An interview with Bobby O’Donovan, Irish Musician and Singer
JP: It is my pleasure to introduce Bobby O’Donovan, from Cork. Bobby is the lead singer with “Fire in the Kitchen,” playing traditional Irish music around South Florida. Welcome to the Irishauthor blog, Bobby and thanks for taking the time to discuss your music and the music scene in Florida.
BOD: Thanks J.P., it’s great to be on here chatting with you.
JP: I first saw you performing in Tim Finnegan’s of Delray Beach, with your partner Bob Noble and your band; “Fire in the Kitchen.” My first question is – how did you arrive at that name….is it something to do with the way you cook?
BOD: NO….it is not related to me burning food…that much! It was actually suggested to us by a friend. It’s a metaphor for a party in a kitchen.
JP: Funny you should say that….my sister back in Dublin is married to a musician and their house is a meeting point, not only for musicians and stray siblings, like meself, but for anyone on their way to, or from a seisiun. They call their house; “The Ceile Kitchen!”
BOD: You never have to go too far in Ireland to find a good auld seisiun!
JP: Even though I come from the total opposite end of Ireland, I knew as soon as I heard you that you were a Cork man. Did you start your musical career in Ireland?
BOD: I started playing part-time in Ireland, back in the ‘60’s. That was the start of the “Showband” era in Ireland. Then I moved to Canada, where I became a professional in a band. My fist gig was in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
JP: In which other countries have you played?
BOD: Apart from Ireland and Canada, I have also played in; Australia, New Zealand, Korea and now the U.S. My first gig in South Korea was at an Irish bar called; “O’Kim’s.” One of our group learned to sing; “Maggie” in Korean and that was very popular with the locals. Believe it or not, but the most requested song every night was John Denver’s “Country Roads!”
JP: Which musicians influenced you when you first started out?
BOD: I was a big fan of the Irish group; “The Dubliners” – John Sheahan on fiddle, Barney McKenna on tenor banjo. As a young boy I listened to Fritz Kreisler playing the violin. My father had me listen to Count John McCormick, the great Irish tenor. I was also greatly influenced by the late Tommy Makem, from Armagh. He had such a wonderful stage presence and a gift for song writing.
JP: How would you rate the trad music scene in Florida, or in the U.S. as a whole?
BOD: There is a great deal of Irish traditional music being played around the U.S., especially at Celtic festivals, but unfortunately, there is not a vibrant trad music scene in Florida. Our audiences love all the old Irish songs and we try to deliver on everybody’s request, as long as we know the song.
JP: Since much of your professional music career seems to have been when you played in Canada, can you tell the readers a little bit about that experience?
BOD: I got to work with some big stars when I was with “The Irish Rovers” in Canada. We did a T.V. special with Vera Lynn and got to open for Bob Hope. We met Bill Monroe and I actually got to play his famous F5 Gibson mandolin. That reminds me of a story that happened one night when I was playing a gig in downtown Los Angeles. I was introduced to Itzhack Perlman. I was introduced to him after a concert and in his dressing room, when he handed me his violin and asked me to play a tune. I was so nervous, the only thing I could think to play was “The Irish Washer Woman.” To this day, I believe that I am the only one to play that old Irish tune on a centuries old Stradivarius!
JP: Would you mind telling our readers that story about the time you met Bob Hope?
BOD: It was the time we opened for him at the New York State Fair. I met him back stage afterwards and asked if he would pose with me for a photo. For a man who had been so funny on stage, just a short time before, he seemed to have lost all sense of humor when it came to talking to us. Then again, it was probably my body odour, as I had consumed a colossal amount of Guinness the night before and the stuff was virtually leaking out of my skin. He posed, but only begrudgingly.
I thought to myself; “The two Bobs. One with Hope and one with no hope at all.”
JP: Good man – you must have “stories to beat the band,” as they say! So, what does the music future hold for a Cork minstrel these– do you plan to do any tours in Ireland, or maybe the U.S.?
BOD: I keep composing fiddle and mandolin tunes. The hardest part of the business is finding constant work. You know what they say; “no name – no fame!” I’ve never been one to push my own name and I’ve always played in a group. Sure, we’ll just keep on keeping on!
JP: I’ve seen you on stage, Bobby…there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet! Tell our readers how they can get a hold of you and your music.
BOD: Our website is; www.fireinthekitchen.info and our CD is called; “More Songs and Fun.” I can be contacted at; firstname.lastname@example.org
It was great craic, J.P. Thank you for taking the time to ceile with me!
JP: Well Bobby, it has been an absolute pleasure chatting with you and getting an inside view of what life is like for an Irish musician “across the big pond.” I am sure that you will be entertaining folks for a long time more to come. Thank you for dropping in on us.
Slan agus beannacht!