The Arts Interview: Austin Durack

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

The Arts Interview: Austin Durack
Born in Birdhill, I grew up on a small farm, moved to Killarney in 1969, got married in 1970 and then moved to Caherdavin.

Born in Birdhill, I grew up on a small farm, moved to Killarney in 1969, got married in 1970 and then moved to Caherdavin.

My wife Eva and I lived there for over 30 years and raised four children. In 2003, we moved to O’Brien’s Bridge where we now reside. I went to Birdhill National School, then to De La Salle Colleges in Castletown, Co. Laois and Mallow, Co. Cork before finishing my Secondary Education in Nenagh CBS in 1964. I got the love of music from my parents. My mother was from a family of musicians, and used to play the fiddle at dances with her brothers.

Always attracted to music I took violin lessons myself, as a child.

A neighbour of ours, Johnny Harvey, brought a guitar into our house when I was very young and it probably had an impact on me. I bought an acoustic guitar myself after finishing my Leaving Certificate but played Bass with a Ballina /Killaloe based band, The Reno 5, shortly afterwards. In the late 1960s I switched back to the acoustic guitar and began to play ballads/folk with my brother Mike and ex-Reno guitarist, Neillie Barry, as The Prodigal Sons.

Around 1970, I started writing songs, one of which, Crossover, won an Honourable Mention in the 1976 American Song Contest.

I played with the group Jabberwocky in 1975-1976, appeared on The Late Late Show with them, and did tours of Germany as well as Irish gigs. Finally, I went solo in 1976 and between 1980 and 1995 released four albums of original material, one of which, Heroes, received extensive airplay and favourably critical reviews. Another one, High Road To Glory, was released in Australia.

In the 1980s I toured Germany and Holland.

In addition, to playing solo all around Ireland. In Limerick, I produced Siamsa shows for my parish of Caherdavin as well as playing with the late Tadhg Horan and Nuala Mulcahy, as Balance. I, also, worked as a duo with Dave O’ Connell (Fiddle). I did likewise with bassist, Ray O’Brien, as Double Vision later appearing solo on The Late Late Show, in 1986, singing my airplay hit, from the Heroes Album, A Beautiful Flight. A couple of years later, I performed songs from my Australian album on Evening Extra and Nighthawks, two of the most popular RTÉ shows of the era.

Then, in 1989, I took up Radio work (with Clare FM) as song writing and musical gigs were not exactly paying the bills.

I was the first recipient of the Fairplay For Airplay Award for supporting Irish music on radio. Throughout my time in radio (over ten years) I still managed to continue composing and developing as a musician. Around 1992, I turned my attention to instrumental guitar and this opened up a new world for me. I started to (and still do) arrange standards and write new works for guitar, using Spanish, Acoustic and Jazz guitars. My last five albums, all of which have got national and local airplay, are mainly instrumental. In recent years I have performed at a number of festivals including The Doonbeg and Cork Jazz Festivals and have made three TV appearances on TG4, as a guitarist.

Teaching Spanish at Scoil Íde, Corbally (2001-2011), was very rewarding work.

In 2005, I was awarded the European Language Label by Léargas, for teaching Spanish through original song. Since 1994, I have taken part in six sponsored walks for MS Ireland. These walks needed fundraising gigs and often inspired me to write songs. I used every opportunity to travel to set up concerts for myself, in Madrid and Cape Town.

Today, I cover various genres of music such as Spanish, Jazz, Blues, and Bossa Nova.

I, also, write pieces to marry with my brother Mike’s poems. We released an album of poetry and music called The Secret Chord, last year, and performed in The White House and in The Loft Theatre, Limerick, shortly afterwards. My latest album is called Fingerpicker and marks a return to acoustic guitar after a number of years exploring creative possibilities with jazz and Spanish guitars. I felt it was time to return to my roots and re-evaluate the source of my original fascination with my chosen instrument.

My ambitions are simple.

I just want to play the guitar and for people to listen for as long as God gives me the strength to do so. It would be nice if I could reach out to more people, with my own music, particularly. Being a musician is a good life, which has its own rewards so I would encourage all young writers and musicians to go for it. If you believe in yourself you will find a way. However, you may well have to reinvent yourself and to call on your other talents in order to survive. In 2000, I received a Master’s Degree from the University of Limerick (UL), in Community Music. Over ten years work as a community musician, helping others to write songs and to display their various musical talents, ensued.

Lack of funds and places to play should not stop you from following your dreams.

In Limerick, Dominic Taylor, is doing Trojan work for writers and musicians, creating opportunities for them. Now, with the internet at your disposal, you can release your own works to the world without any recording or duplicating costs. Sometimes, I release music on a daily basis via YouTube and Facebook and get wonderful comments from all over the world. So for me, The Guitar Journey, to paraphrase the title of my 2008 album, continues apace!

Austin Durack will be the special guest of the Acoustic Club at The White House on Thursday December 4. See: and / Also see The Secret Chord Mike And Austin Durack on YouTube: