This much I know: Martin Hayes, musician

Martin Hayes And Dennis Cahill

I didn’t plan to make a career out of music. I thought I wanted to get an education and a regular job.

I tried studying business in UL but soon realised my only passion was music.

My father was a farmer and part-time musician. There was always a passionate interest in music in our household. My father was my mentor. 

We were constantly talking and thinking about music and as a result we formed a very good connection and used to travel and play together a lot. 

He introduced me to the notion of playing music in a heartful sort of way, with a soulfulness and depth of feeling that always made sense to me.

Growing up in East Clare, I was quite a shy child with a brother and two sisters. At school I was one of those fellas who managed to stay in the middle of every class, that’s where I’d say I was, academically.

 It’s difficult for me to separate work from the rest of my life, because, for me, work is really play. The relationship I have to music is not one that people normally have to their work.

I like people who take life seriously and who are interested in a larger picture of life.

I have to travel a lot. Trains are the nicest form of transport. I try to stay present, wherever I am, rather than lamenting where I am not. 

Sometimes leaving home is difficult, especially since I got married, but I’m grateful for the richness of experience I gain as I travel. 

I got married to Lina, a wonderful woman from Spain, four years ago. She’d asked me to play at the opening of a kind of Steiner-based day care centre that she opened in East Clare. 

Home at the moment is Madrid. My Spanish is terrible. I don’t get nervous about performing but I can become anxious that I may not get fully engaged.

My approach to work is part intellectual and part creative. I try to be ruled by feeling and intuition with regard to the choices I make. Lead with the heart and the head follows. 

An an artist, you have to find out who you are and if you have something of value in your heart and soul. Then, learn how to put it out into the world. 

The most important thing is persistence. A dogged unwillingness to stop doing the thing you do. And you have to cultivate a connection between heart and spirit and soul. If you are operating out of your heart, you will be OK. 

The intellect has to be following the guidance of something else. That’s what makes art, and what makes artists who they are.

Everybody has this, potentially, but a lot of people ignore it. I’ve spent most of my life cultivating and nourishing it. 

When joy, love and that ecstatic feeling are present, who cares what anybody else thinks? As a performer my aim is to generate that feeling and have other people experience it too.

I’d be a fighter. Criticism can surely sting a little, but ultimately, it should not derail you. 

If you know what you are doing, and that the reason why you are doing it has an authentic truth to it, then you may view the criticism as coming from someone who is mistaken about what you are doing and who is therefore in no position to judge.

My biggest challenge so far has been the ongoing struggle of following an artistic way of life, with the philosophy and point of view that entails. It takes nothing but courage and faith in the intangible. 

It is a real challenge for artists at all levels. It is a precarious life, sticking to your philosophy and making a daily living wage from what you do.

Artists are generally greatly respected in this country but in certain circles our viewpoints are not taken seriously. We are seen as off-centre people, maybe a bit whacky. 

Not that we have all the answers, but we have just as many answers as those involved in politics and business.

I don’t think our lives are pre-destined, I believe we have some form of control over what happens. I believe in an afterlife, although I can’t tell you what it is. 

So far, life has taught me that time moves fast. I keep learning that I know far less than I thought I knew.

Martin Hayes is Artistic Director of Masters of Tradition which takes place in Bantry from Wednesday, August 19 to Sunday August, 23. 

This year’s programme features performances from Martin, Cathy Jordan, Begley & Cooney, Máire Ní Chéilleachair, Nic Gareiss and many, many more. Full details on www.westcorkmusic.ie


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