TradConnect Interview - Enda Seery on his new album and life as a musician

They say the second album is the most difficult for a musician.  The lessons and experience gained on the first recording must now be channelled into a new project.  For Enda Seery the challenge was no different. His first album The Winding Clock was released just over two years ago to great reviews. It was predominately a whistle album and introduced the world to a new whistler who displayed all the necessary talent and determination to make a commercial breakthrough.  The intervening period has been well spent and its impact can be felt on this, his second recording titled Peace of the Countryside.  Enda thrust himself into a new musical vista of learning via enrolment on a Masters course in Traditional Irish Music Performance at Limerick University. Inspiration was all around, hidden in the cracks and crevices of life on a busy campus where even the mundane held inspiration and new ideas. This inspiration would reveal itself not in a flurry of complicated tunes and compositions but in a slowly growing confidence and clarity about the tradition and his place within it. His solid style of play and a strong inclination to composition were the hallmark of The Winding Clock. There was no immediate need to tear up the rule book and start again. Steady progression was the order of the day.

“My playing is not an awful lot different on this record, but there are definite changes to my style” he confirms to us when we caught up with him recently. “It’s a lot of small things. For example you will notice that there is a lot more use of  tonguing techniques. It’s something I have brought into my playing in the last few years, and it’s still evolving a bit. I got to pick up a good few tips in Limerick when I met some of the greats like Mary Bergin, Sean Ryan, and Kevin Crawford, all truly brilliant musicians. I suppose I picked up various bits and pieces from them.  People would notice a change in my whistle playing for sure.  Not radically but a few minor bits like that.”

The plan for this album has brought some small but subtle changes as well. “The first album was really whistle” he says, “On this one I did take the feedback from a few people who mentioned doing some duets as well as adding some flute tracks. I took that on board and mixed it about a little. “

Not only that, the inclusion of a couple of songs by Enda was also a new departure. He explains that “with regard to the songs on the album it would be fair to say that I wouldn’t be known as a singer, but I have been singing for a good few years and my family would have done a few pub gigs and stuff like that when I was younger. For this album I said I would add it into the music mix. The flute tracks are also a change.  I have about 4 or 5 flute tracks on the album.  I only really got into playing flute in the last 4 or so years. I’ve always played it on and off but was probably more whistle crazy I suppose”.

One of the most challenging tasks for musicians these days is the hands on approach that is required to get projects like this off the ground. Arts Council funding or alternative funding streams have dried up and it is now down to the artist themselves to do all the running. “There is a lot of work involved when you are doing it independently”, he explains. “You practically have to do everything. The promotion, recording, marketing and everything that goes with it. No one else is going to do it but me. It’s a lot of work but is enjoyable. I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t enjoyable. I’m lucky I was able to record with the same sound engineer, from the first album, Rob Laird from Kildare. He knows how I work and it was an awful lot easier the second time round. The first album was done in 4 or 5 recording sessions over about 2 months. This time around I have been doing it on and off for the last year and a half. It really depends on how you want to do it”.

"There is a lot of work involved when you are doing it independently"

With regard to overall happiness with the final product and how it turned out Enda expresses complete satisfaction.  “It is something I discussed with Mary Bergin last year. You could really wreck your head going through stuff over and over again. I am very happy with the way the album turned out.  There are always things you are going to pick out but in all honesty, I am happy with the final product”.

An ever growing challenge for musicians these days is the issue of marketing and selling the finished product. With a proliferation of online and offline opportunities getting your music out to the wider public requires a very broad knowledge and a contact book brimming with people willing to help. “The local contacts are important.  I would have found it a lot easier this time round. I’d know more radio stations and people for review as I have built up my contact database over the last few years or so. It has definitely been easier. You have your core group of contacts and in Westmeath I am lucky enough to have been involved a lot with Comhaltas”.

“On the issue of buying CD’s over downloads I would still be the kind of person that would like to buy the CD. Younger people want a quicker fix and go for the download as quickly as they can. Online, cdbaby is quite good because they can sort out your digital downloads with iTunes, Amazon etc. There is another site I have used called emeraz.com. It is basically an online copyright site so for someone like me who is a composer it comes in handy. You can sell your music on the site as well.  Being aware of all of this is now a major part of marketing.  If you are not doing you’re networking on social media these days, you are definitely going to lose out on a valuable market.”

“Music has never been healthier, even with the recession and this gives me strong hope."

All of this is far removed from Enda’s alternative career path as a teacher. His decision to give this up and follow his dreams towards a music career is a sacrifice that many might not make.“I was a secondary school teacher for about six or seven years. It was very hard to get permanent jobs and I was moving from school to school. Then in the last few years music was starting to become more and more a part of my life. Someone mentioned the Masters course and it was something I had thought about so I decided to go for it. I just made a decision. I was teaching Irish and it was getting harder and harder to get the enthusiasm from the students. I just made the decision to do something that I am passionate and excited about. I made the big break for music which is not easy. You need to be doing something that you are happy with.  It’s going to take time and you will never be a millionaire so for now I am working real hard at it”.

When questioned on any future routes his music might take him Enda is confidently living in the moment for now. One challenge at a time.  Get this record out there and then see what other alternatives exist. “My work has been solo up to this point and John Byrne and I have pursued that duo existence.  Having said that, I would like to get involved with a group if I could.  Myself and John are in the early stages of setting one up. That is something I would definitely want to do because it can get a bit lonely working solo all the time”.

“Music has never been healthier, even with the recession and this gives me strong hope. It probably gives people an outlet, something to look forward to. It’s not easy though. As a teacher myself I can see so much talent out there. I adjudicate at Fleadh’s around the country and some of the talent at a young age is just fantastic.  The future is indeed bright”.

Peace of the Countryside is now on sale and can be purchased through Enda’s website www.endaseery.com. You can also read our review. His first official launch will be on Friday 26th April at Áras an Mhuilinn, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath ( 8.30 – 11.30 ) with an array of special guests. Other launches will follow at Fleadh Nua in Ennis in May and at the All Ireland Fleadh in Derry in August.  Dates to be announced.

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