7 Questions for We Banjo 3

We spoke with multi-instrumentalist David Howley (second from left) about the band’s upcoming show.

The Galway-born rockers behind We Banjo 3 are touring the states to promote their latest album, Haven, named top folk album of 2018 by Ireland’s RTÉ Radio 1. They’ll be returning March 2 to the Pabst Theater, in time to kick off Milwaukee’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities. 

What keeps you coming back to Milwaukee?

Milwaukee is actually like a second home to us. We played our first gig in America here. We were invited to play Irish Fest in 2012. There were only a handful of people in the audience when we started playing, and hundreds, thousands, by the time we finished. Since then, the band has grown, but Milwaukee still holds a special place in our hearts.

The band members are originally from Galway, and some of them still live there. But you recently relocated to Nashville. Why?

I wanted to throw myself into the Nashville scene and see if I could survive. I wanted to dive into a deeper pond. Whenever I start to feel comfortable, musically, I know it’s time for me to make a change.

Are there differences between American and European audiences?

In America, we’re an Irish band. In Ireland, we’re those guys who play music with an American roots influence. We love playing for people in the States, though, because they’re so enthusiastic. By the end of a concert here, there are people crashing around, dancing with everyone and their grandmothers.

Where else have you toured to date?

We’ve been to Japan, South America, all over Europe. 

Who are your influences?

We listened to everything from Johnny Cash to Led Zeppelin growing up. 

Our influences have only broadened as we’ve grown as a band. We don’t play the same way anymore. We’ve played with members of Mumford & Sons and Bruce Hornsby. We’ve made more friends, and we’ve found some new sources of inspiration too.

Tell us a bit about your newest album, Haven.

We released Haven in July of last year. It was one of the hardest projects we ever worked on. We sat in a house along the western coast of Ireland for days, while this massive storm was raging, and we just hammered it out. All four of us had equal input, which I think is unusual. 

We’re working in conjunction with Mental Health America as we promote the album. I’ve had my own battle with depression over the years, and that comes through in the album a bit. We want it to be a message of hope for our fans. We want it to in some small way combat all the negativity that’s out there in the world right now. 

What do you tell fans who’ve never seen you live before to expect from your concert performances?

We’re not what you think we are. We make our music as accessible as we can. We’re not just trying to impress you. We’re trying to create a connection between the audience and the band. 

Leave your inhibitions at the door. 

“Cultural Q&A” appears in the March 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop or find the issue on newsstands, starting Feb. 25.

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.