Toledo Irish: The Druids

Molly McHugh PicToledo Irish: The Druids  
By: Molly McHugh

All the hard days are gone, it’s all beer or whiskey and just songs from now on; laugh at the darkness and dance until dawn, all of the hard days are gone.
All of the Hard Days are Gone – Performed by The Druids, written by Kevin McKrel

The Toledo Irish American Club, in conjunction with Toledo AOH, brought The Druids to Toledo for a night of education, dancing, and most importantly, a night of Irish musical entertainment that rocked the house! The night started off with an educational talk from Mick O’Brien, founding member of The Druids.

Mick’s wealth of knowledge of Ireland’s history is second to none, and he has a delightful and copesetic way of connecting Irish history with Irish music. Have you ever thought about Irish music as artifacts? Well as Mick explained, when you synchronize the stories and lyrics of Irish music to thoughts and feelings, the music becomes emotional artifacts.

After Mick’s talk, members from The Ardan Academy of Irish dance performed a set of Ceili dances, and a few slip jigs and reels. Rylei Young, who recently competed at the World Irish Dancing Championship in April, was part of the performance. The Ardan dancers never disappoint, and they were a great prelude to The Druids.

The Druids performed two sets, which included both traditional and modern Irish folk songs. They even sang a few classic US hits! Have you ever heard an Irish band sing Joleen by Dolly Parton? If not, you need to make it to the next Druids event!

In between sets, I had the pleasure of speaking to Mick about The Druids, and he shared some insights on the band that are just too good not to share.

Mick O'Brien Pic
Mick O’Brien

How did The Druids come to be?
Mick O’Brien and Gary Lowry, another founding member of the band, worked together at a professional youth program. At the same time, Mick was hosting an Irish Radio program, the longest running folk music radio program in Ireland. A regular listener of the program connected the dots that Gary was a great singer. When Mick caught wind of that, he approached Gary about the idea of forming a band, forming in 2008.

Where does the name The Druids come from?
About a year before the current The Druids band formed; Mick had a small band that played low key shows around town; they called themselves The Druids. When the current Druids first gig came in, they had not yet come up with a name. Low and behold, Mick had some old promotional materials from the initial band already printed, so they went ahead and used that, and the rest, as they say, is history.  

How would you describe your style of music?
There is not a genre of music that exists today with the style of music that we play. We take old Irish songs and present or play them in an upbeat fashion.

Do you have a favorite song to perform? 
Currently, my favorite song to perform is called ‘All of the Hard Days are Gone,’ which was released on our latest album. The song was originally written by Kevin McKrel. The song talks about dealing with issues of anxiety and depression.

The original song goes like this, ‘all the hard days are gone, it’s all beer or whiskey and just songs from now on; laugh at the darkness and dance until dawn, all of the hard days are gone.’ An important part of The Druids story is that three of the band members are in recovery. When Mick heard this song and wanted The Druids to record it, he reached out to Kevin and asked if they could change one word of the song that would give it a completely new meaning. Kevin agreed, and The Druids lyrics now goes like this, ‘All the hard days are gone, there’s no beer or whiskey just songs from now on; laugh at the darkness and dance until dawn, all of the hard days are gone.’

Speaking of your new album, you recorded during the pandemic, what was that like? 
Recording during the pandemic was challenging. We couldn’t get in studio because of COVID restrictions, and when we could get in and get on a roll, we were made to leave again. However, because we were not on tour during that time, it allowed us the time to record, so you have to take the good with the bad.

Do you have any unusual tour stories? 
Once, we went to perform in Denmark; we arrived at the venue, did the sound check and we were waiting in the green room to perform. The green room was filled with every drink you could imagine. Mick was trying to communicate that they do not drink, but because of the language barrier, the Denmark host thought they were asking for more drink! Luckily, they finally got on the same page.

Mick clearly did not remember the language barrier because when they went on stage that night, he told the crown he was jumping in to crowd surf, which didn’t translate, so Mick jumped in and landed on the ground! Not to worry, he came out unscathed! 

Besides Toledo, if you could play anywhere in the world, where would that be? 
My goal is to play at the Olympia Theater in Dublin, and I will be sure to play there.

The Druids Pic

I have seen many Irish bands perform in my life, and The Druids were more than impressive. Their love of telling the story of Irish music shines through in every lyric and tune that they sing.

*Molly McHugh is a Toledo native. She holds her MSc in Strategy, Innovation and People Management from National University of Ireland, Galway. She can be reached at [email protected].

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