So the title is misleading…I don’t entirely know how I managed it, BUT! It’s been no small change for me, embarking on my first international tour AND moving my entire life and car full of possessions from Detroit, MI to San Francisco, CA. I’ve never made such a large move before, but I’ve dreamed of such things for a long time, and the it just seemed right. I’m 27, and still young enough that many people will say to me, “Oh! You’re just a baby!” But old enough that I feel the weight of time on my decisions. If I ever want to settle down and have a family, it has to be AFTER I’ve made my mark in my industry of choice. Such is, more or less, the nature of the music business. There are exceptions to this, or course, and I would encourage anyone – no matter their age or circumstances – to follow their dreams to the best of their ability. But I imagine myself bearing career fruit before bearing human fruit…Anyway, I hesitate to call Ireland the trip of a lifetime only because I don’t want to jinx it. The truth is, my first international tour in Ireland WAS the trip of my lifetime so far.
I was lucky enough to have an INCREDIBLE patron and guide who both footed the bill (most of it), and was an experienced enough traveler to get us from A to B without much fuss. Whilst I aspire to be a globe trotter myself, I’m just starting out, so having his experience on my side was INVALUABLE. We’ll just call this super-patron Monty. Monty let me pick ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD I wanted to go…I chose Ireland. PLEASE, don’t get on my case for not choosing something more exotic. I had good reasons, and besides, after spending some time in the Republic of Ireland you wouldn’t accuse it of being non-exotic. The Gaelic language and ancient culture of Ireland is THRIVING! And fascinating! And I highly recommend you visit!…Seriously, it’s so ancient and compact that there are over 350,000 historical landmarks dating back hundreds and thousands of years…you practically trip over them! Check out the music video for “Where I Belong”, soon to be released, to see what I mean.
I chose Ireland because I am heavily influenced by American folk music and melodies. American folk music and melodies are heavily influenced by Irish folk music and melodies. It seemed like I would be going back to the roots of my roots while I was there, and it felt like it…more on that later.
Monty and I planned very little of this tour in advance. With a couple months notice, and countless cold calls, I only managed to book myself two shows. One of which fell through before we arrived. BUT, the first show I’d booked for the day we arrived in Dublin was in tact and the hotel here we would stay was booked. Everything from there we would play by ear. Our goals were to get as much gorgeous video for the “Where I Belong” music video and play as many shows as possible…
Between Monty’s patronage and the kindness of strangers, we managed to play 6 shows in as many days, only one of which was scheduled in advance, and many of which payed in the next opportunity and/or beer. We filmed in abandoned abbeys, castles, pastures, forests, college campuses, and some places where we probably wouldn’t have been wanted if they knew we were there. We played in bars from Dublin to Cork to Killarney to Ballina. We made our way down and around the Island until we found ourselves in Great Britain. (See the pic below we HAD to take with one arm in Britain and one arm in the Republic of Ireland because, who knows!? With Brexit maybe there won’t be a way to take that pic tomorrow…)
With very few exceptions, I found that the people of Ireland are as beautiful as the land they inhabit. I could go on about the genuine warmth of the people, or the awe inspiring majesty of the island…but you’d just need to go there. Words, and even pictures, will only fall short.
My favorite thing about performing in Ireland was the audience. Irish audiences welcome a broad range of emotion from performers. I didn’t shy away from more anguished lyrics like I sometimes must with American audiences. It makes sense, really. Have you heard Irish folk songs? There is a beauty in anguish that the Irish embrace, and so I often found myself receiving the warmest reception to the rawest songs. My entire catalogue was game, and I could flow with my audience SO easily because they were just riding the wave with me. It was magical.
Speaking of magical, I met a leprechaun in Ballina. Ballina, I’ve decided, is my home away from home in Ireland. Of all the places we visited on our 7 day tour of Ireland, Ballina was the only place we stayed for more than 24 hours. It all started with a pub called An Bolg Bui. We walked in tired and fresh from the road because it was the first place we’d learned would have live music. Like most bands in Ireland, the musicians were using traditional instruments to play an assortment of traditional Irish and contemporary favorites, like Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Upon approaching the bar, an elderly gentleman struck up a conversation with me. Unfortunately, his accent was SO thick, I could only catch words here and there. Luckily the bar tuned in to our conversation to interpret…He called me a yankee! Then he said he liked my American accent. Finally he introduced himself to me as “Chet,” to which the bar laughed and contradicted his claim. “Fine,” he said, “my name is Noel.” Again the bar erupted in laughter. “Call him Mr. Thornton,” someone said. And that’s when he informed me that he was a leprechaun. Again, the bar erupted into laughter and Monty offered to take a picture of us. “Kiss her cheek!” someone yelled, and thereafter Mr. Thornton would kiss my cheek every time someone had a phone with which to take a picture. Having walked into the bar with guitar in hand, the musicians performing graciously offered me a set that night. Before I took the stage, Mr. Thornton volunteered that he would be leaving An Bolg Bui for the night, but I was welcome to join him at another pub up the street. I promised I’d try to make it after my set. That night turned out to be my FAVORITE night of the whole tour, from people to performance. I sang my heart out – all my favorite original and cover tunes – and the bar sang with me. The drink flowed, we found ourselves in a lock in, and I never made it to Mr. Thornton’s pub that night.
The next day, we took to the water on a boat owned by one of An Bolg Bui’s regulars. Noel was so regular there, that he was actually BORN in that pub. His parents had owned it at the time of his birth and didn’t make it to the hospital in time for his delivery. The pub itself used to be a fishing shack in the historic town, and having been (literally) born on the water, Noel was as at home on sea as on land. He and his gf, Kim, were fantastic tour guides, and shared with us the beauty that usually only locals enjoy. From there we were persuaded to film at Downpatrick Head. It’s like the local’s own Cliffs of Moher; all the beauty, none of the tourists. (Again, keep an eye open for the “Where I Belong” music video for footage!) We returned to An Bolg Bui a second time at the invitation of the performing musicians (shout out to Pat & Mick!) and the bar owner, Liam (what what!?). Mr.Thornton did not make an appearance.
When we finally left Ballina, we had only to drive a couple hours to Belcoo – the front lines of Brexit – just to say we did, and back to Dublin for our final adventure of the tour – a live acoustic performance for Roadie TV (see below) that we’d been recruited for after an impromptu street performance went locally viral! Our final day would be mostly driving and digesting the sights. Now…Ireland itself, being an island, is the recipe for a rainbow. But until we were on the road from Ballina to Belcoo we hadn’t seen one. Now we were witnessing a full fledged rainbow in all it’s glory. We did what anyone would do…we followed it. The rainbow appeared on our left, and we took the the first left we could off the freeway, rainbow dead ahead. We followed that rainbow through pastures of single lane country road until we could follow it no more. Our road dead ended…and it was at that moment that I realized, Mr. Thorton was indeed a leprechaun. The rainbow road we’d followed dead ended at a sign…a sign with my name on it! It said “Maggie Maye’s BnB ->”. And I thought, “Mr. Thornton is trying to tell me something…either he’s trying to tell me that I, Maggie, was the pot of gold all along…or I really should have met him at the second pub.”
We met some truly incredible people in Ireland. Among those I’d like to thank for showing us a great time in Ireland is Kim, Noel, Liam, Danika, Mick, Mick, Pat, Patrick, Brian, Sean…and everyone else who didn’t make my notes because I was too sensory overload (tipsy) to make notes that night! And of course, I’d like to thank Monty and all of my patrons for making #IRELAND2018 possible.
I sincerely hope I have many more experiences like it. For now, Ireland has set the bar quite high as a performance destination. #IRELAND2018 was everything I’d hoped it would be and more!
MOVING ON!…In a strange twist of fate I lost my job of 8 years at EXACTLY the moment my sister’s roommate in SF moved out. This was one week before I flew to San Francisco to visit my sister, about one month before today. At this point I wasn’t planning on moving to San Francisco – I’d only just lost a job that I’d loved, after all – but while visiting my sister, she and her roommate really laid the opportunity on thick, and before the week was out, I’d made my decision. No time like the present!?
Really, the stars were never going to align this way again. So before I up and left for Ireland, I packed my shit and sent it and my car along with my parents to San Francisco. I had two weeks to wrap up my many jobs (#musicianlife), and whilst I was galavanting in Ireland, my parents road tripped to San Francisco with all of my earthly possessions…I cannot thank them enough for this. They are among the many reasons that this is the time of my life.
The days before I left and after I returned from Ireland were some of the most satisfying, and terrifying, of my life. I freed my schedule for appointments with friends, family, and fellow musicians. I said goodbye for now to lifelong friends, and got a happy, tear-inducing glimpse of the impact people have ascribed to my time in Detroit. I realized that Detroit will always be the city that made me. Even now it brings a tear to me eye. As I write this, I’ve been in CA for five days, and I’m more grateful than ever for my time in Detroit. Most of the connections I’ve made here already have been tangentially through Detroit connections. I’ve managed to find myself a job conducting a youth choir, another job teaching private lessons and doing receptionist work for a small music school within walking distance of my new abode, I’ve gotten myself added to two talent rosters, I’ve written two songs, and I’ve already performed my first set with a SF band. My second set with the same musicians is tonight…I’ve a laundry list of things still to do, but with your support, I’m feeling more capable than I ever have. These are the times of our lives, after all…stay tuned.
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