Interview with Tony McLoughlin
Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Lamitschka: Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?
Tony McLoughlin: My style has elements of rock, blues, folk and Celtic music mixed together. Hard to put it in a box, but I guess guitar based roots rock/Americana may come close. My vocals, songs and guitar playing come from the heart/soul/guts. The feeling is the most important thing for me and it should rock!
Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
Tony McLoughlin: 1. A good year as I released my new album (RIDE THE WIND my 4th) with great energy, songs and playing. In October 2011 the album was at number 11 in the APD Americana charts. 2. I had a tour in Tennessee and Alabama with the marvelous Irene Kelley in March 2011. The highlight for me was a TV appearance on the Nashville based “Billy Block Show,” where I had a great rocking band with Billy Block on drums, Sergio Webb on guitar, Daniel Seymour on bass, and Irene and Justyna Kelley backing singers. 3. Some great new songs written this year, as I get ready to begin recording my 5th album.
Lamitschka: What is your latest CD and how’s it doing?
Tony McLoughlin: RIDE THE WIND We received enthusiastic reviews in Europe and now also in America. The energy of the recording and the power of the songs seem to shine through for most people who hear it.
Lamitschka: How did you choose the title for the CD? Is there a story behind the name?
Tony McLoughlin: I wrote the song in memory of the late great Warren Zevon. His final album THE WIND was inspirational not only because of the songs and playing, but also because of his noble commitment to music, even with little time left to live as he made the record. When my daughter Maeve showed me a photo she took in South America of a Condor riding the air currents, I decided there and then to use the photo on the album back cover and to call the album RIDE THE WIND. Nashville based songwriter Tommy Womack helped me to finish the song in a co-write session. He understood the meaning of the song idea immediately and we took all of 10 minutes to complete it! It actually wrote itself! Thanks for the inspiration Warren!
Lamitschka: Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?
Tony McLoughlin: Yes, the 10 songs are written by me, 7 of them with co write credits.
Lamitschka: Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).
Tony McLoughlin: You Look to Me –I wrote this song in 2009 while preparing to record the new album. It’s about the observations I subconsciously made about a friend of mine: her character, behavior and life. The song has some mystery within, which even I don’t fully understand, but I like that. The rhythm and feel is inspired by the riff which reminded me of a rocky, Neil Young style. My friend, Ben Reel, contributed some lyrics and ideas and is therefore credited as co-writer.
Ride the Wind –This is dedicated to the memory of the late, great Warren Zevon. His songs and albums have greatly influenced my style. He passed away a few months after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but during his battle he created his final album, The Wind, which was recorded during his last few months. I’ve had the honor of occasionally working with a musician from Bristol, England, Katy Salvidge. By coincidence, Katy played on Warren’s previous album, My Ride’s Here. Sadly, another coincidence, her husband also passed away from the same cancer that took Zevon’s life. The song is full of optimism while expressing the sadness of losing people close to you. I took this half finished song to Tommy Womack during a writing trip to Nashville, TN in 2007. I explained my idea to him, and we completed it in less than 20 minutes!
You Look For It All –This is a song about two people falling in love while having different intentions and opposite perspectives. I completed this song in Nashville, TN in 2006 with Davis Raines as co-writer.
Not Too Far From Memphis –While driving on the Interstate, somewhere outside Nashville in 2006, I looked up to find a huge sign saying “Memphis-60 Miles.” I remember touching the dashboard, scorching hot from the midday sun, and the lyrics and rhythm of jungle blues jumped into my head: “I’m not too far from Memphis, and I’m burnin’ in this crazy sun.” Later in the week, during a co-writing session in Nashville, TN with Davis Raines, we developed and completed the song. We based it around the idea of a convict escaping from prison, somewhere near Montgomery, AL. He steals a car and starts driving towards freedom with his girlfriend and Jackson! Davis had previously worked as an officer in a high security prison in Alabama. I asked him about the conditions, atmosphere of the jail, etc. while working in a facility with high security, and transitioned his answers into the first few verses of the song. They are absolutely accurate and true—don’t go to jail!
Mother’s Son –This is a very personal song. It explores everything about the journey of life and the experiences gained along the way.
Deep Under You Spell –When powerful, love attractions collide they invade your senses…what more can I say?
I Like The Way–Another love song: inspiring, positive and a little ironic.
Soul Brother Soul Sister –I wrote the majority of this song 8 years ago while living in France, and completed it in 2006 during a co-writing session in Nashville, TN with Thomm Jutz and Frank Goodman. The main theme of the song is we should show support and solidarity to others in our lives. Sometimes society and the pressures of living in it push us away from this idea.
Let The River Run –Several themes run through this song. One theme in particular is nature should run its own course. Perhaps the point of this song is to provoke thought. I recorded this in one take at Tommy Flack’s Studio in Monaghan, Ireland, with Ronnie O’Flynn on bass and Michael Black on drums. I added the ‘rock-out’ electric guitar later, and John McCullough from Belfast added keys (with the hint of The Doors at the end). Listen to the end of the song! The energy of the band just keeps it rolling and we left it all in—it’s organic!
Treeline –I wrote this in Thomm Jutz’s wooden cabin near Hermitage, TN during a co-writing session with Sergio Webb. I had learned an interesting tuning from watching Gurf Morlix in concert earlier in the week in Nashville. I then found a beautiful riff and melody using this tuning. That is the musical basis of this song. The lyrical basis is interesting: Sergio told me about a mystical tree, Aspen, which grows in the mountains near New Mexico. It grows high up where the other trees do not survive, above the “Treeline.” He described its unusual hues, its great height and how it is believed to have special spiritual properties. Legend has it that its roots reach out hundreds of miles to connect with other family members. We felt that, sometimes, it seems to be the same with people.
Lamitschka: What is the difference between your last CD and your current one?
Tony McLoughlin: The last one TALL BLACK HORSE was recorded and produced by Thomm Jutz in Nashville .The songs were more introspective and perhaps less rocky. By using some top quality Nashville based musicians (Pat McInerney on drums and percussion (Nancy Griffith Band etc), Dave Roe on Bass (Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakum etc), Fats Kaplin on lapsteel and fiddle, Richard Bailey on banjo (Steeldrivers etc), Thomm Jutz on electric and acoustic guitars (Nancy Griffith, Mary Gauthier etc) and Toni Catlin on harmony vocals the resultant recording is of a very hi quality with a slight country feel. This, in my opinion, was perfect for the songs in question. RIDE THE WIND on the other hand was recorded in Monaghan Ireland with Irish rock musicians .The energy coming from the combination of these players, the songs, my own slightly punk electric guitar playing, and the production of Ben Reel resulted in a different sound. But both albums have their place in my catalogue. I really like both albums and enjoyed every second of recording each.
Lamitschka: Your current single is being played by radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to hear it?
Tony McLoughlin: The song is “YOU LOOK TO ME” and I believe it has a combination of a great rocking drive, thought provoking lyrics, and a good chorus. I think Bruce would approve!
Lamitschka: What will your next single be?
Tony McLoughlin: Either the spiritual “TREELINE” or the full on “LET THE RIVER RUN”
Lamitschka: What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
Tony McLoughlin: Songs with quality interest me — slow or fast, acoustic or electric makes no difference. Great if we can use harmony vocals and perfect if the songs gives someone goose bumps (gansehaut)!
Lamitschka: What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what’s the story behind it?
Tony McLoughlin: “ICEMAN” from my first album CINERAMA (2000 Glitterhouse). I was asked to perform in a concert (Amnesty International: Against the Death Penalty) in Belfast. Two songwriters (Steve Earle and myself) and two speakers (both ex death row prisoners proved innocent). I wrote the song then as a way to look at the question from both sides. Coming from the stage having performed the song, Sonny Jacobs (one of the speakers, and an amazing woman who survived over 20 years of false imprisonment) embraced me, with tears streaming down her face and thanked me for the song. I don’t think it can get any better than that for an artist like me!
Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Tony McLoughlin: Total. This is an advantage, I suppose, of being an independent artist.
Lamitschka: Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?
Tony McLoughlin: One from last year, whilst on tour in Germany for the first time in 5 years, a couple approached me after the show to thank me for saving their marriage! They apparently had been in the final sad stages of a breakup and somehow ended up listening (together) to a love song “A WOMAN LIKE YOU” from my first album Cinerama. It brought good memories and feelings back to them, and gave them the strength to stop their crashing relationship, and rediscover big love! Ah! Since then, I have begun to play this song in some of my shows. Save the lovers!
Lamitschka: Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Tony McLoughlin: Deep musical roots. I have to feel it or I just will not want to play it. I love that basic sound of acoustic guitars and also electric guitars, bass, and drums. It should have a real groove. I also love a good vocal and really appreciate harmonies. Artists who inspire me are many ,such as: Bob Dylan, Rye Cooder, Joe Ely, Emmylou Harris, Rory Gallagher, Warren Zevon, BB King, Eric Clapton, David Lindley, Peter Green, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Steve Earle , Pinto Bennett, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Merle Haggard, James McMurtry, Johnny Cash, Steely Dan, Greenday, Ramones, Lucinda Williams, The Chieftains, John Hiatt, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Robert Johnson, Bruce Cockburn, Django Reinhardt, Ralph Stanley, Woody Guthrie… I gotta stop.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?
Tony McLoughlin: Digital and internet make it accessible to all. YouTube makes it possible to check out so many different styles, techniques and artists. It really is more in our hands nowadays!
Lamitschka: As an artist, you have so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what’s your favorite activity?
Tony McLoughlin: My favorite part is performing to a good audience. That is the real treasure for me.
Lamitschka: Are you doing anything to take music beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?
Tony McLoughlin: I have really found my sound on the latest album RIDE THE WIND and so I hope I can expand those borders with even better songs and playing, but I guess this is my sound.
Lamitschka: What was your big break that got you into the music business?
Tony McLoughlin: When my songwriting was developing enough to make me try to leave the cover band scene. I played an acoustic picking song of mine (Billy Wilson) at a folk festival in the North of Ireland. A German agent heard something special in the song or maybe my performance and offered to book some tours of decent clubs and venues for me. That was a huge help.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become an artist?
Tony McLoughlin: Guitars, performing and the rush I get from it.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Tony McLoughlin: At a certain point I realized I had something to say and I am happy to say that my efforts have been of a good artistic quality. This was a great revelation to me to know that I am one of those “mystery poets” (as my good friend Keili Keilhofer said to me one time after a gig!)
Lamitschka: What’s unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?
Tony McLoughlin: My songs, my vocals and guitar style, and my heart on the sleeve!
Lamitschka: What has been your greatest challenge in music business?
Tony McLoughlin: To get my songs recorded in the right way and then to get them to the ears of the right people.
Lamitschka: What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?
Tony McLoughlin: Being interviewed just before midday on the Gerry Anderson Show ,BBC Northern Ireland, and being asked to explain a song of mine “BILLY WILSON” (from album CINERAMA), which deals with the subject of the segregation through the educational system of the Catholic and Protestant people in the North of Ireland. Quite a heavy subject on prime time radio. I explained the song and Gerry played it from the CD to end the show. Afterwards he told me that the time was right to highlight the topic because the government was debating it at this period. Integrated education is now gradually replacing the former segregated from in the North. I felt so humbled and proud to be able to somehow contribute, as an artist, to peace and reconciliation amongst my own people.
Lamitschka: Any thoughts of retirement ahead?
Tony McLoughlin: Not at all! Having too much fun!
Lamitschka: Who is your biggest critic, yourself or others?
Tony McLoughlin: I guess myself, sometimes! But I try to keep that to a minimum! Think positive!
Lamitschka: When you get time off, how do you like to relax?
Tony McLoughlin: I love the sea and to sail and fish, and also to build and restore traditional wooden boats.
Lamitschka: Is there anything in your life that you would change if you could?
Tony McLoughlin: Yes, sometimes I wish that my Fender Blues Deluxe tube amplifier was not so heavy to carry!
Lamitschka: What hopes and desires do you have?
Tony McLoughlin: To continue to write, record and play this great music as long as possible with as many wonderful musicians as possible.
Lamitschka: Is there any place you haven’t played that you would like to?
Tony McLoughlin: Yes, I want to get to Texas very soon!
Lamitschka: What can your fans expect to see when they see you in concert?
Tony McLoughlin: A guitar player and singer who is up there having the time of his life! In this, I should follow the example of the incredible Bruce Springsteen. He gives it all!
Lamitschka: Many music fans today get their information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?
Tony McLoughlin: My website is www.tonymcloughlin.com, I have sites also on Facebook (Tony McLoughlin Band) and Twitter. They will find all they need to know about albums, concerts, contacts etc.
Lamitschka: What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?
Tony McLoughlin: Photographer Hans Von Draminski (Nuernberger Nachrichten Newspaper) presented me with a wonderful shot he took during a concert and told me that I had so much soul that the camera told him what to do! And he also said “please don’t lose that!”
Lamitschka: What’s your favorite song that you wish you could have recorded?
Tony McLoughlin: Cortez The Killer, Neil Young — soaring and rocking!
Christian Lamitschka ( CountryMusicNewsInternational@googlemail.com )