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Q&A: We chat to Irish folk music legend Christy Moore

By Chris Jones

Published 05/06/2015

Guitar man: Christy Moore
Guitar man: Christy Moore

The Irish folk icon has many fond memories of Belfast. Ahead of his gig at the Waterfront Hall, he talks playing snooker with Jimmy White, protest songs and being Ireland's 'best living musician'.

Q: What are your thoughts on Belfast and your audiences here? Do any particular gigs or visits stand out?

A: They're always welcoming and receptive. Since 1972, there have been numerous standout nights. I first played in Queen's with Planxty in 1972, and since then there has been The Waterfront, Whitla Hall, The Green Briar with Moving Hearts for Channel 4, the Grand Opera House, which was very grand. Short Strand Community Centre was memorable - a young boy in an Antrim shirt asked me to sing the song about Victor O'Hara. He meant Victor Jara. I probably remember 40 to 50 different gigs in Belfast.

Q: I understand you were very sporty as a young man. Could you have pursued a life in sport instead of music?

A: No chance, I was an enthusiastic participant with little talent, but lots of gusto. These days I follow rugby, Gaelic, hurling, soccer (Premiership only), racing (over the jumps) and snooker. I played a frame against Jimmy White once, but having just turned 70, I now realise that I probably won't prop for Ireland or play corner-back for Kildare.

Q: What's your favourite song to sing, and why?

A: Patsy Cline's I Fall To Pieces always gets me; I love the sound of Ruby Murray; Bob Dylan's early years have me hooked; some Van Morrison… but deep down I'm a trad man.

Q: Do you think you would have become a professional musician if it wasn't for that bank strike in the 60s and your trip to England as a result? (Moore was a former bank employee who headed to England during a bank strike in 1966)

A: I think I probably would, but who knows? Perhaps I could have been CEO of Anglo-Irish Bank - either that or a bank robber … it was like three years in limbo for me.

Q: Do you think that the younger generation of songwriters are sufficiently engaged, politically?

A: We all gotta do what we gotta do - crooners gotta croon, activists gotta act, we got all sorts out here …

Q: Is protest music a dying art?

A: Ask The Dixie Chicks or the Russian punks. There are lots of involved artists around today, but we gotta get up off our backsides and seek them out.

Q: How have your Left-wing views shaped your life, career and songwriting?

A: I was never fast enough for the Left or Right wing - always straight down the middle, dodging and feinting.

Q: How does your day-to-day life now compare to when you were in your 20s and 30s?

A: In my 20s, I travelled around Britain trying to get a foot in the door of the folk clubs. Everything I owned was in my guitar case. These days, I travel with great musicians and crew, play the top venues and enjoy the fruits of our success, but I still practise every day, I'm still looking for new songs. It has been a long, long journey.

Q: What did it mean to be named Ireland's greatest living musician by RTE in 2007?

A: I was flattered, but it's not to be taken seriously and most certainly, not believed.

Q: Are you comfortable wearing such a crown?

A: I'm not comfortable with any sort of crowns.

Q: Do you have any goals and ambitions still to be realised?

A: Tony Bennett is still gigging at 84…

  • Christy Moore plays the Waterfront Hall in Belfast tonight and tomorrow

Belfast Telegraph

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