Irish Rock – Get Up Jack – Interview

Written by on March 15, 2023

Irish rock combines two very different feels in a beautiful way; the Celtic, Appalachian folk sound, with its roots in nature, and rock ‘n’ roll, with its roots in rebellion and overdrive. I like to identify and classify music, maybe you noticed, but only because when I hear a great thing, I want to absorb it, and find more of it. And Irish rock is a great thing.

Get Up Jack is an award-winning band that has toured America and Ireland, met their idols, and tell no tales. Actually, no, they tell a lot of tales.

I connect with Get Up Jack and we talk electric fiddles.

RRX: Your second CD, “Alive And Well, Volume I” was named “2015 Album of The Year” by Celtic Radio. You were also nominated for the 2022 Listen Up awards, something that we started and will be continuing. Seeing as how fans voted for you at least with ours, do you have some words for your fans?

GUJ: First of all, we view our audience as band members…the seventh member of the band, so to speak (there are six of us in Get Up Jack).  Our shows are very interactive; in almost every song, the audience is asked to participate in one way, shape or form.  We might need their help in a “call and response” fashion, or to sing-along, or to clap and holler.  We are blessed to have such an amazing fan base; many of our fans have been following members of the band for decades, and now we are seeing their adult children and THEIR kids at our shows as well.  We attribute SO MUCH of our success and longevity to our fans. Just listen to the audience on our two live albums…they are INCREDIBLE.

We often tell our audience this at the start of our show: “Our goal for the next two or three hours is to leave all of life’s stress behind. Let’s keep all the negative stuff outside of our pub’s walls, while we take the time to focus on the good and celebrate life’s joys together”.  We really are all in this together!

RRX: You blend the best of Irish Rock with the best of classic rock. I’m fascinated in the behind-the-counter “sausage-making” of music, especially when you’re blending sounds. Where do you start in the songwriting when you blend Irish rock and American classic rock? How does it work when writing the lyrics?

GUJ: Songwriting is something that we have taken a much greater interest in lately.  In fact, several of the tunes that we will be recording on our new album (which we will be releasing in 2023) are original tunes.  The Celtic influence in those tunes comes through in our instrumentation and in the spirit that the songs are presented.  Lyrically, we look to present themes that both Irish and American people can relate to (fighting for what you believe in, traveling to far off lands, missing home, etc).  Musically, we try to meld the styles of American Bluegrass, folk and rock music into all of this. Lately, what we do now is being described as “Celticana” music.  We love that term.  Celtic meets Americana.  That’s us.

RRX: When you started, you had Irish idols, like The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, and The Wolftones, and over the years, you’ve been able to play with all of them. And probably a couple of kids are in the audience hoping someday they’ll jam with you. Is there anybody that you still want to share the stage with that you haven’t?

GUJ: Some of us in the band have been performing Irish music since the late 1970’s, so since that time, in our various incarnations (first in The Porters, then Hair Of The Dog, and for the past 9 years with Get Up Jack), we have been blessed to have shared the concert and festival stages with most of the great legends of Irish music.  However, there still are some GREAT ones (We Banjo 3, Jig Jam, and Molly Shannon, for starters) that we would LOVE to cross paths with down the road.  Hopefully, now that the world is re-opening and doing it’s best to move on from the COVID shut-down, we’ll see the Irish Festival circuit pick up again.

RRX: You’ve toured in Ireland and you’ve toured in America. There have to be a few key differences that are due to culture; what are some of them?

GUJ: One of the big differences we’ve noticed is in how strangers are welcomed in Ireland.  For example, in most cases, when you go up to the bar to order a pint in America, you rarely engage with other strangers at the bar.  In the pubs in Ireland, the Irish folks at the bar hear your American accent when you order your pint and immediately want to strike up conversation.  “Where are you from?”, “How long are you staying?”, “Are you having a good time?”  The Irish are experts at the art of conversation and hospitality.  Every time we visit Ireland, we come back with a greater appreciation of how to greet and treat others.

Also, in our early years of travelling to Ireland, we found pub life in Ireland to be much more family and community-oriented than what we were familiar with in America.  Entire families (young and old alike) frequented the pubs together in Ireland, which we found to be really cool.  We are so happy to see that kind of vibe now growing in popularity right here in our own backyard, through the growth of micro-breweries like Brown’s Brewing, Wolf Hollow Brewing Company, and Frog Alley Brewing, just to name a few.  The vibe of the Irish pub and the Micro-brewery here in the Northeast is very similar.

RRX: Is it different setting up a tour in Ireland vs. America, which is thousands of miles across? I’m not so much talking about the pain of bus trips or air flights, but about the fans being close or far apart?

GUJ: When we tour Ireland, not only do we go over to perform, but we also sponsor a guided tour of the country.  For example, when we head back to Ireland this coming April, we will be bringing close to 100 people with us.  So right off the bat, we know that we’ll have a bunch of Irish-loving, American fans with us at our performances, which really helps set the tone for the show.  Then, depending on the venue, the audience could also include folks not only from Ireland, but from all over Europe as well.  For example, when we last played in the main concert venue in The Quays in Galway, the place was packed with Americans and Irish, along with people from England, Spain, Germany, and Poland.  As the Irish say, “the Craic was grand” that night!

When performing Irish music in Ireland, it is very important to us that the Irish feel that we are being respectful of their music.  And of course, we hope that they like it.  Fortunately, their response has been as warm and welcoming as their personality.  “That was proper, lad!” is what we’ve been told, and we are honored by that response.  That being said, they really love American country music.  Perhaps our favorite line from an Irishman during a break in one of our shows went something like this: “We love what you’ve done with our Irish music, lads!  But when you go back on, could you play some Garth Brooks?!”

Current track