*** This is the 3rd blog in a series of interviews with baby boomers who are pursuing their dreams.
I met John Irish several years ago when I lived in New Hampshire. My friend, who was the number one hostess of the Wine Emergencies, lived across the street from him and his wife, Tammy. He and another neighbor put together a garage band that would play on Saturday nights and they eventually moved on to the bar at the Exeter Bowling Lanes. Their venues continued to grow. One of the last places I saw them play was in downtown Portsmouth, along the waterfront at Martingale Wharf.
He and his wife try to spend some time each winter in Delray Beach and since I’ve moved down here, we always make plans to get together. We recently met at the Old Key Lime House and I asked if he wanted to be a Day Dream Believer and he quickly obliged. He has a very interesting story.
You actually started out pursuing the dream? Tell me a little bit about that.
My best friend in high school had a guitar and his brother was in a band. We idolized them. He got me playing, and my older brother bought me a guitar. A few years later, I recorded an original record at a country western studio across from my house, and played in a local acoustic band. The record was one of those “sold on TV” deals. I think my mom bought most of the copies.
There was a country western music studio in Farmington, New Hampshire?
Yeah, there was a local couple who were big New England country stars and they built the recording studio across the street. A lot of country players from around the region recorded there.
I guess you never know where you’ll find your first break. What happened next?
After high school, I hit the road and joined a band in Boulder, Colorado and we toured the Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico area. Eventually we ended up in South Florida.
Yes, I remember you telling me that story last winter. You played a regular gig at a bar behind Nomad’s Surf Shop in Briny Breezes. The surf shop is still there but the bar no longer is. You have a lot of great stories from that time in your life. Tell me another one.
I was playing music in Florida with a band who unknowingly had hooked up with a guy who stole a bunch of equipment from a band in North Carolina. They tracked him down in a club we were playing at in Pompano Beach and instead of accusing me of stealing their stuff, they asked me to join them as their lead singer. When they told me their history, I discovered they were WAY up the ladder from where I was at that time. They had a bus, eleven people on the payroll, and opened for some big acts like Kiss, U2, and several well known has beens. At that time I was looking to make a career in music, so I replied, “We ain’t left yet?” I quit my band and was on a plane to North Carolina shortly after leaving my van, my girlfriend, and basically everything I owned, which wasn’t much.
Oh, I’m very familiar with that. It’s liberating, isn’t it? But what happened from there? How did you end up with the corporate job you had when I met you years later in Exeter, New Hampshire?
After playing the big rock shows for awhile, I destroyed my voice, went back to New Hampshire, and took voice lessons with the number one teacher in the theater district. After some soul searching I decided to give up the dream and go to college. I got two computer programming degrees, got married, and set a new course. My first interview was with a large bank and the manager threw my resume on his desk and said, “Dammit, I’m looking for experience.” After apologizing and explaining his frustration, we talked for about a half hour and he hired me. I worked there for over eight years, and he’s still a good friend.
I took another position years later with a company in the “payments” business. The woman who interviewed me-for three hours-eventually became my wife. I’m incredibly fortunate. It was an interesting situation in that the company was acquired by a big bank that had a policy banning “power differentiated” relationships. One of us had to go, so I joined a different department, which scared the hell out of me, but it turned out to be a good thing.
And now you’ve retired from all that and are back playing music.
Yes, after leaving the corporate world after twenty years, I decided to get back into the music business, mainly to feed the soul rather than make a living. I’m currently doing solo acoustic shows, and occasional gigs with a five piece rock band. I’ve also formed a trio and we have recorded an 1800’s Christmas carol on a multi-artist project for charity.
I really enjoy playing and singing, and engaging the crowd in songs that are familiar to them. I encourage people to sing along, join me on the stage, and generally have a good time. I’m currently playing in New Hampshire at bars, wine tastings, art galleries, holidays parties, etc., and I’ll be putting up a website in 2015 with a schedule and demo songs.
That’s great, John. So, any regrets or advice for anyone out there thinking about retiring or cutting back and wondering what the next chapter should be?
No regrets, it’s been a great ride and I’ve met lots of great and talented people, both in music and business. I would say utilize your talent, whatever it is, everyone has it.
THEN: AND NOW: