Phelim Drew on finding light at the end of the lockdowns…

When Phelim Drew heard that his two Whale nights were sold out, he was more than a little happy. And relieved.

“It’s been a dreadful year and more for artists of all shapes and colours,” he says, “so, to have anything going on that doesn’t involve performing in front of a computer feels like heaven. And these music gigs are particularly welcome, as they’re all about celebrating, and just having a good time…”

Being the son of Ireland’s answer to Johnny Cash and June Carter, it was inevitable that Phelim Drew would get the music bug. Even as his acting career took hold, the influence of Ronnie and Deirdre, and their love of having live music sessions in their Killincarrick Road home, meant both the young Phelim and big sis Cliodhna had front row seats for some of the finest gigs available to man or beast.

And it wasn’t all just diddley-aye potatoes when it came to that live music either, the Drew household quaking to music from all over the world, as Phelim explains…

My first memory of how music impacted me was not quite what you’d think considering the background of traditional music that I grew up with.

When we lived with my grandmother, we had a record player on the floor in the sitting room with a stack of LPs beside it and among these was a record by George Formby, a British music hall star of the 1930s – a ‘cheeky chappie’ who played a banjo ukelele.

I was obsessed with this record and once told a visitor who I made listen to a song from the album, “That was me when I was young”.

Growing up I was increasingly aware of the popularity of The Dubliners and for me a trip to see them perform was electrifying. Each of the band members had huge charisma but as a band they were second to none. In terms of Irish music I’ve loved traditional music since I was a child, from groups like Planxty, De Dannan and The Chieftans to virtuoso musicians too numerous to mention.

My father’s record collection was eclectic, including classical, flamenco, jazz, bluegrass, blues and, of course, folk and trad. Many of those LPs were by friends of my dad’s, like Louis Stewart, Paco Pena, Billy Connolly or Hamish Imlach. This connection always added an extra dimension when listening to the music.

From about the age of twelve I started to get into early rock’n’roll – Bill Hailey, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and The Georgia Peach himself, Little Richard. This led to a passion for blues and soul, with Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles leading the way.

In truth, an artist brings all these influences onto the stage, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes subliminally. The fun is trying to spot them all…



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