An apology to Mr Mike Scott


I first met Mr Mike Scott (he of The Waterboys) at the Abbey Theatre, at the launch of their 2009/10 season. The striking poster above caught my eye immediately and I turned to David, the Abbey’s Press Officer to express my surprise and delight at the inclusion in the programme when he gestured towards the man himself, deep in conversation with someone.

I was awestruck.

I try to control my fanboy-ness, it being most unbecoming for a “professional”, don’t ya know. All around actors, playwrights and media people swanned, greeting each other as equals where-as I’m looking at Mike Scott – MIKE SCOTT!! – and thinking “Wow, it’s you, in the same room as me. WOW!”

See, I’m a big fan of Mike Scott’s lyrical writing and of the Waterboys music. It’s one of the first “Celtic” groups I remember listening to and understanding as a teenager. A cousin had given me their 1983 album “The Waterboys” and I listened to it over and over, songs like “I will not follow”, “It should have been you” and “Savage Earth Heart” becoming more than songs, but my first understanding that this really could be poetry set to music.

I want to be a witness or a victim to your spell
crafted in lightning, dressed in shadows, clear as a bell
I want to be there when the savage comes
I want to be there when the savage comes
When your savage earth heart cuts through

I didn’t follow the Waterboys though or try to emulate them in the same way my peers were doing with U2 or Michael Jackson or whoever was big at the time. I had books to read, new lands to discover, illness to contend with and computer games to play. I was bought “Fisherman’s Blues” when it came out and overplayed that but it wasn’t until I bought an album of theirs called “This is the Sea” that I understood just how good a lyricist Mike Scott was.

I must have played “Whole of the Moon” at least 40 times a day.

It then became yet another CD on the shelf and my musical taste moved from the sublime to the ridiculous to the classical and back, but “Whole of the Moon” is one of those songs I always had on my iPod, that I always loved singing along to and that I always wondered about.

And here was the writer, in the same room as me. Mike is doing “An Appointment with Mr Yeats” at the Abbey Theatre for five nights in March 2010 – “a show fusing the poetic power of W.B. Yeats and the visceral music of The Waterboys.”

Since setting The Stolen Child to music on their classic Fisherman’s Blues album, Waterboys’ singer Mike Scott has been quietly crafting a rich collection of songs utilising Yeats’ poems as lyrics.

A few were performed solo by Scott during the Yeats International Festival at the Abbey in the 1990s, but most have remained unheard, waiting for the moment when, in Scott’s words, ‘I had enough songs to create a full programme and present it in a potent, radical fashion, worthy off the Abbey Theatre which Yeats himself founded.’

I went to Mike, we arranged to meet at the Odessa Club and we did so on Thursday 16 July. Yes indeed, it’s that long ago. I sat with this man and asked questions and listened.


Photos by Darren Byrne

But, I had a big problem.

See, I’m in awe of hugely creative people. I know how much work it goes into indulging your brain power, the sacrifices it takes to come out and listening to someone extremely creative like Mike fuses my brain, stills my tongue and sets my mind to a “Wow” mode.

Even in my research for Mike, I grew to learn about him being far more than just “the guy from the Waterboys”. He’s a poet, philosopher, dreamer, writer, composer, musician, activist and blogger. A read of his blog was enough to only deepen my respect and awe for the man.

And so, with the help of Darren, I attempted an interview. I fumbled, stuttered and stammered my way through it, all the time realising how inadequate my research was, how stupid my questions seemed and how Mike Scott deserved to be talking to a professional here, not some gombeen reading from printed Wikipedia pages and getting simple facts wrong.

It didn’t help that the Odessa Club was noisy at the time either, something I wasn’t aware of until I played back the video, shot by Darren.

This isn’t false modesty or hero worship either, something Mike would reject immediately, modest and unassuming as he is. I know he’s only a person, same as everyone. This is my embarrassment at not being able to convey through this interview just how inspiring Mike Scott is, how interesting he was to talk to, how impressed I was by him in person and how much I’d advise anyone who gets the chance to sit down with him and have a chat to do so.

Throughout the interview Mike was a gentleman, indulging my pauses, responding to my questions with grace and professional style, no doubt wondering at times if I actually knew who he was. For that I shall be eternally grateful.

I didn’t want to publish this interview seeing how bad I was in it and I’ve been playing around with it for over a month to try and get it right, and it’s still not there. I hope it does some sort of justice to the man, and I apologise for the delay in publishing and for my amateur attempt. However, it was, and remains in my mind, one of the most inspirational and fun chats I’ve ever done. I’d advise listening at the very least.

We spoke about The Waterboys, about his love of Yeats, his background, his taste in literature and about why Yeats inspires him and his love of other poets. We spoke about wings, he just flew, I wondered, I guessed and I tried, he just knew Whole of the Moon and his relationship to the song.

We spoke about his directing of his music, of his website and about “Let the Earth Bear Witness”, his response to the protests in Iran. I asked about what he’d point to as his own favourite works. I asked questions from the people on Twitter, about his feelings about people covering his songs and about his poetry.

Here’s the interview. Apologies for the poor sound.

Here also is Mike reading his poem “My Love For Her Is Fire“.

Here he is at a Gigs for Gaza Concert in Vicar Street performing “Whole of the Moon” with Steve Wickham.

And finally, in all its glory, the video for Let the Earth Bear Witness.

The cover video I played part of is by Scottish Diva Terry Neason and can be seen here.

You’ll find Mike Scott’s blog here, the Waterboys website here, Mike on twitter here and details of “An Appointment with Mr Yeats” at the Abbey Theatre on the Abbey Theatre website.

Mr Scott, thank you and your lovely wife for your time, and I’m sorry it has taken so long. I am grateful, believe me. Mr Byrne, thank you for the photos and the video and above all, thank you for reading and watching.


About darraghdoyle

Blogger, event addict and fan of street and performance art. You can contact me directly at darraghdoyle[at]gmail[dot]com or @darraghdoyle on twitter.


20 thoughts on “An apology to Mr Mike Scott

  • Seamus

    Spent the beginning of the morning reading, listening and watching above.. great piece of work on the interview and all, Darragh, and Darren. I’ve always been a huge Waterboys fan, and it was great to hear what Mike Scott had to say, and how it said it, thought the interview went very well, a calm amidst the storm, the natural noise of a pub. That poem at the end was great, who wrote that ?

    Thinking of his ‘Universal Hall’ refrain:
    “I sacrifice my power on the altar of your love that it may be born again on another world”

    Love that..

  • Kevin

    Was that Darren taking pics? You can turn the “I’ve focused!!!!!!1″ noise off on your camera :P

    Great interview. Like the passion in the write-up Darragh! The sound isn’t too bad!

  • LL

    terrible interview, ridiculous fan boy questions. is there a need to to preface a question with “it’s such an intelligent song”? a great opportunity wasted

  • Darragh Doyle Post author

    Emlyn – cheers sir.

    Seamus – Thanks so much. The poem at the end was his own – “My love for her is fire”. One of my favourite discoveries of the last while.

    Kevin – Twas indeed. Sound is woeful compared to what it should have been – still, you live and you learn with these things :)

    LL – thanks(?) for the anonymous comment and for your constructive confirmation of my post. If there are any questions you’d like to ask, please do so in the comments and I’ll be happy to pass them on.

  • Bngr

    I can’t open the video links but did you ask is he going to be playing live anytime soon? I’d love to see them live again. I think 1990 wasthe first and last time I saw them. Room to Roam is my favourite Waterboys album and I still listen to it all the time.

  • marie

    very happy for you to share some private and unique time with that lovely Mike Scott. Do not bother with people like sir “LL” . his note sweats jealousy, do not even allow his bad vibe to affect you. I’m Always surprised by insecure people who assume they ‘ll gain something peaceful in return when the only thing they re capable of is tossing contempt.Eventually he isn’t a happy person. I personally like the way you write, i sense your humility and your tremendous passion for those Waterboys guys. all the best from donegal.

  • Shane Whitefield

    Great article – written from the same perspective I would have written it from – a huge fan that would have been Awe struck to interview Mike. I loved that you quoted the song, Savage Earth Heart. I made my own Waterboys t-shirt for a concert here in Texas back in 2001 – 2002 and I put those lyrics on the back!! I will not follow was the first Waterboys song I heard back in 1984 and have been a huge fan ever since.

  • Emma

    Darragh! Great interview! I recently had an art exhibition and featured (with kind permission of course) the lyrics from A Life of Sundays. A few days after I had been given permission to use them I met Mike at Findhorn and went through the same Wow!! WOW!! as you did! I left him one of my favourite photos (taken by me) to say thanks and he was gracious enough to collect it from the friends I had entrusted it to and to say thanks he loved it when finally he’d looked at it. He is a really nice guy, as well as all the other things you list. Thanks for this, it was great to listen to. X Emma

  • Fien

    The main aim and quality of an interview seems to me is that it can be heard. You are saved by the fact that Mike gestures so lively and I am a star in reading bodylanguage.

  • Matt

    Charming and relaxed interview. Only one thing; (apart from sound of course!); often you backed up one question with a couple more. Ask a question, pause and let the interviewee do the talking – the question should not need to be explained or expanded upon. I wondered if MS was thinking “Hang on. what was the original question?” All handled with his seemingly good humour. Hope I’m not patronising – u did a better job than I could have done – I would have probably blown that whipped cream all over him!

  • Armin

    Darragh, you did a very good job. A wonderful interview in a wonderful athmosphere with an extremely sympathetic Mike Scott. Thanks to you and Darren. Regards from Germany

  • Dan

    thanks for the interview – a transcript would be nice.

    I would have loved a question on “This is the Sea”. His thoughts on the lyrics and why it is so seldom done live.

  • unhero

    Hi well done Darragh …this is very sweet and lovely writing – but one day you’ll realise creativity does not raise one but should enable humility in the creator – equality is a state of mind and fear or low self esteem is the only thing that hinders …you’re his equal …remember your hero worship does neither you nor he any favours

  • KILROY

    NICE GUY,I DON´T HAVE ANY DOUBT,I CAN SEE WITH ONLY ONE EYE OPEN,I DON´T UNDERSTAND MANY PARTS OF THE INTERVIEW BUT I USUALLY UNDERSTAND THE IDEA,I´VE BEEN LISTENING THE GREAT MUSIC OF MIKE ALL MY LIFE SINCE I HEARD FISHERMAN´S BLUES, HIS BEST RECORD FOR ME, IS RARE BUT I DON´T MIND VERY MUCH THE WORDS IN SPITE OF I CONSIDER HIM A NOTABLE WRITER, EVERY TIME BETTER I THINK,BUT I ALWAYS HEAR THE MUSIC WHIT THE HEART….I SAW HIM IN SALAMANCA IN 2002 AND RECENTLY IN VALENCIA LAST YEAR I THINK,OBIUSLY THE BEST OF ALL HIS MUSIC FOR ME IS THE LIVE MUSIC,HE STILL HAVE GREAT VOICE AND GOOD HANDS,WELL I DON´T WANT BE BLA,BLA,BLA……..THANKS FOR YOUR FABULOUS MUSIC AND TILL THE NEXT TIME YOU COME TO SPAIN…

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