Galway, Ireland’s We Banjo 3 has found common ground in the musicians’ loves: Celtic and Americana music.
Call it “Celtgrass,” they said.
“We were all banjo players who were inspired by traditional Irish culture and music,” said David Howley, who is joined in the band by Enda and Fergal Scahill and by Martin Howley.
“Irish and Celtic music has had a lot of influence on genres around the world, like country, bluegrass and even American folk music,” Howley said. “Our sound represents a cross pollination with bluegrass. Irish music includes a huge amount of energy, while bluegrass has incredible instrumental pyrotechnics. ‘Celtgrass’ means the blending of the drive of Irish music and the instrumental style of bluegrass along with the heart and soul of folk music.”
Fans can hear We Banjo 3’s “Celtgrass” sound when it comes to the Chandler Center for the Arts on Friday, Feb. 1.
These brothers are among the most celebrated and distinguished musicians from their country. Martin Howley is a seven-time “All Ireland” banjo and mandolin champion. A “banjo wizard,” Enda Scahill, an author on Irish banjo techniques, holds four “All Ireland” titles.
Multi-instrumentalist Fergal Scahill is among the most acclaimed fiddlers in Irish music, with a growing international reputation, and “All Ireland” titles on fiddle and bodhran.
David Howley, with “All-Ireland” titles on guitar and banjo, is the group’s vocalist and guitarist known for his showmanship and deeply emotive vocals. The Howleys live in Nashville.
We Banjo 3’s debut album, Roots of the Banjo Tree, was released in 2012, followed by Gather the Good in 2014; String Theory, which climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass chart in 2016; and its most recent CD, Haven, which was released last summer.
Haven won best folk album at the inaugural RTE Radio 1 Folk Awards. It is We Banjo 3’s fourth studio album and fifth overall. It marked the first time the band recorded in America.
“Each of us, individually, has had interesting musical careers up to this point,” Howley said. “I live in Nashville and I spend a lot of time writing music and hanging out with different musicians.
“Last week, I sat around with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Martin was the first Irish banjo player to play the Grand Ol’ Opry. Fergal is a world-renowned fiddler. Separately, he’s famous for playing and recording a fiddle tune for every single day of the year for social media (in 2017). He has a massive following because of this.”
Throughout We Banjo 3’s journey, the musicians have spent time with Mumford and Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show.
“We’ve just become part of this sphere,” Howley said. “What’s really cool is we have a mutual admiration for what each other does.”
Howley describes the upcoming Chandler show as inclusive.
“The show is about being real with the audience,” he said. “We don’t take ourselves very seriously. We have fun and laugh. We create a space for people to come to a show and maybe forget the things that happened that week.
“For two hours, we want you to have a great time and sing along with songs you may have never heard before. We teach people to enjoy the show as they go, and connect with the people around you. Music is the great language everybody understands. When you get a bunch of people in the room together and put aside all the political or social things that are going on, everybody goes back to being a human. I really enjoy that.”