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The Prodigals


The Prodigals Biographies (Courtesy of the Artistís site, 2005)

The Prodigals are one of the most successful bands to emerge from the East-Coast Irish scene. The band members grew up largely in Ireland; their original songs blend a funky and anarchic energy that is pure New York with a genuine passion for the traditional music of Ireland. They have played throughout the United States, from Los Angeles and Las Vegas to Chicago, Boston and Maine, as well as abroad in Canada, Germany and Ireland, but they remain firmly rooted in Manhattan.

Gregory Grene [button accordion & vocals]
I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and moved to a small farm in Co. Cavan, Ireland when I was five months old. I divided my time growing up between the two places, studying accordion with Sean Donaghue in Ireland and Liz Carroll in Chicago, under whose tutelage I won the Midwest Fleadh Ceoil in the Junior and Senior Divisions. At Trinity College Dublin I spent my time hanging out in the Buttery Bar, where I ended up founding the Dublin University Traditional Music Society and writing a Guide to Dublin Pubs which became the object of a libel lawsuit by the Shelbourne Hotel. As a result I still have a thousand or so stacked in my apartment. Let me know if you want to buy one.
Crazy about:
_. Music: Joe Burke, James Keane, Josephine Marsh, Liz Carroll, Martin Hayes, Solas, Tannahill Weavers, Relativity and Silly Wizard, Sharon Shannon, Dermot Byrne, Deanta
_. Shane MacGowan's successively brilliant songs
_. Very, very solid meals, without which I become the crankiest member of the whole group (and that's saying something), Guinness, Jameson, milk
_. Going out to great gigs, playing gigs and in sessions
_. Films: Spanking the Monkey , I Went Down
_. Books - well-written, plot-driven novels (Stevenson, Dickens, Austen, Fielding, Patrick McCabe) In general, I'm not that crazy about artsy style-driven writing
I play a Castagnari Tommy accordion, handmade in Recanati, Italy. I think they're just great, deserving of their fine reputation. Feel free to contact me regarding where to find 'em!

Eamon O'Tuama [guitar & vocals]
I was born in Cork City, Ireland. I lived in Fermoy, a small town about 20 miles from Cork until I was six. My family moved back to Cork and I stayed there until I graduated from University with a degree in psychology and philosophy. I now live in New York and have a very tall teenage son who likes to wear Prodigals t-shirts.
I started playing the guitar when I was about 16. I started with the specific intention of writing songs. I was very shy about it and would lock myself away in my room fumbling over C chords and writing lyrics for hours. I listened to every kind of music but when I heard Bob Dylan it switched a light on and showed me a side of music that I had not known existed. I also remember seeing "Jesus Christ Superstar" in the Cork Opera House and being blown away by the sound of a live band. I can still remember feeling the drums vibrating in my chest. I think that stirred up the rock and roll in me.
When I came I New York first I played mostly solo gigs in places like The Bitter End, The Sun Mountain Cafe, The Speakeasy, Sin E and An Beal Bocht. I recorded my first CD "Down With A Smile " in 1996 with a small Irish label (CBM). It was produced by Greg Anderson of Whirligig and featured Win Horan and Seamus Egan of Solas among others. I formed the Eamon O'Tuama Band in 1997 and we recorded the CD "Behind Every Life" in 2001. In 2004 I released a 6 song CD called "Strong Believers Crashing" which I recorded in my home studio. More information on all that on my website (EOTmusic.Com).
I go through stages of listening through different music. My CD collection is varied folk, rock, rap, opera, a little jazz. I love Bob Dylan, Randy Newman and Paul Simon as songwriters. Generally I am attracted to songwriters who are unafraid to let the messy bits show.
One of the purest most rewarding things for me is the songwriting process. The lyrics I write are usually inspired by what I have experienced or from observing others and trying to relate to how they feel. I often find I am referring to different events or people in one song. This usually happens naturally as I find that so much of what we experience is universal. I also think that I am drawn to writing about people who I perceive as having similar experiences to me. Songs sometimes become like puzzles to me and they need to be solved. Usually a word, phrase or melody will trigger something and give me a path to follow and then piece by piece the song shows itself. Sometimes it can take a while and I let the melody sit in my mind. Other times it all pours out right away.
I joined the Prodigals in September 2003 when Colm left and its been pretty much all good times since then.

Ed Kollar [bass]
I like sushi, sunsets, long walks on the beach, and puppies. Um... When I was a kid and realized that all of these people making music had, at one time or another, to learn to play their instruments and didn't spring forth from the womb already able, I decided that I too could be taught. But what instrument? At the very same moment, I heard the sounds of a Rush LP my big sister was playing on our family's colossal 1970's, 8-track equiped, stereo system. I said, "What the hell is that?" Well, not really, but I did ask what the low, growling, driving thing was there in the mix. She said, "It's a bass." And that, my friends, was that.
My first teacher was very strict with music theory and musicianship. I had to read everything. Sure, it was a Black Sabbath song or a Yes song but I was reading it, man. He always managed to intuit what repertoire I might be interested in learning. It must have been my shoulder length(!) hair.
In college I started a Frank Zappa-esque band called Fancy Albacore for which I played trombone(?), sang and wrote all the material. Eventually the call came in to play trombone with Elektra recording artists White Trash, yeah you know what I'm talkin' about, but hey I got to tour the country for the first time. I had to sell my trombone for rent after the tour because the manager, who happened to be in league with Old Scratch, refused to pay the band. So I switched back to bass and went back to college and started playing jazz. After the persistent and not-so-subtle wheedling of my mentor Jeff Holmes, I started lessons on the double bass since the electric bass just doesn't provide the 'buoyancy' needed in a jazz rhythm section - a position to which I quickly pledged my allegiance. With the double bass also came the new sensation of playing with a bow and a beautiful new repertoire including pieces by Bach and Rachmaninov and Shostakovich. In fact, my bass guitar gathered dust. For the past ten years the double bass has been my world and the b.g. came out of the closet strictly for hire. And off in the distance a child weeps. During those years I played with irish rock band Raglan Road with fiddler Matt Mancuso. The bass player in that band (that was me) did not have a role of great import so to get my rocks off I played with my jazz trio Monk for President. Late in 2001 Raglan Road died a quiet death and since then I've been freelancing and playing jazz. One day Gregory called and offered me the chance to audition for the Prodigals and of course I jumped at it, and it meant doing something I hadn't done in a decade - practice the electric. Given the demanding nature of the Prodigals' music that's something I've been doing a ton of lately and I think my double bass has been giving me dirty looks.

Eamon Ellams [drums]
From the moment I was born in Ellesmere Port, England, my eccentric Irish family started drilling Irish music in to my head. My father was determined to make me a fiddle player, but like all rebellious young boys I searched for the instrument which was farthest from my father's wishes. After a brief stint on the penny whistle (not rebellious enough) I succumbed to the lure of the drums, and all things percussive.
At the age of 22, after studying the drums privately for 10 years, I set off to "The Percussion Institute of Technology" in the big smoke of London. It was there that I found my love for Jazz and Latin music. After returning from college I studied with Dave Hassel, an amazing Latin/jazz percussionist and teacher and played in various latin and jazz bands in and around Liverpool. My next venture was to the United States to tour with "Riverdance the Show." I spent a year on the road and then played on Broadway where I developed an unusual liking of Irish music much to my family's amazement! When the Broadway show closed, I went home to England with lots of Celtic CD's in my bag, and ended up playing in my Father's Irish band with my brother on bass, my sister on vocals/guitar, myself on drums, and my father leading us on the fiddle. It was a good time playing traditional songs and tunes for the drunk people of england, (myself included), and also a challenge for me to play the drum kit with this music, which traditionally uses the bodhran. In 2003, I returned to New York City, to start a life with the girl who is now my wife. I was playing in different bands in the City, when I answered an ad for an Irish Rock band. I drank 3 cans of red bull, went to the audition, and the rest is history!




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