixties two bands appeared that affected his musical inspirations.
One was the Rolling Stones ,the other was the Beatles. And also the
other person who came to the forefront of the sixties was Bob Dylan.
Through these Rock n Roll and Pop groups and as he grew
older through the seventies he started to discover the roots of made
these groups popular. The roots of what made these groups popular were
black American music, Blues music; John Lee Hooker, Molly Waters. And
also the Jazz movement. People like Miles Davis , John Coltrane who
also captured his imagination. He had , growing up in Dublin in the
late Sixties and then to the Eighties troughout his school time two
different avenues of music. One being his own native traditional Irish
music and the other being basically what revolved into Rock n
Roll music. All his school days were spent playing lots of traditional
Irish music but with the same type of energy that people who were only
in bands like Planxty and the Botty band brought to traditional Irish
music. In the late seventies Punk rock appeared. In Ireland at the time,
the music that was making some noise internationally were Thin Lizzy,
Rory Gallagher, The Boomtoom Rats, Van Morrison and Early U2. On the
traditional front , Planxty and the Botty band again, who were the shining
lights of Irish music.
Fiachna first picked up an the electric guitar at the age of eighteen.
With his schoolmate Liam OMallai, they formed a rock n
roll group called "An Fonn Tonn".
They wrote their own songs in Irish. They entered and won a competition.
They felt like rock stars. They got the taste of what it was like to
have loud applause and an electric rock n roll music with
bass, drums and guitar. That started the musical relationship that still
last to this day, almost 25 years later which is his involvement with
Liam and the rest of the Hothouse Flowers.They have been lucky and privileged
enough to make a lot of records and travel the world. They played huge
concerts and festivals. And toured all over the world from America to
Japan. And to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, all over Europe
and of course all over Ireland and the UK. They still continue to play
together but not as much as they used to. They recently played in the
North of Ireland where, as Fiachna reckons "it has to be said ,there
are some of the most enthousiastic music fans in the world. Maybe that
s because they grew up with a lot of trouble and hassle and division.
And they find some way of being unified through music".
Fiachna learnt a lot from writing with Michelle Shocked who was a important
songwriter from Texas. They wrote many songs together. Throughout the
years he developed his writing skills and abilities.
" I started just becoming aware of when I would get an idea and
writing it down before I forget it. And then writing it down more and
more.The more you do it and the more you want to do it. And the more
you do it naturally.
As you go through life and things happen to you. You live your life
and you have your experiences and your troubles. Your good times and
your bad times.
It can all come out in the writing which I think is a great thing. Its
a natural thing but its a great thing because it helps you process
your experiences and I guess it ends up being a kind of a diary for
yourself. But then again not all songs have to be about yourself either.
You can write songs about other people , about things".
Most great things happen by accidents. In the past couple of years he
met Cait ORiordan in a party where his friend Simon Connolly was
playing a Punk rock set. Dave Clarke was the drummer in Hothouse Flowers.
He was playing drums, Cait was playing bass with the Pogues. Although
he met Cait twenty years ago they never really got to know each other.
But three years ago, she finally heard demos of his songs that he had
not recorded yet or even played. She thought they were great and told
him that he could do something about it.
Dave and Fiachna had been talking about starting a new band. He had
been seriously thinking about it for the past six years. They wrote
a whole bunch of other songs together and went into the studio to record
the album. Fiachna was thrilled about the result as he played the CD
in his car to some friends and they liked it.
The confidence that it takes to step from the side of the stage to the
center and become a lead singer is something that happened to Fiachna
with friends encouragements.
Being the front man and the center of attention was part of what he
had always wanted to do since he was a kid. Fiachna explained,
"Because when you are a kid , you really want to be the center
of attention and when you are a kid and you hear music for the first
time and you see Rock n Roll bands and singers, you kind
of really want to be that person but also when you are a kid you are
scared and whatever happened to me I just ended up being a lead guitar
player which meant I was protected by my instrument. And also happened
to just be really lucky to end up in a group with one of the most amazing
singer in Ireland. "
Fiachna insisted that when you are the lead singer, you expose yourself
a lot more and also particularly if you are singing your own songs and
your own lyrics.
"You really kind of telling your own story and sometimes your own
story isnt all that pretty or you might even think that is maybe
not even that interesting.
"It takes a little bit of courage as you got to remember all these
words and you got to sing obviously and perform and entertain people
but you also got to tell your story . And that maybe puts you in a more
vulnerable place. You are less protected than just a musician."
They decided to put the record out in America first because Fiachna
had a friendship with someone that distributes records in there. They
then did some concerts in America. Fiachna admitted,
"At the beginning I was very nervous about playing concerts in
Ireland because I had never been a frontman before. I wanted to make
sure the songs were good. I wanted to believe myself that it was good.
And in order to believe myself that it was good I needed to go to America
first and do it there. It was a little bit more maybe anonymous. America
is also the home of Rock n Roll. If its crap it doesnt
matter, I can come home and say I went on holidays!!"
The Prenup album which is called "Hell to pay" recently came
out in Ireland and its available througout record shops or on the internet
worldwide. It is a collection of songs that Fiachna wrote over the last
two years. They are mostly personal songs. For regular updates, Irish
and American gigs info www.myspace.com/prenup
© Aurelie Montfrond December 2008
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