I first met Peg Roach Loyd a few years ago at the Celtic Festival in Jackson, Mississippi. She was performing there, and I was enthralled with this beautiful and talented lady’s music and personality. At the North Texas Irish Festival, she graciously consented to an interview.
Peg is a talented musician–singer/songwriter, guitar/bodhrán/bones/Irish whistle–who has a soothing voice that hints of her Irish ancestry. Through her songs and stories, she connects people with their Irish ancestry and educates them about aspects of Irish culture as she journeys from Ireland to America, painting a picture of Irish history, emigration, musical craic (the Irish Gaelic word for fun), love and parting, and the pleasures of a good pint.
Peg grew up in St. Louis, Mo., before moving to Little Rock in 1987. Her Irish ancestors emigrated from counties Cork, Limerick and Kerry during the Great Famine. Peg began singing as a young child under the influence of her father, an Irish tenor, and her mother who instilled pride for all things Irish. Her interest in traditional Irish music took hold when she patronized John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub in Soulard, south of downtown St. Louis.
In Little Rock, Peg has performed frequently at Hibernia Irish Tavern, and Dugan’s Irish Pub, Khali’s Pub & Grill as well as, the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas, the Arkansas Country Dance Society, the Arkansas Celtic Music Society, Nashville Songwriters Association Songwriter’s Night, and other venues.
Peg performs annually at CelticFest in Jackson, MS, and other regional festivals such as the North Texas Irish Festival in Dallas, TX (March 2011 with John Burleson, as well as previous years with the traditional Irish band Cairde), Clanjamfry in Memphis, TN, and the Wheeling Celtic Heritage Day in Wheeling, WV.
Q: You are a songwriter, folksinger, and a storyteller. How did these qualities/skills develop?
I wrote my first song in college. It came to me out of nowhere as a sudden and unexpected burst of inspiration. I really didn’t know what to make of it at the time, but sensed something extraordinary had happened. It seemed to come from somewhere outside of myself, yet was about my own feelings and experience. I wrote just a handful of songs in college and got up the nerve to share them at a local student center coffee house across from the university I attended in St. Louis.
Q: When and how did you actually begin performing?
In the beginning, in college, there was only the local student center coffee house. After I graduated, I got a job, got married and packed my guitar away for 15 years. But the music, in particular, Irish music kept calling out to me. I reached a point where just listening to the music wasn’t enough anymore. I had to take part. I ventured out to an Irish music summer school associated with the Milwaukee Irishfest and took classes in bodhran, Irish whistle, songs and Irish language. The bodhran and songs classes spoke to my soul. I asked what I needed to do to take a more intermediate class in bodhran the next year. I was told to find an Irish music session to participate in where I lived. I thought to myself, how am I going to find an Irish music session in Little Rock, Arkansas? Yet, there was a session here. So I started to attend, first just to listen, then to play my drum, then later, I was asked to sing a song. After that, I felt called to get my guitar out again and learn to accompany myself on songs. The songwriting re-ignighted later.
Q: You’re based in Arkansas, but also perform in other states?
Yes, I have performed at festivals and venues in Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia.
Q: Tell my readers about your first CD, Carving in Stone.
When I took my first songwriting workshop, taught by Robbie O’Connell at the Augusta Irish Week in Elkins, West Virginia, a door opened up to me. In that class, I wrote a song in a way I had never written a song before. It helped me realize I didn’t need to just wait for inspiration to strike, I could facilitate the creative process in a new way. The song I wrote in class that week was “Carving in Stone.” I knew at the time I wrote it that it would be the title track to my first solo CD. The CD, which was released in 2008, has nine original songs and three traditional Irish songs on it. A friend and one of my bodhran teachers, Mark Stone, helped produce the CD for me. I recorded most of the tracks at Trimble Productions, at Ville Marre in Little Rock. One track, “The Month of January” was recorded in a starewell at the hospital where I worked. The CD was mixed by Mark and Tony Young, HCYR Studio in Ingram, Texas, and mastered by Jerry Tubb at Terra Nova Digital Audio in Austin, Texas. Mark plays bodhran on it and created a cool effect with my voice and multple drums – Celtic and African drums – for track # 6, “The Famine.” Other musicians added button accordion, fiddle, flute and Irish whistle to various tracks.
Q: You have a new CD planned?
Yes, my next CD, which is also a book project, I plan to finish and publish this year.
Q: Do you have a working title?
Yes, in a similar way to how I knew my first CD would be called Carving in Stone, I knew my second CD/Book would be called The Path. The title track song tells the story of the passion of Christ and literally wrote itself in about 20 minutes. It was inspired by an assignment from a local songwriting circle to write a song with the words “cup, cloud and brick” included in the song. When I heard “cup” my first thought was the cup of Christ — a cup Jesus did not want, yet accepted just the same. The rest of the lyrics came quickly and easily.
Q: Are these original songs?
Most of the songs on The Path will be original with maybe one or two traditional songs or possibly a song written by another songwriter. I have about eight chapters or songs and stories written so far and another 2-4 songs and stories to add to the project to finish it off. It is essentially the story of my own spiritual path toward becoming a songwriter.
Q: What is your projected date of completion? You also have a book planned?
My goal is to finish the manuscript (the stories behind the songs and the songs themselves) this summer, then to work on editing/refining the song lyrics, melodies and song arrangements, and go into a studio to record in the fall. My goal is to see the book and CD released by the end of 2012.
When I started writing the liner notes for my next CD, The Path, I quickly realized the message of the CD could also be a book. So the project turned into a CD and book combination. My goal with the CD & book, The Path is to, through sharing my own experience, help the reader/listener to realize that they, too, can seek, find, realize and fulfill their path — what God placed them on this earth to do — their passion, who they were meant to be and what they were meant to do in this lifetime. The book will include questions at the end of each chapter to prompt the reader/listener to reflect on his/her own life and how they can more fully realize and fulfill their own unique life path.
Q: What are some influences upon your musical style, your songwriting, and your storytelling?
My early influences come from the folk tradition of the 1960’s and 70’s — songwriters like John Denver, Carole King, Carly Simon, Peter, Paul & Mary, James Taylor. I remember the first concert I ever attended. My sister, Mary Pat took me to see John Denver and he had these beautiful images of the Rocky Mountains projected on to large screens as he sang his songs. And he told the background story of the song and what inspired him to write it. I thought “Wow!” I’d love to do that!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m working now to get about the business of owning my life and doing what God placed me here on this earth to do. I think that reason is writing songs and sharing stories. I want to utilize storytelling and songwriting for a greater purpose than just providing entertaining songs. I want the songs to be or mean something more. I hope to have an impact; to share an emotion (be it joy, laughter or sorrow) that connects with people in a meaningful way. I hope the songs I write, in some measure, serve to inspire, heal and speak the truth.