In his own words — Wilfried Besse of folk band Doolin from Toulouse

In his own words — Wilfried Besse of folk band Doolin from Toulouse

Doolin - Wilfried at the piano (picture by Yann Orphaan)

French pop-rock-folk band Doolin — who specialise largely in Irish roots music — have just released their latest album Circus Boy, which features their single Darkest Way.

The album , recorded in part in the US (Chicago, Kansas City and Pittsburgh) during their 2019 tour, was completed at the legendary Studio Ferber in Paris, France, under the direction of two legendary producers, Olivier Lude and Patrice Renson.

Widely regarded as France’s premier Celtic and Irish band, their interpretation of traditional music also has added influences of French chanson and America roots music. Their unique sound feature Wilfried Besse on vocals, accompanied by the driving rhythm section of Josselin Fournel (percussion), Sébastien Saunié (bass) and Nicolas Besse (guitars).

The traditional Irish influence is accentuated by the whistle playing of Jacob Fournel, the bodhrán of his brother, Josselin, and the exquisite accordion playing of Nicolas’ brother, Wilfried.

The album Circus Boy also includes three of the best European fiddlers of the genre: Niamh Gallagher, Niall Murphy, and Guilhem Cavaillé, himself a founding member of the band.

They are also joined by The Screaming Orphans (from Donrgal) and Ashley Davis (Lunasa, Tthe Chieftains) on backing vocals.


Wifried Besse tells the Irish Post about the band, his music and his life.

Lots of Irish songs really move me, really get to me. But I’d say Tá mé 'mo shuí and A Tune for Frankie from Altan’s Blackwater album are among the finest pieces I know. But I also love rock music, and would rate Sergeant Pepper as one of the greatest works of art ever. OK Computer by Radiohead is also close to the top. And when it comes to lyrics, probably my favourite line is from Bob Dylan: “When you ain't got nothing you got nothing to lose / You're invisible now, you've got not secrets to conceal…”

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Hozier. Love his singing and his music.


In my ideal band, I’d have who I have now — but I wouldn’t mind a few additional musicians such as Cathal Hayden on fiddle or banjo and John Doyle on mandola or bouzouki. And if Larry Mullen jnr could add some drum tracks that really would be cool.

As a band I’d say the musicians who have most influenced us are John Doyle, Sharon Shanon, Seamus Begley, Frankie Gavin and Bono.


Doolin is made out of two families. My brother Nicolas (guitar), our cousin Sébastien (bass) and I come from a music family where my grand father and father were musicians. Nicolas and Sébastien had a band when I was young and progressively took me under their wings. Jacob (whistles) and Josselin (bodhrán) who are brothers too have both parents who are very interested in music as well.


U2, The Cranberries, The Pogues and The Waterboys first led us to Irish music 

One day we met Guilhem (our former fiddle player) and he introduced us to Jacob and Josselin who had been on a trip to Ireland with their parents. They originally played keyboards and drums but fell in love with the culture and gave it a go at whistles and bodhrán.


We live in the south / southwest of France around the city of Toulouse. (The best rugby team ever!) My family home an old farm where we rehearse and throw big parties sometimes — that’s my favourite part of France. The food, the wine and the countryside are all fabulous. But the beer isn’t so good. . In Ireland my favourite place in the countryside is Doolin (obviously) and in the city upstairs at the Cobblestone.


If it came to a choice between Mozart or Martin Hayes, I’d have to say — that’s a very difficult one. I think my answer would be . . . M


If they made a documentary about me, or a film I’d probably say I’d like Woody Harrelson but my girlfriend suggests Xavier Bardem.


I’m not sure if you could call a musical instrument an inanimate object, but I value mine so much. But for non-musical objects, the brother of a good friend of mine me a leather cigarette case that I love and never leaves me.


What do I believe in? I believe in love in every shape. That’s what I stand for . And the greatest love of my life — that’s easy: my 9-year-old daughter Margot and my girlfriend Sophie.

If I thought about what is the greatest love of my life, that’s easy too — music.