Noel Casey Is Keeping the Roots Alive in Dublin
It’s been fascinating for me to read about radio personalities from other parts of the world. Although their methods and styles may be different, their musical influences and dedication to their art is a frequent commonality.
Bill Frater: Where and when did you start in radio?
Noel Casey: I first got hooked on radio back around 1955-’56. This was pre-television Ireland. I was 8 or 9 and I was amazed by this beautiful box in the corner with all these mysterious places and names like Helversum, AFN, Nantes, Bologna, Oslo, and best of all, Radio Luxembourg, which was a commercial station playing up-to-the-minute pop music — a rarity in those far-off days! I became a regular listener to all these new sounds coming out of the sky, and despite the dawning of the TV age, radio retained my avid interest.
I didn’t get properly involved until the early ’80s, when I took part in several record review panels on RTE Radio 2. Then I was asked to present a show on a commercial station called Treble TR. This station was quite unique as it only played American and Irish music. First of all, I presented “Guaranteed Irish,” (an all-Irish music show) and shortly afterwards added “Casey Country,” two hours of mainly American country with more of an emphasis on artists like Gram and Emmylou, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, etc.
In April 1986, I was approached to take a full time job as presenter of TTTR’s new all-night show, running five nights a week from midnight to 6 a.m. I jumped at the chance and spent almost four years playing records through the night, building up a big listenership with night owls and night workers in the Dublin area.
I then got out of radio for a number of years and, among other things, I got involved in a few record shops around Dublin selling mainly roots-based artists. I was also involved in gig promotion and promoted artists like Lowell Fulson, Dr. John, Louisiana Red, Joe Lewis Walker, etc.
Where do you work now?
In April 2011, I joined 103.2 Dublin City FM, which is Ireland’s only special-interest radio station. I currently produce and present “After Midnight” every Monday night, from midnight to 2 a.m. Because of the timing, and thanks to the internet, I have lots of listeners in the U.S. I have a Facebook page for every show and I get feedback from listeners in New York, Texas, Colorado, Indiana, Florida, Michigan, etc., as well as listeners from England, Scotland, Wales, and of course Ireland. The show is also available on Mixcloud every week.
Basically I play whatever I want to. I have a big collection of music of all genres on CD and vinyl. (I don’t like downloads!) I’ll fill my two hours with a selection of blues, country, folk, singer-songwriter, soul, maybe some reggae, anything that pops into my head. In a two-hour show, I usually get to play around 28 tracks. Up to ten of these could be new releases and most are independent artists, mainly from the U.S.
How do you define Americana music?
Like most people, I have no idea what the term “Americana” means, although it does convey a kind of rootsy feel that most of my favourite music must include.
How do you prepare for your shows?
Preparation is easy enough. I include artists’ birthdays and anniversaries, aritists with gigs in the Greater Dublin area, upcoming tours, new releases, and personal favorites. I always have a CD playing in the house and the car. I have a large notebook with a separate page open for each future show and I jot down tracks when they come along.
What was the first artist or album that got you into roots music?
Roots music, as we now define it, probably started for me in the early ’60s with Dylan, but the first LP to “hit the spot” for me was the Byrds’ Sweethearts of the Rodeo. This was a “light-bulb” moment. I bought my copy on a visit to London in 1968 in a W.H. Smith shop in the Liverpool Street train station!
Who are your favorite artists from any genre?
My all-time favourite is Van Morrison. He is such a complex, mysterious, and possibly misunderstood character, but his music is sublime and in a way it defines Americana for me. He uses soul, blues, folk, country, Irish, jazz, and mixes them all up in a big melting pot with often magical results. I’m also a huge fan of Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, and so many more.
Where do you see Americana radio, or radio in general, going in the future?
This is a difficult one. The internet and the podcasting of shows have greatly increased the opportunities to get the shows out there. But on the other hand, the listening audience has such a choice that each show has a lot of competition.
What recent albums or artists are you excited about?
I get a lot of new releases, but among my current favorites are new ones by Shelita Burke, Ben Kunder, Thomas Hine from Colorado, David Starr, Left Arm Tan, the Jaydees from Holland, Irish artists Nicole Maguire, Karrie O’Sullivan (not released till Sept.), and Clare O’Riordan.
What are your other hobbies and interests?
Radio has always been my number one hobby and interest, but I love to travel as much as I can. My wife and I are pretty good travelers. One of my favorite-ever trips was in 2009 when we started in Chicago, flew to Nashville, and then drove to Tupelo, back across to Clarksdale, and the down the old Highway 61 to New Orleans. [It was] a dream trip. Another trip to the U.S., which included a stay in room 8 (the Gram Parsons room) at the Joshua Inn, was pretty special too!
I love old cars, and if anyone has a spare ’56 Caddy they don’t need, I’d love to hear from them!