They’re the band that taps into more genres than you can shake a stick at - folk, rock, country, punk, pop and blues - but whatever their ‘label’ Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas are a band that encapsulates ‘infectious’.
Their music is the kind that gets your toe tapping and your mind thinking, all in the space of two minutes, and their latest album makes no exception.
Entitled ‘Laughter and Love’, the album is the band’s third, and has been three years in the making.
Singer-songwriter Paddy admits it has been longer than they expected, but ‘worth the wait!’
“Initially the album was recorded at the Nerve Centre, with all the band members in a circle, playing live. This allowed for more input from everyone and gave us the bones of the songs and a really good vibe. The rest of our time was spent in the Blast Furnace Recording Studio in Creggan layering voices, recording guest artists and general production.
“As a result there are more harmonies, and a more rounded sound that comes from working together for longer.
“At the start it was just me, Diane, Liam and Jonny with help from friends, but the second album in 2012 added in the rest of band, John on Drums, Eddie on keys and Rory on lead guitar. We’ve gigged a fair bit together now and this third record reflects that extra time spent together.”
In fact, the album now has writing credits from both their keyboard player Eddie O’Donnell, and bass guitarist Jonny Nutt.
“Eddie listened to the arrangement on ‘I’ll Be Done Loving You’ and significantly added to it, so it felt right that he gets the credit.
“Then when Jonny played us ‘Clichés’ and said he wasn’t using it in his solo project we asked if we could pick it up, it has a Happy Enchilada feel to it and it works well within the album. It also flags up a solo album project he has ongoing.”
Having a ‘Happy Enchilada’ feel is very important - and Paddy has written many a song that the other band members like but class as not being for the band.
“They’re the best and worst critics,” Paddy jokes. “But seriously, they know as well as I do what the people who support us expect.”
“We recorded 16 tracks and 11 made the album.”
“There are times when I can hear a brass section or even an full orchestra in my head, but they never materialise - essentially the album tracks are ones we can realistically re-create when we play live.
“Rory Donaghy, our lead guitar player and main producer has a great knack of capturing that live feel when we record. I’ve always wanted our albums to be like an in-tune version of our live shows”
Talking about his influences and writing style, Paddy reflects, “I’m influenced by everything and anything when it comes to lyrics.
“There are some tracks that are politically motivated, and in ‘Laughter and Love’ ‘Adam and Evan’ stands out in that genre because it supports equal marriage. But not every lyric I write always has a deeper meaning; in fact, a good few don’t.
“I like that some songs are open to interpretation. I may think I’m writing one thing and then I meet someone who hears it differently.”
Musically, Paddy is influenced by everything “from Springsteen to John Prine and from Billy Bragg to ELO.”
Bragg’s influence has always been clear, and after a stint backing Bragg’s Irish tour in 2011, Paddy took the plunge to make music his full-time job.
“It was terrifying making the leap, but I am now making a living through music. There’s more to it than producing an album every few years, but I enjoy the work.”
One of the elements of his work includes implementing ‘Jail Guitar Doors’ at Magilligan prison, an initiative set up by Billy Bragg to help with the rehabilitation of prisoners. He’s now the ‘Musician in Residence’ and works for the Prison Arts Foundation.
Of that he says, “It’s sometimes challenging but often rewarding.”
He is also the ‘Artist in Residence’ at Ardnashee School & College, a position he “loves”, while he and his partner Diane Greer took part in a Derry City Council initiative that took live music into care homes, another activity that together they “really enjoyed”. It’s something they continue to do in their spare time.
Diane is also a vocalist with the band, and this third album showcases her melodic voice in both ‘Brave’ and ‘Good Conversation’.
The songs on the album go from big production “hands in the air” straight into stripped down acoustic “heart hugs”.
Diane suggests, “It’s something we are known for, other musicians have said it’s a brave thing to do, dropping the tempo so far, but the feedback we get from people who buy the music is that it works”
The title track ‘Laughter and Love’, has already been getting great airplay on Radio Foyle and Radio Ulster, and initial reviews are encouraging.
“We have great local support and the pre-orders are already exceeding our expectations.”
Loyal fans of Paddy’s music will always rush out to buy the album. But for anyone who hasn’t heard it before what would he tell them to expect?
“We got a review a few years back from R2 magazine that said ‘Like The Saw Doctors jamming with The Undertones at a street party held by Squeeze’ – throw in a bit of Johnny Cash and that pretty much sums us up!”
Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas launch their third album ‘Laughter and Love’ on Friday 15th May at the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre as part of the Danny Boy Festival. Tickets £8, £6 concession.
You can pre-order the album at www.paddynash.com/album/laughter-love