Arts Interview: David Keary

ALTHOUGH, born in Galway I now live close to Limerick City after moving here when I was quite young.

ALTHOUGH, born in Galway I now live close to Limerick City after moving here when I was quite young.

I received my Primary Education at JFK, on the Ennis Road and my secondary schooling took place at the Crescent College Comprehensive. I also studied, for a time, at the Limerick School of Music and at the Peter Dee Academy of Music. I have been very lucky over the past 30 years to have visited some amazing places on tour. For example, I have been to America and Canada numerous times, most of Europe and Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, Australia, South Africa, and Israel.

Being a working musician I have been very fortunate to have been exposed to many different styles and genres of music over the years.

These include Blues, Rock, Country, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, some Classical and even Trad. While not necessarily being a master of any of these particular musical fields, I still love songs and compositions with substance and integrity. For me good songs have to have soul in them and a dollop of humour never goes amiss either!

Playing with Van Morrison is, without doubt, the most creatively rewarding thing that I have done with my career to date.

Having played on his 2012 album, Born to Sing-No Plan B, I can tell you that he is a great person to work with. Indeed, anyone with such a strong focus, vision and an open mind always makes the job easier. He is a very generous artist too, in relation to the latitude and scope that he gives to those musicians, around him. From his point of view it is all about keeping the energy in the music fresh and interesting. Indeed, what he has given the world in terms of his songs is immeasurable.

Music in the family was passed down from our father who was very gifted.

Indeed, music was the most natural thing for us to do at home. I suppose you could say that we have been playing music ever since we were toilet trained! After a childhood spent putting on ‘Home Concerts’, fighting over who was best at making-up intricate harmonies, and battles over practicing, we went on to have busy and fulfilled careers in the world of music. My early inspirations would have been Horslips, Rory Gallagher and Johnny Fean. The latter would have motivated my decision to switch from drums to guitar which would have been much appreciated by our neighbours back then.

The joy of playing creatively and never being afraid to learn are core values for me.

I am primarily a freelance session musician today. However, I also run a recording studio and am very fortunate to be able to work with and produce some very talented songwriters and artists. The world never tires of great songs so if you are starting out, stick to your convictions, trust your instincts and keep writing no matter what.

Personally, I find writing lyrics very difficult, though, and prefer to delegate this to others who can do it better. I have done a good deal of co-writing, however, including doing an album with the very talented American singer/songwriter, Melissa Elliotte.

I also co-composed Pat Shortt’s TV scores alongside Ray Fean, as well as doing radio, TV advert jingles, and documentary music.

Young people need to be exposed to music in our schools at a formative age, in order to benefit from good tuition and the advice of their musical peers.

However, music is grossly underfunded in this country, as, alas, are the arts in general. This is a huge discrepancy compared to the commitment and resources that we allocate to sport. But, not all kids aspire to being sporty, so their talents and aspirations need to be fulfilled and accommodated elsewhere.

Next month, with our collective families, we plan to bring an eclectic mix of music to a Limerick audience, in aid of the charity Aware.

This is very much a cause close to our hearts. Aware is an organization that has a special place and meaning for us as a family. They do great work and it is encouraging to see that, finally, society is becoming more open to matters relating to our mental wellbeing. Slowly, but surely, the stigma of depression is becoming a thing of the past as people choose to engage in discussion about it.

With fifteen musicians, composers and arrangers in the family, and a range of instruments (including piano, cello, double-bass, violin, viola, guitar, flute, and percussion) it promises to be a very entertaining evening. Indeed, we hope to cover a diverse range of genres, from baroque to rock and jazz to pop, with the possibility of some unusual cross-overs along the way.

The concert is also a celebration of the role that music has played in our lives.

The performers will include myself, Ann, Máire, and Réamonn and our kids Fiachra and Ailbhe Mac Oireachtaigh, Colm, Eóin, and Cian Scanlon, Anna, Seán, Darragh, Alan, Mairéad and Liam Keary. It is also planned as homage, in part, to our parents, Liam and Nancy Keary, who were so encouraging and positive about us pursuing music. They made great sacrifices to see our ambitions fulfilled.

The four of us siblings, our eleven children and hopefully one or two folks in the audience, will benefit from us making, what we hope will be, a glorious racket on the night!

The Keary Family will play The Lime Tree Theatre, in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, on November 8th. Please telephone the Box Office: (061) 774774 or book your tickets online from the website: For more information about David Keary please see the website:

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