Irish Music Guy
Kevin Farley began his music career at age 9 in Caldwell, NJ as drummer for the Echoes, Jefferson School’s best and only rock power trio. His parents were very generous about offering to drive his drums to other kids’ houses, and he played in too many bands to count until retiring at age 14, exhausted by the demands of life on the road traveling to towns adjacent to Caldwell. In high school, he devoted his efforts to journalism and creative writing, as well as distance running, student government, and taking the bus to New York most weekends to attend concerts.
Kevin studied Creative Writing at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, and returned to playing music at age 20, when he began classical guitar studies with
Michael Katz from the University of Southern Maine, often bartering for the fee by cleaning Mr. Katz’s apartment or washing his car. This connection led to a life-altering series of lessons with legendary Cuban guitarist Rey de la Torre at his home in Fremont, California. He taught while lying in bed due to rheumatoid arthritis, but showed prodigious energy in an impassioned speech to Kevin about the advisability of spending less time practicing and more time experiencing the ups and downs of life away from the guitar. “If your life is empty,” he said, “Your music will be too.”
During his time studying classical guitar, Kevin discovered the music of Irish harper/composer Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) as well as learning standard repertoire by Spanish, Italian and South American composers. One night in 1978, a friend convinced him to join a group driving to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to hear an Irish folk duo called the Carpetbaggers. One thing led to another and a few months later, Kevin, whose involvement with Irish music previously had been limited to seeing the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem several times on the Ed Sullivan show, hit the road playing bass guitar and singing harmony with this well-traveled and very busy enterprise, often racking up 200+ gigs a year. “It turned out to be massively educational, due to the vast knowledge and solid musical ability of my partner, David Gloriant,” said Farley. “I had to push hard to not look bad next to him.”
During his five years with the Carpetbaggers, Kevin expanded his musical range, first with mandolin and penny whistle, then taking fiddle lessons with the great Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham and working with pioneer voice coach Ron Clairmont in New York. He also plays Celtic harp, bodhran (Irish drum), and rhythm bones, as well as guitar. “Other long-term relationships with piano accordion and banjo eventually came to an end that was merciful to all concerned,” said Farley.
In addition to Irish Music Guy, Kevin has performed with jazz tap dance and vocal trio Suite:Feet, played drums with original alternative pop band Those Charming Deviationists, acted in musical theater productions by the OgunquitPlayhouse and Hackmatack Playhouse, produced a CD by Irish folk group the Makem Brothers, emceed the Share Our Strength Concert for Hunger at Portsmouth Music Hall,
and published a bestselling memoir about the transformative and healing power of the ancient and noble art of theatre. He also maintains a side project called Celt Extreme, exploring the fusion of traditional sounds with electronic elements like looping, synthesizers, electronic percussion, and a stethoscope connected to an amplifier, among other things. He continues to practice music as much as he possibly can, while giving sufficient attention to his marriage to Cheryl Farley, four children, a grandchild, dog, house in Maine, friends, traveling, classic movies, going to the theatre, reading, running, biking, golf, tennis, skiing, building stone walls, doing events for his book, and otherwise living a full life of ups and downs away from the guitar.
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