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The International Writers Magazine: Interview:

Hothouse Flowers
Aurelie Montfrond
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 Irish music.

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. It seemed 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 O’Mallai, 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. It’s a natural thing but it’s 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 O’Riordan 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 isn’t 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 it’s crap it doesn’t 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

© Aurelie Montfrond December 2008

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