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June 2019
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2008-09 In a Day

article written by Matthew for the Meath Cronicle

Matthew Gilsenan, Celtic Tenors

Where do you call home?

Home for me is really two places. Of course my "Home" home is with my wife Celestine and three children Sean, Grace and Rose, out in the north Meath countryside. Here I am completely at home helping with the cattle and doing bits with my father on the farm during the busy times. As I write this though I am in my second home, an hotel in anywhere. Today I'm in Charlotte, north Carolina, I should be nursing a wicked hangover from The Milwaukee Irishfest (incidentally founded by Ed Ward from Carlanstown) The largest Irish festival in the world and the largest annual drinking session for Irish musicians, but I was boring this year we have a theatre concert hot on its heels so we've gotta be able to sing. My Wife tells people that I live on a bus in the States, it's not that far from the truth.

Who do you live with?

Celestine Wife and business manager my age, Sean (5), Grace(1) and Rose (2.5 weeks) and Violet the cat who is actually a male,was named by Sean before the sex became apparent. It's now doubly apparent beneath his long stripey tail. In My second, mobile home its James Nelson (from Sligo, the core and centre of the group. The other founding member who along with me, have been with the Celtics since 1999), Daryl Simpson (from Omagh, Co. Tyrone and the newest member easily the highest natural tenor in The country), Colm Henry, our incredibly talented musical director from Wicklow and our Tour Manager/sound guy/multitalented person, Matt Svobodny, a soft natured 6'6" genius from Fargo North Dakota. This tour we are also traveling with Donna Malone, the gifted young Soprano from Ballina Co. Mayo. I also Live with my laptop on tour so I can Skype my family at home every day. I am a floating head on a computer monitor to my family when I'm away. Skype makes this lifestyle possible.

What would be a typical accomodation while on tour?

There are two types of accommodation on tour, hotels that we pay for and hotels which the venues/promoters/record label provide. Because we always have a close eye on the budget, the hotels that we pay for are mid range. Holiday Inn express has been the hotel of choice this past two years. We used to go cheaper ones, but the extra couple of dollars mean that you get something approaching consistency, if you're on a long tour you don't want cranky people around you for reasons like having a smoky room or one that smells like an unflushed toilet (not joking). Internet is always free in these mid range hotels and there is always a free continental breakfast . Hotels provided in the deal are more hit and miss. Some of the time we are lucky enough to get put up in Four Seasons and other cool, Ritzy places. These are great, super comfortable beds, amazing service. But personally I can take them or leave them. Breakfast is usually well over 30euro and internet a further twenty, so your extras often add up to the cost of a night in the Holiday Inn Express. That said it is really nice on occasion. Very rarely (actually almost never), the more unscrupulous presenter can put us up in the most dreadful places, a cave occupied by a skunk would be better. One night we had to actually pass up a place and find somewhere else at an hours notice. This was years ago now but I will never forget it

What time do you usually wake up?

This really depends. When we're in the same time zone to the previous evening I try to get up around 8:30, go for breakfast and if possible get to the gym or go for a run. After that it can be any time. Agents sometime book silly tour segments where you're sleeping 3 hours traveling 2000 miles between shows. Again, this happens much less now that we're a bit more established.

What's for breakfast/what time?

Usually around 9 (except this one time in Scotland where breakfast was served between 7 and 7:30 am).I am mega boring here, Porridge (a word not understood in the US, Oatmeal is the preferred term), I've tried Gritts they haven't worked for me as yet but tomorrow morning I'll be giving them another go, good grits are supposed to be brilliant.

Do you have any regular activities you do to set yourself up for the day?

The minute I wake I skype the family. The best possible start to the day. I do try to do something fitness wise. 12 hour bus drives aren't that good for the body so you have to push yourself through a few mental and physical barriers to actually keep the blood flowing around the old body&

Please describe a typical day on tour (including times):

1 Albuquerque, NM
9 Oroville, CA
17 Everett, WA
25 Great Falls, MT

2 Silver City, NM
10 Redding, CA
18 Sunnyside, WA
26 Elko, NV

3 Payson, AZ
11 Ontario, CA
19 Moses Lake, WA
27 Bakersfield, CA

4 Grand Canyon, AZ
12 Grants Pass, OR
20 Longview, WA
28 Washington, NC

5 Bullhead City, AZ
13 Medford, OR
21 Vancouver, BC
29 Toledo, OH

6 Rancho Santa Fe, CA
14 Roseburg, OR
22 Nanaimo, BC

7 El Cajon, CA
15 Canby, OR
23 Courtenay, BC

8 Oxnard, CA
16 Centralia, WA
24 Kelowna, BC

Firstly there is the tour, above is a typical leg

TRAVEL DAY: rough example

Miami, FL
Hotel: Holiday Inn
Internet: Free Wireless
Laundry: YES
Center: YES
/ Pool

Lobby call: 10:30 am
drive 350 miles
stopping for lunch 2:30
arrive next hotel 5:pm

SHOW DAY (a particularly glamorous day)
City: Palm Beach, FL
Hotel: Windsor Garden Hotel
Internet: Free Wireless
Laundry: No
Palm Beach Gardens,
Fitness Center: The Beach
300 yards from beach
Venue: Eissey Campus Theatre Capacity: 750

Lobby Call: 12:00pm
Arrive in Palm Beach: 3:00pm (85 miles)
Lunch: En route
Load in and soundcheck: 3:45
Show Time: 8:00pm
After Show: Stay in Palm Beach for day off.

What would you normally do for lunch?

We don't do fast food anymore, so a Ruby Tuesdays, or other where you get a healthy meal with a salad. At this stage we know what everyone eats and drinks. Sodas and sweet fizzy stuff is all but gone now, almost everyone now does water or maybe ice tea. In the States, I believe they still use hormones in their beef so even though I love it I try to keep a balance of fish, flesh and foul.

What time would you begin to prepare for a performance?

For an 8:00 performance we usually get to the venue for 4, I have a ritualistic vocal warmup regime which I must do. I'm almost compulsive about this but it helps with healthy singing. Lots of water through the day (but not too much) dehydration is the singers enemy. Things like steaming the suits and Ironing the shirts become important parts of the performance day. If you have a particularly
good performance then you will want to do the same things next day, we are a superstitious lot. This kind of stuff can drive you a bit batty if you take it to extremes but a routine of some kind is essential.

Do you spend much time rehearsing?

Soundcheck is a great time for rehearsal when you're on tour. You can get a whole song on its feet from scratch in a soundcheck. Again routine is the key here. I'm a hummer. I am pretty much humming or singing all day. The lads will tell you don't get stuck in a hotel room beside Matthew. I have even been known to sing in my sleep.

Do you do anything after a show to wind down?

It's too easy on tour to go for a beer with the lads and chat and wind down that way. Before you know it you're drinking 21 pints a week and you're growing appendages completely foreign to a skinny Moynalty lad. So for me it's youtube, emails or very often a two hour drive. It's definitely impossible to go straight to bed just after a show you have to let all that adrenaline reabsorb.

Evening Rituals (including meals)?

Eating habits on tour is more akin to those of a meath farmer. The main dinner is usually in the middle of the day and teatime is usually light and around 5ish. We have a rider (a list of our needs backstage) and that includes water, fruit, cold meats and wholewheat bread so we keep the enery levels high prior to the show without getting too full.

What time do you head to bed?

All things being equal I like to be in bed by 1200. I like to keep on a schedule similarish to home, especially the early mornings with small people invading the bedroom at 7 30am. I find that since our children were born, I am used to getting so much less sleep. So on tour I can be much more flexible. The guys in the band are always surprised to hear that touring sleep is really much easier than sleep
in a house of young kids.


Tell us how you like to spend your time when you're home from tour.

Home from tour is a weird thing. It's actually not that easy to readjust. I reckon it takes a week to become a human again. Travelling in America with 4 guys and a girl for 4 months breeds way too many in jokes and behavioral anomalies and a weird view of reality (certainly the realities of rural Meath) becomes normal. The real world, although welcome, just takes a bit of getting used to again. I am grateful for my family, they take me back to being more or less grounded and centered within a couple of days I just love to spend as much time as possible with them, Catching up on what I've missed and trying to be normal again. Something like taking the kids to school becomes a pleasure. Dinner with my wife in our own kitchen is an exquisite pleasure only dreamt of while on tour.

Are there any local places that you enjoy going?

The old bog road near Carlanstown is beautiful, from the wild bog cotton to wild strawberries to buzzards soaring overhead all sieving the clean, fresh marsh air&. Heaven.

How much time do you get to spend at home?

Not half enough, but building an international career in the music business is not going to happen by staying home.