What inspire you to play an instrument? (Violin) At what age did you start playing the violin? I started learning the violin when I was 4 years old, so I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t play. I used to sing all the time from a very early age and apparently used to try to gatecrash my brother’s music classes and cry when I wasn’t allowed, so my parents let me learn as soon as I was old enough to keep my happy!
Can you tell us about your educational background? I started learning the violin in my hometown Cork, Ireland at the same time as I started school, later I also learned piano and viola. I won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, so moved there when I was 19 and studied for 4 years.
I'm a violin player too, and I was really amazed by that trumpet sounding violin you have on stage! What is it? Do you play it just like the fiddle? It is called a Strohviol or hornviolin. I picked it up about 10 years ago on a back street in Burma (Myanmar) not knowing what it was, and later found out they were invented to help amplify the violin sound on phonographic recordings at the turn of the 20th century. I play it like a violin, but the horn makes it harder to hold as it is really heavy on one side. Tom Waits uses it on some of his records, I was delighted that Shakira wanted me to play it in the show.
What's your favorite musical instrument? My favourite has always been the cello. I think it is the most incredibly expressive instrument. I play the viola too, and my aim is always to try to make is sound as close to a cello as I can. Recently I have heard some fantastic accordion players and have fallen in love with that too.
What about your favorite country you visited for the first time on this tour? Hugs and Kisses. Fadi - Beirut, Leb There have been many! I had never been to South America before so that was a great experience, especially playing in Shakira’s home country Colombia. Beirut was pretty special too - the audience was amazing there.
What do you feel when you play the violin? I feel something different every time, depending on the music, environment, my mood, the audience...If I had the right words to describe the feelings I probably wouldn’t be so driven to express whatever it is in playing. I always feel something, so maybe that means I feel alive, if that is not too corny to say...
How did you meet Shakira? How did you begin working with Shakira? Shakira was working with a musical arranger / director Magnus Fiennes from the UK and a theatre company called Punch Drunk. They and Shakira wanted to find someone for this tour who could play some different styles of music as well as a few different instruments, maybe to include violin, some unusual instruments and background vocals. I have played / toured with a few other artists before (Moby, The Killers, Gnarls Barkley, Take That), so they asked around, were given my name from a few people and asked me to send some videos and recordings. After that I did another video audition playing Ojos Asi, and finally was invited to come play on tour
What city so far on this tour, has been your favorite one yet to perform at? And why? dublin. colombia. brazil. Italy
I have to say Dublin, being in my home country was my favourite, and I was really happy that my family could come to see the show too. Irish audiences are pretty special in any case - Shakira had a fantastic reception there. Colombia was amazing too, it was quite special to see the response to her there.
How has your heritage affected your musical style and creative passion? When I was growing up, my dad played lots of Irish music on harmonica and whistles, as well as playing cassettes of Irish musicians. I was very much in the classical music world, and wasn’t that interested in trad / folk, I thought it was boring. However when I moved to London and started to tour I felt embarrassed not to be fluent in the musical style of my own country, especially when people from other countries would know Irish melodies. So I started learning and remembering Irish tunes and songs, and realised that my voice sounds best singing this style and that it is the most natural and least effort for me to sing - it must have part of me all along from having it around me as a child. I now play a lot of trad. and sing in Irish (Gaelic) - one of my recordings, ‘Mo Ghile Mear’ was used in a Specsaver’s advert which is currently being shown in UK, Ireland and Spain (the one with the sheepdog). I have my own band called Una and the Balkan Bears who mix Irish, Eastern European and classical music.
What is the best song instrument for you? /
What’s your favorite live song you currently play on The Sun Comes Out tour? (From Algeria) I like playing Ojos Asi a lot as I get to play much violin (which is my favourite of the instruments I play on the tour) and have a bit of a solo moment, but Ciega is the most fun. I always feel both the band and audience become really alive in this one.
What’s your favorite Shakira song? Right now my favourite is ‘Rabiosa’, Shakira’s current single from Sale El Sol album
How many instruments do you play in total during this tour? Fadi - Beirut, Lebanon
I play acoustic violin, electric violin, strohviol (hornviolin) accordion, whistles, maracas, shaker and sing background vocals.
How many instruments can you play besides the violin? (From China) Besides the instruments on this tour, I also play viola, piano, ukulele, and am learning the musical saw.
What was the funniest thing that happened to you or any of your band mates on stage on this tour? In the last dress rehearsal in Toronto we were all set to run the show and Shakira came into the audience area in her pink outfit and shawl for Pienso En Ti but was looking a bit odd. She walked almost to the stage before we realised it was actually our tour manager Marty in her outfit. If you know him that was pretty funny...
How is your experience working with Shakira? Do you like to work with her? It is great to work with Shakira, I have seen many new places on this tour and played to huge audiences. She has managed to keep a career going at a high level for so many years and it is interesting to watch how she has achieved that. Shakira has high standards and takes an interest in every detail of what happens in her show, from video to lighting, and has astute ears - she never misses a mistake, so it pushes everyone to do their best job every night.
Do you feel you have grown musically speaking by working with Shakira? I feel most gigs I do I grow musically in some way. Shakira’s music covers a few different styles - for ‘Gypsy’ I improvise my part, and have to play a mix of Irish and gypsy-jazz style. Nothing Else Matters is more of a classical acoustic violin sound for me, and I have to find a more Middle Eastern sound for Ojos Asi. I have a 4 minute improvised solo as introduction to it, which has definitely pushed me a little - I don’t usually have much room for improvisation on pop gigs, and this solo doesn’t have a set length, it depends on how long Shakira needs to change her costume, so I have to be ready to make it sound finished at any time. I pretty much learned how to play accordion for this tour (Tortura) too, so that was something new.
Has it been challenging for you to learn the Spanish chorus for Shakira’s Spanish songs? I was nervous about this part as some of the shows we do are almost completely in Spanish and I didn’t speak a word, but have to sing in every song. The other background vocalist Olgui taught me all the Spanish parts - she was fantastic and made it quite easy to remember. I learned it all phonetically, but have since tried to learn the meanings too to improve my Spanish.
Can you play any compositions by Niccolò Paganini? Actually right now my violin is out on my bed in my hotel room with some sheet music for his Caprices next to it - I’ve been trying to learn lots of new music in my spare time on tour. I’m also learning Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole - it felt appropriate to learn this on a tour with such a Spanish influence.
What's your hobby?
This week it is sleep! We have been flying after shows overnight so we are pretty exhausted! I also enjoy hula hooping
What are the things that you like from Latin America? The best part of being in Latin America was the people - they were all so welcoming, friendly and helpful everywhere we went. I also got addicted to the fries - I’m not usually a fan, but there was something about the way they were made.
Your flatmate is Hungarian. What do you think of Hungary? Budapest was really beautiful, we had a great couple of days there - I think there is a ‘behind the scenes’ video on Shakira’s website of us looking around the city.
You're so young, talented and have achieved a lot. What's your biggest dream now?
My dream is to keep working and earning a living, preferably playing a variety of music with great musicians. And to be happy and healthy!
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