He’s been a part of many a perfect musical moment in Ireland, from Tir na nÓg to Scullion and beyond…
And we’ve managed to get the enormously gifted and notoriously shy Sonny Condell to reveal to GG how the hell he got from there to here…
Well, how did I get here…?
As a teenager, the more I fiddled about with the guitar, the more I saw I could do it, and I loved the way playing took me out of wherever I was, out of time almost, and I started making up my own songs.
Then later, there was the thrill and dread of getting up and performing for people…
It became addictive.
School and all the rest of it went out the window.
Music was the biz, and still is.
The Beatles She Loves You I heard this on the radio at boarding school when I was about twelve years old, I think. I remember experiencing a shiver up the back of my neck, it was the first time music gave me such a thrilling feeling. They were unlike anything that had gone before in my short musical life. I turned off the hot water tap and sat on the edge of the bath, transfixed!
Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love I think I was in London with my friend Leo O’Kelly in his flat in Ealing Broadway, when he played me this track. The swirling vocals, panning like mad across the room, and the power of the band when they all came in made a big impression – perhaps peeling away some of my innocence, with its highly charged sexuality.
Nick Drake Poor Boy From the beautiful 2nd album, Bryter Layter. Again I was introduced to Nick by Leo, he being a great collector of new music, both then and now. All the songs on this album made a big impression on me. He was a unique guitar player with a finger style that is almost impossible to copy, and there is a lot of jazz in his song structures. There is a sadness too which the lush arrangements don’t get in the way of.
Henryk Gorecki Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs This piece is slow and haunting, a long passage of bubble basses sawing away, gradually rising in volume. It describes in sound some of the worst times in human history, the second world war, and the concentration camps. It’s harrowing and moving and beautiful.
Tom Waits Hold On I was doing some gigs in Holland, touring on my own from place to place, playing in bars and not really enjoying them very much. People didn’t listen, and I felt out of place, and my own music seemed to became devalued. On my way home I bought a copy of Tom Waits’ Mule Variations, which I played over and over again on the train and the boats. It revived my love of song, and the spirit on imagination. Hold on is a wonder of atmosphere and place.
You can find out more about Sonny here, about Scullion here, and about Tir na nÓg here. You can also check out what songs make his partner-in-folk, Leo O’Kelly, break down and cry right here.
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