Steo Wall graces the cover of this special edition (it’s our 20th year). “My songs are written for all the socio-economically deprived people of the world,” he tells Ben Panter. Steo is proud of his Dublin roots and his Traveller heritage. He believes the pandemic has strengthened our sense of community and he encourages everyone to keep the head up in these strange times.

A tear slid gently down my face. Maybe, it was the long weeks of solitude?

A friend had offered a spare ticket to a ‘socially distanced’ gig in August and of course, I jumped at the chance.

In the intimate surrounding of the Royal Spa in Lisdoonvarna, Steo Wall treated the socially-starved audience to a moving set from his debut album of 2019.

I suspected I wasn’t the only one as deeply affected although I made sure no-one saw me wipe my sleeve across my cheek.

* * * * *

“The first album was very autobiographical,” Steo told ‘Changing Ireland’ recently. “That’s why I called it ‘Where I’m From’ and it tells where I grew up, this is the shit I done, this is where I’m at.”

Capturing the consequences of addiction, social media, uplifting tributes to family, and the pride he has in his Traveller heritage, his lyrics can be tragic or joyous and comic or serious, weaving through grief and romance with sublime effect.

* * * * *

Steo tells stories and people know they are not alone – stories like ‘Sarah Doran’, a powerful ballad immortalising his ‘nan’.

“When I was growing up I lived with her (in Shankill, Dublin). She would always be listening to bleedin’ Patsy Cline and American-folk, and Irish-folk, and there was always ‘trad’ and Radio One and Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Christie Moore.”

“My songs are written for all the socio-economically deprived people of the world, not just the Irish. I get messages from people all over the world telling me they can relate to my songs– it blows my mind,” he said.

* * * * *

Even so, ‘Sarah Doran’ nearly missed the cut, only for Luka Bloom.

“He said, ‘This is your introduction to the world – you have to include it’.”

If Sarah Doran initiated his musical journey, it was the lyrical freedom found in Tupac Shakur which inspired him to first write in the style that inspired ‘Pikey Rap’ and the hilarious ‘Original Bad Boy Material’. [A must-see on Youtube – Ed].

“I remember in ‘96 a mate put on a ‘Tupac’ tape and I heard ‘Brenda’s got a baby’. It blew my mind! The way he spoke and the expression in his words got me into writing songs.

“I wondered which way I was going to go, folk or rap. Then I realised – do all of the above.

“As an artist, all that matters to me is to tell the truth of the times that we live in, so that’s what I try to do – make people look.”

“Right now, we know the times are strange. I’m trying to process them. It’s when things go back to normal and it settles, then it will come out.”

“You know, it’s not so much the loss of connection or touch – it’s the lack of routine, the kids not going to school and not meeting for coffee… Not earning a living is the hardest part for me.”

“And the media – Me Ma, she rang me the other night crying because she doesn’t want to die. She’s in the house and the telly’s on constantly, bombarding her with death and statistics, not a good head-space.”

“But then, there’s a sense of community – look after your neighbour, check on older people, that sort of thing.

“In the eighties everyone was piss-poor and we borrowed everything and then the boom happened and we lost that sense of community and the pandemic brought that back.”

* * * * *

Community plays a huge part of Steo’s life and he lists activists like Sarah Clancy, Josie O’Brien, Ruairí McKiernan, Dr Sindy Joyce, Eileen Flynn, Lynne Ruane and Bernadette McAliskey amongst his heroes.

“There’s loads of them – too many to mention,” he says.

“I got to know a few of the guys in the direct provision centre here in Miltown Malbay last year. We would do coffee mornings, sing songs and eat traditional dishes. It was amazing.

“Some locals weren’t happy with their presence and the efforts of local people who worked with them to point out the inhumane conditions they were subjected to.

“Eventually we got the kip closed down and moved the guys into better conditions, at least in terms of the tyranny that is direct provision. It inspired me to write the song, ‘More Blacks, More Dogs More Irish,’ to highlight it wasn’t so long ago we Irish were the immigrants.

“And before Covid, I was teaching guitar to Traveller men in Ennis. We would have these amazing chats which would leave my spirit full.”

* * * * *

All changed last March.

“Ha! When the first lock-down happened, I couldn’t do anything. I just couldn’t access that place that I go to when I’m creating. There was this cap on it.”

“I’m recording a new album now,” he says. “I’ll even tell you the name,” he grins. “It’s ‘Street Wisdom for Lost Souls’. It’s a lot more outward gazing than before, universal, exploring what is happening in the world around.”

The streets might be where he’s from, but it’s West Clare where he and his partner Jacinta have chosen to raise their young family. Would he recommend the move from the big city lights?

“No definitely not! Ennistymon is getting too popular, there are too many of us blow-ins now. I said if anyone asks me this question, I’m gonna lie and tell them it’s terrible down here!

“It’s the best move I ever made. It’s a different way of life. It’s what gave me the time and space to get back to writing.

“My kids go to an amazing little country school five minutes from our door. I live out in the country, minutes from the wild Atlantic ocean and ten minutes from the still majesty of the Burren. Depending on what energy I need on any given day I head either way.”

“Whatever 2020 has taught us, it’s that plans are null and void, there are no plans. You build up a version of yourself, a career or job or whatever and then the rug is pulled out from under you and all your left with is yourself. I find it liberating.”

“I’m just trying to enjoy the kids and the quiet life and enjoy the process of finishing the album and that’s it.”



Rise Up!(Excerpt)

How did it come to this?

How did the lost generation we miss?

How do you live in your ignorant bliss?

While they’re dying trying to cross the abyss

And are hoping for better ways, search for a better day.

All that we say is, “No go away.

You don’t belong here, you weren’t born here. This is our country, we’re making it stronger”

Pulling down bridges and building up walls.

Closing the borders, enforcing the law.

Innocent children are locked in these cages.

More of these kids are dying on beaches

What will it take to stand up to hate?.

Look it in the eye and force the debate.

‘Cause this could be you and this could be me

In the grand scheme of things, we’re all refugees.


To listen, see:



My People Guardians of Culture

Oh my people, my people, they roamed those ancient fairs,

Bringing stories and the music of those old and ancient airs.

But they tried to ban our culture, and they tried to stop our ways.

The spirit of a people they are trying to erase.

* * * * *


Oh my people, my people, don’t let them bring you down.

Because your rich history is written on every stone in every town.

Oh my people, my people, don’t let them keep you down.

Because your rich history is laid on every road in every town.

* * * * *

Ah the winds of change, I can hear the lullaby,

Of the bould Pecker Dunne, with the teardrop in his eyes,

Johnny Keenan and Teddy Furey, and old John Reilly too,

Were the guardians of our culture, we will always remember you.

* * * * *


Oh Maggie Barry with her banjo

And those ancient Gaelic airs,

Of the piper Pat Cash, he passed the flame down through the years.

Johnny Doran and Felix, those gypsy piper kings,

You inspired generations and your names we’ll forever sing.

To listen, see: