The thing I love most about watching Tim Edey playing either the guitar or the melodeon, is that he seems to be enjoying it so much and when you see someone do that, you are drawn in even more to the joy of the music being played.
It’s obviously more than a job to Tim who was born in Broadstairs in Kent, to an Irish mother and an English father.
“Yea, I have an Irish backround and music was always in the house,” he recalls as we chat on the phone.
“My dad is a great guitar player, so I think the love of it comes from my parents because music was always made to be fun, never made to be a chore.”
Tim then alludes to the “difficult times” he has had in his life and how music helped him in the dark times.
“To be honest, we’ve all had difficult times in life and in my difficult times music, particularly Sharon Shannon – I’d say her music to me has been quite like the Bible, that’s the wrong word, but it’s sort of a brilliant antidepressant.
“I played with her for a good while and I think one thing I learnt from her was how important it is for the listener and those listening or playing around you to share it, to make it accessible.”
What TIm says reminds me of the great box player Tony McMahon who talks about the healing power of traditional music. Maybe it’s a paricularly Irish thing as in the title of Nancy Scheper-Hughes;s book, Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics’…
“It’s so true!” laughs Tim.
“If you listen to slow airs, it can tear the emotions out of you. When you listen to Seamus Begley singing and suddenly you get the other angle, which is incredibly uplifting, joyous… Irish music is incredible, traditional music, it is a healer, for sure.”
It’s one thing playing lots of music but how did Tim end up doing it for a living.
“It’s a funny thing, growing up in the south of England, I was unfortunate where I was from in Kent, there wasn’t a huge Irish population, mind you there was in north Kent so unfortunately I didn’t get into that whole Celtic thing.
“What made me realize that I wanted to be a professinal musician was that I had a totally terrible time at school. I got bullied at school and I was lucky to have such caring parents who always supported me and my music. They tried to get me to do a bit of education but I don’t think my mind was able for it, I just wanted to play music.
“I think it was certainly seeing the Chieftains when I was about 12 – I just saw Paddy Moloney and just thought ‘oh my God, this is incredible’. I always remember that, sitting in this concert hall and then later seeing people like Sharon and Steve Cooney and Begley – I remember seeing Seamus when I was about 16 and he said to me, ‘you must do your education’ and of course I probably should have listened. I did try, I tried college, the lure of the road was too much!”
Not only is Tm Edey a fine player of traditional Irish music, he plays a lot of other genres, including gypsy music which he listened to as a boy. Where does his heart lie?
“Oh, I think Irish music will always be my favorite, it will always be what I grew up listening to,” he says.
“At the moment we (TIm, his wife Isobel and baby Eva) live in Scotland, I miss Ireland terribly and we go back as often as we can and we have considered trying to move back. I love Scottish music, don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic and I love it to bits. But for some reason, I don’t know what it is – I was born in England but have a strong Irish heritage and it doesn’t matter if it’s Belfast, Dublin or Dingle, I just go into a session and I feel like it’s home. Scotland is great, but I don’t have that emotional connection with the culture, I guess.” he says.
And on your deathbed, Tim, you have to play your last tune. Would you play guitar or melodeon?
“I think it would have to be the guitar,” he answers.
“To talk about emotional connections with an instrument… I absolutely love the melodeon and I love listening to it and playing it, but I’ve always struggled trying to transmit emotion through the melodeon. I hope I’ve managed to achieve it at some point, I really have to work at it. But when I pick the guitar up, there’s something about it – Brendan Power, the harmonica player said it’s about ‘ending the note’ – you said about Blues there, and if you listen to Sonny Terry or whoever, the way they bend the notes, I’ve learned a lot from Cooney and ones of the things I’ve learned from playing with Steve is that when he plays the slow air on guitar, it is almost like a connection with the instrument I think. I think it’s easier with guitar than the box. Now I don’t know if every box player would agree with me (laughs).
“I love the box and I listen an awful lot and play it and if I was to choose the two guys to play that would bring me to tears with the box, I think that would be Tony McMahon and Seamus Begley. I’m not saying, of course, that other box players don’t do that, but it’s not an easy thing to do with the box,” he says.
You’d meet very few people who would disagree with that!
The Tim Edey Collective is in playing at An Droichead in Belfast this Friday, 21st November and in Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin in Derry on Saturday 22nd. Joining Tim will be guitarist Ben Trott and a great singer from Scotland, Isobel Crowe who sings Scottish and Irish songs.
Don’t miss out!