Nearly 15 years ago, audiences were enchanted by a young Leonardo DiCaprio who swept Kate Winslet off her feet – escorting her below decks for a rowdy Irish party in a little film called “Titanic”. Bagpipes a-pipin’ and bodhrán a-drummin’, a relatively unknown Celtic group at the time called Gaelic Storm supplied the foot-stomping melodies for the now classic scene, which soon catapulted them into the world-music stratosphere.
Nine albums later, the Grammy-winning rockers are in the midst of a massive national tour, which includes a stop at the Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix on October 10. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Steve Twigger recently took a break from a sound-check one morning to speak with The East Valley Tribune, where he discussed “Titanic”, the band’s success and what fans can expect from Gaelic Storm’s latest album, “Chicken Boxer”.
Could you tell me a little bit about how Gaelic Storm first came together and how you guys got involved with “Titanic”?
We started out in Santa Monica: Patrick was a bartender at an Irish pub and I lived just around the corner. I came in one day, and Pat got up and sang a song with one of the musicians there. I was playing in a band and we soon became friends and that led to the creation of Gaelic Storm.
A couple months later, the “Titanic” people spotted us playing at a little festival in town and saw the party that we put together there – people dancing and having a great time – and thought it was perfect for that scene and there we were, a couple months later recording in the Sony studios for the soundtrack and a few months after that, we were down in Mexico on the set. That’s really the genesis of it.
How long was the band on set for and how would your describe your overall experience working on such a timeless film?
We were on-set on and off for a few weeks, with wardrobe fittings and what have you. It was fantastic. We got to meet all the stars and hang out; it was a lot of fun. We were treated very well and it was just a brand new experience for us so it was wonderful.
Did you see the group’s popularity instantly spike once the movie hit theaters or would you say it was more of a gradual process?
It was pretty instant – the phone started ringing pretty much straight away. We avoided it; we really had no ambitions to take this any bigger than we already had. I had already had my ambitious phase and really wanted to keep it pure, simple, kind-of folky and local. Gradually, we were tempted to go out to find bigger and better places to play and go on tours, and we really found that we could take a little show and bring it to thousands of people. The transition, after being scared, was actually really easy.
Can you tell me about your new record, “Chicken Boxer”, which was just released this summer? What can fans that may not have heard the album yet expect and how might it differ from previous records that the group has made?
You know, it’s the ninth CD and we’ve done very well with the last few albums, which have gone to No. 1 on the world Billboard charts. This one did the same – every time is a challenge to get something new out of you. I think we achieved it this time. Patrick and I took a trip around Ireland and really found inspiration there. We spent 8 days traveling about 1,100 miles around Ireland and went into the studio, and just kind of let it flow. I’d be writing stacks and stacks of lyrics.
When the music started to flow, I’d often write lyrics down on the spot. Quite a few lyrics were written in that fashion: in a jam session with the recording rolling in the background. I think the style is kind of a hybrid of a lot of influences, from rock music to world music. We had no agenda and no pigeonhole to fit into or not to fit into, and we just let it all out.
I understand that you guys have a pretty lengthy tour ahead of you, how is that going so far?
Oh, it’s been great. It’s festival season, so we’ve had a major festival almost every weekend and select dates in-between. We’ve been in the Midwest for a while and that’s fantastic, we got lucky with the weather for the festivals and now we’re on the East Coast. It’ll be awhile before we circle back around again.
Why would you recommend that people check out your show when Gaelic Storm comes to Phoenix this October?
We always have a good time down there. You know, it’s just kind of a real event. You know, there’s no real separation between the audience and us – we love our audiences and we just want them to have a good time every night. We want the audience to be just like another member of the band so we make it just like one big party every night.
Why do you believe that “Titanic” continues to resonate so strongly with audiences nearly 15 years after its initial release, and how would you describe the overall impact that the film has had on the band’s career?
I think it showed people their heritage here in America and showed them what they had to endure one way or another. People connected with their roots, I think, at that point in time. Its impact in the sort of traditional Celtic arena at the time was huge. I think it gave the whole genre a boost because it connected to so many people, especially that scene. Whatever you may think of the movie as a whole, that scene is just very real. It’s very happy.
- The four-disc 2D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with Digital Copy and the four-disc Blu-ray 3D and 2D combo pack with Digital Copy of “Titanic” is now available.