Friday 24 October 2014



Leo and Anto

With his signature thick glasses, dense greying curly hair and his animated and gregarious personality co-founder of Irish folk/rock group the Saw Doctors Leo Moran has played in some of the biggest venues in the world and in front of thousands of often rowdy and extremely vocal fans.

Leo Moran
So it's hard to imagine that when he and fellow bandsman Anthony Thistlethwaite came up with the idea of touring with their two man acoustic show he was filled with any kind of trepidation.
“We were very scared,” he admits in his distinct yet gentle Galway accent.
“We didn’t really know what would happen. The danger was people would think it would be a pale kind of effort of a Saw Doctors’ show but it’s totally different.”
“I was never nervous with the band because it’s such a well-oiled machine.There was nothing to be nervous about, it worked every night you see.
"But this time it’s just me and Anto and there is nowhere to hide on the stage for the whole show. "It’s a constant effort for us.
"Although we are exposed, there’s a great buzz off it, it’s very enjoyable."
The Saw Doctors were formed in the late 1980s in Leo's home town Tuam which lies about 32 kilometres north of Galway city and sits on what has become, in musical terms, Route 66 of the west of Ireland the N17.
Coming out of the maelstrom of punk which by then had reached Eire and with a seemingly endless supply of inspirational material from local geography, experience and characters Leo, lead singer Davy Carton, Mary O'Connor, Padraig Stevens, John ‘Turps’ Burke and the late Paul Cunniffe became the Saw Doctors.
The group has since gone through several line ups and went on to conquer the world being compared as second only to U2 in terms of success and notoriety.
Signature tunes such as N17, I Useta Love Her, Red Cortina, Hay Wrap, Green & Red of Mayo and Clare Island are known the world over by fans who often turn up to try to out sing the band, some of which are included in the acoustic shows Leo & Anto have embarked upon.
“What we’re doing now is almost like a theatre show, we take our time," explains Moran. "It’s a very slow moving show. The songs are all very different versions of what fans are used to and there’ll be songs they have never heard.”
The Saw Doctors decided to take a sabbatical at least until the end of 2014, the main reason for which are the changes lead singer Davy Carton was going through in his life.
“Davy immigrated to Nottingham and has started a new family. He just had a lot of stuff to sort out so we allowed him time for that to happen,” explained Moran.
Moran and Carton have met up recently and plan to get some song writing under way and are looking to 2015 for a new single, album and possibly a tour.
“The Saw Doctors won’t be doing anything this year but we will chat and see about maybe doing something next year.
Anthony Thistlethwaite and Leo Moran
“First we will have to try and get a few new songs together because you couldn’t really come back without them. That will be the starting point to get on the go again.”
With the break in place however, the chance to put his feet up for a while holds little appeal to the guitarist and singer/songwriter and was the catalyst for setting off on tour.
“We had nothing else to do, necessity was the mother of this invention, and we just wanted to be out touring and playing.
“I wouldn’t be able to sit around doing nothing, I love touring and all that kind of craic. So we just sat down and figured it out and jumped in the deep end by going to America, because we knew America would be very kind to us,” he said with a self deprecating chuckle.
“We heard about a trend in the US where people are doing house concerts. We thought that might be a thing we can do because obviously house concerts would be very hospitable and maybe have a kind of forgiving audience,” he laughed again.
“We got a few of them in the States then we got an agent who picked up a few of them for us and she started looking at the smaller folk venues and things like that and we ended up with a whole tour.
“We were hoping some of the Saw Doctors' fans would follow us around and luckily there are enough of them coming to see us.”
"As a result, we have been to the states three times in the last year. We were at the Vancouver Folk Festival and we had a great time there. We had a lovely tour of Scotland which was gorgeous.
"And we’re thinking of going to Russia in the new year. I have never been there but Anto was in St Petersburgh about 20 years ago, and he loved it, and has a few connections over there so we are going to do six or eight gigs there.
"The funny thing about it, is this way of doing it is more intense we’re on the stage on our own for the whole show.
"When you are in the band you can stand to the side and strum the guitar for a few minutes and no one really notices, you can take a little break if you like, you’re not in the spotlight.
"In this, although it’s a much smaller show, there are only the two of us to generate the show."
The Saw Doctors
Over the years Moran and the Docs have built a fiercely loyal and ardent group of fans. So what’s the secret?
“I don’t know what it is, but it seems to work for people and I don’t think we have a more loyal audience than in Wolverhampton.
"It’s always been an amazingly warm reception there. In the Wulfrun and the bigger hall it was always class.”
Fans in the Midlands will get a chance to show their support for at least two of the Docs when Leo & Anto play the Walker Theatre, Shrewsbury on Saturday (Oct 25) and the Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton on Sunday (Oct 26). Moran’s touring partner Anto, who was a member of critically acclaimed Waterboys, has been a regular member of the Saw Doctors for some years and their friendship and mutual enjoyment of touring is what set them off on the journey which has so far produced two albums with a third in the pipeline.
“Anto sings a bit, plays the sax, harmonica and the mandolin which gives the audience a chance for a bit of variety, and means they are not just listening to me bashing the guitar and warbling along for the whole night.”
With just the two of them the whole ethos of touring has been scaled down although Moran says the intensity on stage is certainly not.
"It’s a same kind of thing just in a different way, there’s more time in this show with the stories in it and like I said it's concentration and the same energy level, it may not look the same level but actually it’s more.
"It's kinda difficult to stop touring which is why we put this together.
"It’s a lovely lifestyle and we love it.
"I read a book about American blues and country musicians and they would do like 10 times more gigs than we do, they would run 300 nights a year and they had no homes to go to, they don’t know about sitting at home with a cup of tea, they have to go out and play."
The "stripped down" version of the Docs seems to have given Moran a different perspective on the whole process of touring.
Anthony Thistlethwaite. Photo Tony Ridder
"Touring with the band is really easy like, you’re on the bus and everything is organised and you’re well fed, the only difference is we have to drive to where we need to be, but generally that’s not a problem.
"We’ll hire a car now and everything will go in the boot.That’s the way it has to be because you’re playing to smaller audiences so that’s the amount you can pay for production values, but it’s a lovely way to travel.
"I never realised what it was like for people at a venue when a bus load of fellows arrive it’s like a hoarde invading your building.
"Whereas when me and Anto arrive we just want a glass of water and plug in the guitar. 
"The hassle we must have inflicted on venues over the years and the poor people in them, I feel sorry for them.
"I love touring, I love being out, I love travelling in the car, I love eating and drinking in different places, I love meeting people and I love playing the music and the different accents, all that kind of thing."
So is there no downside to the constant touring for the seemingly unstoppable Moran?
"I suppose airports are the hardest part, once you have to go near them it just slows down everything completely, but thankfully we never had too much to do with them. Even when we are in the states we prefer to drive overnight in the bus, than fly."
But even Moran has who has a girlfriend and son has to take time out some time then what?
"When I am not on tour there are always things happening, I give people a hand playing music. Very often you’ll go into a pub and somebody’s playing they’ll just ask you will you do a song, it’s great."

Leo & Anto – One Saw Doctor, One Waterboy play the Walker Theatre, Shrewsbury on Saturday October 25. Show starts at 8pm and tickets cost £14 with a 10% discount for friends. See

On Sunday October 26 the duo play The Slade Rooms, Broad Street, Wolverhampton. Tickets are £15.40 including booking fee. Doors open 7pm and show starts 8pm. For more information visit

You can also catch them on Thursday December 4 at Birmingham Irish Centre
Box Office 0121 622 2314

The Mike Harding Folk Show

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