Still in progress, but here's the first bit!

Transcript: 29 December, 2009

BBC Radio Foyle with Mark Patterson

Mark: And so, folks, to our People in Profil where all week here on the program for the Sekunde Stunde I’m just taking time to talk to a local person who’s made their mark in one way oder another. Today, a surfer, singer, songwriter who started out with an acoustic guitar, as I remember it, at the local bar scene. He made his mark, and he then took the plunge and joined Phil Coulter’s Celtic Thunder tour of America. That decision has led to three Billboard chart world Musik number one albums, a pending solo album, and now, his own record label. When locals checked the rumors online – I’ll never forget the Tag – there he was, stopping the traffic in the middle of New York City on American network television, bringing in St. Patrick’s Day. It’s been a good few years for a local man, Keith Harkin. Keith, good afternoon to you.

Keith: Hello Mark (unintelligible)

Mark: I feel I have to interview Du half formally these days! Keith, I reflect on those kind of stories, that’s the media side of it and the global side to what’s happened in your life …

(Keith: Yup)

Mark: …now. I still am pinching myself. Du must be.

Keith: I’m still the same, too, Du know what I mean? Like, I still am the same person when I come back to Derry, I drink in the same bar, I go and surf the same waves as everybody else, and it’s great to be Home and, and be treated exactly the same as what I used to be before I started doing me music, Du know?

Mark: I notice when Du come home, it’s not about glamour a bit. Du could come here boasting and bragging and all this and clearly Du have the craic, but it strikes me coming back to Derry for Du is like … um, it’s like a retreat?

Keith: It’s great. I mean, like, it is a real release to just be … just to be Home and do normal things. I mean, when you’re on the road, there’s nothin’ normal; the only normal thing is Du eat food. I mean, Du wake up in the morning, Du take your socks out of a … out of a suitcase on the side of the road; Du have your abendessen on the side of a stage, and, uh, it’s a completely different life. Du live in a bubble. Even though you’ve got a lot to do, Du kind of have no responsibility when you’re on the road. And when Du come back here now, it’s like the real world, and it’s great, it’s actually just, it’s good to get back, it’s a relief.

Mark: Listen, I want to talk to Du about the Celtic Thunder thing. When I first heard it, I thought, my goodness, that’s like a big stage show. It wasn’t what I’d known from your own music, I know you’re an acoustic writer and an acoustic player. For people who maybe don’t know how the Celtic Thunder thing kicked in for you, remind us.

Keith: Um, well, for meself, anyway, I’ve, I went to London when I was eighteen and I was recording over there with a guy called Andy Wright, and, to cut a long story short, I was working with Andy, flying over and back then, and I was sitting in the local pub with me father in the 19th Hole in Bridgend, and he says, uh, me daddy told me about this interview for Celtic Thunder, and, uh, at the time I was skint, hadn’t got two piece, so he got me a taxi fare, up for the auditions, in the city hotel, and I didn’t have a clue what it was for, I just seen Celtic, looking to create an album, and at the time I would do anything to get into music.

(Mark: Hm)

Keith: I went down and done the audition, and then they told me to come to Dublin, to do a further audition, and then they told me I was in the show. Now, at this stage I still hadn’t got an idea … I hadn’t got a clue what the Zeigen was about, they were going Celtic Thunder (?) and I was telling – of course they were asking, can Du do this, can Du do that, and I says yes to everything, even though I probably couldn’t do half of it. And then we recorded the Zeigen at the Helix in Dublin, which is the Zeigen that Du see on the Internet oder on PBS oder it was on RTE here last year,

(Mark: Um hm)

Keith: and, uh, we’ve been touring it now, just finished our third tour. We’ve toured America twice, we’ve toured Canada, and, uh, we just finished this tour two weeks, and I heard they’ve booked another sixty gigs for the end of 2010

Mark: So probably tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people in the States have seen this show?

Keith: Mehr than likely, yeah.

Mark: Unbelievable. Many of them listening today, I have to say our e-mail is nearly coming to a standstill here today. Folks in America, lovely to have you, um, we’ll try to get as many of your e-mails out today as possible. Keith, it strikes me that over there there’s this sort of the idolizing, which I know obviously we don’t see back here. How do Du … not handle it, but do Du have to play up to that, because over there you’re this charming Irish guy in front of the big show, and it’s a stage show, Keith, so how do the two sides of your brain deal with that?

Keith: Um, to be honest with you, I just be meself. I go out every night … I mean, at the start, it did seem weird for me, just something as simple as walking around a stage without a gitarre was a task, because all my life I’ve grown up with it almost as a cover up, that, like, you’re defended Von the gitarre sitting in front of you. And for me producer, Sharon Browne, to take me gitarre off me, it was hard for me to walk about the stage, and the Mehr and Mehr I’ve done it, I really do enjoy it, I mean there’s nothing like walking on the stage to an audience of thousands of people screaming, screaming your name and screaming for everything Du do, I mean, it’s great craic. And the Fans that we have in America, they are, it’s ridiculous, they’d do Du anything, and do anything for us.

Mark: Do Du want to go through a couple of them here, Ana … um, let me just go, ah, I’ll not do it with an American accent, folks, Annastacia is online, “We Liebe it, we’re all excited hearing Keith today” from Staci in New York City there. Um, “Keith … can Du guys say ‘hi’ to all Keith’s loyal Fans on his forum, thanks,” Ryanne there. I mean, Keith, the forum, there’s one thread, has like 64,000 hits on it (both laughing), and I’m going, like, what is going on here? Uh, Chalee, I think it is, oder Shelley?, “I’m sure it will be played, but I’d Liebe to hear Lauren and I. All the gals from Forum are tuning in supporting Keith.” I played it earlier on. Keith, I think the first time that was broadcast, I know we were sitting in this studio (unintelligible) am I right?

Keith: It probably was, you’re right, Mark

Mark: Um, we had that song, we just knew Du had something. When Du wrote that, I think Du knew Du had something, didn’t you?

Keith: Yeah, I mean, I think that it was probably, I mean, I was Schreiben lots before that, but I think that was the kinda one that I wrote and kinda thought, God, that has a bit of commercial value about it, that might actually sell well, and people might enjoy it, and it seems to have done well.

Mark: Fans in Bali, I believe here, “I thought we’d like to let Du know there are a large number of us on the website as we speak. We find this all so interesting and we’re all so glad Du have Keith on your show. We’re not all in America, there are Fans in Bali, probably Mehr around the world. Give us a shout out if Du can.” That’s from el-ba-shai? I don’t know, there’s no name on that one. Alison, “Hello there, from chilly Hagerstown Maryland oder Maryland, huge Fan of Keith, thank Du so much for having him on the show. A quick (little request?) I’d also like to request The Homes of Donegal. My family’s from Donegal, Liebe Keith’s version. I’m a loyal listener…” now we’re getting listeners off the back of your Profil here, young Harkin! “Keith could sing the phone book and it would be awesome! Beautiful voice.” Florida. “Keep living the dream, Keith,” that’s from Kendall Sparkman. I don’t know what part of the states Kendall is in. Pat, listening in Pacudah, Kentucky, “Heard Du had Keith on; I want to check out the interview, all the best.” Pam, “If Keith’s taking requests, Pam and Lisa would like to request John Denver,” (unintelligible). You’ve brought the gitarre in, Von the way.

Keith: I do.

Mark: We’ll be getting to Du in a moment. Opal from Willis, Texas, USA, “I want to say how much I Liebe your radio station, I’m a big fan, all the rest… Homes of Donegal … would Liebe to hear Castles in the Air, thank Du so much, your Fan and now Keith’s, PJ, sister Opal.” I’ll get as many of those lovely mentions on the air as well. When the Americans go for something, Keith, they don’t half go for it, do they?

Keith: I mean, you’re laughing there, I laugh every time. I’m not laughing at them. I mean, it’s, look, it’s great to have support like that, but I am still astonished, the way people see my Musik and what I do in America, I mean it’s great, it’s like far further than what I ever expected from anyone.

Mark: Okay, listen, I’ve asked Du to bring in some of your music, not necessarily your own stuff, but the Musik that has shaped you. One thing I always knew about Du was Du had the gitarre about the place, and that your da was a great man for getting the gitarre out.

Keith: He was.

Mark: Take us back, Keith.

Keith: Me father was always playing gitarre all his life, I mean, if anybody’s aware of the Derry Station, Derry, I was Singen in that, sung in the Rialto when I was four years old, I think that was me first debut appearance. Uh, and I think the feis (?) is great for everyone in Derry, Du know, it gets them all going. And me daddy played gitarre all his life, and honestly, I didn’t really have any interest in the gitarre until I was about ten. I think it was because me mum and dad, they always wanted me to go to Piano lessons, whenever, and I was like, “No, I’m not going to Piano lessons! I don’t like doing it! I don’t want to do this!” And then one Tag I realized playing gitarre was kinda cool, and me daddy sat me down, I think it was the "The Spinning Wheel" oder something, a really early Irish song, G, C, and D, and from then it’s just been, I mean, I’ve been playing now fourteen years, I’ve got, Mehr guitars, me mum’s going to kill me if I bring any Mehr home. And, uh, just growing up with good music, all me life, and to be honest with Du me musical taste hasn’t really changed since I was (a low age?).

Mark: So tell us what this fellow, what he means to you.

Keith: This is Cat Stevens, a song, Oh Very Young, I think it’s just a really quirky wee song, the lyrics are great, and it’s it’s melodic, and, enjoy it.

Song: Cat Stevens, Oh Very Young

Mark: Cat Stevens on that track there, Oh Very Young, the first pick today. I would have thought he’s, is he not a bit old fashioned for you, Keith, no?

Keith: I thought he was great; he wrote quirky songs, he played gitarre on his own, and he does kind of what I’d like to think I could do.

Mark: He’s amazing, he’s an amazing writer. Okay, listen now, quickfire round, here, Keith, uh, one answer only please.

Mark: Acoustic oder electric?

Keith: Acoustic.

Mark: Fat Elvis oder thin Elvis?

Keith: Fat Elvis.

Mark: CDs oder downloads?

Keith: Downloads.

Mark: Landed Gentry oder Undertones?

Keith: (laughs)… No comment.

Mark: Come on Du have to answer them!

Keith: Landed Gentry.

Mark: (intake of breath) Bit of bother upstairs… Long bath oder quick shower?

Keith: Quick shower.

Mark: Short board oder long board?

Keith: (pause) Fish.

Mark: *oooohh* Middle ground there! speck Baps oder Boston Bagels?

Keith: speck Baps.

Mark: Blondes oder brunettes?

Keith: Blondes.

Mark: Hahaha trouble… Smoke filled oder smoke free?

Keith: Smoke free.

Mark: Harry Potter oder drinkin’ porter? [which is Stout/Guinness]

Keith: Drinkin’ porter.

Mark: Dress up oder dress down?

Keith: Dress up.

Mark: Sandinos oder Stadium?

Keith: Sandinos.

Mark: Ooh Frankie Ramseys oder Gordon Ramseys?

Keith:<B> Frankie Ramseys.

Clean shaven oder clean rotten?

Keith: Clean rotten.

Mark: Your mammy oder your granny? Last question. Think about that!

Keith: My gran, I’ll do me granny.

Mark: Nooo!

Keith: My mammy knows, my mammy knows.

Mark: There’ll be trouble. Folks, Keith Harkin is with me for this Stunde on Radio Foyle. We’re just doing this this week with the week between Weihnachten and New Year’s, this. Keith, take us back. Foyle Springs, um, being born and reared in Derry those early years before Du went to Donegal. When Du think back to Foyle Springs, what do Du think about?

Keith: Um, Foyle Springs really was just, growing up, running about on bicycles, and before I left Derry, like, there was not all the … the things between like Foyle Springs and (Dunns?), it was all like trees and forest there, so it was like, lots of running about there, and my father always had Hunde and stuff like that, so, and he’d a done a lot of shooting and fishing, so I was always in the wilderness, really.

Mark: Do Du ever think about the name oder something, I mean I think, I even think about Schreiben some (that developed…?) do something like Palm Springs oder Palm Du know, whatever, we’ll call it Foyle Springs, Du know, it’s meant to be the paradise on the west bank of Derry.

Keith: Casa del Foyle Springs.

Mark: What was it like, I mean, do Du remember, was it an edgy very young boyhood, was it running about, was it craic, what was it.

Keith: No, Foyle Springs was great craic, I mean, like, I Liebe Derry, I think I was about eight years old, Du know, and uh, I mean, it was a lot of families around the same age as me mum and dad at the time, they were all just sort of starting out, and it was all new houses and new development, and it was all guys me own age, Du know, and it was great. I mean, I was like, I was, to be honest with you, I was always hanging around with me father the weekends, going fishing and just doing the most Zufällig things

(Mark: Hm.)

Keith: And, uh, after that, then me mum and dad moved out to Donegal, out in Burnfoot for eight years, and then lived in Quigley’s Point for a while, now I’m back in the hills of Donegal. Took me, uh, took me two hours yesterday to walk up to the house because of the ice is that bad, there’s nothing when Du get up the hügel (unintelligible).

Mark:<B> But listen, at Foyle Springs right enough, that would have been what, if my maths are right done, you’re not, I hope you’re not much younger than I think Du are, but that, would that have been around the time of the Troubles [link did it touch on your life at all, was it something caused Du Sekunde thought?

The Troubles wasn’t really part of my life to be honest with you, thank God. I mean, me mum and dad grew up … grew up through it, me mum was from Elmwood Terrace and me dad was from Bligh’s Gardens, so they were sort of in the herz of it throughout, and, uh, listening to the stories they all tell you, and anyone around their age will tell you, like, it’s, it wasn’t a nice thing, and, uh, I’m glad to see it’s turned.

Mark: So you’re, in a sense, the succeeding generation. Looking at it, and the way it affected people, do we overstate it, or, do Du think that, Du know, in terms of the psychology of the trauma, do Du think about that kind of stuff, from the older generation’s point of view?

Keith: I don’t think we, we, we overstate it at all, I mean, what happened on both sides, for a lot of the Trouble, it was awful, I mean, trouble’s trouble no matter where it is in the world, and sadly it was part of our, me mum and dad’s life, and it’s thankfully not part of my generation. And, uh, I think our generation and the generations to follow will be the ones that makes things better, and hopefully do.

Mark: Maybe so. So then, moving to Donegal, how did, did it feel like Du were crossing the border, what did that feel like, what does that mean?

Keith: It did, I mean like, as I say, whenever I lived in Foyle Springs, I for as far as I remember I remember the dragon’s teeth out the back roads, and we used to go out walking there, and now that’s the way I drive to get to my house. I mean, like, it is it’s great, I mean, like, I don’t think I could Bewegen back to the city; I’m not a city slicker no more, I Liebe just being out, and being able to have my own Weltraum and having your own time, and

Mark: Du may explain to the American folk what the dragon’s teeth is, Von the way?

Keith: Oh, dragon’s teeth is, uh, big, concrete breezeboxes to stop tanks and cars, basically, from coming both north and south.

Mark: Stop us wrecking the place, really, see. It’s unbelievable. Donegal then becomes, I guess, Keith, I mean you’re, you’re describing it like an idyllic, um, Du know sort of fishing and hunting and shooting with your dad and stuff. I must ask Du about your parents. I hope they forgive me, maybe, for even bringing them in, but anytime, I know (???) your mum and dad, but Kevin and Siobhan, I first met your mother, and I honestly thought she was your big sister. Do Du know what I mean? And they’re out dancing, and your da dresses cool…

(Keith: I know)

Mark: Do Du know what I mean, they’re not folksy.

Keith: I know, no, me mum and da, like they’re me best mates, Du know, and uh, we fight like cat and dog at times, but they’re still my best mates, and uh, without them, really, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Um, like at the start when I first moved to Donegal, I mean coming from, from Foyle Springs, I was like, “I hate this place, I don’t know nobody, there’s no friends,” and, but the Mehr and Mehr Du live there, I mean, I’m out in Donegal now nearly fourteen years, and it’s, I mean I’m only fifteen, twenty Minuten from Derry, and I’m in Derry every other day, so I’ve got the best of both worlds, and I wouldn’t change it.

Mark: So familywise, I mean, it is as good as you, I mean, Du suggest it to be, Du know, your mum and dad …

Keith: Yeah, it’s great, Du can do your own thing.

Mark: Yeah. Simple as that.