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A walk on the wild side of the Green

LOOKING ahead to this summer’s Live at the Docklands gig, Hermitage Green percussionist and proud Clare man, Dermot Sheedy says, “It is really going to be our seminal moment of the year – and hopefully we will be celebrating a Clare All-Ireland win by then as well!”
Strong words from a member of a band whose name has become synonymous with the home of the current All-Ireland champions, Limerick.
While Dermot has a lot of love for the Treaty City, where the band’s musical journey started, he insists Clare will always be where the heart is.
In a short few years Hermitage Green has gone from playing in the backroom of a Limerick pub to performing to thousands of fans at their Docklands show this August 24.
“The band has always been a Limerick band because we started playing there as a cover band in a bar. We very naturally grew over time to doing our own original songs to selling gigs,” he told The Clare Champion.
“The Docklands is as big a gig as you can dream, putting on a 4,000 capacity show in a city where we used to play every Sunday in the Curragower. It’s a great story for us. Limerick is great, but Clare is my home.”
Originally from Darragh in Ennis, he is now living in Ennistymon where away from the rock band life he immerses himself in trad music.
“I’m very much dialled into the trad music scene. That gives me my life force to play music,” he said.
“I love going away and touring and playing rock shows and different things like that, but then I love coming back and playing a session in Doolin or Ennis.”
These days he isn’t the only one in the band with connections to the Banner.
“Darragh, our guitarist and synth player married a woman from Cratloe so he is living in Clare as well now. I’m slowly making the band more Clare men,” he laughs.
Coming together as a band in 2010 after a spontaneous jam session between friends, Hermitage Green have made big impact on the Irish music scene.
Their first full-length album ‘Save Your Soul’ climbed the charts followed up with EP Gold & Rust and another album ‘Hi Generation’, while Dermot reveals their new upcoming album which is set to be released later this year will be titled ‘Connection’.
Ahead of the Docklands gig and the new album, the band released their latest single ‘Driftin’ signalling a departure from their trademark folk rock sound, something which will also be evident in their new album. It’s “kind of a move in the right direction,” says Dermot.
The single was written by the band’s singer and bass player Barry Murphy and was loosely inspired by the tragic story of the father and son who perished in the Titanic tourist submersible.
“The song was loosely based on the relationship between father and son, you get inspired by different things you see and read about,” said Dermot.
The song was recorded in Limerick and Dermot says, “We love it, it definitely has a kind of good driving anthem sound to it.”
Speaking about the album, which is due out in September, he says, “It is a pretty wide encompassing collection of songs. It’s a departure on the style of music we have probably been writing and releasing in the past. We’re a band for 13 years and we made a conscious decision two years ago, prior to the start of writing this album, that we wanted to make songs that were maybe a bit more uplifting, a little bit more challenging.
“The departure I think you can hear in our latest single ‘Driftin’. It is kind of a move in the right direction. I suppose sometimes you get kind of stuck after 13 years, so you have to keep reinventing yourself. Like any good piece of art, or good band or good business. You have to keep diversifying and trying something new and keeping things interesting for yourself. This album is definitely satisfying those things for us. We’re definitely the proudest we have been in releasing a body of work. And we think people are going to really love it, it definitely moves us in a good sort of way. It has gentle moments, but also very uplifting moments.”
He describes the album as “quite tribal and wild”.
“We want people to move and just experience the connection and the catharsis of going to a live gig and really being moved by music, but also interpreting whatever meaning they want from the songs,” he said.
“We don’t really want to forcibly put meaning into people’s mindsets. We’d like them to interpret it and get what they want. Shur, that’s the best thing about music isn’t it?
“We just love having a good time. We love the vibe of going to live music, especially going to festivals. There is some really banging stuff coming down the line in the next few singles, and it will start to make a bit more sense. There is definitely wild, tribal feralness coming down the line.”
The Docklands gig, presented by Dolans, will be a chance to hear some of the new album tracks live alongside older favourites.
“It’s going to be our big show of the year. It’s definitely a year when there are lots of options for people in terms of gigs and I think it’s good for people to support their own if they can,” said Dermot.
“The Dolan family are the lifeblood of live events in the Mid West and we never take for granted how important they have been in bringing the best events to Limerick and the Midwest. It’s an amazing venue, 4,000 capacity, a huge high top. We did it two years ago and it was an absolutely amazing moment for us.
“For this gig, production-wise we have a lot of stuff up our sleeve so it will be a great gig. We’ve got a big show lined up wit a few surprises that people will definitely enjoy.”
Their upcoming Limerick show comes on the heels of a recent tour of Australia. With three of the band’s members now “dedicated dads” Dermot says they have a tight window for touring but they love to get out and perform for fans all over the world.
“We’ve been going to Australia since we started and love going back, as you know so many Irish go over there and they love listening to the music and the connection with home.”
Asked about the differences between home audiences and those abroad he says, “The audiences in Limerick for us have always been unbelievable, probably because the band has always been a Limerick band. There’s a power that we definitely feel when we play Limerick shows that it’s so hard to experience anywhere else. It’s the home show and the city really has got behind the band.
“It’s almost like a bigger thing than us. It’s like a collective feeling, people have pride in it. Limerick is such a great city, for music, sports, but it’s especially good for us to come home and play a show there.
“The shows in the US and Australia are brilliant as well. In the US, we connect in a different way. It’s not a local thing, it’s kind of a different vibe. It’s very important for us to go away and tour because we are so grateful for it. It is the dream to play songs in front of people who are leading different lives to you in different countries and they resonate with the music so much. We are very grateful for that.”
Away from Hermitage Green Dermot continues to collaborate with other musicians including recording an album with Limerick hip-hop artist Strangeboy.
He has also developed an online bodhrán course which he recorded in the Burren. The 20 part course is designed to take people from beginners to intermediate. He explains the bodhrán is an especially important instrument to him as it was the first one he learned to play.
“I started playing music in Teach Ceoil in Corofin on Thursday nights at seisiún like a lot of traditional musicians who learned their trade did. The bodhrán is my first instrument and I’ve been so lucky. It has a different sort of tonality and sound and it very much informs the sound of Hermitage Green throughout our whole existence. You will hear it on the new album as well.
“It gives it a totally different flavour along with the drum kit as well. I’m totally grateful because it’s an instrument that is still developing. It was formally introduced to the tradition in the ‘50s but it is massively evolving within the last few years and I’m delighted to help guide that.”

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