Conversation with Liam Ó Maonlaí

Photo courtesy: Patrick Glennon

Liam Ó Maonlaí talks about his project Rian, working with Glen Hansard and  beyond.

Born is the first album I listened to from Hothouse Flowers, a band fronted by my special guest Liam Ó Maonlaí. The part of me that loved(and still does) U2, The Cranberries, Sinead O’Connor and a whole bunch of Irish rock artists warmed up to this album. Born  featured Wayne Sheehy on drums and Rob Malone on bass guitar.  This album contained extensive songwriting contributions from O’Toole( who stepped out of  his bass responsibilities to showcase his multi instrumental abilities). The album  featured mostly guitar, bouzouki and keyboards on the recording. This is one of their complex records  as the music also incorporated more elements of electronic loops, synthesizers and studio effects.

I believe that an artist grows with his listeners. Somewhere in the mid 200os Liam Ó Maonlaí supported traditional Irish music. His humanitarian efforts are notable and they continue to this time.  He admitted in interviews that as a child, he was mostly influenced by traditional Irish music and Gaeilge was spoken as the main language. He even went as far as releasing a recording called Learn Irish with Liam O Maonlai.With Rian and other projects on the way, the bard joins us in this amazing interview!

Since Hothouse Flowers and then your project with ALT (and also acting on the side), what are the driving forces that keep you in shape and give you the drive to continue in this artistic journey?

With Hothouse Flowers

Mostly I respond to what comes my way and within that I find inspiration. I spend a lot of time looking at the world, our history and our present. What worked ,what works and what might work. For some people on Earth, these are terrible times and I see us as one. Music always drives me.

I am one of those who got a copy of  Learn Irish Project and it is an amazing work. Are you planning to launch another Irish Language course soon?

I would like to and I do intend to…. I need to make sure I get it right.

 You are amazing both in Sean Nos singing and also in lending your voice/talent to other projects. What are your other Irish based projects that we should hear about?

I have been involved with a project called Rian . It is a collaboration with Michael Keegan- Dolan  and his company, Fabulous Beast dance theatre. Rian involves eight dancers and five musicians. The music is mostly traditional …the dances are newly created. It has been travelling the world to standing ovations. Next stop Singapore. Rian has been to Norwich, London, Dublin, Cork,  New York , Sydney, Hong Kong  ,Umea, Wiesbaden , Lyon and Paris. ..sell out shows mostly.

That sounds fantastic! You also do acting on the side. One of them is The Busker(2006). Do you find difficulty switching from your musical side to acting? Or is it as easy as counting 1 2 3.
…My mother said to me once that what I do with the Hothouse Flowers is acting . I think in a way she is right.

 You are a great Bodhran player. What are the things we should know about playing this instrument that other probably don’t know about yet.

Not to forget that it is a drum and that the drum has a voice and that is powerful. The player mostly listen and feel the music that is being played . A steady beat is a great thing.

Your video Sadhbh Ni Bhruinneallaigh has been getting a lot of views on youtube. Do you have plans of making another epic performance like this soon in shows like Highland Sessions or Live Trad?

… I hope so. The Highland Sessions and the Trans Atlantic Sessions were great projects .

You worked on a project with Glen Hansard. How was the experience and care to share a bit about that one?

Yes…Glen is full of enthusiasm and energy. He and Marketa helped finance my last solo cd To Be Touched. They were there as a force of encouragement and a lot of fun as well. He is an eager worker… not afraid to sweat. He tuned in to my way of working in a great way.

You are currently on tour with the Rian project. How’s it going?
It is going really well. It is a great show with a great team. We love performing it and I believe that comes across. We have been to Paris, Hong Kong, New York, London, Dublin, Cork, Carlow, Longford, Sydney, Wiesbaden, St Polten, Lyon, and Norwich. I may have left out some as well..

You are composing a soundtrack for forthcoming John Carney film. Can you give us a heads up about this one?

That film has been made and I handed over the composition because he was looking for a different style. I would love to work with john and we are talking about possibilities now.

 What’s your message to your fans?

Thank you for taking the time to hear my work. It gives me great healing and pleasure.

Last question:How can one deal with change both spiritually and artistically?

Well… Art is a great boat to take on the sea of change. Art is an observer and responds in an uncalculated way at its essence to all things. If you can be true to yourself with your art then your art will have meaning. Trying to be or work like someone else will only bring about second rate work.

Well said!

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