Switchback’s new additions!
We would like to introduce you to the musicians who sometimes accompany Switchback on the road: Nick Hirka on drums and ukulele and Paul Russell on violin and guitar. You may have been fortunate enough to hear them play along with Switchback at some of our recent shows.
Nick Hirka is a drummer from Des Plaines, Illinois. He met Brian and Marty quite fatefully at a church picnic/anniversary celebration in nearby Rosemont. Nick got the call, heard that “an Irish duo” was headed in to write and perform the Mass, and, interested, headed over for their first meeting and rehearsal. Switchback and Nick would meet again to play the outdoor Mass on a beautiful summer day, and after sitting in for a few post-Mass original numbers, Marty and Brian invited Nick to the Haybarn Rendezvous in Iowa that coming weekend. It took just that one weekend at the Natural Gait for Nick to be sold…
Nick told us:
…I was in. That festival changed my musical outlook. I’d been drumming seriously since I was 12 or so. I struggled the romantic struggle of a high school musician. I played in several bands after graduating, played all Chicago’s venues…Then suddenly, I’m in a candlelit cave, legs sore from a forest-path load-in, playing Celtic songs. It was calm. Eclectic. Free. I felt at home.
I work a day job as a tutor, in perpetual search of high school English teaching jobs. Students I tutor think I’m cool because I cancel sessions to travel to gigs. Parents dislike me for the same reason. I’m a jack of many trades, master of drums. I can get by playing piano, and I play bass guitar fairly well. I picked up the ukulele last summer and have somewhat vigorously taken to it – Switchback has worked it in to the set at points. I have a 5-string banjo being built for me by a luthier in Arizona. I draw pretty well. (With ink. I’m not a ‘slinger.)
I’ve already met a tremendous number of wonderful people while traveling with Switchback, and I’ve already seen some wonderful places with them. I’ve started documenting, in loose diary form, places I’ve played, something I hadn’t done until I started playing with Marty and Brian. I look forward to more shows, always – this band is something I’ve started into and am engrossed in. I have trouble wrapping up projects, trips, and ventures. And written pieces!
Paul Russell, on top of being a gifted musician, an adventurer, and a blacksmith, happens to have known Brian FitzGerald all of his life since he is Brian’s sister Sheila’s son and thus Brian’s nephew. Paul provided the beautiful violin accompaniment on Switchback’s Ghosts of the River Folk album. How did Paul get into music?
Paul told us:
On a quiet evening I took a walk with my father to a shop on Roosevelt Road. When we got back home, I started scratching away on my first violin. I was five years old. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, and Hot Cross Buns were among my first accomplishments, and before long I was playing concertos in D flat major and mazurkas in B flat minor. I had a good go with classical music into high school, but after discovering improvisational music, a new path was found. I attended Columbia College in Chicago for a year and a half, majoring in music composition. Like classical music, it was a good experience, but something was not fitting. You can find me now on the day to day at Lawndale Forge and Tool Works where I work for my Dad and Uncle, who worked for their Dad, who worked for his Dad, and on and on. My Great-grandpa made horseshoes and shoed horses in Chicago. I plan to continue playing music as long as I’ve got fingers on my hands and brains in my head!
Please join us in welcoming Paul and Nick, our newest members of the Switchback team! The next time you are out and see them with us, please come up, introduce yourselves, and help make them feel like part of our WayGood World.