Arts Q&A: Singer Luka Bloom on Van Morrison, U2 and Patrick Kavanagh

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Irish folk singer-songwriter Luka Bloom

Luka Bloom will perform an intimate gig of his best-loved songs at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace on April 27

1. When did you think about a career as a musician and what were your first steps into it? I got my first guitar when I was nine; started writing songs at 14. From about 16 it was clear to me that this would always be my job. I’ve never had an actual job. Ever.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to? Doc Watson, my first guitar hero, outside of Ireland, about 25 years ago in The Bottom Line, New York. A deeply profound, blind and gifted man, who had a tough but a happy life in music. I met him after, and he was as graceful and humble as one would hope. U2 in Phoenix Park, Dublin, 1984. Their first major headlining outdoor gig in Ireland. Simple Minds, Eurythmics, Steel Pulse opening for them. I have never felt such energy in my life from music. It changed my life. Leonard Cohen in IMMA, Dublin, about 10 years ago. A religious experience, three hours of blissful tears.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band? Tinariwen, an incredible desert blues group from Mali. Draped in white from head to toe; delivering intoxication in pure musical alchemy.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island? Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. My go-to work of art when sustenance is needed. According to Van he didn’t think about it much; he was just too busy doing it. Makes complete sense.

5. And the book? The Bible. I’ve never read it. It’s long, and stuck on a desert island I’d be needing some intervention, right?

6. Top three films? The two French Connections films, because I love gene Hackman. Bullitt because I still hear the sound of Steve McQueen’s exhaust roaring up the hills in San Francisco. Oh, and just to confuse you, the original Far from the Madding Crowd with Julie Christie and Alan Bates.

7. Worst film you’ve seen? Sorry, I am not a critic. I celebrate the creative endeavours of everyone who writes a song, paints a picture, writes a poem, a novel, or creates a film. I want to encourage, never discourage. There have been many plays, films, gigs I’ve really disliked. I choose to forget I ever saw them and move on.

8. Favourite authors? The person I love to read the most is Patrick Kavanagh – he celebrated detail and challenges me to actually study a field. In my 30s I was into Paulo Coelho. These days, living in Clare, I am never too far from my old buddy John O’Donohue. But the book that influenced my life the most was Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. It was a hard political learning and I needed it.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team? I’m hopeless at sport, yet adore it. These days I confine my allegiance to the Ireland rugby team, the Kildare GAA football team and the Clare hurling team.

10. Ideal holiday destination? My carbon footprint as a singer is too much. I try to balance this by never flying anywhere unless I am working. I’ve never had a Mediterranean holiday. Fortunately I live in the nicest place on Earth, so if I need a holiday I just go out the door and start walking or cycling.

11. Pet hate? At this precise moment, that would be Brexit. On this fragile Earth, we are literally all in this together, and even contemplating borders is really heartbreaking to me. We need bridges, not walls.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? The next one.

Dessert? Vegan chocolate and avocado ice cream, served in Hotel Doolin, Co Clare.

Drink? Tea.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other? Friendship is about action to me. Otherwise it is just a convenient word, like love. So, based on this ‘one day at a time’ life of mine, my best friend right now is Dave Donohue from Carlow, because we texted each other 20 minutes ago, and planned our next foray. Dave is a writer, a film maker, a food blogger, a horse-racing guru, who also writes good songs.

14. Is there a God? In my 63 years on earth, I have met very convincing people on both sides of this question, neither of whom has persuaded me either way. I see 'godness' all around me in the kindness of good people. And for me, this is enough.

:: So Sing On with Luka Bloom takes place at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy on April 27 at 8pm. Book online at or call the box office on 028 7938 7444.

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