Clodagh Kearney

January 2020

Clodagh Kearney has been part of the Music Generation Cork City team since 2014, working as a voice, saxophone, clarinet and piano tutor on a range of programmes in partnership with Music Mash Up and Cork Academy of Music. She is a mentor-musician with New Orleans style brass ensemble Rebel Brass, and she performs regularly with her band Fire & Water (

Where do you call home?

Well, rather than get myself into trouble – I should explain that I’m a Yellowbelly at heart and a Corkonian in spirit. I was born and raised in Wexford and have lived in Cork for 10 years now – I would call both places home. It’s a strange and wonderful thing to have two true homes.

Best thing about your locality?

The best thing about Cork city for me is the diversity and brilliance in the music scene here – live music absolutely everywhere, at all times. The pride that Cork people have for their fellow Corkonians is an inspiring thing, and the support and energy that bands and music projects here get as a direct result of that local pride is outstanding.

Earliest memory of music?

To be totally honest… being 2 or 3 years old belting around my Ma’s kitchen in Wexford on a yellow Ninja Mutant Hero Turtles trike with a pair of sunglasses and a huge straw hat on with my microphone (some black metal thing you use to change the Stanley cooker from the oven to the hob) singing Stevie Nicks or Celine Dion or whoever was on the radio at that moment. Yup.

How would you describe the music you make?

The music I make with my band Fire and Water is a mix of reggae, neo soul, R’n’B, rock, or whatever is inspiring us at any given time. We are not fond of sticking to one genre and like to feel free to make whatever music happens to us at any particular time, honouring all of the music we have each loved in our lives.

What is your creative process like?

It’s grand because it’s unrestrictive in that it has no rules. If I sat down to try to be creative nothing would happen – I keep my notebook and my voice recorder handy everywhere I go in case I get inspired. I do love to spend a bit of time obsessing about a song or a singer or a sax or guitar player and religiously listen to them, absorbing the nuances of what they do and figuring out what makes them unique or figuring out what attracts me to their music. I much prefer to take all that to a jam session and create in a group than create alone. Better craic altogether.

Is there anyone in particular you would like to collaborate with?

I’d love to collaborate with fellow MGCC tutor Ophelia MC. She’s blown my mind many times; she’s a stand out artist, and we’re incredibly lucky to get to work with her in our Mashup groups. The lads in Fire and Water are all fans too.  So Ophelia if you’re reading this…. 😀 No pressure like

What was your favourite experience of performing / recording?

My favourite experience of performing was onstage in Paris a couple of years ago on a support tour with Geoff Tate (who is a fan of MGCC and has fundraised for the hub in Mahon, visiting last year with his family to meet the young musicians). Myself and my fiancé Tomás were playing an original number onstage when the drummer who also played with AC/DC, John Moyer from metal band Disturbed and the rest of Geoff’s band all sneaked up on stage and joined us. They’d learned our song instead of playing a mean trick which I hear is a tradition. So that was a once in a lifetime moment. We sold a serious stack of CDs that night!

Have you ever felt performance anxiety?

A lot, yeah. Worst incident ever was at a classical piano competition when I was about 16 or 17. It almost turned me off being a musician. The dots started swimming on the page and I blanked completely, all down to nerves. I started playing some random Metallica tune and after 10 or 11 seconds, got up and headed offstage. Luckily I had a phenomenal teacher who helped me get my confidence back and encouraged me to pursue music at third level in Cork. Here I am. I learned not to fear making mistakes from that so I guess it was worth it!

Who is your inspiration?

The piano teacher I just mentioned, Yvonne Collier. My saxophone teacher from FCJ Bunclody, Pat O’ Gorman. My singing teacher in Cork, Laoise Leahy. They probably inadvertently taught me how to teach while teaching me to play. I think they “showed” me music because they are all sensational performers – as a young person I think being “showed” music is the thing that drives you forward. You want to listen with all your might because the person asking you to heed their advice blows your mind with their skill and presence. I try to live up to that dual aspect of each of those mentors every day, as a tutor and a performer. Still learning!!

If you weren’t doing your current job, what might you be doing?

I might be a painter. I still paint sometimes though so to be fair I get the best of both worlds.

Your favourite item of clothing and why?

My tall black Doc Martins. I have no idea. Maybe because I’m short and they make me feel boss. Ha!

Last book you read?

I recommend it to all musicians. Or anyone. “The Music Lesson” by Victor Wooten.

Current favourite song?

“I Was Wrong”, Chris Stapleton. (Live at Austin City Limits). I really wish I could stop listening to it it’s making me demented, if it’s not playing aloud it’s belting away in my brain.

Favourite performance you were ever at?

Hard to narrow it down, live performances are hard to compare. I’ll say Guns ‘n’ Roses at Slane Castle a couple of years ago, just because it was a teenage dream come true.

A concert / show you wish you had been at?

I wish I’d seen Queen at Live Aid. “ALL WE HEAR IS…”

R.I.P Freddy, what a gig, what an artist, what a voice.

Performer you would like to see?

I want to see the band Lankum. I had a ticket to seem them at St. Luke’s this year and our band had a support slot for Lucky Chops in Cyprus Avenue which was amazing but we all missed Lankum. We’ll be there next time. They’re awesome, dead different.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl.

Your proudest moment?

My students make me proud all the time. I’m just going around with a big proud head on me there the whole time. H’on the lads.

What makes you happy?

Coffee, the bitta craic, travelling around playing music, gigging with Tomás and the band, hanging out with the fam, caint as Gaeilge, mastering some vocal riff, soap from LUSH, growing fruit and veg in my new Cork garden, watching students loving performing and making friendships out of it. Sin e.

What else are you up to at the moment?

Fire and Water are recording an album this year, 2020 is jam packed for us. We’ll be over and back to Germany a lot during the year gigging and recording. “On Pana” did really well for us (check it out, Rebel Brass make a deadly video debut in it) so we’re gonna keep pelting out the originals over the next few months.

Clodagh Kearney – Music Generation Cork City