Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

The music of the Greencards can be best described as traditional acoustic music. But it is the artful singing of Carol Young and Kym Warner’s moving mandolin with Eamon McLoughlin, on violin that makes this trio stand out in a business that seems to see many bands come and go.

While Young and Warner are from Australia, McLoughlin hails from South London, England. He began his professional fiddle career at 13 when he boarded a train to attend the Royal School of Music in London. He has since performed with such country-music artists as Ray Wylie Hubbard and Kelly Willis, as well as the Austin Lounge Lizards. The Greencards recently performed at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, where they won the “Best New Band” award at the Austin Music Awards event.

The Greencards' lively debut CD, “Movin On,” was released last November and with their touring, the band have been gaining legions of new fans. The trio has also performed with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

Dan Keegan: You were a classically trained violinist. How did you come to be interested and involved in country music?
Eamon McLoughlin: My parents are Irish and they were always into music. My dad was always in bands in London. We grew up, as all the kids started taking music lessons, he started putting us through the band. My dad was always a big fan of country music and we just kind of got into it through him and through that experience. I was playing on the weekends from about the age of 13. You know, good exposure for me.

What was the experience of playing with your father’s band like?
I can only call it invaluable. You just learn all the unwritten rules at an early age. You learn a lot of Do’s and Don’t’s at an age where you’re ready to accept rules. Which was cool.

What Do’s and Don’t’s did you pick up?
Do the job properly. I guess that’s one of the Do’s. Just take it seriously. If you’re going to play, play. And you have to do your practice during the week. Simple rules, but fundamental ones, really.

Let’s talk about your current band. What brought The Greencards together?
Kym and Carol had been playing together in Australia for a number of years. They came over to America to put a band together and play some music. I, on the other hand, this is actually my seventh year in Austin. I came here for the same reason. After I finished college I just wanted to play music and this is where I ended up. So, we came here for the same reasons. Our paths crossed because Kym was producing a record in Austin for a guy called Ben Atkins and he needed a fiddle player. Somebody gave him my number, so he called me up. It was strange to hear an Australian person calling myself, an Englishman, for a session of Texas country music. So it was kind of bizarre from the outset. Then I got down to the studio and we just kind of became mates, really. Stayed in touch. Eventually we figured out that we should be playing together. So that’s what we did.

How long has the group been together?
I think we got together…maybe two years this month.

Or April. I can’t remember when the first gig was. It may have been April.

Well, happy anniversary, whenever it was.
Thank you.

How has the group’s style or identity evolved since you got together?
It’s still evolving, really. We all have a background that’s steeped in traditional bluegrass. At the same time, we all have lots of different influences. Irish music, pop music, British pop music. I know Kym used to listen to AC/DC and all that kind of stuff. So when we write and when we put stuff together we’re kind of drawing on all of that. I think we’re just playing around with all our influences at the moment, seeing what pictures we can paint. And hopefully there’s a lot more to come.

What is your songwriting process like? Is it more individual or more collaborative?
I think Kym and Carol are probably the most collaborative unit in the band. As you can tell from the credits, they worked together on more stuff than any other group in the band. It’s kind of changing. First album, it was the first major contact with writing that we’d all had. Now I think we’re more comfortable with doing a bit more group collaboration. We’ve just finished writing an instrumental that all three of us wrote. I hope and I think there’ll be a lot more of that to come on the next record. Which would be nice.

Do you have a preference for instrumentals? Songs?
To me the hardest to do is the songs. Everyone’s different, the others might give you different answers. The songs, it seems to me, are the hardest jewels to find. To deliver the songs properly, to work it up in rehearsal, to fit in and find your parts. That’s probably the most difficult for me.

Any plans for a live CD?
It hasn’t come up on the agenda. But it’s a good idea.

What kinds of music are you listening to these days?
Everyone has their own personal CD collection. I wish I could tell you what Kym and Carol are listening to right now. I’m sure Carol’s listening to Gillian Welch because Gillian’s performing in Austin on Thursday. So she’s probably listening to a bit of Gillian. I’ve been on an Irish kick recently. I’ve been listening to Mary Black, who’s an Irish singer. I pretty much always listen to a certain fiddle player -- I’ve been getting back into listening to Mark Conner recently. You could probably say the same for Kym. He’s always listening to one or two or more mandolin players. Couldn’t tell you who at the moment. It never strays too far. Listening to music is almost like doing research sometimes.

Thanks for your time.
Absolutely, anytime. Cheers.

by Dan Keegan, 2004