WINGHAM – Finally, the High Kings are headed to Ontario.
They bring their unique sound, Irish charm and compelling voices to four small-town stages, including the Wingham Town Hall Theatre on Sept. 24.
Band member, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Finbarr Clancy spoke with the Wingham Advance Times from backstage in Maryland, one stop on the band’s North American tour. After an eight-hour bus ride and struggling to find a quiet spot to talk, he began to speak in a soft, gentle voice with a distinctive Irish accent, a twinkle in his eyes and a broad grin.
“We’re looking forward to coming to Ontario for the first time and we’re looking forward to meeting all our Canadian friends,” Clancy said. “I think it’s just high time that we make it up to Canada in general… it’s been long overdue. The band’s been going for 15 years. We’ve been to Australia, we’ve been to New Zealand, and we never made it up to Canada. I was like, we need to start going to Canada. It’s a no brainer.”
The High Kings began their extensive North American tour on Sept. 1 in Philadelphia, PA, performing in 12 states before heading north to Canada with one stop in Newfoundland and four shows in Ontario, with their final stop in Wingham on Sept. 24.
Promoting their newest album, The Road Not Taken, and bringing their hits from the last 15 years, Ireland’s leading folk band will have you clapping and singing along and having a ‘whale of a time.’
Clancy described what it’s like at one of their shows: “There are songs that are upbeat, then songs a little bit quieter, a bit melancholy, there’s a couple of funny songs, a little bit of everything. A broad emotional spectrum is covered in our songs, you know, it’s up, and then we kind of bring it down a little bit and then bring you up a bit. It’s an emotional roller coaster, but it’s a good time.”
The High Kings consists of four members, all multi-talented musicians: Clancy, Darren Holden, Brian Dunphy and newest member Paul O’Brien. The High Kings formed in June 2007 when Dunphy, Holden, Clancy and former member Martin Furey were asked to join a brand-new Irish ballad group by David Kavanagh after he had noticed a gap in the market for a band specializing in traditional Irish music.
They don’t have any dancers, Clancy said.
“We just have four guys up on stage. Each of us play a couple of instruments. I play guitar, I play banjo, and I sing and I harmonize. We do acapella stuff. We do Irish traditional folk songs. We do our brand new album, which is all original songs,” he said.
The Road Not Taken is “packed with soul-stirring ballads and spirited tunes, the album showcases the bands musical prowess and storytelling abilities. Its number one chart status is a true testament to their popularity and their ongoing dedication to preserving and innovating Irish folk music for a new generation of listeners,” a media release from the band said.
Clancy spoke candidly about how the album was created during the recent lockdown and who reached out to them with creative ideas borne out of the boredom and lack of outlets.
“We were approached by people during the lockdown, who had nothing better to do. Pop groups, rock groups and every kind of group in Ireland, were sending a song saying, ‘I’m looking for a project. And I’ve written all these songs or I’ve written an Irish folk song, I’d love you to record it,’” Clancy said.
“So, we kind of got the best of them,” he said. “I’m talking about Sharon Corr from the Corrs as well. And then, one of the guys, our producer, happens to be friends with Steve Perry from Journey. He said he heard a song that we were working on. And he said, ‘I actually want to sing. I can hear a harmony there that I’m not hearing in the demo. Do you think the guys would mind if I sang backup harmony on this song?’”
Clancy talked about the new album’s success, saying it’s been doing really well.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever released a fully original album. So it’s a little bit of a departure from what we normally do. We have recorded original songs before with Sharon Shannon, the Irish accordion player, and half of that album was original songs we’ve written ourselves. And the other half was kind of like, well known kind of established folk songs.”
“So, we have a bunch of songs that have that sound that we’ve kind of established for ourselves, and that we’re pretty much known for. And it’s great to come to Canada and bring that sound with us because I don’t think people have experienced us live in Canada yet,” said Clancy.
“It’s a very exciting time for us with this new album doing all these songs that are kind of, reenergizing the genre as well. Because when you have a sound, you can apply that sound to anything, especially with new songs. So that’s what we have been doing to great success on this new album. It’s been received fantastic. People are loving it. People are clapping, they’re having a whale of a time.”
“So, I think you’re going to enjoy it,” Clancy said. “Everywhere we go, we get great crowds.”
Tickets for the show in Wingham at $69.50, and are available online at ticketscene.ca.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times