Meet the Heatons, the musical couple who play Irish, surf, and children’s music


When husband and wife duo Matt and Shannon Heaton moved to Boston in 2001, they came to play and sing traditional Irish music. And they still do. But when they’re not making stunning Irish music together, Shannon shares Irish tunes and stories through instructional videos and podcasts, and Matt ditched his bouzouki and acoustic six-string for a surf band’s electric heater. I changed it to an electric guitar that I play on the bass. , and his Toddlerbilly Takeovers, a series for children and their parents.

A colorful and fulfilling musical life unfolds this week. The Heatons will be performing his first two nights at the 20th Annual Boston Celtic Music Festival (BCMF), and Shannon will play flute at the All-Stars finale of his festival on Saturday. Sinclair. Meanwhile, Matt is hosting the Toddler Billy Takeover at The Burren on Sundays, and Electric Heaters are releasing a new album of songs from the never-before-produced movies most Thursdays at Shore Leaves in the Southend. I keep showing off.

electric heater. (Courtesy Matt Darcy)

Shannon co-founded BCMF with fiddler Laura Cortese and served on its board for several years. BCMF focuses on local talent rather than headliners imported from elsewhere. “Laura and I talked about how Boston is a wonderful Mecca for musicians and dancers of Irish, Cape Breton and Scottish traditions,” recalls Shannon at Heaton’s kitchen table in Medford. “These different parts of the Celtic musical world have a lot of common language, but they don’t always overlap. Many of us go elsewhere for performances, so we use all these traditions. I wondered what would happen if I did something on my own and brought it all into the weekend.”

In its first year, BCMF presented 150 musicians, singers and dancers. The 2023 edition will take place at four different venues. Heaton performed as a duo at Club Passim on Thursday night, and her 2 of many musicians teaming up to perform dance music at Boston Urban Cayley at Somerville Theatre’s Crystal Ballroom on Friday. I am also a person.. Besides Shannon, Saturday’s finale band includes fiddlers Katie McNally and Jenna Moynihan, accordionist Natasha Sheehy, guitarist Bethany Wakeman, pianist Janine Randall, and dancers Rebecca McGowan and Kristin Morrison.. Shannon said the band’s leader, McNally, “really thought about how to present the most musical and generational diversity and intersection. The fact that they all happen to be women is secondary to the conversation.” am.”

Heaton was originally drawn to Boston by the friendly Celtic music jams held in the session-gathering communities—pubs. When the pandemic hit, they did those sessions online. “Things are picking up, but some of our online stuff really lives on,” says Shannon. A “faculty brat,” she first fell in love with Irish music as a child living in Nigeria, thanks to a musician neighbor. Heatons Online Her sessions reach out to musicians who live in places where finding other Irish players is not easy. Shannon’s Irish Music Stories podcast looks at the past and future of tradition in an authoritative yet accessible way. Also, on her YouTube channel, she continues her educational mission with videos for musicians on topics like “When you’re not feeling well (or when your friends are not feeling well).”

Matt’s passion for surf music began as a teenage guitarist when he opened a copy of Guitar Player magazine and found a promotional flexi disc by New York instrumental combo Raybeats. About ten years ago Matt decided to take surfing seriously. Early versions of Electric Heaters included Cortese playing electric bass and Celtic harpist Maeve Gilchrist. The current rhythm section is bassist Dave Piper and drummer Jared Seabrook (playing alongside his brother Brandon under the wonderful name Seabrook Power Plant).

Launched electric heater
The Electric Heaters released From the Film of the Same Name last fall. (Courtesy The Electric Heaters)

The Electric Heaters’ reverb-clad debut studio LP, From the Film of the Same Name, has a fictional backstory. These songs were said to have been used in his B-movies such as ‘9 1/2 Weeks of Detention’ and ‘Kickboxing Kids’. Anonymous sessions were recorded by his group of musicians for his TKJ library, and were unearthed from his unit of Paniversal in his studio storage. This album marks the Electric Heaters as one of the better surfing bands to come out of Boston in the last 20 years.

When he’s not surfing at the Tiki-themed Shore Leaves, Matt puts on a Toddler Billy show. The concept came about when Matt was commissioned to do a children’s show. The day before his friend lent him a Gretsch guitar, Heaton found the playing plugged in.With music for kids, you’ll have more fun. Surf, western swing, rockabilly, mid-century guitar music for kids. )”.

Matt says he separates Irish music from surf music. “I play a variety of instruments, so it’s easy for me. The tones, the sounds, the chord utterances are completely different.” But Shannon points out one similarity, he says. A Toddler Billy show at a venue like The Burren allows the family to gather at the bar like a good Irish session.


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