Behind The Scenes: Artist Q&A with Kevin Lawlor

Described as 'the leading voice of jazz in the south-east of Ireland', Kevin Lawlor is a jazz drummer, composer and educator based Wexford. Ahead of the Kevin Lawlor Quintet's performance at Signal Series, Tuesday 26th March (doors 8pm) at The Wild Duck, we chatted to Kevin about inspiration from family and life, learning through collaborative creation, and reasons to write music. 

Q. What motivates you as an artist, to create music?

I write music when I get ideas stuck in my head and need to get them onto the page. This usually happens when I'm working with a group of musicians or I have a band in mind for music. I find it easier to write for musicians that I have in mind as the music seems to come to life before ever being played. I always wrote a pieces of music for gigs I was putting on locally and eventually had enough for my first album back in 2012.

Q. Who or what inspires you at the moment - be it in music, arts, politics or your personal life?

For my most recent album I was inspired by a lot of different sources in and around my life. For example the opening 'Toucan Lullaby' was inspired by the arrival of my son and all of the changes family brings. It's has a balance of quiet intensity with a lullaby hidden in the middle. Another piece from the album 'Rise of the Right Wing' is a protest song as a reaction to a lot of things happening in Europe and further afield. I went for as forceful a musical statement as I could to reflect the at times bullish nature of certain politics, from a witness point of view. Inspiration for me is the need to sit down and create music. Sometimes the inspiration is from whats going on around me or sometimes its a simple as a musical idea I want to explore.

Q. Can you tell us about a seminal experience, project, or encounter that had a significant impact on your career?

I think that I've carved out my career with being part of lots of different projects and having as many reasons to work on music as I can. There are lots of experiences that I've had that have had an impact on my career but none I feel I need to single out.

Q. Can you tell us about how your quintet works as an ensemble? How do you find inspiration in collaborative creation?

I worked on the music as a band project for sure. I had previously hired session jazz musicians from the UK and Ireland to play my music but it always felt like a whirlwind experience after working on the music for so long myself. I wrote and arranged the music for this group and performed it live in April 2018 to a sold out audience in Wexford Arts Centre. It was a great show and I learned a lot about the music. I then had it exactly as I wanted before the recording in June. Collaborative creation is not something I've had the opportunity to do a lot of. I'm the only composer in my field in Wexford but I have a collaborative project due for next year with Welsh piano player Dave Jones.

Q. What direction do you see the music industry headed towards in the next 20 years?

I think musicians are exploring every outlet possible to get their music out there and the only conventional outlet is live performance. Cds are a dead and clumsy format and there's something joyless abut MP3's. Streaming is a great and accessible format however the artist will suffer due to the structuring of those platforms. Audiences of jazz or improvised music are perhaps more loyal to the genre than other genres but that doesn't mean they should pay more to own music. I'm not sure where the music industry will go... I don't own a CD player and I've never heard vinyl so for me it's got to be on a device which leaves me more than a little conflicted!

Thanks Kevin!
You can hear the Kevin Lawlor Quintet performing at Signal Series, Tuesday 26th March, Doors 8pm at The Wild Duck, Sycamore Street, Dublin 2. Also featuring are guitar trio Oxygen Thief with vocalist Aleka
Tickets available HERE 

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