Earlier this year I attended the 11th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival and was thoroughly entertained by a rather avant-garde singer songwriter and pianist by the name of Stephen Dunwoody. Representing ‘The Lagan Sessions’ in turn and as part of a four act spectacular along with Steve Amos, Lazy Flies and Edelle McMahon performing their own material it was pretty incredible and by the end I was absolutely knackered.
Multi-genre Stephen Dunwoody has supported many popular artists over the years including Jools Holland and The Corrs to name just a couple. Although best known for performing and recording his own works and compositions Stephen recently paid homage to legendary Nina Simone in a production entitled ‘Nina And Me’.
In a rather retro fashion today I picked up the phone and had a good old-fashioned chat with Stephen who generously agreed to answer a pretty packed question for us about his latest song “Miami”.
“Hi Stephen, thanks for agreeing to tell us about your latest song Miami. Combining your lyrics, outstanding music & wonderfully nostalgic video which all truly capture an essence of times past, in your own words, how was Miami created and brought together?
The song was written back in January. I just sat at the piano and played the opening line ‘The ice blew in from the Hudson’ and it developed from there.
The song Miami recalls a trip I undertook from New York to Miami a few years ago. It mirrored the journey the Miami Showband undertook in the 60s when they regularly toured there.
My uncle Brian McCoy was the band’s trumpet player and singer, although in reality he could play just about anything. He was my first musical hero; as a kid growing up in Ireland back then it was a bit like having a family member in a boyband or similar. The Miami were incredibly popular.
Stephen – At any family gathering I loved it when Brian came along. He had such fun and energy.
On his way to the fateful gig in 1975, he posted my birthday card to me when he crossed the border. I suppose he knew if he posted it in the North it would get there more quickly. The day after him and his band mates were killed I got my card along with the awful news.
I have been a musician for a long time and I have no idea why I waited so long to write the song. I think it would have been wrong to profit from a family tragedy. Nowhere in the song is the tragedy mentioned other than the line ‘On the very night he left us, dropped my card into the post’.
Anyway, I sent Brian’s wife and children a copy of the song for their approval. My cousin was just four when his dad died. His sister was just a baby.
In July when we met up for the 40th anniversary of the murders at a service in Dublin my cousin mentioned an old cine film he found in the loft when he was putting down insulation.
When he got it transferred to digital he saw his dad walking towards him. He had only ever seen little polaroids of him.
The film that the band made of their trip to the US in 1968 seemed to tie in with my song, almost scarily so! The finished video includes this footage which had never been seen before.
Stephen – In the song Miami I wanted to get the best trumpet player I could find to play the solo, and of course there is no one better than Linley Hamilton. In my opinion his playing really makes it.
We got a terrific reception when we premiered it on Culture Night in Rosemary Street Church as part of my ‘Nina and Me’ concert where we had a full house. When we received a standing ovation at the end, I thought to myself. ‘That’s nice, Brian would have been proud’.
Joe – Thank you Stephen and I look forward to catching you again.
For lots more music, videos, news and tour dates visit stephendunwoody.com.