Celtic-American folk singer Marc Gunn
New Orleans-based Celtic-American musician Marc Gunn is not your typical folk singer. Armed with an autoharp and his signature look (stylish kilt and a head of epic metal-worthy hair), Gunn has garnered a cult following. His sources of inspiration range from Scotland to Star Wars, and next week he releases his 19th solo album, Happy Songs of Death.
Samantha Gillogly: Why happy death songs? Is there something inherent in Celtic culture that likes to mix the irreverent with the serious?
Marc Gunn: There is definitely something inherent in the Celtic culture about death and irreverence. Perhaps because it's such a frequent part of their culture over the last few hundred years with rebellion against oppression. Personally, I love the juxtaposition. I'm a naturally optimistic person and there's something fascinating about death. My friend Jamie (who recorded on this CD) once said the two most amazing things about life are the entrance into it and the departure from it. And I agree…it calls into question our own mortality. But I don't think we should approach it as a sad occasion. I don't want people to mourn my death. I want them to celebrate my life. And God willing, I'll give them many reasons to celebrate it.
SG: There is definitely a bluesy flavor to this album. Has your living in New Orleans had an impact on how you re-interpret Celtic music?
MG: Yes. It's funny. I came out of another bluesy town, Austin, but it never got me as excited about fusing blues or jazz nearly as much as New Orleans has. It's a great town that I've come to love and I'm learning there's a HUGE Irish influence in this town that most people don't recognize.
SG: You do quite a bit of touring on the Renfaire and sci-fi/fantasy convention circuit. Do you find the people at these events especially appreciate the quirky sense of humor found in Happy Songs of Death? Or do you think these songs have a universal appeal?
MG: While I feel Happy Songs of Death does have a universal [appeal], it definitely seems to appeal more to the Ren Faire and sci fi community than others. These folk have quirky senses of humor that some people don't have. I think there's a morbid sense of humor that comes from being pushed to the fringe of society. They just know how to laugh at things some people might not laugh at.
However, the album is mostly just an upbeat look at death and the Celtic culture. So it's just as much an anthropological glimpse of the Celtic culture as anything, I think.
SG: Any particular shows you are especially looking forward to this year?
MG: I'll be at DragonCon, one of the biggest Sci Fi Conventions in Atlanta, GA Sept 4-7. Then a Celtic Invasion Vacation in Dingle, Ireland. The Celtic Invasion Vacations are basically trips I take with fans to remote spots around the world. But instead of a tour where you race around to a zillion historic sites in 3 days, we take 7 days to become a part of the native culture. We see a few things, but mostly, it's a vacation we relax and of course, I provide music. It's like a ceili among friends.
One show I'm really excited about is the Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat Fan Club's "[Tru] Blood and Gold" Ball. That's just too cool an event not to do with a CD called Happy Songs of Death. Finally, I'm playing at my new home faire the Louisiana Renaissance Festival where I'll be doing three shows a day, one of which is the Happy Songs of Death show.
SG: You've released other themed albums in the past, such as Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers. Do you foresee other such projects in the near future?
MG: Definitely. I like themeing my CDs. It just makes it easier to share with people. If you like.... then you're gonna love THIS CD. Some folks want all my albums, but others like the craziness of these wee themes. Right now, I have three albums planned for the future. The next is called The Bridge and I hope to have it out at the beginning of next year.
Also be sure to check out the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast, hosted by Gunn and featuring the best of the independent Celtic music scene.