In this series of interviews, we talk to renowned Mandolin players, makers and enthusiasts.
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Luke Plumb is a brilliant young musician from Hobart, Tasmania.
Currently part of Scottish band Shooglenifty his instruments of choice are mandolins by Daffy, a Gilchrist F5 as well as a mongrel tenor banjo with a Daffy neck.
Read on to learn a bit more about this talented young musician.
How did you get started in music / on the mandolin?
My parents sent me to classical violin lessons when I was 13 and then also piano lessons when I was 15. I started playing folk fiddle when I was 16 and then bought my first mandolin for my 17th birthday.
That was pretty much the end of my classical career! There had always been a wide variety of music played in the house – though neither of my parents play an instrument – and I started to imitate the folk and jazz musicians I had been hearing.
Why the mandolin?
I used to think I started playing the mandolin as a way of keeping my parents happy that I was playing music without having to practice the violin. Now I think it was that once I started learning tunes I wanted to hear them like how Andy Irvine and Planxty played them.
Do you have any tips for learners?
Fall in love with the actual sound that your instrument makes and you will want to keep on playing it. And the more you play it the more you will fall in love with the sound of it.
When did you play your first gig?
My first actual gig was in a small pub in Hobart called the New Sydney in 1998. It was a small slot for the Saturday folk club. I think we would have played Raggle Taggle Gypsies(Planxty), Bonnie Banks ‘o Fordie(Dick Gaughan), The Bonny Ship the Diamond(A.L. Lloyd), West Coast of Clare (Andy Irvine) and then the tune sets would have been: Merry Blacksmith/Farewell to Ireland; Rakes of Kildare/Joe Burke’s Jig/Kesh Jig; Boys of Bluehill/Harvest Home. I think I got paid $AU25.
Do you think the status of the mandolin in popular music needs to be raised?
I think the profile of the mandolin is being raised gradually but it is the kind of thing that will happen at its own pace – it can’t be forced.
The fact that it is such a versatile instrument means that people are trying it in new contexts and generating new sounds. This will lead to more people hearing it and hopefully more people feeling inspired to take it up.
How many mandolins do you have? / Do you have a favourite?
I have two mandolins at the moment. I record with a Gilchrist F5 model and play on stage with a mandolin made by my good friend Peter Daffy. He calls it the LP Mandolin but it is essentially an A5 set up for use with a pickup. They are both wonderful instruments but my favourite is the Gilchrist. (My first madolin was a $AU300 factory made Eston which was upgraded to a John Bushby flat top.)
Apart from yourself who is your favourite player?
My all time favourite mandolin player is Louis McManus who sadly does not play anymore. His ferocity is something I have not really come across in celtic music and is truly exciting. Obviously Andy Irvine and I listen to a lot of Mike Compton and Grisman. And then there’s Bill Monroe……
What other instruments do you play?
I play the Irish Bouzouki, the Tenor Banjo, Guitar and a bit of Fiddle and Piano.
If you were deserted on an Island which three pieces of music would you care not to be without?
Terry Riley’s Persian Surgery Dervishes, Django Reinhardt’s Appel Direct, Andy Irvine’s Never Tire of the Road.
Acoustic or electric?
I prefer the sound of an acoustic mandolin – I play in a fully electrified band but I still want my instrument to sound like a mandolin.
What would be your reaction if your best friend sat on your favourite mandolin?
I think life would freeze for a while and then I would cry.
If you had to start over again would you choose the Mandolin?
I think so. Hard to say. I would’ve liked to play the Irish pipes but then you can’t play jazz on them! I think I would choose the mandolin again – it is a ball-tearer of an instrument!