Doolin': "I can’t predict where our sound will go because we like too many things"
After three years of breakout touring at some of the biggest roots festivals in the United States and Canada, and another three years locked out of the live performance world they have so ambitiously cultivated, Doolin’, France’s premiere practitioners of Irish and Celtic music, return in 2023 with a new album entitled 'Circus Boy'. The new album represents a more powerful and bigger musical vision for the band, made possible by the introduction of piano, drums, and brass as new sonic elements. That said, the Irish music tradition is not complete without the presence of a fiddle or two, and on 'Circus Boy' Doolin' includes three of the best European fiddlers of the genre: Niahm Gallagher, Niall Murphy, and Guilhem Cavaillé, himself a founding member of the band. 'Circus Boy' is at its core an exploration of the recurring feelings and themes experienced during the group’s US tours: the friendship and solidarity on the road ("Circus Boy"), the personal and artistic encounters gained through extensive touring, and the exploration of a new country with a dizzying musical culture. Powerful, full of emotion, and eminently appealing, Doolin’ is poised to take their career to the next level with the release of 'Circus Boy'. Indie Boulevard managed to connect with the band’s vocalist Wilfried Besse, and learn more about the Doolin’s creative path, the new album and much more.
IB: Hi Wilfried! I have just listened to your new album "Circus Boy" and I was pleasantly impressed. You combine Irish, American and French folk to create a unique sound. Tell us more about your creative approach and what inspires you to create such unusual music?
WILFRIED: It’s just that we like thousands of different stuff and we mix them together with Irish and Folk music that’s our common thread. All of this played with our rather acoustic instruments and our foreign (French) approach and sensibility gives it, let’s hope, a unique sound.
IB: So, "Circus Boy" is your fifth full-length album, and you have been in the music industry for a long time. What has been the biggest challenge you've faced as a band while recording "Circus Boy", and how have you overcome it?
WILFRIED: We’re definetely a live, stage band so every recording is a challenge. This time we recorded in various places at several periods of the year so giving the best of ourselves had to go through « taming » the different studios and people’s energies that go with it. We love to travel and meet new people so it was as much a challenge as it was a pleasure.
IB: What role do you think improvisation plays in music? Do you see it as a way of tapping into something spontaneous and intuitive, or as a way of expressing a pre-existing idea in a more fluid and creative way?
WILFRIED: Both ideas are really working for us. We composed Chicago Waltz all together jaming during few days off while touring the USA. You want to let yourself go and pick up the best things that are coming out of it. For L’Amour Sorcier we set ourselves in a studio for one day with musicians we had never met before, but that we really respected through the records they had made, and tried together a rather spontaneous new approach of this song.
IB: Your first album came out in 2008 and since then you have released releases and developed as a band. How has your music evolved since you first started playing together, and where do you see your sound going in the future?
WILFRIED: We never tried to fit in a box but I’d say that this new album has got even more of ourselves in it. Obviously there are more songs in it than the one before which counted already more songs than previous ones. I can’t predict where our sound will go because we like too many things and the inspiration comes from our lives at home and on the road but I like to think there’s a Doolin’ sound anyway.
IB: Your live performances are incredibly energetic, vibrant and the audience is always in awe. What has been your favorite live performance or tour experience, and why?
WILFRIED: First thanks a lot for these kind words. I will never forget our first tour in the USA in 2018. I felt so much at home on stage. It felt as we were the right band playing the right music in the right places because what we do is culturally closer to American or Irish people than it is to French people.
IB: When and where can I visit your upcoming concerts?
WILFRIED: Sadly we haven’t got anything in Ireland (yet). We have plenty of gigs all around France from May to end of July and then we head off to the USA for a month of touring mainly Irish Festivals. If ever you were to travel abroad every informations you need is available on our website : www.doolin.fr
IB: If you could perform in any unusual venue in France, where would it be and why?
WILFRIED: I think playing at the foot of the Eiffel Tower would be a blast. It’s obviously a very strong symbol and nobody in the band has ever done it. (Plus we’re not afraid of large crowds. ) You’d be invited.
IB: You constantly tour not only in France but throughout Europe and beyond. If you could describe your tour life using only one French word, what would it be and why?
WILFRIED: Vital. Translation : Vital (lol) It’s the only job I ever had. It’s a passion and I’m deeply conviced that’s what I’m better at. It’s the air I breathe, I feel at home on a stage and moving from town to town, from a country to another is, even though exhausting, deeply nourishing for the heart and soul.
IB: A little strange question. If your new album "Circus Boy" was a French dish, what would it be and why?
WILFRIED: Cassoulet of course! It’s a dish from the area we’re living in that you often cook for a large group of people with friends and family. It induces a certain generosity, togetherness and the old fashioned cuisine from one’s grandmother. Something very authentic and simple made out of beans (which would be Folk music) and plenty of different meats (all the other styles of music that we love).
IB: And the last question. How do you think music can help us connect with each other and with the wider world around us? Do you see it as a universal language that transcends cultural boundaries, or as a way of expressing the unique cultural identity of different groups and communities?
WILFRIED: We play a music which roots rarely come from our home country so in my opinion it’s more powerful than words and yes it does help us connect with one another whatever the culture. Energy and emotions have no boundaries.
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