Host John Floridis catches up with Seamus Egan: teen prodigy, multi-instrumentalist, film composer, bandleader and co-founder of the beloved Irish-American band, Solas. If you've watched the film "The Brothers McMullen" or listened to Sarah McLachlan’s “Weep Not for the Memories,” you've heard Egan's compositions.
In January 2020, Egan released Early Bright, an album of instrumental tunes--and his first solo album in 24 years after two decades as a Solas "road-dog." Emotive and expressive rather than flashy, the album and its touring counterpart, The Seamus Egan Project, draw on traditional Irish music without being constrained by it. As Egan says in a February 2020 interview in Bozone.com:
"One thing about Irish music, and I think this points to one of the reasons that it’s been able to not only survive but thrive, it’s a continually evolving musical tradition. What would be considered traditional fifty years ago was different from what was a hundred years ago, and different again before that. Structurally, it’s an incredibly strong tradition and it can absorb different influences, but still, that particular lifeblood pumps through it. You know where it’s coming from, but you can hear these other things. I’ve always been intrigued about all kinds of music, so my interests are invariably absorbed into the music that I know how to play."
It doesn't hurt that Egan moved from Philadelphia to rural Vermont three years ago. "What you write is a reaction to your circumstances,” he said. “The pace of life [in Vermont] is certainly different than living in Center City Philadelphia [and] I was off the road for the longest stretch since I was 18 years old.…It definitely seeped into it somehow.”
Egan's connection to Montana, which began with a music festival and a family legend, has deepened over time. "Solas made an album that’s very much centered in Montana, in Butte. Shamrock City was based around a story from my family’s history – a great-great uncle of mine had come over from Ireland and ended up working in the mines there. I have a very long and fond relationship with Montana, and particularly with Butte.
"The album came out in 2013, but it really started in the early 2000s when we were invited to play a festival there. Growing up, my father told us a story about a long-lost relative who had gone to Butte and died there. It had only existed in my mind as this sort of childhood story, so I was excited to get out there. My dad was really interested to see if we could find out where he might be buried. So, it was really that inquiry that started us down the path of learning about Butte. I didn’t know anything about its history outside of what I’d heard from my dad. It was eye-opening realizing the impact that Butte had on American history, on Irish immigration, and on my own family’s history. It was something that was really quite rich with storytelling possibility. It was sort of a ten-year process of back and forth – I spent a lot of time in Butte and got to know a lot of the folks out there. It feels like a second home in a lot of ways."