FOLK musician, Andy Irvine, has called his latest album Parachilna, after a country town in south Australia. It is a collaboration with Rens Van Der Zalm, of the band, Mozaik, and was recorded during a road-trip through the Outback in the bitter winter of July 2012.
The ten tracks were recorded in historic woolsheds, shearers’ quarters and abandoned schoolhouses.
Irvine, the founding member of seminal folk bands such as Sweeney’s Men, Planxty, Patrick Street and Mozaik, is touring Australia and New Zealand until March. He says of the record’s genesis. “We made a decision, Rens and myself, to travel to the Outback and make the album. And it is what it is,” he says. “I’ve been playing with Rens for about 30 years or so, and we had a repertoire and we learned a few more songs. The album is half-and-half (Irish and Australian songs) and we recorded 15 or 16 tracks. So we still have four or five out there, so maybe we’ll make another album next year. But the actual journey was more important that the recording.”
Despite a career spanning 50 years, Irvine is not slowing down. He loves the road and the travelling. “I’ve been coming to Australia for about 30 years and I really love it, because of its size. I have this mad thing about driving long distances. I should have been a long-distance driver really,” he says. “I enjoy the travel, the journey, the change of scenery — just the whole thing of travelling is so important to me. I’m lucky I can do it. I bought a Land Cruiser some years ago, in Perth, and I drove it back to Melbourne. It took me a week and I just loved it.”
While recording Parachilna in the wilderness, Irvine and Van Der Zalm camped, and kept warm by building fires out of old railway sleepers.
Luxury was not an option on this trip and Irvine reveals some of the hardships. “The days were rarely warm and the nights were bitterly cold. ‘Dressing for bed’ involved putting on a thermal vest, thermal leggings, thick socks, being fully dressed with a woollen coat, woolly hat and warm gloves,” he says.
Even so, Irvine is preparing to explore Australia’s vastness once more, in the near future.
“We’re planning another trip later this year,” he says excitedly, in the manner of a schoolboy about to embark on a lifetime adventure. “I was just sitting here with a couple of friends, wondering where we will go. It’s such a big country that it takes you a week to get to the place you want to be and another week to get back.”
As part of this antipodean tour, which began in December and continues until mid-March, Irvine has played to audiences big and small.
“I’ve just done a festival in Illawarra, which is about 80km south of Sydney. It was great,” he says.
“It’s such a lovely festival. I have a following and they come to my gigs and that’s good enough for me. If I had a few more thousand people, I’d be a bit richer,” he laughs, “but I love the people who love me.”
When the musical troubadour returns in the spring, he has a full schedule of gigs in Ireland, the UK and the US, before returning to Australia once more.
nAndy Irvine’s new CD, Parachilna, is out now and he plays a series of solo Irish gigs in March to promote it. Further information: www.andyirvine.com