Declan Sinnott, from the moving heart of Irish music

Declan Sinnott

Declan Sinnott

RENOWNED GUITARIST, music arranger, and producer Declan Sinnott brings his Small Town Talk to the big city next week.

Wexford-native Declan Sinnott began his music career in 1970 at the tender age of 19 when he formed the innovative Irish group Horslips with drummer Eamon Carr. Disillusioned with the direction the band was going he left after only two years and started the band Southpaw with Cork songwriter Jimmy McCarthy. Among their many fans were rising traditional talents such as Donal Lunny, Christy Moore, and Andy Irvine. In February 1981 Sinnott joined Lunny and Moore in folk rock band Moving Hearts and together they played many prestigious international gigs including the Montreux Jazz Festival. It was while working with Moving Hearts that Sinnott first became interested in music arrangement and in the late 1980s he became a noted producer with acts such as Mary Black, Christy Moore, Frances Black, and Sinead Lohan.

Declan Sinnott is also a gifted songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist and he brings his new band Small Town Talk to The Crane Bar, Sea Road, on Wednesday.

Growing up in the seaside town of Wexford – where his family ran a record shop – in the 1960s it was to the sounds of Liverpool and the Merseybeat that Sinnott was first drawn. “I had relatives who played music but I never really heard them playing music,” he says. “Basically I was listening to the radio in the early ‘60s and when The Beatles arrived on the scene that was it for me. I wasn’t really watching or listening to Irish music because it seemed to be in the opposite direction of where I was going. I was more interested in American music and British music at the very beginning. My relationship with Irish music over the years has been through default really. I’m certainly not a traditional Irish musician by any means”.

Through sheer force of will the young music enthusiast taught himself to play guitar and read sheet music. In order to be closer to music and musicians Sinnott moved to Dublin and while there met fellow blow-in Eamon Carr. The duo formed a group called Tara Telephone and over time the band eventually became known as Horslips. Through their fusion of traditional Irish music with rock music they quickly became one of the leading groups of the era. “When we started the band we were just a straight forward rock ‘n’ roll band and we had no ideas of playing Irish music” recalls Sinnott “We were offered a spot on a six-week Irish language show on RTE and so we ended up playing Irish tunes to fill in the set. Prior to that bands like Fairport Convention and East of Eden were combining traditional music with rock music so we certainly didn’t start what became known as ‘Celtic rock’ or ‘Electric folk’. I only stayed with Horslips for about a year and a half and then I left in disgust because I didn’t like the way it was going. There was so much emphasis on success and the glamour of the whole thing. I just wanted to play better music and to have a broader spectrum of music.”

After Sinnott’s departure from Horslips in 1972 the role of guitarist was eventually filled by Limerick man Johnny Fean. It was while working and playing in London that Declan first came into contact with Christy Moore and over the course of the next 30 years they would gig and record together at regular intervals “The first real contact we had was when I was with Jimmy McCarthy in Southpaw and Christy used to come to the gigs,” says Sinnott. “He was a fan of the band and he had booked us to play a couple of shows he was organizing. I had seen him play some of his own shows in the early 1970s, when I was with Horslips, and I thought he was great.”

By the time the 1980s rolled around Declan Sinnott was ready for a new challenge and it was then he was asked to join Moore and Donal Lunny in a new band called Moving Hearts. Their biggest hit was to be a song about the Cold War entitled ‘Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette’ and they became very vocal opponents of Thatcherism. “Partly I joined Moving Hearts because I wanted to be in a band with Christy Moore in it,” says Declan. “I get asked to do things and I get involved because I think it’s a good idea or it seems like it’ll be great fun. It was a very exciting time to be in a band both musically and politically. I myself wasn’t all that political but I agreed with what we said as a band and the stand that we took.”

In many ways Moving Hearts were a ground-breaking band and were a huge influence on groups as diverse as The Pogues and Riverdance, but after only three years together they disbanded. The mid-1980s saw Sinnott working with former De Dannan vocalist Mary Black as arranger and producer. Over the following decade they were to enjoy huge Irish and international chart success with songs such as ‘No Frontiers’, ‘Past The Point Of Rescue’, ‘Only A Woman’s Heart’, ‘As I Leave Behind Neidin’, and ‘I Misunderstood’. “The first time I became serious about producing was when I was working with Mary Black,” says Sinnott. “Before that I was interested in all the things that led me to being a producer, such as arrangement and in-sound. I was fascinated by the work that went in beforehand and once I’d done the production work once or twice I had the confidence and interest to continue on with it.”

These days Sinnott is working closely with his old friend Christy Moore again and was producer on his new album Listen earlier this year. Out of the recording sessions with Moore have come the band Small Town Talk and a new chapter in Sinnott’s touring life. “Our bass player Eleanor Healy and drummer Martin Leahy featured on Christy’s album ‘Listen’ and the other singer in the band Hank Wedell wrote the title track,” he says. “The stuff that I do with Small Town Talk and the stuff I do with Christy Moore runs side by side. I just love playing in front of people.”

For more information and tickets contact The Crane on 091 - 587419 or go to


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