ITHACA, NY -- The artful musicians of Lúnasa decided on their name from the ancient Celtic harvest festival in honor of the Irish deity Lugh. Formed in 1997, the band had former members from a wide range of popular Irish groups. And since their inception, the group has had a commitment to intricate rhythms and sophisticated musical arrangements. The band has also collaborated with other iconic artists such as Natalie Merchant, Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Tim O’Brien. According to their website, the group has “since sold over a quarter of a million records and performed over 2,000 shows across 36 countries.” Below, bassist Trevor Hutchinson spoke about his experiences with the band and the upcoming live performance at Cornell University on March 18.
Ithaca Times: For decades Lúnasa has been performing Irish music and is known the world over for their sold out shows. But talk about the way you first began to perform Irish tunes and how you were drawn to music? How did you choose the instrument you now play with?
Trevor Hutchinson: My involvement in Irish music came later than the rest of the guys; I grew up listening to the Beatles and the Stones and played electric bass in rock bands for several years. It was through working with Sharon Shannon who had joined the Waterboys during my time with them that I got drawn into the Irish traditional genre. I also started playing upright bass at that time which I thought worked better with the overall sound.
IT: Can you talk about how you first joined Lúnasa and what was that like for you in the beginning with this band given your past work with other artists?
TH: Lúnasa was originally formed as a once off project for an Australian tour that I had been offered, so we put together a lineup and recorded a cd specifically for that tour, not realizing we would still be together 25 years later. It was interesting in that we had total control of the direction of the music with no record company or management input. So we made plenty of mistakes along the way but at least they were our mistakes and I think we learned a lot from the process.
IT: All the members of Lúnasa play with verve, but how does the group focus to keep moving ahead and come up with new directions such as with your last release titled “CAS”? What was that like for you and the other members of the group?
TH: Every album is always a challenge trying to capture something of the live energy. We always had wanted to incorporate songs into our music and we took the opportunity to ask some artists that we had worked with over the years to collaborate on the album “CAS.” It was very refreshing to change the focus a little from jigs and reels etc. The songs required a softer, more ambient approach which I think balances well against the energy of the tunes.
IT: Is a new album possible in the next year?
TH: Now that we’re back on the road after two years we’ll hopefully start that conversation. The time off proved very difficult in terms of recording as we’re all scattered in different countries. We did manage a couple of online concerts but they were pretty challenging from a technical view.
IT: What will this coming performance at Cornell be like for you and what will be unique for you about it?
TH: We’re very much looking forward to the Cornell concert, we always have an amazing audience there and hopefully the energy we’ve experienced being back on the road will be even better by then. We also have our original fiddle player Sean Smyth back with us for this tour so that adds another dimension for us.
Lúnasa will perform at Cornell University’s Bailey Hall on Friday, March 18, at 8 p.m. For tickets, https://www.cornellconcertseries.com/lunasa-2022/