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Phelim Drew on paying tribute to his dad in his new show

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Phelim Drew, actor and son of Ronnie Drew, singer with The Dubliners. Photo: Mark Condren

Phelim Drew, actor and son of Ronnie Drew, singer with The Dubliners. Photo: Mark Condren

Phelim Drew, actor and son of Ronnie Drew, singer with The Dubliners. Photo: Mark Condren

Phelim Drew (51) is an actor and musician. He lives in the Liberties with his wife Sue Collins, a comedian, and part of the comedy duo Dirt Birds. They have four children – Vivian (16), Milo (15) and twins Seanie and Lily (13)

 

What were you like as a boy growing up in Greystones, Co. Wicklow?

I was very happy-go-lucky and I had plenty of friends. Greystones was a wonderful place to grow up. I watched far too much television. You got to see Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges and Harold Lloyd and it was a great education in that respect. Kids are missing out on those sort of influences and the skill sets that came from vaudeville.

 

What drives you?

I’m not particularly driven but I try to push myself a little more all the time. As long as I’m planting a few seeds, things come to fruition.

 

Choose three words to describe yourself.

Fun-loving, introspective and observant.

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Your dad was Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners. Your new show is a tribute to him. What was it like to be his son?

He was inclined to let me find my own way in the world and learn from my mistakes. Respect for older people and those less fortunate was a big thing for us growing up. I bought a pair of drainpipe jeans when I was 13. He’d say, “Go up and put them on. Give us a laugh!” He was a master storyteller and captivating singer, so it was always a privilege to listen to him. But my attempts at The House of The Rising Sun were encouraged too.

 

Are you a glass half-full person?

Yes. I like to see the good in people. I assume that things are going to work out.

 

You’re an actor and now you’ve branched into music. Why have you decided to do this show?

In the past six years, I’ve been finding new ways to express myself and part of that is becoming a better musician. I could be doing a show about going to Mars from Nasa and people will always find a way of bringing my dad and The Dubliners into it. No matter what I do, people are really interested in talking about my father, so it was staring me in the face. Doing this show has been very cathartic. I toured with my dad from the age of 12 to 16. It’s not that the musician’s life never appealed to me but I had ambitions in other places – acting.

 

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

To listen. As an actor, it’s one of those things that’s taken for granted.

 

Best advice you give?

Don’t be preoccupied with short-term goals. They are not that important in the long term.

 

Who are your role models?

I look up to people who achieve what they set out to achieve. I’ve always had this fascination with boxers and jockeys; people who are competing against themselves to a large extent and the discipline and self-determination it takes. And I’ve always admired Daniel Day Lewis for his performances. I had a miniscule part in My Left Foot. People have this image of him being a self-consumed Method actor. But he’s extremely playful and fun and such a gentleman.

 

What are you listening to?

Too Late to Cry by Lonnie Johnson. I’m learning to play it, so that’s my obsession at the moment.

 

What are you watching?

I loved The White House Farm Murder. It’s set in the 1980s and they captured it perfectly – people dancing to Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The detective, played by Mark Addie, is this middle-aged overweight, heavy smoker. He’s the very opposite of what we normally get sold. I’d much rather be in a room with him having a few drinks than Don Johnson in Miami Vice.

 

What do you do for laughs?

I hang out with my family because they are great fun. The kids all have very strong personalities and Sue is hilarious, so I don’t have to go very far for a laugh.

 

A celebration of the Songs of Ronnie Drew & The Dubliners performed by Phelim Drew & The Drew Band, filmed in Newbridge House as part of TradFest and St Patrick’s Week @home tradfest.ie


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