Karl Nesbitt is one of those musicians, that if you aren’t that good enough, being at his presence makes you want to hide your instrument! He is young, oozing with talent and he also produces. Most people in Ireland play a musical instrument (and sings well too), some can even master more than one. Sometimes they play it just for fun in family gatherings. Some take it to the point that they make albums. When we talk about Irish music, it’s always a family affair as proven by The Corrs, The Brennans and Duggans of Clannad and now the Nesbitts . In this interview, Karl talks about how he became a musician, his very musical family and yes the new album Vista Point.
Your bio says that you are excellent on flute, bodhran and. bouzouki .How did this came to be?
My background has a huge part to play, both my parents and family are great traditional musicians, and I was always hearing it at home via recordings radio/TV programs etc. At first I began tapping around on the bodhran..later My Mam encouraged me to start flute, then I took up the bouzouki because I wanted to play a guitar or something like it! Also I became very interested in exponents of those instruments. Then I was very influenced in the thriving revival of the 80s and 90’s, especially the work of Donal Lunny and Steve Cooney, and their work for other musicians.
Being an arranger and composer is one thing but being a producer is another thing. You are doing all these separately and sometimes together. Tell me how does one aspect which is producing differs from being a composer and arranger?
Well, I started writing tunes when I was about 15, that was pure melody. Then when I moved to Cork I was accompanying singers as well as trad players, so I got familiar with harmony through experience. Then a few years ago I studied Classical harmony, and got very interested in learning about that. One of my passions is to arrange songs for people. Still when I arrange or compose I do it from the heart first, then edit it later!
Production is something I wanted to do since I was a child. I would pick up a CD and look who produced it rather than who the artist was. I used to mess around on a 4-track cassette recorder, but now my production style involves musical direction and helping with arrangements rather than hands on recording/mixing.
How’s the studio like when you start working on an album?
Picking the right studio is vital to me if I’m doing an album for somebody. Often a person tries to do everything themselves, but actually allocation is the way to go. As director Byan Singer once said “Surround yourself with a great cast”.
So the studio gear is important, but more important is the engineer and musicians used. There needs to be no other agenda, other than making a great album.
This album Vista Point too four years in the making. What can your listeners expect from the album and how is it different from your EP The Good News released in 2005?
Vista Point is my first “Serious” CD, a more mature experienced version than my EP. Indeed I only did an EP for that reason; I could not have done a proper full one. I learned a lot from the EP though.
How does it feel being able to perform in Glasgow Concert Hall, The National Concert Hall, Cork Opera House and Everyman Palace, The Lobby Bar Cork, Whelan’s and the Cobblestone in Dublin, The Crane Galway, and numerous festivals in Europe; Celtica, Celtic Connections, Festival Interceltique , to the name the few?
It was great! I owe a lot of those experiences to my sister Mairead, and others I have played with. It was invaluable to play with those musicians in those venues.
I understand that Brittany one of the Celtic nations mentioned, how does it feel to arrange a band for the Festival Interceltique in Lorient, Brittany.
I was younger and bolder back then! I decided to go for it, and brought a band twice there, each time with different players. They played a lot of my tunes which was amazing to me. I love Brittany.
Tell us about your hometown.
My hometown is really the countryside, near Thurles in Co. Tipperary. Its a beautiful place of flatland, and I look forward to going back more often now than ever.
You came from a family of musicians right? Tell us about it.
Yep, my Mother and Father are serious Traditional musicians all their lives! Between them they now countless tunes..My Mam is a well known teacher for years. She met my Dad in Dublin in the 60s through playing music. They used to play sessions with people like Liam O’Flynn and Sean Keane.
My 2 sisters and 3 brothers all play. It was never forced on us, which is why we really grew up to love it. In the beginning I didn’t like it at all!
Raining Up is collaboration between you and your sister Mairead Nesbitt whom I discovered through Celtic Woman which I am also a huge fan. This is a beautiful track. Can you elaborate on it?
Actually, Mairead was kind enough to play the tune on her CD, she liked it!
I was amazed because some of my idols were arranging/playing on it.. Manus Lunny, Donlad Shaw, Ewen Vernal etc.. I love what they did with it. I would never have thought of that arrangement even now.
You are also give music tutorials. I am also aware that you are uploading more videos on your You Tube site. How’s being a music tutor differ from what you usually do?
I have taught a little through the years, but I got really into it in the last 4 or so. I really enjoy it, and love what others seem to get from it. It also has made me a much better player, because you must really find out your techniques (I am self-taught) and explain them. Music has a lot of philosophy in it too, which is another day’s talk.
You have such diverse influences from Folk, Rock to Jazz. Is this the result of growing up on a household of musicians or did you discover these as well as your style as you go along? You also played an alternately tuned guitar in the Funk band The 4Players as I remember.
This was more as I went along, at home was mostly Traditional music, but I learned alot from my two brothers Michael and Noel. They listened to different kinds of music, one was Steely Dan, the other Metallica. I was absorbing away in the background! I’m a rhythm player on bouzouki so Funk guitar was not to far away.. we had great fun in the 4Players, my first band experience.
You have supported Carlos Nunez, Hothouse Flowers, Juliet Turner and Bob Geldof to name the few . How’s it like working for them?
Again, that was with Niall Connolly and Mairead respectively. It was good for nerves! Carlos Nunez and Bob Geldof was in Celtic Connections (Glasgow) Juliet Turner was here in Cork.
Calum Malcolm mastered the tracks in Vista Point. He also worked with Clannad, Prefab Sprout and Capercaille . What can you say about the over all production of this album?
I’m very happy with it. Capecaille are one of favourite bands ever, and my favourite albums Calum was involved in. I sourced him out to master, and he knew the genre so it was no problem. When I’m producing something, if its mixed well, the mastering must be subtle, but present. He did just that.
What can your fans expect from you now that the album is out.
Well, it’s good intro I guess, a friend joked to me that it was a mix between Steeley Dan and the Chieftains! It’s really a showcase of all my influences, a musical tour of new tunes and some old. I was delighted to get John Spillane and Niall Connolly to sing it too.
Who is Karl Nesbitt when he is away from the studio ?
Well, I’m a pretty average fella! I like being outdoors, the simple life definitely. I’m a big believer in balance, and like to see everything as equally important in its own way.
What’s your message to our readers/listeners out there?
I hope you enjoy my music, and thanks a lot for any nice comments and ratings, it’s very encouraging. :)
to listen to his music.