Recently I got to interview long-time friend, Paul Mckenna of The Paul Mckenna Band. Here he answers questions about their soon to be released album, Paths That Wind, their upcoming US Tour, and new additions to the band…
Visual Victoria (VV): Who is in the PMB and how did the group come about?
Paul Mckenna (PM): Myself, Sean Gray and Ewan Baird have been in the band since the beginning of it all. We have new member Conor Markey on Bouzouki and Banjo who is featured on our new album Paths That Wind. He’s an outstanding musician who has grown up surrounded by music. On fiddle we have Jack Smedley. Jack has played with the band many times over the years, we are very happy to have him on this tour.
VV: How did you get into playing traditional Scottish music? What does it mean to you to play trad music from your native country?
PM: I was always interested in folk music and grew up surrounded by Irish songs. It was a natural progression for me to get involved and fall in love with traditional music. It’s very important to keep playing this kind of music and even more so to carry it forward.
VV: How do traditional music styles play into the covers/original songs you play?
PM: I think using instruments like bouzouki and fiddle mean that it’s always going to sound more ‘folky’. We consider ourselves a folk band and will always have these elements in our music.
VV: When it comes to traveling with The Paul Mckenna Band, where have you traveled? What are your favorite places to go/play?
PM: We have travelled quite extensively over the years. All over Europe, Canada and the US, we just had our first tour in Australia at the end of 2015/beginning of 2016 which was fantastic.
We love coming to North America and find the audiences some of the best in the world.
Germany was one of the first places we toured back in the early days of being a band, we all have a soft spot for it and play there whenever possible.
VV: Takes us through the progression of your albums. What is unique about each?
PM: Every album we have ever recorded has been done differently.
Our first album Between Two Worlds was almost completely live with a few overdubs on some of the tracks.
Our second album was produced by Brian McNeil and he had his own approach which was really exciting for us at the time. I’m still really happy with our second album Stem The Tide all these years later.
For our third album, Elements, we took another new approach and basically built our own recording studio and used a crowdfunding platform to try and get what we needed and spend a lot of time producing the album ourselves. It was more a studio album than a live one, if that makes sense.
We are now about to release our fourth album Paths That Wind and we had the amazing John McCusker producing this one. Again he had his own approach and we went back to the more live recording setting for a lot of the album. I’m over the moon with this new release and can’t wait to get some feedback.
VV: Who are your main musical influences?
PM: I have hundreds, maybe more, musical influences, as do all of the guys in the band. I listen to everything from traditional Scottish/Irish to bluegrass and country to current pop chart music. I find influences in everything. If I had to pick one folky who has influenced me most I would always have to say Dick Gaughan.
VV: How has being a professional traveling musician changed your life?
PM: It has changed my life in a big way. I’ve been fortunate enough to see so many different countries and meet lots of different people from different backgrounds.
VV: If you could only play one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
PM: That’s a really tough one. I actually don’t think I can give an honest answer. It could be something this week and then change again the next.
VV: What is your favorite original song you or a bandmate has written?
PM: It’s always difficult to judge your own work. We can only hope that our music has some effect on the listeners and that everyone can take something from the songs and tunes that we write.
VV: Where are you playing this US tour? (I can take this from your website)
PM: This tour we will have shows all up and down the east coast.
In the blue Ridge Area we will be playing in Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia March 17-19th. Check out our website for more details. (www.paulmckennaband.com)
Also posted on Go Blue Ridge Travel