The Creative Islanders is an new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life.
The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively Ireland is alive with creative possibility.
First up is Caoimhín Ó’Raghallaigh– a masterful musician and I am very happy to say, a very dear friend and someone who I draw consistant inspiration from. Caoimhín makes his music on a 10 string fiddle called the hardanger d’amore, exploring the region where traditional music begins to disintegrate. He is a member of The Gloaming and This is How we Fly, touring internationally to some of the most beautiful stages in the world, including The Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall and the Lincoln Centre.
Over to the wonderful words and insights from Caoimhín…
What makes you tick? What motivates you?
Creating something new makes my brain light up like the fireworks on New Year’s Eve – every time I make something new, something that didn’t exist before that moment, however humble it might be, I actually feel my brain rewarding me, telling me “Yes! This is it! This is the right stuff! Yes! Yes!”. Making new things makes me insanely happy, like a little kid.
What keeps you in Ireland?
It’s my home, it’s where I’m from, and on account of that it’s where I feel I belong, it’s where I understand people the best, it’s where I find the richest level of communication with others by dint of our shared background, culture and history.
What does the creative process teach you?
That we’re built to evolve, and that any effort to create new information by us, in any field, is hugely appreciated and rewarded by our deep selves, the part that is invested in the million year outlook for humanity. Access to that point at which information comes into existence is possible for anyone. Stepping off a cliff into the unknown darkness is immensely productive and rewarding.
How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools?
Mostly I wait, and trust that there’s no reason to panic. Two secret tools: one, a blank sheet, or two, a deadline! I’ve found that if you force yourself to make a mark on a blank sheet, be it ink on paper or sound on time, that something WILL come out. The hardest thing is actually taking out that blank sheet, making the time for it when it’s the last thing in the world you feel like doing.
What do you do just for the love of it?
Hurling in the park, walking in the mountains, hanging out with friends and family.
Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?
Visual art often enriches me, and will sink deep into the marrow of my bones and inform some fundamental change in what I want to create. Space and texture are two things that I love to learn about in this way. In creating, I try to embrace a lack of control. The unknown and uncontrolled gives rise to far more interesting results than anything I could come up with myself.
How do you get through tough times? What sustains you?
I feel pretty fortunate to be able to keep the light at the end of the tunnel in sight, extraordinarily lucky that no matter how dark the day, I retain the knowledge that what goes down must come up. The philosophy, too, that things that happen to us aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’: there’s no knowing what a specific happening will lead to in the future, what horror or joy was missed on account of its occurence.
What key lessons have your learned about being a creative practitioner along the way? What have you learned from your ‘failures’?
Trust yourself and your feelings. Be brave. Focus on the positives and put your energy into those, rather than fretting about the negatives: prune off the rotten branches – you are doing nobody a favour by persevering with something that you know is fundamentally doomed. Find balance. You are the only person who can prioritise other things in life: family, friends, your own wellbeing.
Do you have a morning routine? Or other creative habits or rituals?
I tend to write in big clumps, I’ll go away for a week or a month or longer, and write a whole load of material, rather than a regular daily approach, and then figure out a routine for that particular spell of time. On days where I have a performance, I’ll generally try to keep it as empty as possible, and do my best to ensure my head is clear and worry-free when performance time comes. A little nap right before the concert, or a nice lazy bath in the middle of the day, for instance. I’ll try to find a great place for coffee in the morning, and a wonderful place to eat a few hours before the gig. The aim is to have a totally calm and clear mind when I walk out and begin to play.
What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path?
Believe in yourself and don’t take any shit from anybody, don’t let anyone walk all over you. What you have is worthwhile, special and beautiful, go out there, shine, feed love and passion and enthusiasm into what you do. Trust that such things will be returned a hundred-fold to you, and be glad and happy: you are immensely fortunate and ridiculously lucky. You lead a charmed existence that you are obliged to delight in to the absolute limit of your being.
What books have inspired you?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, all of Samuel Beckett’s work, Wabi-Sabi by Leonard Koren, Andy Goldsworthy’s books, those by Oliver Sacks.
And what advice would you give to your future self?
Be curious, learn, be open. Be kind. Take a holiday!
Thank you so much Caoimhín- so grateful for your music, you insights, your humour and your friendship! xx
Find our more about Caoimhín on his website here,
Photo Credits: Con Kelleher