By: Clare Collins
From kickstarting his music career with his brother Liam to now flying solo, Mickey Spain continues to perform his take on Irish folk music throughout the area.
Spain recently went On the Record to discuss his sound, inspirations and musical challenges.
Q: What is your musical background?
A: Although I grew up in a house steeped in music and having a father that was a folk singer and songwriter, I did not play an instrument or sing a note until I was 26 years old. At 26, I was in a car accident and laid up with back injuries. My father gave me a guitar and a Pete Seeger song book, and it literally changed my life. I taught myself how to play. I never took a lesson (some wouldn’t find that too hard to believe), and I can’t read or write music. I play by ear. I work constantly at my guitar playing, and I am always trying to learn something new.
Q: What does a typical show sound and look like?
A: A typical show for me now is a lot different than it used to be. The format is the same, I suppose, but the content is different. When I was part of the band, we created a show; it had stories, jokes, poems. Highs and lows. It was crafted, and the songs flowed and transitioned seamlessly into one another. And although the show was choreographed, there was always an element of spontaneity that would occur and take on a life of its own as well as instigate banter between ourselves as well as with the audience that made each show special. I still try to stick to the formula, and the spontaneity and banter continues, but now, there’s no one else to rely on to keep it going. It’s just me and the audience, and I don’t mind that. … I like the challenge. I don’t like dead air, so to speak, so I strive to keep the audience engaged. It makes for a better time for them and me. Additionally, now that I’m solo, I can add songs and sing songs that I enjoy singing.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish over the next year?
A: Right now, I am in the process of writing songs for two CDs. Although I’ve recorded seven CDs and two DVDs with (the Makem and Spain Brothers) and (the Spain Brothers), this will be my first as a solo artist. The CD will contain songs about events in the history of Pennsylvania mining. The second recording will be my second CD of original children’s songs. I released my first one in 2003 or so. The hope is to get them out by the spring.
Q: How has living in Northeast Pennsylvania affected your music?
A: I’ve been in NEPA about two and a half years, and I really enjoy it. I like the music scene. While so many venues are doing away with live music, it’s nice to see some that support it and give performers a chance to showcase their talent. Also, since I’ve moved here, I’ve taken a great interest in the mining history of the state, which has led to the idea for my CD.
Q: Has your sound changed over the years?
A: It’s funny, my sound has changed but has also remained the same since I started performing. The genre of music has stayed the same, but the way I deliver a song has more meaning and thought behind it than when I first started performing. I think as I started growing as a performer, listening to and playing with other artists and writing my own stuff, I have developed a style that is my own. It’s not a replica of one artist or inspiration but an amalgamation of all singers and songwriters that have influenced me over the years.