- 22 May 20
As Beoga return with their new collaboration-centred mini-album, Carousel, we talk to Eamon Murray about the current happenings in Irish folk, how working with Ed Sheeran changed everything, life during lockdown, and more.
Four years after being catapulted to international attention on Ed Sheeran’s globe-conquering album ÷, and joining the megastar on some of the biggest stages around the world, Beoga have returned – sounding bigger and bolder than ever. With their new album Carousel, the trad group have leaned heavily into the world of collaboration, enlisting some of the most hotly tipped names in Irish and American music.
Blurring the boundaries between trad, pop, country and electronic music, Carousel is reflective of a group unafraid to piss off the purists. Of course, Beoga are by no means blow-ins in the folk world – Niamh Dunne boasts a particularly impressive pedigree, as a relative of the late great Pecker Dunne. However, their new project finds them building off the acclaim they found while working with Ed Sheeran on ‘Galway Girl’ and ‘Nancy Mulligan’, and developing a sound that revels in a sense of unapologetic joy and fun above all else.
“The Ed Sheeran thing definitely changed the conversation, and it changed the team of people around us,” bodhrán player Eamon Murray explains. “Before that it was just us – doing what we wanted to do, and playing what we wanted to play. But after that, there was a change of management, label and lots of things. It put us into conversations with a whole different world that we hadn’t really had access to before.
“It changed the trajectory of the band too, and our outlook on it,” he continues. “Before the Ed Sheeran thing, things were actually winding down. We weren’t doing as many shows, and we’d have probably been less open to bringing people from the outside in. But now we can really see the value in that – especially in the writing process. We’ve found a new lease of life.”
In a full-circle moment, one of the tracks on Carousel, 'We're Blood' features Foy Vance – who originally introduced Beoga to Sheeran.
“Foy’s a good mate of ours,” Eamon smiles. “He’s an unbelievable songwriter. He’s been involved in this journey with us from day dot, and he still is involved. It’s great to have someone who’s been around the block with us – you just trust his judgement.”
The project also features appearances from Ryan McMullan, Niall McCabe and American country artists Lissie and Devin Dawson – collaborations that showcase Beoga’s natural progression into genres outside the realms of trad. But as Eamon so aptly puts: “It’s a delicate balancing act between being Clannad or Bewitched.”
“We come from a background of having grown up with traditional music, but not really being devout about it,” he reflects. “It was just part of our upbringings – it wouldn’t be our only influence. From day dot we’ve always been more open-minded about trying different things. We’ve never really tried to adhere to the trad rules, or the preservation rules. You want to still hear Irishness in it without it sounding twee.”
And while there’s plenty of buzz about a ‘folk revival’ on these shores lately, Beoga aren’t getting too caught up in the latest trends.
“These things are cyclical – folk’s cool one year, and then it’s not cool the next year,” Eamon laughs. "It’s good that it seems to be hip right now, and enjoying a revival, but the people that do it are going to do it anyway, whether other people think it’s cool or not. There are so many good bands out there – it’s in safe hands.”
Of course, Beoga’s collaboration with Ed Sheeran, and their continued genre-bridging approach, has certainly helped to shape young people’s perception of traditional Irish music as something to be proud of – rather than dreaded diddley-idle music on school syllabuses.
“People will say what they want about Ed Sheeran, but they can’t deny his appeal,” Eamon nods. “When we did the collaboration with him, there were dozens and dozens of music teachers getting in touch with us, saying they hadn’t seen an interest like it in a long time, which is so encouraging to hear.
“We’re the worst for it ourselves, as Irish people – saying, ‘Oh you play diddly-dee'. It’s so much more than a remark like that can suggest. But we’re becoming a bit more forgiving of it now, because people are more informed.”
Trad music may be in safe hands for now, but the future face of the music industry is far from certain. Beoga, like countless acts, have been heavily impact by Covid-19 restrictions.
“The longer it goes on the harder it is to imagine,” he reflects. “We’ve pushed all our live dates to the end of the year – and that could be optimistic. We’re just feeling it out. As long as everybody’s well, that’s the main thing. But we’re constantly in touch, so we’re going to do all we can remotely.
“We’ve a big garden here, so we’ve just been growing vegetables and messing about,” he continues. “We’ve a three-year-old who keeps us on our toes, too!”
Their extensive collaborative work has also left Beoga with plenty of material – so it may not be too long before we’re hearing from them again.
“We’ve been doing more writing than we’ve ever done together, just because of the nature of collaborating with other people,” he reveals. “We’ve ended up with more music than we know what to do with. We’re sitting on a couple of albums worth of stuff that we didn’t expect that we’d have – which is one of the main positive things to come out of the last couple of years for sure.”