Listening to The Lagan Sessions

The Lagan Sessions is fast becoming the place for acoustic musicians to be seen and heard.

The brainchild of County Down songwriters Steve Amos and David McCann recently celebrated its first birthday topped off with a cake baked by Edelle Mcmahon, one of the evening’s performers.

The no nonsense attitude to live performance – audiences are asked to listen while the performers are on stage – has garnered an enviable reputation.  Several high profile musicians have taken to the stage to avail of a wonderful atmosphere where they have tried out new compositions to an audience made up with a sprinkling of songwriters, musicians and those there simply to hear good acoustic music.

We recently talked to The Lagan Sessions founders Steve and David.

So when did you guys meet?

David: We met about five years ago when we were doing the rounds of the Open Mic nights. I heard this guy play a song called Aeroplane Calypso which I quite liked. I told him I liked it.

Steve: Around that time we attended a songwriting course and got to know each other a bit better.

How did you come up with the Lagan Sessions?

Steve: At a lot of the Open Mic nights you couldn’t be heard.  As a writer of comedy songs, if people don’t actually listen to the words, then I might as well be sitting in the corner speaking in Russian.

David: There are some very good Open Mic nights, but I think we felt we could do something a bit different.

Steve: Also, we found it hard to really connect with an audience with just two or three songs.

David: In 2010 we had the chance to talk more about it and when we heard that the Pavilion might be available we approached them.

And the name, The Lagan Sessions?

David: We did struggle with that for quite a while.

Steve: Yes we had a number of names. OBsession was one.

David: Mmmm, we had REsessions as well.

So it was the Lagan Sessions then.  Has it been a success?

David: Very much so.  In the beginning it was just word of mouth. We had people like Gareth Dunlop, Eilidh Patterson, Matt McGinn and Anthony Toner along to play in the early days.

For those reading this, how do artists get to appear?

David: When someone approaches us, we ask to get a sample of their work – a Youtube video perhaps.  Preferably from a live performance.

Steve: We really look for originality.  The odd cover is OK if it has been done with some thought.  We stress that is an acoustic set; there are already plenty of venues for bands with amps and full drum kits.

David: We have four or five performers each week and they get to do maybe five or six songs. Because it’s acoustic we have a fairly quick turnaround

What are the future plans?

Steve: Ideally we’d like to be celebrating a few more birthdays and we’d like to get the Lagan Sessions better known as a trusted source of good music.

David: Luckily we’ve had really good people on board from the start.  Matt McIlvor does a really good job with the sound and he captures recordings of the live performances, which he uploads to Soundcloud each week.  The quality is amazing.

Steve: Paul Kavanagh is on board as well – he’s an excellent photographer and he uploads his photoset to Facebook after the gigs.  From now on, whenever possible, he’ll also be creating some YouTube videos, combining his photographs with Matt’s sound files.
Joanne Ham has also produced some excellent High Definition videos of a few gigs as well as some great photographs.

David: There are a lot of positive ideas right now.  We’ve just started to accept the help of a very enthusiastic and talented group of volunteers in the running and planning of the sessions.  Recently we’ve been showcasing a few events around the country, and, who knows, maybe in future we’ll have The Lagan Sessions on Tour. 

Catch the Lagan Session each Sunday night at the Pavilion on the Ormeau Road, Belfast at 8pm.

See the Lagan Sessions Facebook page for further details or visit the website www.LaganSessions.com

Stephen Dunwoody


Listening to The Lagan Sessions

David and Steve (image)