Photo credit: Stefan Jeremiah

Morgan O’Kane is back this week, bringing his own brand of raucous Appalachian music to London, on the last leg of a month-long European tour.  If you haven’t seen him play before, here’s your chance to max your fun this Thursday night by winning tickets to see him and his touring band, upstairs at The Garage, Islington.  We have 2 pairs of tickets to give away, email us the answer to the following question by midday (GMT) Wed 27th June and we’ll draw winners out of a hat.

What is the name of Morgan O’Kane’s first album?

  • Your attention-grabbing delivery and sea-shanty type hollerin’ must come from your years of busking: in New York, on the subway, in parks, around the US and subsequently around the world.  What started you off and how have you developed over the years?

It started as way to practice and make a bit of bread, but the more time I spent down there the more people I met and more I noticed how it was appreciated. I fell in love with it and since it’s brought me beautiful things and relationships.

  • Are you still busking or have you put that behind you now?

I busk as much as I can, I’ll never stop and it remains my main source of income.

  • Have you had any mentors that have inspired you along the way?

I’ve been lucky to be very close to all my mentors, Bobby St Ours (of the Hackensaw Boys, also from Charlottesville, VA – Ed) made me pick up the banjo, Zake Orion showed me the ropes and Phillip Roebuck put the door in front of me and kicked me out.
My band are my biggest mentors, Zeke Healey (Dobro), Ferd Moyse the IV (Fiddle – also of the Hackensaw boys) , Liam Crill, Leyla McCalla on Cello (also plays with Carolina Chocolate Drops), and Jr continue to blow my mind every time I hit the street or stage with them.

  • Though you’re originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, you now live in Brooklyn in an old church.  How does your kind of music go down in NY?

In NYC you have people from damn near every walk of life and at the end of the day everyone wants to feel good and have a good time. Music is the quickest road to both and my music seems to do the trick.

  • We hear you’re planning a concert in the church in the near future and you’re planning on incorporating the bells, what’s that about?

Zeke and I are fixing up some church bells in my new home. A beautiful old church in Bushwick that’s become a venue for the next few months. I’ve never played church bells but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  Phillip Roebuck will be playing the pump organ as well and Veveritsi Brass Band is on board. It’s gonna be a good one!

  • Could you tell us a bit about your 2nd album Pendulum, which came out last year, who did you work with on it?

Billy Cambion “Vic Thrill” is one of my closest friends and I recorded both records in his studio. The first “Nine Lives” I did in a bunch of solo one takes to have something to sell on the street, and when I had Zeke, Ferd, and Leyla jump on a few songs this beautiful sound came out. Something none of us had really heard before. So Pendulum was to make a full record of that sound and Billy helped to produce and watch over the project.

  • Are you working on another one this year?

The plan is to get Billy in the church with his gear and record at least half the next album there while we have the space. We’ll start in September and work through the fall. Jr’s been playing a lot more with us and his horn will be very prominent on the next one.  I love what he brings to my music.

  • Though you’re now living in Brooklyn, you still keep issues affecting your Appalachian roots close to your heart.  You have recently contributed music to a film about mountaintop removal that portrays how it has affected local people’s histories and communities.  Could you tell us about the documentary and about the score you contributed?

I met Jordan Freeman three summers ago at the Marsh Fork protest on Coal River. He had been documenting the actions of the locals, miners, and protesters for years and when he asked me to put music to this, I was honored.

  • What other music are you listening to at the moment?

Iswegh Attay by Tinariwen
Anywhere on this road by Lhasa de Sela
Carrick Bend by Phillip Roebuck
Depression Blues by Sam Doors
Hell Ball Rolls by Vic Thrill
54 46 by Toots
Tighten up by Archy Drell and the Drells
The Seeker by the Who
Cocec na pocec by Veveritse Brass Band
Imidiwan Winakalin by Tinariwen
Out of nowhere by Phillip Roebuck
Come on up to the House by Tom Waits
Box of Pine by the Hackensaw Boys

Or listen to a selection of those tunes on this Spotify playlist. Morgan O’Kane – June 2012

Here’s a nicely shot film we found of Morgan busking, by Tom Levin:

Morgan O’Kane from Tom Levin on Vimeo.