Wednesday 28 September 2016

Life lessons with Luka Bloom: 'I've been single for the last four years, and to be honest, quite contentedly so'

Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30

Luka Bloom is touring Ireland during September and October. Photo: Damien Eagers
Luka Bloom is touring Ireland during September and October. Photo: Damien Eagers
Music men: Luka Bloom with brother Christy Moore

Born into a very musical family, Luka Bloom (61) is the youngest of six and grew up in Newbridge, Co Kildare. He was christened Barry Moore, but changed his name for professional reasons. A very popular singer-songwriter, he has recorded 20 albums to date and is currently on tour nationwide. Luka lives in Co Clare, and has two sons, Robbie and Tom, and two grandsons, Tom (2), and John (two months).

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The devastating premature death of our father Andy was a formative event of my life. He was only 41 and was having an ingrown toenail removed when the anaesthetic killed him. I was aware of the absence of my father growing up, but probably not to the same extent as my older siblings. My brother Christy was 11 when our dad died, but I was only 18 months old so it was all I knew.

Our mother Nancy was the centre of my universe. She was amazing, and as time goes on, I am more in awe of the sacrifices she made so that her six children would thrive, despite her sadness at becoming a widow at 33.

There was no helicopter parenting going on in Newbridge in the 1950s. I had a great childhood, and while we had less in terms of material things, our assets were each other. My pals and I solved problems together, hurt each other physically and probably mentally a bit too, learned to swim and ride bikes together and had as much fun as possible.

I went to boarding school in my home town, which was weird. I was a little on the wild side, so my mother felt it might do me no harm. We were like caged animals as it was a single-sex school with male teachers. It's co-ed now with a lot of female teachers, and I feel that young men and women are much more relaxed with each other today than my generation was.

Didn't we do a great thing when we liberated ourselves from the great oppressors and then handed the country over to our next great oppressors? At least the Brits had the decency to invade us - the priests and nuns didn't even do that and we gave them the keys to the schools. People say that we wouldn't had have education back then without them, but it's unfortunate that this aspect of our lives was dictated by men in long frocks.

My sister Eilish got me my first guitar, and Christy came home from England with the most beautiful guitar for me. It was at my mother's request because she saw I had a talent with it. I hid it at school, and would take it out for five minutes between classes. It was so important for me to have those moments, and I still sing and play with the same sense of urgency and love that I did then.

I really looked up to Christy and he was a great big brother. He took me on a trip to the north of England in 1967, and it was amazing getting to hang out with him and seeing my brother going out on stage. Everyone was so quiet listening to him singing, which was mind-blowing to me. I got up and did a few numbers and got a great reaction, but I was only 12 and people were kind.

I don't take the name Luka Bloom any more seriously than the multitude of Irish men with nicknames. It was never about distancing myself from my family - I changed my name professionally because I realised that I needed to completely start again after I made three albums in my own name and they sank. It was a particular moment when I did something that turned out to be a little bit brave and fortuitous.

I joke that Barry Moore is who I am but Luka Bloom is what I do. I was about 30 and had been writing songs for 15 years before I found a voice and realised it was something different and unique. I went to the US and it was lonely and a struggle, but also amazing because all of a sudden, there were people who wanted to hear my songs, especially in New York.

I have to force myself to stop touring, as it's a kind of beautiful addiction. I just love singing, and the connection with people is still what drives me today. I am blessed that the universe affords me the possibility to go out to places in the world and sing for people.

I feel sorry for previous generations of fathers who weren't allowed to be present at their child's birth. I think any man who isn't completely humbled and in awe of that experience is missing out in a serious way. There is no song and no achievement in my life that will ever come close to that feeling of privilege.

My sons are fantastic young men and it's an immense privilege being their father. They are very different and very inspiring, and I love them and am very close to both of them. They are the reason that I wanted to remain living in Ireland, as I've always wanted to be close enough to be able to see them.

Becoming a grandfather is very new and it is unbelievably beautiful too. I am doing a bit more swimming and cycling and minding myself these days, and maybe I'm subconsciously trying to ensure that I'm in reasonably good shape as my grandsons get older.

I have always been a bit of a loner, which made me uncomfortable when I was younger. I have had a couple of relationships in my adult life, and am incredibly grateful for each one. I've been single for the last four years, and to be honest, quite contentedly so. I focus my love more on my family and few close friends now, but the great thing about being a singer is that if you are really attentive to the business of singing, love is with you all the time.

Luka Bloom is touring Ireland during September and October. His new album 'Frúgalisto' and a list of tour dates are available from lukabloom.com

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