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Byron Shire
June 26, 2024

Interview: Áine & Son

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Aine Tyrrell and Susan O’Neil at the Brunswick Picture House

Áine Tyrrell and Susan O’Neill, aka SON, come together to create a un ique show presenting music lovers with the rare musical experience of two County Clare musicians travelling Australia and singing eleven thousand miles from their original homes.

I find it hard to think of you both as folk musicians. I think of old men with beards playing flutes and mandolins. What’s folk to you? Are you forging new folk roads?

Susan: Ha! I’m working on the beard and in the meantime I would like to think that I am paving my own way and beginning to make my own sound. Of course many of my influences come from folk legends so that must always be acknowledged, and whenever I find myself in need of inspiration it’s back to them I turn.

Áine: Folk to me is music for the people. Unfortunately some other images do get conjured up and give it a bad name. And like any genre there are folk purists who try to dictate things. What I play is my version of folk, which has its roots in Irish folk music, but I am folking it up. I am pushing those boundaries because this is a new generation and new people that my folk music is for. After day two here I did wonder whether my version of folk was the version of folk this festival needed, but our third show went off. Our version of folk tribe found us by day three and we folked it up for sure.

Tell me about your homelands. Aine? Susan?

Susan: Green, great views, great people, and full of music. Much like my experience of Australia so far.

Áine: We are both from County Clare, which is one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland (we are biased!), but it is renowned for its traditional music, incredible scenery, ancient rock formations, and a history you can feel.

What does Home mean to you?

Susan: Home is where I feel I can be all of myself without worrying. It’s where music is near and the air is clean.

Áine: The physical home for me morphs and changes, but the feeling of home I sense deeply in my bones. If you could x-ray my bones there would be some rocks from the Burren in Clare in there. I carry them with me wherever I go.

How do you bring that into your voice and on to stage with you, particularly when that homeland is a long way away?

Susan: Mostly I just open my mouth and sing without trying to think about it. I try to be in the moment as much as possible. Closing the eyes sometimes can bring you into a past moment, which is nice too.

Áine: I always call on my nana before every gig to be there and asked to be welcomed by whatever country I am standing on. There is a lot going on around us that we can’t see, and I feel lucky to be able to be just someone who carries the songs from what we can’t see. So, like Susan, it comes out when I let go and just get out of my own way.

What happens when you hit the stage? Is it transformative?

Susan: Yes, sometimes of course. The crowds have a large part to do with it too. It’s all about the energy you can create in a room, and if they lend their energy to you, you can give it right back using music.

Áine: Every gig transforms and informs me in one way or another. The good and the bad – you just don’t know how sometimes. It is deep conversations I get to have with rooms full of other humans all being there for their own reasons. Songs are powerful little beasts!

What brings you two together to share the bill?

Susan: Our Clare connection is at the heart of this wonderful random collaboration. I think there maybe a bit more faith at play here too; we both seem to have a similar outlooks, colleagues and influences. This is the start of a brilliant adventure!

Áine: Can’t wait to play with Susan. I saw her play in Ireland this summer at another festival we were on and I could tell there was something in our fabrics that was the same, and to share that in song for an evening in Brunswick Heads will be just the start of a long time of our playing music together, I know!

Áine Tyrrell and Susan O’Neill play the Brunswick Picture House on Friday. brunswickpicturehouse.com.

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