From the age of 14, I knew that I wanted to be a musician. I had no idea whether that would be possible or not. That desire only intensified through playing with my peers in the band, Kíla, and then stepping onto the street as a busker.
I had a job for a few months in a local grocery shop, but that quickly gave way to busking… the hours were better.
Kíla began as the school band, in Coláiste Eoin in Dublin, in the mid-1980s. We had great fun and many adventures, entering competitions like Slógadh and various Feiseanna. We went busking in 1986 and that’s when our musical horizons widened. On Grafton Street, we met and played with other buskers, among them Glen Hansard, Mic and Christopher. Then, I took a year off college, in 1990, to join The Frames.
My mother and grandmother played violin and piano, and all of the family were sent to music lessons from a young age. Traditional music was a constant at home and at school.
It is a great sadness to me that the majority of Irish people have been denied real access to their own language. I can think of no other school subject where such poor standards of transmission, and results, would be tolerated. From the students’ sense of defeat arises anger and cynicism, which, unfortunately, is usually directed at the language and not at the system that robbed them of it.
It’s difficult to describe what I enjoy most about performing. It’s a bit like flying.
I was somewhere between outgoing and shy, as a child. I had a good knack for disappearing and reappearing, which was handy.
My earliest musical memory is of lying tucked up in bed, listening to my mum playing the piano downstairs. I can remember echoes of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ drifting up through the ceiling.
The best advice I have ever received is to let go.
It can be tough, as a self-employed person, to switch off — it takes practice.
When I became a father, 12 years ago, the world divided quite clearly into ‘important stuff’ and ‘not as important stuff’. Rest and recreation are key to productivity.
I find deadlines useful in getting things done. Paul McCartney had a great phrase — ‘you don’t work music, you play music’. Remaining in an open, creative and productive space can take some work, though.
The trait I most admire in other people is humour in adversity.
My main fault is that I’m a perfectionist... ha ha!
My biggest challenge in life, so far, has been finding the balance between work, travel and family and raising kids — how to keep all of the plates spinning.
If I could be reborn as someone else for a day, I would be Harpo Marx
I’ve learned, from 20 years of travelling around the world, how fortunate we are to live in Ireland. It can be wearisome, sometimes, to see that Irish society doesn’t always feel that way. We have a tendency towards the gloom and we’re very hard on ourselves. Yes, of course things have been tough, but they can improve.
I am a reformed owl. The nature of my job can mean working into the small hours, but the children still need their breakfast in the morning.
Happiness is home.
My idea of misery is Las Vegas
I believe in life before life. It’s as much a question of where we’re from as where we’re going.
I believe in potential. We set our own limits. What seemed impossible yesterday happens today.
So far, life has taught me to be kind.
Colm Mac Con Iomaire is playing at Barrytown meets MusicTown, a musical and literary celebration of Roddy Doyle’s The Barrytown Trilogy, on April 12 in Vicar Street, as part of MusicTown from April 10–19. Mac Con Iomaire’s new album, And Now The Weather, will be released on April 17 in Whelan’s; see www.musictown.ie.