Irish trad and folk band Beoga insist they have been sworn to secrecy over their collaboration with Ed Sheeran on his upcoming third album. Speaking to RTE, fiddle player and vocalist Niamh Dunne, who hails from Limerick says “We did two songs with Ed but I can’t tell you anymore! I’m sworn to secrecy! We did one song when we got there that he hadn’t written so the whole thing was very natural really. I’d say the songs are folky.” she added. According to Bodhrán player Eamon Murray the opportunity to record came about quite organically “Our pal and fellow Northerner, Foy Vance is on Ed Sheeran’s record label and they’d been listening to a couple of our tracks on tour. When it came to making a new album, Ed himself reached out and asked if we’d like to be involved, and we said aye!”
The acclaimed Antrim-based five piece, who have released six albums and played shows all over the world, joined Sheeran at Decoy studios in Suffolk last June to record two tracks, one about Galway and one about Wexford, where Ed has strong family roots. “So we went over and the weather was gorgeous and we just had a great time,” continues Dunne. “We had a few beers and just hung out and it was just very relaxed. When we first met Ed, it was `oh my god!’ because he’s so recognisable but after that, it was just like getting to know a fellow musician really. He was great craic.”
Sheeran is already well-known for his love of Irish trad and folk. He has said that one of his earliest musical memories is listening to the Irish Heartbeat album by Van Morrison and The Chieftains and he is also a fan of The Bothy Band and Planxty. Murray is also keeping schtum about the release date of Sheeran’s new record and downplayed the fact that Beoga are about to be a big part of what is sure to be a Number One album across the world. “We just feel massively privileged to have a break like this. We’ve always made a living from music so who knows where this will take us.” he said.
Co-hosting the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show on Friday last, Sheeran described the album as “schizophrenic” with “lots of different sounds” and confirmed to host Scott Mills that an Irish folk group feature on the record. “They’re called Beoga,” said Sheeran. “They’re from Northern Ireland; they are really, really talented. They came to my house to stay and we made some songs. Two of them have made the record. It’s jammy, it’s folky.” Whilst on Monday, Sheeran revealed that he had written two “full-on Irish trad songs” for his new album and that he’s on the lookout for ceilí dancers to appear in a video which he will be shooting in Ireland very soon. Speaking on 2fm, he said, “I’ve actually got a song on the new album which I think is really gonna explode in Ireland. It would be something to do with the county of Galway. “I’ve got a trad band called Beoga, they’re actually from Belfast. It’s a fiddle, a pipe, a bodhran and piano and we really jam.” Sheeran, who made music streaming history last Friday with his two comeback singles, also promised to release “a couple of more” new songs before the official release of the record later this year. “I should be over in Ireland soon so I’ll probably put something out then,” he said. “I’m definitely shooting a video for one of the songs in Ireland and I will be doing a casting because I need proper ceili dancers.”
The bedrock of the Beoga sound lies firmly within the Irish tradition. However, they are not afraid to incorporate other genres’ nuances into their music. From bluesy riffs to Astor Piazzola style jazz, to a raunchy New Orleans jamboree vibe, their music always returns to a wonderfully bouncy Irish sound. Before We Change Our Mind their 5th studio album is a record that has surely positioned them at the arc of Irish traditional music’s new wave. Under the stewardship of producer Michael Keeney (Foy Vance & Ed Sheeran, Lisa Hannigan & Bonnie Rait), recording was undertaken with live takes where possible, resulting in a refreshing and ebullient feel, whilst losing none of the polish or veracity of previous efforts.
“After playing together for 13 years, we tried a new creative process this time and it worked great… we’re delighted with the whole album” – Niamh Dunne
Confirming their reputation for innovation, all seven instrumentals on the album are original compositions from the band. In a departure from previous recordings the songs draw more on the folk song tradition with The Bonny Ship, The Diamond drawn from the vast repository of the godfather of folk Ewan McColl, alongside the Tommy Makem classic Farewell to Carlingford and Wexford Town, a song long associated with the travelling singer Pecker Dunne, incidentally a relative of Niamh’s. “It’s five years since our last studio album and the material feels strong with a new sense of balance” – Eamon Murray
With guest appearances from such luminaries as Stephen McCartney & Rachel Coulter (Farriers) and The Arco String Quartet (Villagers, Duke Special) it’s no surprise that the sound that has been achieved is euphonic, tuneful, cinematic, even symphonic at times, yet it never loses that unique Beoga voice which was forged all those years ago at the Fleadhs and sessions in County Antrim and further afield.
The best new traditional band to emerge from Ireland this century” – Wall Street Journal
“Top-drawer… some of the best music in the world today” – Irish Music Magazine
Before We Change Our Mind is their 5th studio album coming on the back of critically acclaimed and chart topping previous releases; Live at 10 (2013), How to tune a Fish (2011), The Incident (2009), Mischief (2007), A lovely Madness (2004).