What is your background in music? What first inspired you to play music?

I come from an extremely musical family in Trillick Co. Tyrone where every aunt, uncle and cousin has a musical party piece. We used to have extended family music sessions and as a child I absorbed a lot of different styles that way, as well as the ability to play by ear.

My sisters and I were very lucky that our parents placed such emphasis on music growing up. They provided so many opportunities for us.

What instrument/instruments do you play and how long have you been playing? Are you self-taught or did you have a tutor?

I’ve been playing music since I was five years old, so approaching twenty years now! Fiddle is my main instrument these days but I also have grade eight in piano, classical violin and music theory, and can play guitar, viola and tin whistle with a bit of persuading. I went to group classes at Irvinestown CCE under the guidance of Brenda McCann, and later was taught solo fiddle by Nuala McBride.

What genre/genres do you consider your music to be?

My main genre is folk music, which includes Irish, English and Scottish traditional, Jewish klezmer music, and American country and bluegrass among others. At live gigs however, I love the challenge of improvising to any song or style, especially something like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Master Blaster’ which you’d never expect to hear on the fiddle.

How would you describe your sound?

Folky! At gigs I improvise by ear along to any pop/rock/R&B as well as folk songs, but you can definitely hear my Irish training (hopefully in a good way!) Think ‘Hurricane’ by Bob Dylan and the amazing improvised fiddle lines by Scarlet Rivera that weave in and out of his singing: that’s the sound I’m aiming for.

What is your favourite piece of music to play and why?

Hard question! There’s an Irish hornpipe called ‘The Golden Eagle’ that I love to play because it was my grandad’s favourite. I never met him, but it means a lot to my mum’s side of the family.

How long have you been performing and where do you perform?

I went to Manchester to study Music and in 2019 I took the plunge as a full-time professional musician. Pre-lockdown I was gigging more and more in Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Birmingham and Oxford among other UK cities. My last gig before lockdown was at the Cheltenham Festival in the appropriately named ‘Guinness Village’!

What has been your favourite performance/concert to date?

A particularly special concert for me was back in 2016 when I was drafted in for an Irish/Jewish fusion concert in the Manchester Jewish Museum with some legendary Irish players: Michael McGoldrick, Dezi Donnelly and Angela Usher. We sold out all three shows that year, and have since performed in other venues including Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and the Irish Association Club.

Who or what are your major influences?

As a fiddle player, my favourite players include Fergal Scahill, Dezi Donnelly and Liz Carroll, though the list is endless. From a non-trad perspective, I’m also massively inspired by the musicality and song-writing skills of legendary pop/rock artists such as The Beatles.

Do you write your own music? If so, what inspires your composing?

I loved composing as a teenager (my GCSE compositions were awarded top in Northern Ireland), and I’m trying to get back into the habit of it as an adult. I always compose on the piano and my process begins with the harmonic structure, with the melody coming later.

Recently I’ve become one of those people who wakes up with a new tune from their dreams, which I never believed in before. I’d say the key to that is surrounding yourself with music 24/7!

What would be your dream concert/performance?

I would love to perform at the Celtic Connections Festival some day, or in a touring show like Lord of the Dance. Travelling with music is very special and I’d love to do more of it in the future once lockdown eases.

Do you always perform solo or do you also perform with an orchestra/group?

I very rarely perform on my own; many of my gigs are as a duo alongside a singer/guitarist, or as part of a larger group. I often get called on to perform with bands around the UK, especially in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day when Irish fiddle becomes very trendy!

What has been your best moment as a musician so far?

Last summer I was lucky enough to play with the great fiddle player Fergal Scahill (from We Banjo Three) at the High Notes Festival in Italy. He uploaded a video of us playing a duet together which has received nearly 50 thousand views!

What is the most unusual venue you have performed at?

I once had a gig playing Jewish klezmer music aboard a moving train: the ‘Manchester Folk Train’, which runs from the city centre out to Glossop in the Peak District and back again.

What’s the best thing about performing?

For me, it’s the confidence I feel and the connection with the audience and fellow musicians. I feel very privileged that my job can bring a lot of happiness to people.

Any last words?

You can find me on Facebook under ‘Méabh Kennedy Musician’, where any likes, comments or shares are always appreciated. Also, be kind to the musicians in your life right now - this pandemic is hitting us hard!