Celtic music aficionado and longtime WGBH radio host Brian O’Donovan came to Boston in 1980 for a three-week vacation. Shortly after he arrived, he went to a traditional Irish music session in Brookline, met his wife Lindsay, and got engaged three days later. Boston has been his home ever since. We caught up with O'Donovan before he hit the road to host the first-ever Rockport Celtic Festival, August 23-25. Excerpts from our conversation below.

On getting started at WGBH:

I did an internship with Dick Pleasants, who hosted Folk Heritage during the 1970s at WGBH radio. Later, WGBH contacted me to tell me about its national program called The Thistle and Shamrock from NPR. They said they wanted to do a local version of it. They essentially said, ‘We don’t see why we should be paying for a national program when we have talent here. Would you be interested?’ Would I be interested?! I started on Friday nights doing this on the side, while I was leading events management at Gillette Stadium. People would often say to me ‘there’s a guy on radio who has your same name.' They couldn’t reconcile the two worlds: professional sports and an esoteric sub-stream music genre program on public broadcast.

On his favorite relaxing activity:

I do mountain biking. I use it as much for my head as I do for my body. You have to be fully in the moment. Mountain biking is the only thing that blanks my hyperactive mind. It’s very stress relieving for that reason. You can’t possibly think of anything else except the five feet of dirt that’s in front of you. And that’s when I really find relaxation.

On his personal connection to the first live show he saw in the United States:

My first job in the United States was with a cabinet maker, after Emerson and before grad school at Boston University. We were installing cabinets in a house and listening to WCAS, an alternative Cambridge station with absolutely eclectic wild stuff that would never air today. They’d go from folk to rock to a review. Absolutely fabulous and quirky, and actually commercial. They advertised a Doc Watson concert. I’d known about Watson for years in Ireland, and I couldn’t believe he was here. Doc and Merle Watson—his son was with him—I saw them at Sanders Theater. I was besotted.

On the upcoming Rockport Celtic Festival:

Being curator of a festival is an interesting position to be in, one that I welcome and love. You’ve got a lot of ingredients that you have to blend together to make a single meal. You’ve got to have the confidence that it’s going to be presented in a way that’s appetizing and delicious for people who are coming who may have a range of knowledge of the genre. In this particular festival, we are reaching into the heights of our artistic ambition. It makes it exciting and risky in a fun way.

On why he loves the nature of work:

I’m in my sixties. As long as I’m being given the opportunity to be above ground, I just want to explore and present and curate music —and spread the wealth. That’s what defines what I do. I regard myself simply as a curator. That’s not a false modesty. It’s such an important role and that’s what I love myself. If I go to a museum, I depend on the curation of the museum. If am listening to radio, I depend on somebody knowing more about it than I do. If I can play that role, I’m batting 1000.