I had the pleasure of asking the very talented Stephen Leeson some questions about all things music, his experience throughout the pandemic, and what he has in store for the future!
You are used to constantly playing shows and performing, how have you been navigating this past year that has put everything to a halt?
"2020 was a strange year and at first it was difficult to cope with the lack of knowing what the future held for the music industry. I, like many others, thought it as a short term pandemic and began experimenting with playing live online gigs through social media. It was a new experience and exciting to meet and attract a different fan base. I have met so many lovely and supporting people who help keep everything positive. 2021 for me has been a surprisingly difficult year to begin with regarding music. I have barely touched an instrument this year as it was making me a little depressed to even think of playing music. I find it difficult to accept that everything has been taken away as this year would have been my 20th year in the music business since the first day I started performing on stage. However, yesterday I received a call from the Wurzel Bush Folk Club to stand in for Paul Watchord (The Dublin Legends) and do an online spot for them as he was feeling unwell. It was a late call but it gave me a kick in the behind so to speak haha to get back performing. I was back in music mode and apart from a few technical issues with the sound it was a great gig. All the support was back and my inbox was flooded with so many nice messages. Onwards and upwards."
You’ve been part of the Irish trad music scene for a long time, tell me about some of your influences growing up, and your influences today.
"I am blessed to have to have a Mam and Dad who brought me up listening to Irish folk and traditional music. My Dad has also played in several bands over the years and I have shared the stage with him on many occasions. Other influences would include Barleycorn, The Dubliners, The Black family, Mary Black, Johnny McEvoy, The Dublin City Ramblers and in more recent years bands like the Kilkenny's and NaFianna."
What is one of your favourite memories so far from your music career?
"I have so many good memories but right now when I think of it, I suppose everyone has an idol or someone who they would love to meet or just be in the company of. I am a big fan of Barleycorn and Paddy Sweeney was one of the members. I still remember it like yesterday. I was playing a gig in the Enniskerry Inn in Wicklow with The Dublin City Ramblers and one of the lads was unable to make it so Paddy Sweeney arrived to cover for him. I had been listening to Paddy sing for years and now not only was I getting to meet him, I was sharing the same stage and doing a gig with him. I have done several gigs with Paddy over the years and he is a good friend."
With such a strong stage presence and engagement with fans, I’d love to know how you feel about the struggling music industry, and what you think the future of Irish trad music looks like?
"Oh that's a big question in these strange times. I have no idea what the future will hold. The music will never die and we need to try our best to keep it going. The true supporters of music will support the online gigs for the time being and that will help keep everything positive so when we can play again we will have a major hooley together."
Tell me a bit about your experience with your Stable Session. What was the highlight for you?
"One of the best experiences I have ever had. Keeping music real and live is what the Stable Sessions is all about, and it truly shows. I want to do another and hopefully will soon."
Finally, with so much uncertainty around us, do you have a plan for what your next endeavour or move will be?
"Oh I just can't wait to do a gig with a band again. To record another album would be perfect."
There's no doubt this past year has been filled with ups and downs, and we can see it's taken its toll on all of us. But we're all starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have to hold onto the thing we love, like Stephen said, "the music will never die and we need to try our best to keep it going".
On that note, we have created a Spotify playlist with some of Stephen's favourite artists and influences. Hopefully this can be a fun part of your day to remember.