Interview with Eamonn McCormack a heartfelt passion artist synonymous with true Irish music legends

"The Blues is all about expression. Exposing your inner feelings, good or bad."

Eamonn McCormack: Shamrock Blues

Irish Eamonn McCormack's earliest influences included Slade, Cat Stevens, Neil Young and Rory Gallagher. By twelve he was singing along with his guitar and performing at church folk masses. Soon, finding the church music somewhat restricting the young teenager acquired his first electric guitar progressed to lead guitar and joined a local garage cover band prior to playing his first paid gig. After a short stint playing in various bands throughout Ireland, Eamonn headed off to the U.S. where he performed extensively. There he broadened his musical horizons, gained vital stage experience and absorbed fresh American music and cultural influences. This blended together nicely with his earlier influences.

Returning to Ireland after four years traveling and performing in the States Eamonn was by now developing a very unique sound and style all of his own. This style was solidified whilst Eamonn performed extensively under the stage name “Samuel Eddy” establishing himself across Europe. Throughout the Nineties also saw a young Eamonn play, tour and record with many of his earliest guitar influences such as Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter, Jan Akkerman, Nils Lofgren, Robert Plant and more. Eamonn and his band have been described by the press as “A Modern Day Power Trio” and that is something that has not changed to this day. His performances both live and in the studio are a force to be reckoned with. Early 2002 Eamonn toured in Europe with Walter Trout and Popa Chubby and a blinding show opening for the legendary ZZ Top in Amsterdam. After the Amsterdam concert Eamonn decided to take a break from the road, travel the world; write some new material, jammed with various artistes in the USA and back home set up the successful Indie record label True Talent Records. On True Talent Records Eamonn decided to release the album “Kindred Spirits” featuring tracks with special guests Rory Gallagher, Jan Akkerman, Herman Brood and Keith Donald. He also decided to drop his old stage name and revert to his real name Eamonn McCormack and released a live album in Tool House Studios, Germany titled: “Heal My Faith”. Eamonn’s new double album “Like there’s no tomorrow” - will hit the streets Friday 21 July. It’s an 18 track album, 2 discs with both full blown electric songs and acoustic based songs with legendary producer Chris Tsangarides (Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Mountain) and with Jonathn Noyce (Gary Moore, Jethro Tull) & Darrin Mooney (Gary Moore, Primal Scream).

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

From my experience mostly fans of blues and Rock (That includes myself I’m a blues rock fan) are pretty much from the heart, even sensitive people, especially deep down inside and the feelings expressed is this genre move them.  So when I travel, for the most part, the Bluesrock fans I encounter are likeminded Peaceful, Anti-War, Anti-Globalization, All for equal rights, fun loving passionate music lovers.  My views of the world have not changed I think the overall view co-insides with the Music. For me, people who relate to music played passionately from the heart tend to have similar views of the world and the problems we face in this world today.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

For me, Blues is all about expression. Exposing your inner feelings, good or bad. I think I realized at a very young age the different when I was listening to music, I knew what moved me and it was always the musicians and artistes that expressed themselves truly from the heart regardless of what style music they played. So my life’s goal musically was to tap into that area myself and express myself and ware my heart on my sleeve and when you do this you get a kick out of it that’s untouchable and hard to describe but people relate to it when the hairs on the back or their neck stand up! Then you know you’re there and you keep learning and it gets better as you age, I guess because you become more experienced.

"From my experience mostly fans of blues and Rock (That includes myself I’m a blues rock fan) are pretty much from the heart, even sensitive people, especially deep down inside and the feelings expressed is this genre move them."

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD BLUESMAN and SONGWRITER?

The most important thing is honesty; everything else will fall into place. It’s important also to be influenced by your musically heroes and your peers but never try to emulate them. It’s all about your life’s experience, from you’re lowest points to the highest points and all points in between. You tell the story! And then your very own unique sound and style emerges and when you hit this place and move yourself to tears (even if you hold them inside), then you’ll find it moves many people as well.

How do you describe Eamonn McCormack sound and progress, what characterize Samuel Eddy philosophy?

Again, I always try to stick to the story, tell it as it is. Your sound is your face. Funny.. when people for years tell me Eamonn you should try this guitar, this amp, this effect pedal etc 99% when I try them I sound crap so I’ve always found my own way and my guitar set up is on my website but maybe it won’t work for anyone else. In a way all the companies marketing their stuff to young players can be counterproductive, i.e. “play this and that and then you will sound like Hendrix or Gallagher or play this and you’ll sound just like Page or Clapton or SRV etc  but if you remember this and realize all the above mentioned found their own way!!! (No short cuts)

How do you describe "Like there's no tomorrow" sound and songbook?

It’s my favorite album that I’ve recorded so far.  I feel it’s a snap shot about where I’m at as a singer-songwriter and guitarist.  I’m a life long student of Music and always learning and working on getting better.  The sound of the production by the legendary Chris Tsangarides is really great. I wanted to have a passionate bluesrock album capturing the feel and emotion while still having a modern fresh sound fit for 2017. Although we did use vintage equipment at the recording source, we were not trying to recreate or emulate the production sound of something recorded in the 70’s, there are enough bands and artists out there trying to do that.

What characterize album’s philosophy?

First the title name “Like there’s no tomorrow” came for two sources even though there is no song on the double album called that. The title was a compliment given to me about 5 years ago when I played in Erfurt a fan was looking for an autograph and he said something like, “You play guitar from the old school with drop dead passion, from the heart etc. (and as he was walking away he turned around and said) “ You play that Stratocaster “Like there’s no tomorrow!!!!!’  So I never forgot it. Then, along with the way I feel about the World today and how vulnerable we actually are to the real treat of Nuclear War.  I figured it would be an Apt Title for the album.

"Best advice… “Carry on!!! Keep doing what you are doing” said to me by Chesley Millikin (A fellow Dubliner & The man you Managed Stevie Ray Vaughan to the top). Just keep playing live…Try to not get your fingers stuck between the strings!!!....Do what you love doing and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!!!"

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

Around 1988 I really lived in a van for over a year playing my ass off, gig after gig across parts of Europe. I still look back at this period with great fondness. I learned quite a lot and had one of the greatest times of my life. During this period Rory Gallagher sent me a hand written postcard to my Dutch management office and I only re- found the card a few months ago. I believe he must have respected I was living in a van. Actually meeting Rory for the first time when I was 17 was one of the greatest moments in my life, and becoming friends with him and recording with him was incredible. Playing Parkpop in Holland (half a million people) with Jan Akkerman as my special guest that was great !

Worst moment, flying into Berlin from Dublin with the band ready to open for Gary Moore (BBM band with Bruce & Baker) and being told at Berlin airport Gary took ill and concert cancelled. But Hey, at least we stayed in Berlin and had a good weekend on the house and paid for by Gary. But I was disappointed about the cancellation.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would love to help and direct people in general to cherish more music from the heart, seek more story telling in songs and less computer and machine driven music, but instead return back to basics, which is where the human spirit remains in the center, and soulful expression is the King.

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

Top of the list Rory of course. I’m lucky I got to jam with most of my guitar idols. One jam in Belgium comes to mind with myself Walter Trout, Popa Chubby, and Pat Travers. Loved playing a festival too in Belgium back in 1993 on the bill with Albert Collins, Jeff Healey and the late Little Jimmy King.

(Photo: Eamonn & Rory Gallagher, 1989)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What is the best advice ever given you?

Meeting my wife, meeting Rory, Phil Lynott, Peter Green, Eric Burdon and Billy Gibbons to name but a few. Musically I have being very fortunate to meet and even play with many of my Heroes. But when it comes down to say naming three of them that I also got to know. I would say Rory Gallagher, Jan Akkerman & Walter Trout. Best advice… “Carry on!!! Keep doing what you are doing” said to me by Chesley Millikin (A fellow Dubliner & The man you Managed Stevie Ray Vaughan to the top). Just keep playing live…Try to not get your fingers stuck between the strings!!!....Do what you love doing and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!!!

Are there any memories from Phil Lynott, Peter Green, and Eric Burdon which you’d like to share with us?

The first time I meet Phil Lynott it was in Morocco, Africa and it’s funny because he lived 2k away from me in Dublin and I never saw him there until after Africa. I met Peter Green once in London he came to an after party to mark the 1st month of the death of Rory Gallagher.  I toured with Eric Burdon but the best memory I have was getting up early for breakfast in a hotel in Switzerland on our day off and almost nobody was there then I spotted Eric sitting on his own and he asked me to join him. It was a little surreal as the night before I was reading a book about Jimi Hendrix and on a page talking about Jimi and Eric hanging out together in New York.

What do you miss most nowadays from the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of blues?

I tend to live in the present so I don’t miss so much from the past as such. Last Saturdays concert in Germany was fantastic I believe with the blues you should improve and play better as you age like a good wine!! The blues will always survive but it’s a touch call. My biggest fear is that as technology advances and we live in this instant smart phone era, that the more we rely on the technology the more it suppresses our human spirit and God help us if we ever lose that. (Our emotional side, that makes us laugh and cry) it’s the core of our being, the very thing that moves us when we hear and feel the blues. The internet has its up & downs but sadly al lot of the latest generation are in danger where they believe to play the blues with unique style & emotion is a quick fix thing you can basically order an App for, instead of getting out on the road and developing the craft for years. YouTube is full of great young guitarists and it’s a handy tool to learn but at the end of the day…To hear a wee kid play just like Hendrix sitting in their bedroom is amazing HOWEVER to watch them walk on stage and play a 3 hour concert are two totally different things. I fear many of those kids will never reach that. They are in danger of been swallowed up on this youtube trip and grow old never learning to really perform and entertain live.

"Certainly the whole core of American music had a big influence on these great Irish artists but I always felt they still kept their Irish roots in their approach and story telling." (Photo: Clarence Clemens, Eamonn and Herman Brood, 1990)

Are there any memories from Walter Trout, Popa Chubby, Herman Brood and ZZ Top you’d like to share with us?

Comes to mind… sitting outside a hotel with Walter Trout having a coffee and him telling me all about his old friend Jessy Ed Davis. Helping Poppa Chubby with his suitcase backstage in Holland last May. Watching Herman Brood paint listening to old Jerry Lee Lewis Cd’s and hanging out backstage chatting with ZZ Top in Amsterdam.

Which memories from Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter, Jan Akkerman and Robert Plant makes you smile?

Having a few beers with Rory Gallagher in Hollywood, California. Standing in a room on my own and Johnny Winter walking in cleaning the strings of his guitar as he puts it in his case, driving Jan Akkerman around Dublin’s Fair City, and walking up a festival backstage ramp and turning around and seeing my brother chatting away to Robert Plant like they were waiting for the bus.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Ireland. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

End of the 70’s (in fact ‘79 to about 1983) before I went out to America I used to go as a teen into The Meeting Place in Dublin every Sunday evening and watch Red Peter’s Mystery Train with great guitarists like Pat Farrell, Joe Stauntan, Jimmy Faulkner the cream of local Irish blues players where I learned a lot watching them and listening. It was my first year in Blues University!!!

"I don’t just hear and feel the blues connection in BLUES music alone I hear it in really good World music, Irish traditional & Folk music and in many other forms of music, even Classical music. Mozart was a bluesman!!"

What are the lines that connect the legacy of American Blues with Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore?

Certainly the whole core of American music had a big influence on these great Irish artists but I always felt they still kept their Irish roots in their approach and story telling. I believe I have the ability to walk by a music club anywhere in the world, hear a blues guitar player take a solo and without seeing him/her have a good guess if I think that guitarist is American, English or Irish just from the way they play. However, sadly this gift of mine is slowly dying simply because now a complete generation of players all just sound like SRV no matter where they are from.

What do you think was the relationship of Blues culture to the Irish history and people?

Haha The Commitments movie “The Irish are the Blacks of Europe” not far wrong, let’s face it, we were an enslaved people for over 800 years and Damn right we have the blues!! But more important we have the ability to express ourselves through art & music and hopefully we never lose that. That’s how we survived; it’s in our folk songs, where we tell the stories.

What is the impact of Blues and Rock music and culture on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

I think music in general has no boarders or boundaries, socially or culturally, or at least it shouldn’t and especially blues and Jazz and it’s original darker past where racism was quite prominent, if you think of the hard road and discrimination someone like Billy Holiday faced. But in the 60’s it all changed and Woodstock was a milestone. Then later people like Muddy Water’s did the London sessions with White folk so to speak and Hendrix with 2 white lads so the cultural and color cross over at that time was also making a good statement and we can never go backwards even though we face new hard times both economically and politically and some radical racial views are on the rise.  I believe the last people who want a return to racial ways are blues musicians and fans of Blues music. No matter what social background, color or greed.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Because it’s real…it’s hits a nerve…People love the truth, even when they sometimes lie to themselves... but I don’t just hear and feel the blues connection in BLUES music alone I hear it in really good World music, Irish traditional and Folk music and in many other forms of music, even Classical music. Mozart was a bluesman!!

"The blues will always survive but it’s a touch call." 

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

Watching my 8 month old daughter dancing to a bluesrock song and playing at a Dutch friends funeral last July. One of his final requests was to see me perform and he showed up at a festival 6 weeks before he passed away. Watching Leanne Harte perform “Old Town” by Phil Lynott.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

The original Woodstock festival and even be playing there. I did meet 3 people in my life that played it!!!

Eamonn McCormack - official website

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