Gene Myers: Dirty Linen magazine said that you had the potential to take Irish folk music and break through to the masses. The theory of why the magazine thought that had something to do with the rhythms in your music in comparison to typical rhythms for the genre.
Eileen Ivers: Yes, the rhythm of Irish music is primarily a lot of jigs and reels…Both are rhythmically friendly. Tunes that swing very subtly. They bubble along. They are listener friendly. It’s not challenging to find the downbeat, that groove, as opposed to Eastern European rhythms that are a little bit harder to latch onto.
One thing that we do is bring in elements of some other traditions rhythmically, like maybe some African hand-drumming. We also bring in bass. Traditionally, in Irish music you have top line players playing the melody but nothing ever sonically under that. We bring in bass to augment the music and it’s proven to be a wonderful blend.
GM: Trips to Ireland and competitions you took part in as a kid played a large part in encouraging you to play the fiddle. You have family in Ireland and as an adult you bought a house there. Can you compare some of what Ireland has offered you–how it’s shaped your life–with what America has offered you?
EI: In the summer the family would go for two months and get out of the hot summer Bronx and go to Ireland and chase cows around the fields. It was a natural progression.
Five or six years ago now we built a house on my dad’s land, which is a way to keep it in the family for future generations. From the Irish mentality I learned not to take myself too seriously and enjoy life. At the same time, I love this country. I think it’s the best country in the world. I feel very fortunate to be an American and to know my roots.