Arts Q&A: Don Baker on Madness, Helen Schucman and Sonny Boy Williamson

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Irish blues musician Don Baker

Rob Strong and Don Baker will headline the 7 Hills Blues Festival in Armagh City on August 9 and 10

1. When did you think about a career in music and what were your first steps into it? As a seven-year-old boy in hospital with TB, I heard a man beside me playing the harmonica. I asked my mother to buy me one the next day. I’ve been playing it and the harp in the 61 years since, though I play more guitar and sing more nowadays with the band.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to? JJ Cale in The National Stadium, Dublin.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band? The English band Madness.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island and why? The Blues of Sonny Boy Williamson as it has taught me so much about playing the blues. Most songs on our new album are originals, but Sonny’s song Keep it to Yourself is one of our most popular songs at our concerts and the first one on the album.

5. And the book? Helen Schucman’s A Course In Miracles, written in 1976. It is so profound and helps me understand spirituality, which I think would help when coping with so much alone time.

6. Top three films? The Shawshank Redemption, Ghandi and The Razor's Edge.

7. Worst film you’ve seen and why? The Doors, because the actions of Jim Morrisson were so exaggerated.

8. Favourite authors? Deepak Shopra and Anthony de Mello.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team? Snooker is my favourite sport. I don’t follow a football team, though I’ve enjoyed watching the World Cup.

10. Ideal holiday destination? Zanzibar in east Africa – we go there every year.

11. Pet hate? Waste – whether it is food or clothes not being used.

12. What’s your favourite?

Dinner? Fish and veg.

Dessert? I don’t bother much with dessert.

Drink? Coffee.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other? My best friend is my wife Maureen. We know each other because we live together. We own a hotel in Trim, Co Meath, called Brogan’s which features live music five nights a week. We have had Paul Brady, Finbar Furey, Bagatelle, and Frances Black all perform there since we opened two years ago.

14. Is there a God? Of course there is.

:: Don Baker is currently on tour with Rob Strong in a four-piece band selling out concerts all over Ireland. The band will headline the 7 Hills Blues Festival in Armagh City with two shows at the Marketplace Theatre on August 9 and 10. For full programme see

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