"When I was approached to do this, I said, 'I'm not an interviewer,'" Brennan told the Irish Echo in a recent phone interview. "And so I said, 'Look, 98 percent of the people I'll be talking to, I know. I've known [them] for years or maybe I haven't seen them in the last 10 years or whatever.' So I said I would do this on the condition that I wouldn't be given 40 questions and I wouldn't have any paper in front of me and I'd be able to sit down for the good part of an hour, because then you get good anecdotes and people saying things. You can't sit down with somebody for 20 minutes and rush through and ask a couple of questions and hope you get good sound bites of people talking about what Irish music means to them. Those were my conditions and I said if that's the case we'll have a go."
The result is an informative, entertaining program, featuring candid new interviews with many of Ireland's top stars, with archival footage and musical performances woven throughout.
"They're all friends. It's because I felt very comfortable with every single person I was talking to," Brennan said when asked about the natural ease of her interviewing style. "And I think that they responded the same way because that's the way I am. I'm very girl-next-door, let's-sit-down-and-have-a-chat. I'm the eldest of nine, so I think that might have something to do with it."
The famed recording artist said one of the biggest challenges she faced was traveling to various places around the world to interview the musicians who appear in "Welcome Home," while also keeping up with her own blissfully hectic performance schedule.
"A lot of them, especially the big stars, said yes to me, but their time is so limited," Brennan recalled. "I ended up interviewing Bob Geldof in Vancouver and it was through something else I was involved in, the African choir, and they were giving him a humanitarian award and it was lovely because I spent the whole day with him and I hadn't seen him for a while. I interviewed Michael Flatley in his home in Beverly Hills, and Bono and Adam Clayton in London. I flew in from a German tour to do it and basically got back that same night to play Kamnitz. You have to be convenient for people like this. A lot of the Irish artists like Paul Brady, Donal Lunny and Christy Moore, and people like that, I interviewed around Dublin, either in their own homes or concert halls and even in my own place and it was really nice.
"It's been such an amazing journey for me," she continued. "I couldn't even begin to explain how much in my own heart . . . It took over my life for the last nine months. It was a real joy."
Among the topics explored in the documentary are how integral music is to Irish culture, how its artists introduced it to other peoples around the world and why outsiders have embraced it.
Pressed to explain why she thinks Irish music has caught on so well globally, Brennan laughed, "That's the secret, isn't it?"
"I think there is something in the depth of our beings that is related to music," she mused. "It wasn't originally done to be sold; it came from wanting to play. It came from wanting to sing, it came from wanting to write a song to remember an occasion. It has huge depth. Also, if you go back to the 7th century and into when the whole of Europe was regarded as being in the Dark Ages . . . at that given time, Ireland, for some strange reason, wasn't. It was known at that time as the Age of Saints and Scholars. And it was through Ireland that all these missionaries and all these saints . . . went across waters and they went around the world and I don't know if subconsciously there's a flavor of Ireland in every place in the world because of that. I like to think romantically that there is something like that. "
"Music of Ireland-Welcome Home" is to air March 20 on WLIW21 at 4:30 p.m. ET. Barnes & Noble is selling companion CD and DVD versions of the program, as well. Brennan also has a string of U.S. concerts planned for later this month and in April. Her first show is set for March 28 at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass.