Jamie Smith

Your music’s been described as ‘happy music’. What makes you happy?
Nothing. I pour all my happiness into the music, holding back not a drop of joy for myself.

How did you start playing the accordion?
I was encouraged by my parents at a young age after they noticed my interest in the accordion player in the folk dance group they danced with. His name was Don Randall and ultimately he is responsible for scarring me at such an impressionable age! Think of the other instruments I might have played! At least he diverted my attention from the bodhran player.

What inspires you?
I honestly don’t know!

You compose as well – any other strings to your bow?

Acoustic guitar and singing, usually both at the same time.

One critic said your music transports the listener to inside a Breton bistro. How do you describe your sound?

Original, interceltic, world music. A true
exploration of forms and styles found in Celtic music and their forging into
something bold and new.

You are a proper Welsh boy – how has this influenced your music?

I first started playing the accordion for a Welsh folk dance group, which was my way into folk music. My parents had been with the group since before I was born and the tunes they played were engraved on my mind long before I picked up an instrument. There’s not an obvious Welsh folk sound to Mabon – if you can tell me what that is anyway? – But those early musical experiences must have left their mark on my music. I’m not sure what a proper Welsh boy is, but I’m pretty sure I don’t fit the description!

Do you like going to Breton bistros?

Yes. Mabon has an official favourite Breton restaurant called La Randonnée, which we have named a track from our OK Pewter
album after. You can hear the triumphant moment in the piece when the spoon cracks through the brittle caramel layer surface of the crème brulee!

You got married in 2007 – did you play at the wedding? Any dancing?

Mabon played – I was hardly going to pay out for the Michael McGoldrick band! Gráinne, my wife, calls ceilidhs so we had some dancing too.

Will you be introducing your son Frank to the joys of Celtic music? Have you got him playing the accordion yet?

He’s already a festival veteran, the same as I was at a young age. I like to think he enjoys Celtic music best, but he always seems to fall asleep at Mabon gigs!

What are you most proud of?

Career-wise, completing a successful month-long tour with Mabon.

You’ve performed in Mexico, Canada and Australia. Any cool spots to
recommend?

If you’re after a cool spot then forget the above and try a festival called Celtica, which takes place in a forest valley beneath Mont Blanc in Italy. The atmosphere is amazing, but it’s a bit nippy on stage at midnight!
 
You have a thing for fantasy literature – what are your favourite books?


Lord of The Rings trilogy and the series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R. R. Martin.

What would you be if you weren’t a musician?

I’d write fantasy epics.

Do you ever get sick of the other band members – or do you all get along swimmingly?

I think we all get along very well and touring never seems like hard work. 
We heard you played at an asparagus festival in Brittany?

Don’t be ridiculous! It was an artichoke festival.

Any musical heroes / heroines?

My favourite artists are The Beatles, Rufus Wainwright, John Mayer, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Karine Polwart, Radiohead, Flook, Lunasa (the early years), The Killers, Muse. The Beatles stand alone as heroes though.

Do you like dancing – and do you like to make your audiences dance?

I think I don’t like dancing, but occasionally I surprise myself (and my wife) in a ceilidh or fest-noz. My favourite dance is the mazurka.
It’s great to get audiences up dancing, but I’ve yet to figure out how to get them to sit down again and listen to a slow tune!

What does the future hold Jamie?

Simple: The continuation of an endless journey of self-improvement, musically and otherwise, and the mission to make Mabon the best Celtic band in the world.

A cool mojito? Cuban cigar? How do you relax after a hard day?

Now I do enjoy a mojito, but failing that I love a good film.