IN John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, Mexican pearl diver, Kino, basks in the ‘song of the family’. On the other side of the ocean, traditional Irish singer, Seán Keane, also has a family song, titled ‘Home’.
‘My footsteps carry me away, but, in my mind, I’m always going home’, runs a line from his favourite melody.
It comes as no surprise that he lives — “about five miles from both Tuam and Headford” — close to his siblings.
His sense of home and family have been heightened since his wife, Virginia, passed away in 2010, a year after she was diagnosed with cancer.
“It’s a different life without her. We were together for 25 years. She was my best friend and everything else.Yes, I miss her. It’s a big loss for my daughters — Maraleeze (26) and Jenny (23) — as well. It’s not easy. But such is life.”
Sean says he has come out “the other side of the grieving process. When she passed away, I kind of lost enthusiasm for the music and she was a huge part of that and, indeed, my life. I was contemplating not doing it for a while and then I realised that music is not just music, that it comes from a special place, and when it’s received by people it can be healing and can give them comfort.
“People get a lot out of the songs that I sing, so, for that purpose, I am doing it with more vigour than I’ve ever done it before. I love doing it now. I like to play seven nights a week, if that’s possible. I’m taking it and eating it up, as they say.”
Seán Keane performs in Ballymaloe Grainstore on Friday, July 21. For other dates, see: www.seankeane.com
What shape are you in?
Not bad shape at all. I think I can hold my own. I used to do a lot of sports, but, nowadays, I don’t have an awful lot of time. I walk a lot and that’s generally the way I stay in shape. I don’t have a routine. I grab the time whenever I can. If I’m touring, I generally walk the town and area before the concert. It’s a double whammy: I get to see the place and I get to keep myself in reasonable shape. Yesterday, I walked the island of Tory — it’s three miles long , up to the cliffs and back again.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I love fruit and veg. While on Tory Island, we feasted on crab claws and lobster straight from the sea.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
Like a lot of people, I’d go for a pint. Usually a pint of porter. It’s Guinness, but they don’t need my endorsement.
What would keep you awake at night?
The various worries we all have about our loved-ones — my two girls and our extended family. I’m one of seven children and we’re all very close. Gigs are work and they look after themselves, to a certain extent.
How do you relax?
I like fly fishing, or any kind of fishing. The solitude in the fishing is nice. It isn’t always important that I catch something. A good few years ago, I caught a 6.5lb trout on Lough Mask.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
David Attenborough — I think he’s a fabulous person. It never ceases to amaze me what he has done. The way he has introduced people to the whole animal community has made it easier for us to understand [their world]. I wouldn’t have much to say — I’d sit and listen to him.
What’s your favourite smell?
I like lavender.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
I’m not the slightest bit bothered. I am the way I was made and I’ll stick with it. ’Tis alright.
When is the last time you cried?
Probably a year ago, or even less. It’s just one of those private thoughts coming into my head.
An occasion that would spring a memory.
What traits do you least like in others?
What traits do you least like about yourself?
I’ve a tendency to procrastinate.
Do you pray?
I do indeed. I’m not really a church-goer, but I do frequent them sometimes.
When I go into town, I would always go for a look at the church — the architecture is always great. There is a sense of peace there that I do like. It’s nice to sit there and take it in for a little while. I have meditated quite a lot, when I get the opportunity.
With the hustle and bustle of today’s world, it’s a nice thing to go and centre yourself and get into your own space and let it flow.
What would cheer up your day?
An island trip and knowing that everyone around me is OK.
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