Arizona hasn’t been kind to the Galway, Ireland-based act We Banjo 3. Four of its shows were postponed in February 2022 and each time it’s been to the Grand Canyon State, it’s rained.
Vocalist David Howley is hoping for a better result — and some warm weather — when We Banjo 3 returns to the state: Wednesday, February 1, at the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff; Thursday, February 2, at 191 Toole in Tucson; Friday, February 3, at the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts in Wickenburg; and Saturday, February 4, at the Chandler Center for the Arts.
“These are very special shows for us,” he says.
“We have a lot of new music that’s creeping in from (the new record) ‘Open the Road.’ It’s more of an explanation and understanding as well of where the band is at. We’re probably going to ask the crowd to dance at some point. We love when people move. Movement in music is so important, particularly as we’ve had a break from it for a couple of years. We’re excited to be back.”
We Banjo 3 won’t be back for long, however. The two sets of brothers — Enda (banjo, mandolin and tenor guitar) and Fergal Scahill (fiddle, guitar and Bodhran) and David (banjo, vocals, guitar) and Martin Howley (banjo, mandolin, tenor guitar) — are planning an extended break from their rolling banjos, soaring fiddle and mandolin runs that swirl around propulsive vocals and perfect harmonies.
“We all have a lot of projects that we’ve been working on,” he says.
“Since coming back after the pandemic, we have been on the road pretty much constantly. So, we’re going to do something mad and crazy that musicians never do — we’re going to take some time off.”
David has solo tours coming up. Martin plays mandolin in the Broadway show “Come from Away,” while Fergal’s talents went viral during the pandemic when he played a tune every day on social media.
Enda has a “fantastic Patreon” where he has created a hub for learning Irish tenor banjo.
“We all have stuff happening,” he says.
We Banjo 3 grew out of jam sessions among the four men. After Enda returned to Galway from a tour playing bluegrass and old-time festivals, he called David and Martin and asked them to come over to his house to play music.
In 2009, they started playing gigs, dubbing themselves We Banjo 3, as they all played the instrument. David added vocals and guitar, and Fergal joined later on fiddle.
After a performance at International Arts Festival, the biggest art festival in Europe, We Banjo 3 was awarded a grant from the Arts Council of Ireland, which the musicians used to record their first album and continued to tour Ireland.
Touring the world, they’ve showed off their musicianship and recently they released “Open the Road,” a 10-track collection. Upbeat and powerful, We Banjo 3’s music is what the world needs, he says.
“Music is a very inclusive, communicative thing,” he says. “It brings people together. I think that that’s the beautiful thing about coming out to a show. You could come to our gig knowing ever lyric of every song, and you could also come to our gig without ever hearing a single song. We build the gig around the idea that both of those people are included.”
Reiterating that “Open the Road” is a statement record, David says the pandemic proved there was a lot more music within them that they weren’t exploring.
“The statement of that album is there are no rules,” he says. “There’s not even a destination really in the album. It’s very much just one large exploration of what comes out of your mind if you just let yourself have fun.”
He admits it was hard to loosen up like that.
“I think that the natural thing to do, as a musician, is to say, ‘Well, everything has to be perfect — particularly with the pressure of having other albums gone before that have done pretty well,” David says.
“There’s always a pressure on a new album because the new album has to do better than the old album. But I think with this, we just said, ‘Let’s just make the album we want to make and enjoy it. Whatever it does, it does.’ The response has been beautiful, though.”
We Banjo 3
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 1
WHERE: Orpheum Theater, 15 W. Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff
COST: Tickets start at $30
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, February 2
WHERE: 191 Toole, 191 E. Toole Avenue, Tucson
COST: Tickets start at $28
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 3
WHERE: Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts, 1090 S. Vulture Mine Road Wickenburg
COST: Tickets start at $32
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 4
WHERE: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandler
COST: Tickets start at $26