Ten minutes with Fil Campbell and Tom McFarland

Ten minutes with Fil Campbell and Tom McFarland

Tom McFarland & Fil Campbell (picture Bobby Hanvey)

Originally from Belleek in Co. Fermanagh, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Fil Campbell was brought up on the folk songs and music from the townlands of Fermanagh and Donegal.

Since the 1990's Fil and her husband Tom McFarland, from Belfast, have been performing as a musical duo. Their unique combination of blending vocals, guitar, and percussion plus the ability to mix their original compositions with traditional and contemporary songs can be heard on their latest CD Shoreline.

They took time off from their touring schedule to answer our questions

What are you up to?

Travelling around folk clubs in the North of England and Scotland and heading home to launch our new album Shoreline.

Which piece of music always sends a shiver down your spine?

Fil: Carmina Burana (the old spice ad)

Tom: Fool on the Hill

Which musician has most influenced you?

Fil: Van Morrison, Linda Ronstadt, Joan Baez, Mary Black

Tom: David Bowie, The Beatles, Colum Sands

How did you get started in music?

Fil: I’ve been singing since I was a child and all through school. It was a natural progression to move into performing full time.

Tom: In school a group of us were a band in our heads, playing in the living room. Went on to study drums at the Belfast School of Music.

Where are you from in Ireland, and what are your roots?

Fil: I’m from Belleek on the Fermanagh/Donegal border, home of Belleek China. There were musicians in both sides of the family - my mum’s cousins had a Ceilidh band in London during the 50s and 60s, my Dad’s brother was one of the original organisers of the New York Feis. My mother sang a lot as we were growing up - all the old cum all ye’s- songs we all learned by osmosis. Later I went to Queens in Belfast to study music and started playing in bands.

Tom: I’m from Belfast - there was music all around - my mother and father both sang, my uncle was a jazz clarinet player and my cousin played piano.   We gathered in my granny’s parlour and sang lots/ the popular songs of the day. Later the music scene in Belfast, especially around Queens university, was very strong through the 70s and Rory Gallagher was a regular feature every Christmas in the Ulster Hall

What’s on your smartphone playlist at the minute?

We tend to listen mostly to radio and especially chat radio when we’re travelling.

What is your favourite place in Ireland?

Fil: West Cork, closely followed by Whitepark Bay In Antrim.

Tom: Hard question - I love many places equally - the north Antrim Coast, West Cork, Donegal and of course Rostrevor.

Mozart or Martin Hayes?

Fil: Mozart

Tom: Martin Hayes

What would be your motto?

Fil: Follow your heart

Tom: We’ll get there when we get there and that will be that!!

Which living person do you most admire?

Fil: The Dalai Lama

Tom: David Attenborough

Bowie or Beyoncé?


If you weren’t a musician, what other job would you be really good at?

Fil: Event promoter

Tom: Handyman

Have you a favourite line from a song?

Tom: “How old would you be if you didn’t know the day you were born.”

In terms of inanimate objects, what is your most precious possession?

Fil: My Avalon guitar

Tom: My recording equipment

What’s the best thing about where you live?

Fil: Rostrevor is beautiful- on the coast, at the foot of the mountains - I love it.

Tom: it’s beautiful, it’s idyllic, it’s all the things you dream of.

. . . . and the worst?

Fil: it’s too comfortable - you feel like you’re on holidays all the time.

Tom: You don’t want to leave

What’s the greatest lesson life has taught you?

Fil: If you do something only for money, it’ll end up costing you. There has to be some other pay off that comes first.

Tom: Only do things if it’s what you really want to do.

What gives you the greatest laugh?

Fil: Good storytelling

Tom: Stupid jokes

What do you believe in?

Fil: We’re all part of one consciousness

Tom: The universal consciousness