One of my earliest musical memories is playing harmonica alongside my Dad when I was about 3 years old. I remember standing beside him and trying to keep up as he played an Irish reel. It was a family get together at my Grandad's flat in East Wall, Dublin, and, for me as a small child, quite intimidating. My Grandad was very big and often seemed quite stern to me. Of course I couldn't play but I just put the harmonica in my mouth and blew along as best I could in time to the beat of my Dad’s foot on the floor. Everyone clapped along, trying to help me stay in time, laughing as they watched me concentrating on playing in my serious three year old way.
My Dad did regular 'turns'; playing spoons, harmonica and sometimes singing too, at many of these gatherings. They were a regular feature of my early childhood in Ireland. Few people had any formal musical knowledge, much less any training. But my uncle played clarinet and saxophone in a show band and he had a record collection that he sometimes let me hear when we stayed over. One of my cousins also played drums in a well know show band for a while. So I guess there was some kind of family musical tradition.
I picked up a guitar when I was 13 inspired by the Beatles and Stones. But by the time I was 16 I had all but abandoned top 40 pop music in favour of the blues and American roots music I became exposed through from listening to artists like The Cream, Ry Cooder and Captain Beefheart. Over the next few decades I played in public only a few times, usually as part of a duo or small impromptu band. Lots of moving around, having kids very early and trying to make a living kept me busy with other things for a long time. But I always played guitar and learned the basics of a few other instruments too.
Then, a couple of years ago, after a move back to Manchester, and a New Year prompt from my daughter, I finally worked up the nerve to try my hand again at playing in public. After a couple of performances I started to gain in confidence and began to write some new songs too. I started a video and photography project I called “Shared World Music’” to document the Manchester music scene and became a regular playing at local venues.
Now I’m working on recording two albums of original songs and an EP that will include some covers of classic blues and americana. Hopefully the albums and the EP will all be finished in the next couple of months.
Vincent O’Brien ©2016
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