Clanú: A Closer Listen (Interview with Dee McIlroy)

Plus our picture of the day featuring Maura O’Connell and Flashback video from Equation!

Clanú: Dee McIlroy, Niall McIlroy, Damian McIlroy and Barry Skeffington.

Great Irish music comes pouring in with Clanú.

I have no doubt that this band is going to create more great albums in years to come. I think they are in the right track with their music. It is always inspiring to have a kind of music that not only lets you look back at traditions but also makes you FEEL insideClanu is one of the finest examples how Irish music is flowering, taking other influences and spreading awareness to both national and international listeners. Thanks to cyberspace one can keep track of these things which would be impossible offline. The little article I did became an agreement with Dee McIlroy  (singer / guitarist/ producer) for an online interview which took sometime due to the band’s rigorous touring schedule. If  you are not aware yet, Dee(Dermot) runs a great company called  McIlroy Guitars It was worth the wait because they are the featured band for this week.

..And Dee answers the questions:


How do you describe your band and what’s in store for your listener this summer?

Dee McIlroy talks to CMF about Clanú

Clanú is a combination of several members of two very different Irish bands, Outta Folkus who are the Folk / Bluegrass combo (usually a 3 piece) and Torann who are a young 5 piece playing Irish Trad. Both Outta Folkus and Torann are very busy playing in venues and festivals around the country. Outta Folkus average two or three gigs a week, while Torann can fit just as many into one weekend.

Torann have just finished a stint as the “3rd class passenger folk group” in the stage musical version of The Titanic.

They will be supporting bands such as Lunasa throughout the summer months.

Outta Folkus just returned from Switzerland after a series of gigs there and have already secured gigs there for 2013.

Because two members of Torann and one member of Outta Folkus are part of the same family (father and sons), the project to create something blending the two was something that we talked about many times. Hence Clanú was formed in 2010 and we set about writing the music for the album Ancient Walls which was completed in 2011.

What’s the recording process for Ancient Walls? 

Many of the tracks on the Ancient Walls album are original, either written specially for the album or selected from a back catalogue of unrecorded material. Most tracks had been chosen before we started but there were one or two which just seemed to need to be part of the project, “Slow Whiskey” is one example.

The core of the recordings were recorded over the course of a few sessions. We have recording studio at home, so that allowed us the freedom to experiment.

“Once I had the foundation of the recording, i.e. the main tune and instrumentation which was recorded live so to speak (all major parts playing together), I would then add the orchestral pieces, bass, pads etc at a later date. Some I would do myself and other pieces would be done by the other band members where necessary and then layered into the sound. So the rest of the production and mastering took six months to complete. With that in mind, I was conscious that we must be able to recreate the sound as much as possible when playing live. Because we are all multi-instrumentalists we can swap instruments to suit the individual track and we can indeed produce the album tracks exceptionally well.

Dee, What is it about Clanu that is unique from the rest of the bands cropping up these days within the musical culture?

Irish music: It’s a family thing.

There are few, if any, bands who manage to create a mix of old and new folk songs with the fast paced modern Trad that you see in the likes of Grada and Beoga. It’s like The Dubliners meet Lunasa with a bit of Planxty thrown in for good measure. The beauty of this is that we tend to please both camps. There are many people who think an evening of pure Irish Trad would be made even better with a spattering of songs, some new and some old favourites. That’s what we do.

Torann and Outta Folkus  came head to head with an event last 11th  of Aug, not as Clanú but individually, with all members, when they will appear at the 3rd International McIlroy Guitar gathering in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, N. Ireland.

Do you think there is a fierce competition within the Trad scene these days?

 There is little or no competition within the Trad scene other than when it’s an actual competition like the All Ireland Fleadh .

There is a tradition within Irish music that you teach the music to the next generation and this keeps the culture alive. So it’s not a case of keeping your music to yourself but spreading it as far and wide as possible, even if that means that there is less work for musicians. But we don’t look at it that way, we simply try to be the best we can and maybe offer something a little different or special.

What are the bands that were supportive of your works(recording and getting the word out there) and what are the bands that have influenced you musically? 

There are certainly many bands and musicians who have influenced us over the years, such as Planxty, The Bothy Band, Boys of the Lough and more recently Gráda, Sharon Shannon, Beoga, the list goes on.

When it comes to support for getting albums recorded and distributed, while there may be a little arts funding for the few, the vast majority of musicians dig deep into their own pockets to produce their albums. I started my own label called Stubborn Ass Music. The idea was to make studio, production and mastering time available ourselves and friends (or friends of friends) who would not in any normal circumstances be able to afford to get an album to market. So far I have produced 5 albums (not all folk / trad), the latest was An Turas by the Glengormley school of traditional music, of which all the members of Clanú have taught at.

There was an incredible amount of work put into all these albums and all in our spare time as we’re not professional musicians. But hopefully the work put in is reflected in the quality of the Ancient Walls album as well as the others.

On performing live, what are the things artists should consider especially when it is a big crowd as opposed to intimate gatherings?

Clanú are a four piece band spanning two generations and the influences of each generation comes through in their music. From the fast paced modern Trad of Damian and Niall to the even faster contemporary folk and bluegrass sound (or greengrass as we call it) of Dee and Barry. With the wide range of instruments they play, they manage to produce a sound which enthrals crowds around the country and beyond. Add to this the song-writing and tune-writing capabilities that all the members possess and you have a unique yet familiar trad / folk sound that will have you dancing, singing or crying and sometimes all at the same time.

When performing in front of large crowds it’s more than likely that all the sound, lighting, running times, etc have all been arranged, so it’s best to just relax and enjoy. The main thing to remember is “Never turn up late”. You won’t make any friends with the organizers, crew or other musicians on the bill.

What’s your message to people who have just stumbled upon Clanu?  

I would say to all those who hear our music, I hope you enjoy it as mush as we did making it. Support live music by buying the CD, downloading it or streaming it on Spotify or similar. And please spread the word. We hope we can come play in your town sometime, wherever in the world you are.

And thank you Baxter for inviting us to take part in this questionnaire.

Dee, thank you so much for talking the time to talk to CMF and also for sharing your ideas  that will  benefit musicians of all genres. Friends, don’t forget to check out the music of Clanu and also get yourself a copy of their new album Ancient Walls.

Here are links to their videos:


Our picture of the day:  Maura O’Connell

Maura O’Connell

She has a big Celtic voice that resonates through your soul. This picture tells us how this this Irish artist sees life and uses that  inspiration to heal our hearts.


Flashback: Equation from 1995

Yes this is Cara Dillon and gang in the age of grunge music and fashion. Who would have thought that years later individual members wouldlead successful solo careers…and continue to inspire us with their great music. It is great to look back and marvel at how Irish music has evolved and influenced the younger generation.

Cara Dillon and Seth Lakeman, two of the leading acts in the UK and Irish folk scene, were both formerly members of Equation, a folk supergroup signed to Warner label Blanco y Negro in 1995 by Geoff Travis. They recorded one album, Return To Me, which was shelved by the record company just before its release (but was released by Rough Trade Records after Travis bought the masters), but the lead single, He Loves Me, got a release in 1996 with a full promotional video. The video became available on Ebay recently and with a stroke of luck I had the winning bid. Here it is in all its glory. Seth appears to be a bit of a spare part, but Cara is glowing in all her youth and mid nineties fashion! Enjoy…


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