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Monday, March 7, 2016

Traditional Irish Singer Believes “What’s For You Won’t Go By You”

In Other Words...
Mai Hernon. Provided. 
By Chuck Keller 

The first thing you notice about Mai Hernon is her lilting Irish accent. The second is her striking blue eyes.  But then the stories begin.  When Mai said, “To make a long story short…” I knew that I would be entertained and engaged. The Irish have long had a reputation for epic storytelling and that streak runs deep in Mai.

Mai Hernon is a traditional Irish singer and musician who performs around the country. She has recorded a number of CDs and is well known in the traditional music world. “I have been really well accepted by the traditional music community in America. I perform in 27 states and I have not met one nasty person…. Everybody has been just lovely.  So musically, I am busy. We play traditional Irish, American folk, and Irish language songs.” In fact, you will be able to hear her sing and tell stories the week of St. Patrick’s on March 12 at Molly Malone’s in Covington and March 17 at Sis’s in Newport.

“I just don’t sing. I try to give a history. People get a distorted idea of Irish history and sometimes the songs hold the true story.”

After relating so many engaging stories, people approached her after shows and asked her if she would lead tours in Ireland. “This happened too many times. So I took it as a sign and began Secret Ireland Tours,” her tour company. She knows the places, the people, and the stories. It was a natural fit. Whether entertaining on stage or on a tour, guests experience the real Ireland. For more information, you can visit this link:

There is such a strong connection between traditional Irish music and Kentucky bluegrass music.  Mai would often listen to bluegrass on Tuesday nights at Sis’s in Newport and she would think, “I do a version of that song. I could tell you the story where that comes from.” 

So she feels a certain kinship to the area.  After all, there is a sizable Irish population and influence here.

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Adjusting to life in a new country has been fairly easy.  For one, there are Irish reminders all over America.  She discovered Sligo, Kentucky on the road to Louisville although it has nothing in common with Sligo, Ireland. She recalls how she was driving into South Carolina when she saw a sign for a John Dodd Road. She had to stop. That was her father’s name. Imagine seeing your father’s name in large print on an interstate highway sign.  The road wasn’t named after her father but her family told her about a Dodd Road in Colorado, Springs near Pike’s Peak that was named after her family.  So she feels at home because others have paved the way.

Journeys are seldom simple and direct. Mai’s father worked in Chicago for years and intended to bring his family to America but his wife developed tuberculosis back in Ireland which ended that dream. But then another door opened, although much later.

Now to make a long story short, we have to go back about sixteen years. The man who would become her husband heard one of her traditional songs on the radio and he was taken with it. Really taken with it. He had to know who it was and how he could get a copy. He tracked her down, which took a considerable amount of time because she had no real presence in the digital world and offered to buy her CD.  That lead to a correspondence - first by traditional mail. She said that  “All he wanted to do was play his guitar behind me singing that particular song.” And so a friendship began. But he had ideas. “I had no intention of leaving Ireland.”

That lead to a long distance relationship. That lead to marriage. And that lead to here. And now he is accompanies her on guitar.  And they perform all over a good portion of the country as well as in Ireland. Of course this is the short version of a wonderfully engaging story of how a friendship blossomed into something much more. It is really a sweet story that sounds much better with an Irish lilt. But it started when one man heard a song on the radio that he couldn’t get out of his head.

But then the traditional singer took some non-traditional turns.

Talk about the luck of the Irish.  Mai is now a TV Producer/Presenter for Irish TV. The channel produces local stories of interest for the Irish community and broadcasts it all over the world. Mai sat for an interview for Irish TV while visiting family back in Ireland. “We recorded the interview and then I kept an eye on the website for the broadcast.  I noticed that there were three hubs the US: Chicago, Washington, and New York. I noticed that they did not broadcast out of the midwest, Cincinnati.  So I wrote them a note. I thought what do I have to lose. So to make a long story short, I had a two hour conversation with their vice-president and he told me how they are trying to expand their coverage in America.”

So now she is producing content for Irish TV. The next story will cover the St. Patrick’s parade and the party at Molly Malone’s.

She is a traditional musician following a nontraditional path, but a happy path. “I live here, but everything I’m doing is about the other world that I left. It’s amazing to me. The strong passion people have for their Irish heritage in America.” Mai recalls an Irish saying, “What’s for you won’t go by you.”

One thing is for sure, what is for her has not gotten by her.

Check her out at:
March 12 at Molly Malone’s in Covington
March 17 at Sis’s in Newport 
Or visit her at

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