One thing Irish singer-songwriter Paul Brady has never lost over his 40-year career is his sense of humour. Good thing too, because at times he's more than needed it.
Van Morrison publicly dissed him both in interview and song, Bob Dylan thought so much of him he covered one of his songs (as did Tina Turner, Cher and Santana — but that's another story) and he appears to be constantly at odds with himself about the George Clooney-esque person that he says inhabits him on stage.
Internationally renowned and respected, the 63-year-old from County Tyrone has collaborated with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and written with Ronan Keating.
"Irish melodies are very pleasing and easily accessible to many other cultures," said the singer ahead of his debut Dubai gig at McGettigan's this weekend. "There is an attitude that infuses them which is uplifting in a fundamental way. Music, as a means of self-expression, seems more important to Irish people than to many other cultures.
"I've been musical since I was born and from an early age was interested in little else."
We all want to know about Dylan and Morrison anyway, so let's skip to the good bits.
Dial back to 1985 when fellow Northern Irish singer-songwriter Morrison was topping the charts. In a random rant he one day accused Brady, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger of plagiarising his work, saying, "And you know, I'm carrying these Paul Brady monkeys and these Bruce Springsteen monkeys and these Bob Seger monkeys, and I'm just fed up with it. I just wish they'd find someone else to copy. I mean, find someone else to copy, or else send me their royalties, you know."
"I thought it was rather sad and silly of him to accuse Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and me like that," said Brady. "No one ripped him off. Everyone influences everyone. I might as well say he ripped off Ray Charles or Jackie Wilson. Daft."
Completely unfazed now by the incident (although not surprisingly, considering it was more than 20 years ago) Brady is confident in his words. "My music is my own music and owes no more to Van than it does to the countless other great musicians I've loved in my life. Van did not invent rhythm 'n' blues or even white rhythm 'n' blues and he doesn't own it. It's a shame someone with as much talent and success as him could've been so insecure as to let himself down like that. Since that of course, we've worked together several times, so he must have got over it."
The Bob Dylan Experience
It may have taken Morrison some time to come round but Dylan wasted no time in borrowing Brady's arrangement of the traditional song Arthur Mcbride.
"The Bob Dylan Experience would take a whole chapter in a book," he said. "Short version is he was introduced to my music in the early 1980s by a friend, Happy Traum, and really liked what he heard. He asked to meet me on his tour of UK and Ireland in 1985. We met a few times over that tour in London and in Slane Castle and a couple of times on later tours."
Seems Dylan thought more of Brady than he himself is willing to let on. In 1985 box set, Biograph, Dylan named him in the booklet saying, "[P]eople get too famous too fast these days and it destroys them. Some guys got it down — Leonard Cohen, Paul Brady, Lou Reed. They're not just witch-doctoring up the planet, they don't set up barriers."
On stage is where Brady says he really comes into his own. "I'm not a bit like the ordinary me when I'm on stage. It's like someone else larger than life inhabits me for the duration. Someone who looks kinda like... George Clooney. This person feels he can do anything."
A self-taught pianist and guitarist, Brady learned by watching others after he got a Spanish guitar with steel strings for Christmas in 1959. "At first [I was] mystified by it," he recalls. "The book I got with it was for classical guitar and it was some time before I was able to make it say what I wanted. I wasn't allowed to take it to boarding school and so didn't really progress much till I was about 15. I'm self-taught, which kinda means I copied everyone I saw or heard around me and developed my own style rather than go to lessons."
So for a man who's achieved so much are there any regrets? "I'm not really a regretful kinda guy," he said. "Although on a superficial level I sometimes regret I don't look like George Clooney, but what can you do?"
Don't miss it
Paul Brady, whose latest album, Hooba Dooba, is out now, plays at McGettigan's tomorrow from 8pm. Tickets, priced Dh150, are on sale at the venue. Call 04-3560600 for more information.