Greetings from Costa

Dear all,

I write to you from Costa Coffee in Stourbridge. Because my life is glamorous. I spend a great deal of my time in cafes on a laptop, yes I’m one of those guys. My philosophy generally is if it’s an independent cafe I would always keep buying drinks and not just take up a table for work. In Costa, Cafe Nero et al I feel rather different.

Anyway, there’s some information that won’t be of any use to you whatsoever. So to bring you up to speed, it was straight back into travels albeit on a rather smaller scale as UFQ went to Holland for a one off gig in Zandaam. Joe spent much of the time telling me how good gigging in Holland is and such was borne out by the gig. A lovely host and a great crowd in a packed house. I was of course utterly banjaxed from my Southern Hemisphere travails but I managed to do the gig before collapsing in the car! It was truly Continue reading “Greetings from Costa”

That’s a wrap!

Dear all,

Well that’s a wrap. My Southern Hemisphere tour of 37 gigs, god knows how many miles and countless good times is over. I’ve loved it, I really have and I heartily thank the people from Australia and New Zealand who came to gigs, organised gigs, put me up, fed me, gave me good company and bought CDs. I nearly sold out, not quite but nearly! It was a massive undertaking for me to do such a long tour so far from home and I made no secret I was rather nervous but it was totally worth it.

First let me bring you up to speed. Havelock was an absolute belter of a gig at the Captain’s Daughter with a quite brilliant audience, wonderful atmosphere and a rather clumsy introduction from me – ‘it’s great to be back in the Captain’s Daughter’. I hadn’t quite realised how that would sound…Anyway next it was off to Nelson for a gig at the stunning Fairfield House, a replacement for the sadly stricken Boathouse. It was a wonderful night again and a real candidate for gig of the tour in fact. Next came a bloody long drive to Oamaru Continue reading “That’s a wrap!”

Long live Barrytown Hall!

Dear all,

Greetings from a thoroughly rainy and cyclone threatened south island of New Zealand where I’ve had a great tour although a slightly not in a good way eventful day yesterday…More on that in a minute but first up let me bring you up to speed. After arriving on the south island it was the beautiful (if slightly treacherous) drive over to the legendary Mussel Inn in Golden Bay which lived up to all expectations. Unlike four years ago there was no dancing on the tables, crowd surfing or chanting of Danjo but apparently that was one hell of a one off! This was I guess more usual gig territory of devoted listeners but with a brilliant bit of patter in a fantastic setting. Amazing place this, a gig like no other. Thanks everyone for coming especially the couple who chose to spend their honeymoon there!

Next came up a couple of days off before heading to Picton for a double bill at Le Cafe with the Young Folk from Ireland. It was much enjoyed and a brilliant bonus was jamming with members of the group My Baby and their family after the gig. The three sisters singing I’ll Fly Away in beautiful three part harmony was a privilege and no less. A great night was had!

Then came a trip west to Barrytown Hall, another venue with legendary status but one I hadn’t yet experienced. Well I have now!!!!!! What a place and what a crowd – I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve had half the audience doing the conga round the hall to Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms….quite an atmosphere and a place thoroughly deserving of its status. I dearly hope the gigs keep happening…more below. Anyway from there it was off to Christchurch for a welcome return to the folk club which is always a lovely night. Then came the journey back north…

Twenty minutes into the journey came the apparently obligatory New Zealand car incident. The first time I was here in 2014, I reversed my friend’s car into a post. Definitely my fault. The second time whilst driving the aforementioned treacherous road to the Mussel Inn, my tyre gave way on a bend thus rendering the car unsteerable and heading into a barrier thankfully at a slow speed. Not my fault. This incident – I was hit in the back at a give way point. Most definitely not my fault. But a pain in the bloody buttocks nonetheless. Thankfully I sustained no pain in the buttocks or otherwise and mercifully the car is perfectly driveable if just a bit disfigured around the bumper. A shout out to Jean at Mitre 10 in Rangiora who spent time helping me duct tape the bumper and brake light shield to the car to ensure no debris on the road…thanks Jean!

Anyway after all that there was the little matter of another gig – the Highfield Winery in Blenheim was the venue and a jolly nice one it was too with a delightful audience and a beautiful setting. Regrettably, today’s gig at Punga Cove was cancelled owing to the imminent cyclone in the area so it was deemed unsafe. Such a shame, I was so looking forward to it but needs must and it has been quite nice to have a lazy day today I must admit. Still all should be fine for tomorrow’s gig in Havelock.

So then touching on this Barrytown business. Barrytown is a very remote place (even for New Zealand) and largely consists of the hall, four or five houses and a hotel. The hall happens to be on the same road as the houses and a complaint some time ago about the noise from the gigs threatened the gigs with closure and the threat has still not been completely warded off and all kinds of measures are being taken. It brought back to my mind my time in Newcastle when the legendary Cooperage pub which had been there hundreds of years and hosted many live music evenings was suddenly served notice to close because of some loathsome yuppy who moved in to a property on Newcastle’s quayside, a legendary noisy and party-orientated area, and complained about the noise…Now admittedly if you live somewhere like Barrytown you expect peace I get that. But I ask, would it really hurt you to once or twice a month put up with (or better still join) a gig that emits a bit of noise but makes hundreds of people extremely happy and brings out people of all ages into a glorious community event and experience quality live music. So something changes in your life and routine once or twice a month…big deal. Get over it.


Dear all,

Greetings from Wellington, one of my favourite cities in the world where I have had many a happy time during my three visits to this wonderful country. Last night was Wellington Bluegrass Society, one of the finest gigs on the planet and once again it was absolutely wonderful. Thanks to everyone for giving me such a great night and particularly to whoever wrote ‘you were amazing’ on my mailing list! Made me smile no end. God I love New Zealand. And a huge thanks too to the charming couple with whom I shared the Perth hotel drama (see a couple of entries back) who came to see the gig.

So then let me bring you up to speed. After my last blog came Canberra at Smiths Alternative which was a cracking little gig in a brilliant venue. I wandered outside afterwards and played fetch with a random dog and listened to a highly intoxicated man playing actually rather good piano on the public piano. Next up it was the relatively short trip to Braidwood which was a lovely little place and I had a cracker of a gig in the hall there as well as beautiful accommodation courtesy of Sue. The next day was the most definitely not short trip to Continue reading “Oz/Nz”

Let me in!

Dear all,

Another week has passed of my Australian adventure. I’ve actually just had three whole nights off which has been quite nice I must admit and a chance to be a tourist for a bit and catch up on sleep. On Friday I flew into Sydney from Perth at 5.30am (that was really nice) and drove straight to Illawarra Folk Festival where I played an hour or so after my arrival on site. It was a cracking little gig I must say and handily positioned in the middle of the site so by the end the tent was pretty heaving. I then hung out with some new chums that night and watched some fine music before retiring at a reasonable hour to catch up on sleep. Thanks so much to Barbara and Ian for ‘billeting’ me. Incidentally, that means accommodating me and I had never heard the term before it was introduced to me on my New Zealand trip back in 2014. I thought it sounded rather too much like ‘guillotine’ but I am now familiar with its meaning. I had a lovely time at their house and they had a cracking little dog called Buddy who  mysteriously seemed rather fond of me.
Continue reading “Let me in!”

A week in Australia

Dear all,

Incredibly it’s been a week since I arrived in Australia and the first half of the Western stint is done. Tomorrow I fly to Sydney to play Illawarra Folk Festival followed by gigs in Sydney, Canberra, Braidwood, Upper Lansdowne and Camden before returning to the west for three more gigs before heading to New Zealand.

It’s been a mightily enjoyable trip. After the hotel check in drama it was straight into action at the Writers Block in Fremantle, a songwriting focussed gig with quite a few other acts on the bill. I really enjoyed what I heard and of course it was good to finally play here. I was pretty fried I have to say – normally it only takes me a day to get over jetlag but I had a hard time shaking it off this time I must confess. Still much fun was had and this excellent shot captured the glamour of my life – tea brought to the stage. Sometimes I just don’t know how the world copes with my rock’n’roll…

I’ve been mostly been staying with the Ralphs (that is their surname, I don’t mean there’s a house full of people called Ralph) who have been wonderful hosts and made me feel very at home. Between them they’ve been to quite a few of my shows while I’ve been here too! Next on that list of shows was Wanneroo Folk Club which was a really great night. Superb support was provided by the exquisite Continue reading “A week in Australia”

Late night hotel dramas

Dear all,

Greetings from a very sunny Perth, Western Australia. I am finally here and the fun begins tonight in Fremantle. The flight was fairly hitch-free though it is a beastly journey, the one from Dubai to Perth especially so. By the end of that flight I really am screaming to get out…well obviously not really otherwise I would probably encounter other trouble but you know what I mean. I also remembered what a ghastly and contemptible place Dubai Airport is with its singularly unhelpful staff and ridiculous places to check your passports and bags. I have no issue with passports and bags being checked at all but I do ask the question could my passport really have changed dramatically in the space of 20 yards? Yes no sooner had I showed it with my ticket than someone else wanted to see it 20 yards later. Ironically I just accidentally typed 20 years instead of 20 yards twice which probably indicates how long getting out of Dubai Airport feels like. But the bit that really got on my thrupennies was getting to my gate, having got through security where they of course check your bags, and thought I’d buy a couple of big bottles of water for the long flight. I put them in my bag…then we are invited to board which involves having our bags checked…with no liquids allowed…having been through security already…as if that wasn’t painful enough the water was bought from Starbucks so I essentially got ripped off by Starbucks which is the worst way to get ripped off. Maybe it’s punishment for all the times I used their wifi while spending my money in an adjacent cafe (see the archives).

Anyway never mind…I got to Perth. Much to my surprise it was relatively quick to get out the airport then I bumped into a lovely couple who were heading to the same hotel so we shared a taxi. Then we arrived at the hotel where reception was closed and a self-service kiosk was the means of checking in. Now, I really don’t consider myself anti-technology but when it comes to certain things, such as checking into hotels, my heart always sinks when I see these things. And true to form when it said ‘type confirmation number or insert card used for payment’ one produced a ‘system error – restarting’ and one produced ‘your reservation is not recognised’. So in the end there was little option but to ring the emergency number (I mean for the hotel staff not police/fire/ambulance obviously) upon which I spoke to quite possibly the rudest man I have ever encountered in my entire life, and as you can imagine that is up against some pretty stiff competition. The dialogue went roughly as follows:

‘Hello, sorry to trouble you but the self service check in doesn’t appear to be working’
‘Yes it is, just follow the instructions’
‘Yes that was amongst the first things I thought of, but it’s still not working’
‘Yes it is, lots of people have checked in’
‘Well I’m not exactly not getting in by choice. I tried my card…’
‘…it doesn’t say anything about using your card, why you using your card?’
‘It says enter confirmation number or insert your card’
‘It doesn’t say anything about cards’
‘I can take a picture if you don’t believe me’
‘It doesn’t say anything about cards’
‘I am looking at it, yes it does!’
‘Just follow the instructions’
‘That is what I’m doing, on the screen it says…’
‘Why are you looking at the screen?’
‘Because that would appear to be how to check in…’
‘No the piece of paper’
‘Which one?’
‘The one on the other side of the entrance, it’s very simple’
‘Yes why didn’t I think to look there eh? So I enter the numbers assigned to each name and that’s it?’
‘Yes it will work’
‘So will I need to…’

Then as if that wasn’t enough, the couple were also getting their keys so we were each holding the door open as a guest sitting in the lobby area had been kind enough to open it for us. As we all got our keys and got in our friend from the phone came out and shouted at the nice couple for holding the door open. The chap explained that it was just while they were making sure they got their keys at which point the cheerful chap said ‘what difference does it make, close the door at once’ and stormed off back to whence he came. Delightful. Ibis Perth Airport hotel – you can be sure of a welcome of some kind.

Pre-tour nerves

Dear all,

It’s 1am and I should be asleep…instead I’ve been brushing up on a bit of admin prior to my biggest ever tour abroad which is now LESS THAN A WEEK away! My first tour of Australia and my third of New Zealand mean it’s nearly two months away from the UK. I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit anxious as I invariably am before one of these trips of mine but I have always enjoyed them all. Even the first US trip with its traumatic visa based preparation was enjoyable once I got there. New Zealand is a special place which I’ve written about previously – kind of like a very far away second home to me. Australia is an entirely new beast and I am excited to finally gig there and bizarrely for such a huge country I actually have relatively modest amounts of driving which is something of a relief although a domestic flight return is involved. Being a musician sits with me and monumentally does not sit with me at the same time! I am essentially a homing bird by nature so a job that involves touring the world isn’t exactly ideal. I’m also a touch OCD and permanently struggle with a job that involves no stable income and no routine. But of course I do love playing the banjo and performing on a stage and I also love doing it in different countries to different kinds of people. This tour brings both extremes right to the surface with New Zealand being the scene of some of my greatest moments with the crowd surfing at the Mussel Inn, the breakfast TV appearance and almost selling out of CDs on the first gig being strong in the memory. I guess you just can’t have it all your own way!

Exciting times await on my return as well with the UFQ spring tour followed by the first Dan Walsh trio tour which I am seriously excited about. When fiddler Ciaran Algar said to me that we ought to play together and then said he was leaving university and looking for a new project I just had to make sure it happened. Ciaran is an exceptional talent and a top bloke to boot and after three years of touring and recording in a very ‘solo’ kind of way (UFQ aside of course) I felt the time was right for a different approach to my music anyway. So who would complete the trio? For about eight years my go to musician has invariably been mandolinist Nic Zuppardi. Nic is an outstanding mandolin player with a particular flair for bluegrass and jazz. Like Ciaran he is also a top bloke and we have always worked together well particularly during a Continue reading “Pre-tour nerves”

Eight years ago today

5th December 2009 is a day I will never forget. Music has been my number one hobby my entire life and I really do mean my entire life. My parents swear that I was singing in Gaelic before speaking English owing to the Irish music I was listening to in my early years! Tales of me lying next to a tape player listening to Paul Simon’s Graceland or Irish folk music are plentiful and the first ever ‘what do you want to be when you grow up conversation’ ended with me pointing at a busker. So it really has been my lifelong passion. So unsurprisingly live music experiences tend to be very significant for me and going to see my favourite bands has always been something that has excited me beyond belief. But none quite like this gig…

I was fortunate to grow up in a house where my parents listened to a wide variety of (mostly) really great music. My mum had some great blues stuff like John Lee Hooker and Elmore James. My dad had Irish folk stuff and the Beatles. But my dad’s favourite band were always Horslips, an Irish rock band from the 70s massively influenced by folk and traditional music. They were one of the bands I grew up listening to as a result and they were always one of the bands that meant a lot to me. Three albums in particular – The Tain, The Book Of Invasions and Aliens epitomised what I loved best about them. Genius use of trad melodies as rock riffs, superb lyrics often about aspects of Irish history and wonderful guitar parts from the legend that is Johnny Fean.

Not only were they a massive part of my childhood but when I went to university I seemed to obsess over them even more and they had a huge influence on much of the stuff I was writing, particularly on the rockiest of my albums Tomorrow’s Still To Come. Then Sword Of Light became a live solo favourite while Walsh and Pound recorded Wrath Of The Rain. But here’s the nub – while Horslips had very much become my favourite band, they disbanded in 1980 so sadly it looked as though I’d never get to see them live. Then came the news…they were back! I happened to be watching some videos on youtube of them and noticed one from only a year or so back on Irish TV. This was their reunion and the more I read the more excited I got – three uber fans had put on an exhibition of Horslips memorabilia in Derry and persauded the band to come and play an acoustic set. Then these TV appearances happened. And then…I went on their website and they really were back with a gig at the O2 arena in Dublin scheduled for December 5th 2009 two days after a gig in Belfast, their first full live public gig in 29 years! I couldn’t believe my eyes – I got straight onto the phone and asked my dad the question I never thought I’d ask: ‘would you like to see Horslips’. Within about an hour we’d booked flights, a hotel and of course those all important tickets. I couldn’t comprehend it: I was going to see Horslips!!!

The guys in Horslips are very funny guys and in a later DVD about the concert, Barry Devlin joked ‘this was probably the first gig I’ve ever been at where the band were feeling quite relaxed and the audience were bricking it’. He had a point. As Dad and I sank a few pints of Guinness during the day in Dublin, we did worry ‘what if they’re shite…’. We figured they’d have to be really really shite for us not to have a good time, but at the end of the day these were men pushing or possibly even in their 60s who hadn’t played in 29 years and only one of whom had really consistently gigged since. We got to the arena with a sense of massive anticipation and then the lights went down and that chugging opening riff to King Of The Fairies kicked things off. Myself and my dad were in heaven. Here was our favourite band who we never in a million years thought we’d ever see live (again in my Dad’s case, he did catch them once in the 70s) playing a huge venue with thousands of people who all knew the words. I’d spent my life sharing my love of Horslips with Dad and my mate at school who I introduced to them. Suddenly here they were rocking an arena and best of all – they were bloody awesome. Johnny Fean in particular was on sterling form and showed why he is the most criminally underrated guitarist I’ve ever come across. The full range of their output was on show and Dad and I sang every word and then came Dearg Doom, the band’s anthem. Almost involuntarily I was pogoing up and down like a madman and looked to my left and my Dad, not a man particularly given to boogieing it’s fair to say, was doing exactly the same. I could have cried with joy, in fact I’m pretty sure I did. As a folkie as well, there was something rather special about 12,000 people rocking out to a melody so old no-one knows who wrote it…

It was the perfect gigging experience and can never be topped. Even my great hero Paul Simon didn’t quite top it although he came bloody close – at the Albert Hall last year he was unbelievable and musically if I’m being honest it was just perfect. But nothing could quite top the all round experience of seeing Horslips the way I did. My favourite band who barely anyone in my life seemed to have ever heard of and who I thought had disbanded for good nearly 30 years ago had rocked an arena with 12,000 people, played the gig of their lives, were obviously themselves stunned and overjoyed at playing that kind of venue so successfully (they weren’t exactly massive in their heyday) and best of all I shared it with my Dad who was the man who introduced them to me in the first place and was as ecstatic to see them as I was. I wish I could experience it again somehow but I guess I just have to be grateful to have done so at all. What a night!

New trio!

Dear all,

I’m delighted to tell you all about the new Dan Walsh trio featuring the mighty Ciaran Algar on fiddle and maestro Nic Zuppardi on mandolin. We’ll be touring the UK throughout May next year and we’ve done a little video to show you what you can expect:

I hope you enjoyed it! Tour dates to be released soon….

In the meantime, it’s been a fun month. I had a nice little run of solo gigs starting at the Woodman Folk Club in Kingswinford which as always was a great blast. Then a trio of gigs the following weekend at National Forest Folk Club in Leicestershire, Royal Traditions in Sheffield and then up in Penrith, the land of my birth, at a rather special songwriters circle night. All three were highly enjoyable in different ways. National Forest is sort of an old favourite as I’d done the festival a good few times but it was only my second visit Continue reading “New trio!”