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A Conversation with Johnsmith (continued)

JS: And I tell you, the support I got from that moment became another kind of loving, but it was referring to me. I was really saying that to myself as well.

PM: Because on the one hand you were saying, "This is what I do," but really what you were saying is, "This is what I am."

JS: Yeah, I'm an artist. Anyway, that was just a big thing for me, some kind of epiphany.

PM: Yeah. It's interesting that that story really rose out of the question, "From whence do you come?" And the path led to that story. That's very interesting.

JS: Yeah, very blue collar. And we were also talking that I've been going to Ireland a lot the last six or seven years. First I went over with Chuck Brodsky and Peter Mulvey, and a couple guys turned me on to some gigs, and went a few times, and just met some great, great folks. Then I started writing some songs I've got on a couple records, and we're singing them in shows. And I've actually been over and leading tours to Ireland, bringing over fans.

PM: This is fantastic, because this is really part of an earlier conversation we were having that, unlike many of the talented friends that we have, you're actually making a good living at this, and at related things, because you're smart, man. And I want other singer/songwriters to know, hey, there's a way to make money at this life.

JS: Yeah.

PM: And some of it has to do with your music, if you do it right, and some of it has to do with brainstorming other things. So now let's talk a little bit about these tours you've been leading, how that began, and what it means, what it is.

JS: Okay. How it started was, like I said, I was mentioning Ireland in my shows, because there were some very inspiring, touching times I had, and I wrote songs about it, they would become part of my show. People would come up after the show and say, "Man, that sounds so cool over there. I want to go with you. I want to go over while you're there, to tag along." And then a couple people were like, "Why don't you lead a tour?" At first I was like, what? How would you do that? And then it hit me one day. I have a buddy, Tom, from Limerick, I'll put it to him.

PM: Now, Tom is not a tour guide by nature.

JS: No, not at all. He's done a lot of things. He owned a pub, that's how I met him. He owned a pub and hired me to sing at his club. And we just hit it off instantly. Some of these people, man, it's like instant love. It's hard to believe, it's hard to explain, but...

PM: Yeah.

JS: I mean, it's big heart stuff, right away.

PM: Especially for us Irish Americans, because you're seeing your people.

JS: Yeah.

PM: It's a real catharsis.

JS: Yeah. It really was for me. So anyway, so Tom and I are very good buddies, and I trust him with my life, I trust him with my kids, I mean, that kind of friend.

PM: Right.

JS: And I put it to Tom, what do you think? And he writes back and he says, "Brilliant!" I mean, he's like late 50s looking for--

PM: The next angle.

JS: Yeah, the next angle. "I want something to do." I mean, he just loves Americans. So anyway, so he's just like, "Here's what we could do..." And my job is to bring some fans over. So we go over, twelve folks for nine days and nights. And during the day we go see all the sights, the old castles and the small fishing villages.

PM: And it's like Delbert McClinton's Blues Cruise, it's like Fred Eaglesmith's train ride. It's like an idea where you bring people along and you make money and everybody has a fantastic time.

JS: It is. It's a boatload of fun. I tell you, I've done two last year and I'm doing three this year. These people, from last year, the whole gang of them is all going to Merlefest this year. None of them knew each other, they're from California and Wisconsin and Connecticut and Florida, Texas. And they just fell in love. When you spend nine days and nights with a bunch of folks, man, and every night we go to the pubs, half the times it'd be like me and an Irish songwriter, or something, swapping some songs, and then it opens up to everybody. Or we go to a pub and have a traditional session, Irish thing where they're playing the tunes with the fiddles and accordions and the concertinas, the whole deal. And then the singing starts, and then they know we're coming. "Well, Johnsmith, you got your friends from America. John, do a song." And I get up and do a couple. And then Tom, my partner gets up, he sings a capella. Anyway, it's just huge, huge fun. And people get close.

PM: And so while we're on the subject, how can people who read this and are incredibly interested in it get on one of those tours?

JS: Just contact me through my website, johnsmithmusic.com. Go to the website and tell me that you're interested. I usually want to know a little bit about the people. I just want to communicate with them one on one to know that this fits for them, because I want the chemistry to be as good as I can--I follow my intuition mostly on it that these people are going to be--

PM: That's amazing that you kind of handpick the people.

JS: Yeah, kind of. I get so many sometimes--I like all these people, I know them, but everybody can't come. And then there is a little bit of a lottery thing. I do like to try to bring some songwriter friends that can get a chance to play and to have our own music. Like some nights, the pub scene will be just too nuts. And we're like, "Hey, we have fourteen of us right here, man." And Tom always knows a couple Irish musicians. Let's go down the street and do our own thing. Let's go to the B&B, we'd have the whole place, let's just open up and do our own party, put some turf in the fireplace there, man, and read some stories and poetry and songs.

PM: Wow.    continue


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