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Cork talent comes to Crusheen

THERE aren’t many musicians you can describe as ‘out of this world’ without it sounding like a bold claim. But for Cork singer songwriter  Ger Wolfe, who performs in Crusheen this month, this description is literally true.
His new single A Song from Earth, taken from his new album No Bird Sang was specially written as a birthday present for American astronaut Dan Tani last year, and the song was beamed on board the International Space Station. Dan had been stuck on board the station after technical problems grounded the space shuttle.

The astronaut is married to Cork woman Jane Egan and in February last year, a special celebration was organised at Cork’s Blackrock Castle Observatory for Dan’s birthday so he could speak from space with his in-laws, local schoolchildren and others.

As part of the celebrations, Ger was approached by the observatory to create a song to mark the occasion. “When I tell people at gigs my song was beamed into space, they don’t believe me,” laughed Ger.

Cork singer Ger Wolfe will perform at the Highway Inn, Crusheen on Saturday, September 12.

“When I was asked to write the song I said to myself, what do I know about space but I was inspired by his story. The song kind of wrote itself. He is a very interesting man, I met him after he came back to Ireland,” he said.
Over the years, Ger has worked hard at establishing his reputation as one of the country’s finest songwriters with the albums Word and Rhyme (1998), Ragged Ground (2000), Heaven Paints her Holy Mantle Blue (2002) and The Velvet Earth (2006) and now his new album No Bird Sang.
With so many songs behind his belt, where does his inspiration come from? “I think about songwriting as a kind of craft that if you practise it and write a bit every day, not necessarily in a mechanical way but I think there are years of learning in it and hopefully I’ve served my time. With A Song from Earth, that was an unusual bit of inspiration but more often than not, it’s just the ordinary things. Even with him, he’s an ordinary man, at the end of the day he still has to get up and have his breakfast. The ordinary things are where I get most of my inspiration. People often say to me, all you write about is flowers and birds but I say to them there is way more things in the song if you look at them,” he said.
No Bird Sang was recorded and produced by well-known composer and musician Peadar Ó Riada at his studio in Cúil Aodh in Cork. The album sees Ger returning to the bare roots of his craft as a singer songwriter, with all of the songs recorded live.
“I’m delighted with the new album, number one because Peadar was involved and he’s a great man. It’s a very simple album, in a way, it’s a bit like my first but things are bound to change over 12 or 13 years and hopefully I’ve improved a bit,” he smiled.
“It’s a good album to show how I’ve changed over the years and hopefully how I’ve developed as a writer. It’s very straightforward, Peadar just set up two microphones and stereo mics and I play guitar and sang. We were trying to capture the moment.”
While recording an album live was challenging, it was a project Ger relished.
“Even though it’s simple, in a way, it took longer to record than an album with more intricate technology because we had to get good takes. It wasn’t more difficult, it was just different and once I got into the mood and decided exactly what I wanted to do, it just seemed to work. It was a very comfortable situation and I think hopefully people will hear that it was a relaxed session.
“It was brilliant doing it because it was something I had thought about over the years. The last album The Velvet Earth was a bit more stripped down than Heaven Paints which quite literally had bells and whistles on it. With this one, I have kind of come around full circle. I look at it in a way as being kind of like seasons, the first was simple, the second a bit more complicated, the third very complicated, and the next simpler. It’s come around to another years, even though it’s been 10 years. Maybe this is the start of another four albums,” he said.
Ger’s songs are widely admired and have been covered by the likes of Karan Casey, Danú, North Cregg and Sharon Shannon.
“It’s a brilliant compliment if someone sings your songs, it’s one of the best compliments you can get. You feel that the song has done its job beyond me singing it and it’s gone out and someone else thinks it’s good enough to sing. I’m delighted when that happens,” he said.
Ger will be performing in Crusheen as part of the Island Music Club. A regular visitor to Clare’s many festivals and musical events, Ger has a lot of respect for the county’s musical tradition.
“I have friends in Clare so I know the music scene here and it’s very healthy,” he says.
Speaking about the upcoming gig, he says fans can expect a mixed bag of songs. “There will be a good bit of stuff from the new album because I want to get it out there. But you can’t just bamboozle people with a whole load of new stuff either, you have to mix it up. At any show I do, I would always be open to requests. It’s a great feeling when somebody comes up and says will you play one of the older songs. That’s what makes the night. I follow a set list but at the same time, you have to be able to vary it, that’s the joy of doing gigs because you don’t know how it will go. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment for people who have made the effort to come out and see you and you have to play a bit by ear and be prepared to vary away if somebody requests something special,” he explained.
As well as working on his latest album, Ger has spent much of this year as writer in residence in Gaeltacht Múscraí, collaborating with the older members of the local community on a songwriting project.
“I was writing new songs in Irish based on the stories of the older people who live here, the seanóirí. I wrote a good load of songs and we had a concert at the end of the project in May but it’s still ongoing in my own way. I’m hoping to bring out a recording of that some time in the spring. That’s kind of exciting,” he said.
Ger is also hoping to get together with his band The New Skylarks to work on some future material next year.
“We haven’t done much together in a while but there are new songs I haven’t recorded yet that I’ve been playing and I want to record. It might sound like I’m writing too much but it’s a good complaint.”
The album will be available in all good record shops, distributed by Claddagh Records, on-line from www.gerwolfe.com and www.claddaghrecords.com digitally on iTunes and in MP3 format from www.downloadmusic.ie.  
Ger will be performing in Crusheen’s Highway Inn as part of the Island Music Club on Saturday, September 12.


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