The traditional Irish proverb, “giorraionn beirt bothar,” translated as, “two people shorten a road,” means that companionship makes time fly, and is a truth that Irish Coffee Radio hosts Jamie Griffin and Elizabeth White live by. Together, the two friends spend Saturday mornings from 10 to 12 on the University’s WMCX radio station playing Irish music and chatting about all things Irish, from the poetry of William Butler Yeats to what the colors green and orange represent.
“For this particular show, you have to be into Irish culture, history and Ireland itself,” said Jamie, “otherwise, you wouldn’t know what we’re talking about, or the meanings behind certain songs.” Jamie, a senior elementary education and history student with a minor in Irish studies, has family in Ireland and even speaks the Gaelic language. “My dad’s parents only moved here in 1948, so it hasn’t been a long time since my family left Ireland. I have two aunts that still live in Ireland,” said Jamie, “but they’re nuns, so they probably don’t listen to our show,” she joked.
“Jamie’s family is a lot more connected to Ireland than my family,” conceded Elizabeth, “but we’re both Irish. My family came to America from County Cork during the Irish Potato Famine and never left.” Irish Coffee Radio not only connects Jamie and Elizabeth to their Irish heritages, but also gives them a greater appreciation of their own cultures.
“Doing the show made me appreciate my heritage more, and it made me appreciate my culture. I’m an Irish American, and I didn’t realize how Irish I was raised until I did the show and realized I can relate to all these songs about Irish culture,” said Elizabeth, as Jamie fervently agreed.
“I do think the show represents Irish culture well,” said Dr. Elizabeth Gilmartin-Keating, a professor of Irish studies at the University. “Music is a major part of Ireland’s culture and the variety of Irish music has broadened greatly from the very traditional jigs and reels of the earlier part of the 20th century to include Celtic, rock, and Celtic punk rock like Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. [Irish Coffee Radio] has always highlighted that broad approach.”
“What makes it even more rewarding,” added Jamie, “is that our parents listen every week. My dad will text me when I play a song called ‘The Moonshiner’ and tell me that when he was in Ireland, he visited The Moonshiner with his father.”
Jamie and Elizabeth also find reward in their Saturday morning ritual when they stop at Dunkin Donuts to get coffee before their show. “We always joke around that we’re inspired by Ireland and fueled by coffee,” said Elizabeth. The co-host of Irish Coffee Radio describes one Saturday morning when she and Jamie were unable to stop for coffee before the start of the show as, “Really, really bad.”
“Coffee is the main component to my functionality, I’m very notorious for doing things like pulling all-nighters, going to bed and then catching two hours of sleep, waking up, drinking coffee, and feeling fine,” continued Elizabeth. “I took an oath of silence because without coffee I couldn’t form words, couldn’t go on the mic and speak. My words weren’t coherent at all.”
“Literally fueled by coffee,” laughed Jamie.
On a good day when they’re able to stop for coffee, Jamie and Elizabeth make the most of their time in the studio. “I dance around to the music,” said Jamie, “and we sing passionately.”
One of their favorite bands to sing passionately to is The Narrowbacks, who appeared on Irish Coffee Radio live in December. The Narrowback’s website describes the band as, “A fresh voice for songs and stories old and new.”
The term “narrowback” is derogatory slang for an Irish-American, but the band has repurposed the term as an affectionate homage to their Irish heritage.
“We played their songs sometimes, and they had commented on Irish Coffee Radio’s Facebook page before and that’s how they knew about us. One Saturday night in November, The Narrowbacks messaged me their new EP and offered to come to Monmouth and do an interview with us, and that’s how it happened,” said Jamie, simply shrugging her shoulders.
“It went really well,” added Elizabeth, “it was pretty awkward though, because we don’t really know how to work the radio equipment,” she grimaced.
“We contacted the general manager of the radio station, who brought us into the studio before the interview and showed us how to work everything, except for how to turn on the equipment for the studio room in which the band was playing live. So when we set them up in that room and they started playing, we couldn’t hear them. We didn’t know what else to do, so we brought them into the room with us where we normally broadcast our show, turned on all the mics and were silent while they played. It worked out fine and they were really understanding,” said Jamie.
“Because we don’t script the show, it’s really authentic, but at the same time it’s really awkward,” said Elizabeth, who described their interview with The Narrowbacks as feeling like an “awkward first date.”
“The personality of our show is awkward though, and quirky and endearing,” said Jamie, “we don’t take ourselves too seriously because we’re doing it for fun.”
“Irish Coffee Radio has definitely helped me to accept my own personality quirks for what they are,” said Elizabeth.
“I can’t ask for anything more from the ladies than what they have already done,” said former Irish Coffee Radio host Mike Kelvy, “I felt I put all of my effort into the show and had plenty of fun doing it. Elizabeth and Jamie are doing the same, and the show is in a better place now than when I left it.”
When asked what their goal for Irish Coffee Radio is, Elizabeth and Jamie agreed, “We just want to be able to do the show right. We want to do the show justice. We want to do Irish culture justice, and we want to just keep having a good time.”