Colm Mac Con Iomaire: Have violin, used to travel

With young kids, globetrotting got too much for the Frames violinist. Now he’s happy to hone his art at home, writes Ed Power

Colm Mac Con Iomair: Touring the US again with old friend Glen Hansard.

COLM Mac Con Iomaire doesn’t miss The Frames. He spent most his young adulthood traversing the globe with Glen Hansard’s plucky crew, his keening violin notes a signature aspect of their sound. However, the violinist and composer has lately taken a step away to focus on his solo career. In his 40s and with a family, living out of a suitcase doesn’t hold the appeal it once did.

“I’ve been around the world so many times — the glamour wears thin,” he says. “There is an aspect of having seen the wizard behind the curtain. Having kids, being away from home for a long time doesn’t make a lot of sense. The transition to writing music has been welcome.”

Mac Con Iomaire, who performs at the Masters of Tradition festival in Bantry next Friday, was still with The Frames when Hansard found international success with the movie Once and the accompanying soundtrack in 2007. It was a curious time for all in the Frames family as the singer came to terms with fame and wealth and everyone else wondered if they still had a day job.

“There was a transition phase between The Frames and Glen’s solo career,” says Mac Con Iomaire.

“In that time there was a bit of disorientation. It reconciled itself quite naturally by virtue of more projects coming in to me. I had to weigh things up: do I go on tour for two months with Glen or do I stay home and write some nice music?”

He has composed for screen and stage in addition to putting out a pair of highly regarded solo LPs, ‘Cúinne an Ghiorria’ (‘The Hare’s Corner’) and ‘Agus Anois an Aimsir’ (‘And Now The Weather’). All are informed by his unusual background as the south Dublin-raised child of Irish-speaking parents (he attended the ground-breaking Irish language school Coláiste Eoin Booterstown).

“I come from an Irish speaking family in Dublin. My dad is from Connemara, my mother from an Irish-speaking family in Leitrim. I was raised in the capital city as a minority and was acutely aware of it. Getting on a bus into town with my mum speaking Irish, heads would turn. It was the ’70s and ’80s and wasn’t a very politically correct thing to do. It was frowned upon.”

Does the Irish language inform him artistically?

“It’s hard to extract the language from the storytelling from the music. They are all effortlessly intertwined. My dad was a sean nós singer. There was a long line of singers and musicians on their way from Connemara to Boston or Chicago or London who would stay over in our house.”

As a young man he rebelled against this upbringing, which is what led him to join The Frames (his first group had been Kila, formed at Coláiste Eoin and in existence to this day).

“It’s often part of your youth that you flee where you are from. The journey back has been interesting — not that it really feels like going backwards. It’s more a sense of travelling in a circle,” he says

The transition from band member to solo artist was relatively bumpy though he eventually made peace with being the centre of attention. “Hosting a night’s music rather than just showing up and playing is frightening. It’s a very different dynamic,” he says. “On the other hand, when things go well it is extra rewarding. I have gained insights into Glen’s role. There are pressures for sure.”

He and Hansard are still friends and set out on the road together in September for a short US tour.

“I’m going as his opening act. It’s going to be nice to hang out with him again and also with all the [Frames] family. I haven’t toured America playing my own music. To do so performing to such beautiful, well- attended venues will be fantastic.”

Masters of Tradition runs from next Thursday to Sunday in Bantry

With young kids, globetrotting got too much for the Frames violinist. Now he’s happy to hone his art at home, writes Ed Power

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