Mark Caplice

First Published June 2021

“FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LOVE”

Part 2

Towards the end of last month, Wicklow singer, songwriter, and producer MARK CAPLICE released his much anticipated single, CATCH A TEAR. In Part 1 of our chat with Mark, we got the lowdown on how Catch A Tear came to be, and why now was the right time to share it with the world, as well as taking a deep-dive into Mark’s songwriting process. This single, however, was far from being Mark’s first foray into the spotlight in the music-world, as the Baltinglass man has also had the honour of seeing his song, Dirty Secret (co-written with Cian Sweeney and Briony O’ Toole) being named Song of the Year in ALL of Russia earlier this year. 


Today, Part 2 of our chat gets underway by sticking to that international theme. It was Eurovision time of the year again when Mark and I spoke, and while Ireland didn’t make it to the Grand Final…again…this year, being in that coveted and once very much taken for granted position is something that Mark does have experience of. Back in 2018, he co-wrote the Irish entry, Together, with its performer Ryan O’ Shaughnessy, and Laura Hughes. Ireland has a great history in Eurovision, but over the last twenty years or so it’s become a subject of division in so many ways. I wondered if, for Mark, being involved was something that was always an ambition, or did the opportunity just happen to come along and prove too good to turn down? 


“Genuinely, it’s something I always wanted. Actually, I remember when I was a kid thinking that surely I’m not allowed to write a song for Eurovision?! That was something far beyond my reach, I couldn’t even contemplate this [laughs]. But the further and further I grew into my career, I stumbled into a few friends who had had similar experiences. They had written a song or two that they had entered. So slowly but surely the belief started to grow [in me]. And honestly, the day that we found out, I just started shouting my head off [laughs]. My housemate was upstairs, and he ran down thinking someone was after dying! Cos’ I was just shouting, like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!’ [laughs]. He was like what’s wrong, what’s wrong, and I told him to read it, and it was the confirmation letter from RTE that our song had been accepted. And I can’t even describe that feeling. So yeah, it was definitely something that I always wanted to do. And the experience itself was just…out…of…this…world! Going from living in a small town in Baltinglass in Wicklow, to a police-escort into stadiums of thousands…it’s a bit of a juxtaposition! Like, holy God, what’s goin’ on here?! [Laughs]. It was a beautiful experience. And funny enough, I’ve had a couple of close encounters since. And I’d love to do it again. It was just so much fun. But I don’t think anything will ever match that first experience when we were sitting on the couch waiting to hear who was going through [to the final]. And we could see before everybody else could because the camera crew had to get into position to be on the country that was going through. I happened to catch the event-controller’s eye as he was coming up with the camera, and he smirked and he looked away from me! And as soon as he did that, I was like, oh my God, it’s us! [Laughs]. Good times!” 

I mentioned to Mark that I’d recently heard about an actual Irish Eurovision winner that didn’t even make it out of Ireland the first time it was submitted for consideration to be our entry, and yet, it went on to win Eurovision a couple of years later…


“That’s a funny one, because ‘Together’ was entered twice, and it was the second highest song – so very close to being picked – the year before. So there ya go. But I LOVE that! I love that as a message and as an absolute life-hack. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t go anywhere! Pitch a tent! And keep knockin’!” 

Outside of the pop field, Mark has also worked with two of the biggest names in Irish country, Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan. Derek, of course, is a natural songwriter, already well-known for his talent in that area, while it’s fair to say that Nathan would write a little less. What was Mark’s experience of working with both men? 


“That’s one of the things I just adore about songwriting, different people have different perspectives, different approaches. It’s funny, Nathan probably wouldn’t be as well-known for writing, but I’ve written a good bit with him and he’s no stranger to it, he’s great. You can’t climb to the position he’s in without songs being your life. Same for Derek. They’re different in a lot of ways, but they’re similar in many too. They’re both really good people to write with, and especially in Ireland and the UK they’ve got great careers. Who knows what the next couple of years have in store for them. I won’t give away any trade secrets [laughs].” 

When writing with artists like Nathan or Derek, where the song is aimed at the Irish country scene, does that make it a very different kind of song than if he was writing with an artist from the pop field, for example? 


“Genres differ. And genres tend to have a certain language, a certain melody. That’s why I adore writing with different genres and different people, you just learn so much about what works in each genre. The dialogue, and where you even place the message of a song. Pop, it can be a little bit more right in your face. I am sad today because the rain is falling down. Country, it can be quite literal as well. That’s why I quite like writing my own stuff as well. You can use metaphors to share the message you’re trying to communicate. Language works differently in each genre. You learn as you go. The more people you write with, the more little tips and tricks you pick up. Then you learn about different structures, and how you can create dissonance even with a structure. Depending on your story, there’s different ways to tell it to make sure the listener feels what you’re trying to tell them.” 

We’d done a lot of talking about Mark as a songwriter, but we couldn’t overlook the question of how exactly he became one. When did he know that he wanted to be a songwriter? 


“I was in a band for six or seven years and we did a lot of collaborating [within the band]. There were two main co-writers in the band, we’d write the core of the song, and bring it to the band, and we’d all work on it. It was a very collaborative experience. That’s when I was nudged into the slightly more commercial side of it. As a band, we were discussing what we wanted to do, and world takeover was the plan [laughs], all this kinda stuff! As it happened, we signed a deal, went to America, recorded an album, everything was looking amazing. Then, a couple of things happened here and there, probably a miscommunication, and there was a bit of legal argy-bargy. It ended up that the album couldn’t get released, and it’s now in limbo forever. It won’t see the light of day. When that finished, I was very nearly going to give up music. And as odd as this will sound, I was sitting in my grandparents living-room, and I was thinking to myself, right…if I died and went to heaven, what would God say to me? I walked up to God, and I said to God, howya God [laughs], I did music for a while, then I became a marketeer. And his response was, ‘Ya big eejit! I gave you perfect pitch!’ And that’s really rare, and super-handy when you’re writing songs! [Laughs]. So, because I have this super-unique thing that lots of people don’t have, his response to me was, ‘Ya big eejit, I gave you perfect pitch and ya wasted it!’ [Laughs].”

That conversation”, explained Mark, “as silly as it may sound – a hypothetical conversation with God – was the kick in the backside I needed to jump back into music. So I said ok, now that I’m certain I’m 100% invested, I’m going to make a living from music, and that’s that. So I started thinking about what avenues were there, and what I wanted to be. I was a little bit wounded by the band experience, so I didn’t want to jump back into being in a band. But I knew I could write songs. So I started writing songs with people. There’s a friend of mine, Josh Gray, who had left Louis Walsh’s band, Hometown, and he was kind of in a small bit of limbo as well. So we started writing together, and he has grown exponentially from it, it’s been amazing to see. Some of the songs we wrote together kicked him back into the spotlight, and since then he’s signed a publishing deal as well. Things are going really well for him. He’s on the slightly poppier side of things, which was a new experience for me, but I really enjoyed it.”

Mark continued, “When I was in a band, there’d be this country song writing itself in my head, and I’d be wondering, what do I do with this?! Then I could have a more rocky song, or a folky song, because I definitely come from a more folk background, I’d be into Glen Hansard, Elbow, Bruce Springsteen, and Fleetwood Mac, and Jackson Browne, where the stories are really at the core of the music. In pop, it’s more about how it sounds, rather than what it’s saying. And that’s a huge, huge thing for a songwriter. Especially me, coming from guitar-land! [Laughs]. Never going anywhere without a guitar, and wanting to tell stories. It was such a different experience, having to push myself out of my comfort-zone. But it was really interesting to see, and to learn about, and ultimately, it’s helped me to grow a lot as a songwriter.” 

To finish up our chat, I had three quick-fire questions to put to Mark. The first one was what would be the proudest moment of his career so far? 


“I find it hard to overlook that Eurovision moment when we were sitting on the couch, waiting to hear if we’d made it through. Nine countries had already been called out. I knew how crazy it was at home. When I was chatting to my parents, they were saying it was like Italia ’90, everybody was going crazy. And I just knew, as soon as our names were called, that this was such a win for absolutely everyone involved. Our families, our friends, our country. Just getting us back in the Final again. That was a beautiful, beautiful experience.” 

And his biggest disappointment? 


“Oh wow! [Laughs]. Biggest disappointment? Probably…let me just think. There’s two in my mind. One, is when my first band broke up. Because we were brothers, and we were all fighting for the one cause, but it just wasn’t working. And it wasn’t helping our mental health either. So it was literally for the best that we walked away. But crazily enough, as one of the most difficult experiences of my life, I think it was also the most forming. It really, really taught me a lot about who I am. It made me self-reflect. I feel I grew as a human, massively, from that experience. Yes, it was the biggest disappointment, and a tough experience, but…that could very easily have been my best experience either.” 

And finally, what’s the greatest lesson Mark has ever learned as a writer, and also about the music business in general? 


“As a writer? For me, I always feel the best songs are songs that will resonate with people. You’re supposed to feel music. Music is a feeling. Not a building, ya know. For me, music is pure magic. And for me, the real music comes when you’re in a discussion with somebody, or you’re in a room alone with a guitar or a piano, and you’re diving deeper and deeper into a thought…I feel as though the songs that will resonate most, will come from a real place. For the music business, I think it’s just super-important to know what you enjoy, but equally – if not more important – to know what you don’t enjoy, what you’re not mad about. If there was a way of explaining it all, it’s stay true to yourself. Figure out what you love. Figure out what you don’t love. And stay closer to the former.” 


CATCH A TEAR, the brand NEW single from MARK CAPLICE, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

ENDS

Donie O

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, June 2021

NEW SINGLE BRINGS EASY SUMMER VIBE

With summer finally upon us and one of the strangest periods in recent times hopefully coming to a close, DONIE O returns to the airwaves with his version of a suitably reflective classic, the great GORDON LIGHTFOOT hit, EARLY MORNIN’ RAIN. The song will go on general release across all digital platforms from Friday, June 18th, and is already available to request at radio. 

Early Mornin’ Rain, which first appeared on Lightfoot’s 1966 debut album, Lightfoot!, and again on his 1977 collection, Gord’s Gold (as a re-recorded version), will be the second single from Donie O’s forthcoming second album. As the follow-up to last year’s huge radio hit, A Picture Of You, the Tipp man hopes this record will offer fans a further glimpse into the variety and range his new long-player will have to offer…


          “When I was deciding on what single to release next, I was doing it with the new album very much in mind. So I knew I wanted to pick a song that would reflect the fact that this album will be a miscellany of music. ‘A Picture Of You’, as that almost textbook, prime example of a feel-good, genre and generation crossing hit, was just the first glimpse into what’s to come. ‘Early Mornin’ Rain’, on the other hand, is a more considered, more thoughtful, and more solitary kind of song. And there’ll be some moments like this on the album, too. But we’ve also put a twist on this song that will bring it to people in a way they’ve never quite heard it before, I think.”


          For Donie O, as ‘normal’ life begins to resume, the need to acknowledge the unexpected pause of the last year or so is every bit as important as rushing headlong back into the way things were, as he explains…


          “Whether we wanted it or not, we all ended up with a lot of time on our hands when life as we had always known it suddenly ground to a halt. And I think we all ended up spending a little – and maybe a lot – of that time missing life as we had known it until that point. And essentially, ‘Early Mornin’ Rain’, being a song about homesickness, manages to encapsulate those very same emotions. It’s amazing to think that Lightfoot wrote it so long ago when he was living in L.A. and missing Canada, and yet, we can just as easily take that feeling and transfer it to events of so recently as well.”


          While Lightfoot wrote the song and released it in 1966, he wasn’t actually the first artist to cut and bring it to public attention. That claim-to-fame rests with Canadian husband and wife pairing Ian and Sylvia who did so a year earlier. Early Mornin’ Rain was also recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary, and by The Grateful Dead. 

~ EARLY MORNIN’ RAIN, the brand NEW single from DONIE O, will be available on all platforms from Friday, JUNE 18th, and is already available to request at radio stations nationwide. Donie O’ s second studio album is scheduled for release towards the end of 2021. 

ENDS 

Norman Borland

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, June 2021

NORMAN ‘LIVE’ AT STRULE ARTS CENTRE

NORMAN BORLAND will perform a Facebook ‘Live’ concert direct from STRULE ARTS CENTRE in Omagh on Saturday, June 19th. The Donegal country singer will take to the stage with an All-Star Country band and his special guest on the evening, PATRICIA McGUIRE, for the hour-long special event which will get underway at 8pm. Fans can enjoy the concert from the comfort of their own homes simply by joining in via the Strule Arts Centre Facebook page.  

       

After a succession of radio-friendly singles over the course of the last year or so, Norman is finally returning to the stage to bring those hits – and many more – to life! With his latest release – Ain’t No Little Thing, featuring Gerry Guthrie – riding high in the country radio airplay charts, Norman is already looking forward to the big night…     

   

“It’s going to be such a wonderful feeling to get back on stage again, even if our audience on the night will be out of view on this particular occasion. At least we’ll know they’re there on the other side of the camera, and ready to enjoy the night with us! And you’d never know, we might be able to do it all again when it’s safe to have everybody come and join us in person. It’s been a while now since I had the chance to play ‘live’, so I’m really excited about sharing some of my latest singles with everyone. And the fact that I’ll have such a gifted line-up of musicians behind me makes it all the better. As well as that, it will also be my pleasure to have the lovely Patricia McGuire join me for a very special song, too.” 


Fans can expect to be treated to renditions of Norman’s latest release, the aforementioned Ain’t No Little Thing, plus recent singles Healing Hands, Loving You’s Like Coming Home, and many more country classics. In fact, if there was one word to sum up what this night will be about, then that word is country. Because when it comes to Norman Borland, the deal is simple…he’s a country singer, singing country songs. 

~ NORMAN BORLAND and His All-Star Country Band, ‘LIVE’ in CONCERT from Strule Arts Centre, takes place on Saturday, June 19th, beginning at 8pm. Fans can tune in and enjoy the show via the Strule Arts Centre Facebook page on the night. Norman’s latest single, Ain’t No Little Thing – featuring Gerry Guthrie – is available now on all platforms, and to request from radio stations nationwide. You can follow Norman on Facebook and Twitter, and at his official website, www.officialnormanborlandmusic.com 

ENDS 

Niall McNamee

First Published June 2021

‘STEP BY STEP’ TO FIGHTING JACKIE CHAN

Part 2

Last month saw Dundalk’s NIALL McNAMEE release his long-awaited debut EP, STEP BY STEP. The five-track collection showcases the singer/songwriter’s finely honed skill for carving out of his own life, moments in time that – in their essence  – could just as easily have been lifted from yours or mine. In any writer, such ability is the mark of a master of his craft. Niall’s natural humility reveals itself at regular intervals through his good humour and his willingness to see, and share, the humour in his own life. That same humility would have him wince at any notion of being known as anything more than a storyteller. Well, he may wince a little bit for a little while anyway, because Step By Step is a debut that pushes him well ahead of the ordinary in every sense. 


We had the pleasure of catching up with Niall on the phone from his London home early last month as he looked ahead to the EP’s launch. If you happened to miss that chat, it’s well worth checking out and can be found elsewhere on this site simply by searching Niall’s name. Today, we begin Part 2 of our time in conversation with Niall by taking a look at the final track on the collection. 


Step By Step closes with the song When She Goes, another great title, and a song that has echoes of Damien Dempsey about it. It also, and I think this thought was sparked by hearing the strings in there, got me thinking about how wonderful it would also sound if slowed right down, and perhaps performed with just a string quartet. The lyric has the line, ‘It would appear there’s been deep harm in trying’, a clever reversal on the more common usage of that particular phrase. I asked Niall to take me back to the inspiration behind this one, and into the crafting of lines like the one just mentioned…


“Well, that’s about being in a relationship, and sometimes things just feel like they’re not working. It’s that mixture of feelings, that of, oh my God, this isn’t working, but also…the fear of IF it doesn’t work, what happens then, when she goes? Or when I have to leave? That song changed around a lot. I originally wrote that on piano, sometimes it’s easier to write a song on piano than on guitar. Then when we went to do our first gig as a full band – which was in the middle of lockdown – I was practising with the lads and I realised that it would work so much better on guitar. Again, I couldn’t be happier with Damien Dempsey as a reference there! I love playin’ that song ‘live’, it’s got a real energy to it. It was a real challenge – a new challenge for me, actually – of making these songs come to life with more instruments, and knowing what to have and what not to. I had people willing to play on my album, and I was like, cool! Let’s get trumpets! And an orchestra! And everything! [Laughs] I had to learn not to put something in for the sake of it. We’ve done a great little music video for this song as well, which will be out in a few weeks, probably a good few weeks, we’re keeping it as a little bonus. We did a music video for each song on the EP, which was a bit insane, but I had the time during lockdown.” 

While Step By Step has offered fans a whole EP’s worth of Niall’s talent to enjoy, that feast was preceded by a glimpse of it on Imelda’s new long-player, 11Past The Hour, courtesy of the song, Don’t Let Me Stand On My Own. Generally, duets fascinate me anyway, wondering who might first realise or suggest that a particular song would suit and work with more than one voice to the fore, and what exactly it might be about a song that would make it work like that. But in this instance, of course, Niall and Imelda co-wrote Don’t Let Me Stand On My Own together. So, was it always going to be a duet from the get-go? 


“Well, first of all, I’ve never, ever before written with anyone, never. And probably in a kinda youthful, arrogant way, didn’t see the point. Me and Imelda are very proud, ya know [laughs]. So there wasn’t going to be a song on her album that she wasn’t involved in writing, and vice-versa. I don’t know where I was going, or where I was coming back from, and this was long before the lockdown, but I’d been back in the house for about thirty-minutes, and for some reason I was just messing around on the guitar. I had this tune. And I had it in open-tuning, which is my favourite, and has been since I got really into Paul Brady. I had a few lyrics as well, some of them that are in there now. When I start writing a song, I like to keep playing it over and over again, then eventually some words stick, lyrics like ‘Don’t let me stand on my own’ as the chorus. For some reason I recorded this on my phone and I sent it to Imelda, and I said what do you think of this? She said it was lovely, it was good. Then we were around the house and she said play that to me ‘live.’ I think I was trying to go off the romantic thing, thinking I’d written too many love songs, so there were a few verses in there about anti oil-rigs in Iraq! [Laughs]. Imelda was like, ‘Yeaaah…it’s a lovely sentiment, but…I’m not sure for this song!’ [Laughs].””So she started writing a few lyrics down and singing along one day, and it sort of became that [song]. There was a bit of push-and-pull from the two of us, a fear – if I’m honest, between the two of us – of is it a good idea that we’re doing this together. Because we hadn’t been together that long at the time. And Imelda’s been in the industry long enough to know that’s not always a good thing, working with your friends, or your partner, or your family. But we pushed on with it anyway, and Imelda sent it off to her people and they liked it. Then, every now and again, we’d be at a gig or an after-party, and out would come the guitar and we’d play that song. And it would always get a reaction. I certainly didn’t want to have a song on Imelda’s album just for the sake of it. I was thinking too, hang on here a second, I haven’t released anything myself yet. I didn’t want to be her Jordan to her Peter Andre! [Laughs]. That’s what I was kinda terrified about! But then as time went on, I thought it would be good, and I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have that song together, and to play it, and to have it be one that people ask for.” 

As we touched on briefly in Part 1 of our chat, there are more elements to Niall’s talents than just that of being a singer/songwriter. He also knows what it takes to be creative in front of the cameras as an actor. And he’s got an exciting project coming up soon, a movie called Love Without Walls. I asked Niall how much could he share with us about that? 


“About this time last year in the UK, it might have been later, maybe July or August, but there was a little gap where you could do gigs in pubs, with social-distancing, table service, but they had music back. For years, if I wasn’t acting, I spent my weekends – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – playing in the Irish pubs around London. My mam decided that it was time for me to do that because the building sites were killin’ me! [Laughs]. It felt sometimes like the more you worked, the less you made. So I was doing this gig back during lockdown, not my own gig, just in the corner of a pub. It had been so long since I’d played any ‘live’ music, I said to some people, listen, I’m back in London, come and have a look. And about sixty or seventy people turned up, which was awesome, and we had this amazing night. Then this lady approached me, and I kinda thought, is she a police officer? Am I doing something wrong here? But she said, ‘My name is Jane’ – Jane Gull, she’s the director of ‘Love Without Walls’ – ‘I’ve written a script about a young, married couple who fall on hard times, and the leading role for the male is a singer/songwriter.’ She said, ‘I was going to talk to your agent, but I saw you had a gig on. If you’re interested, we’d love to chat with you about it. But there’s one thing we really need, that’s a singer/songwriter who has his own songs. Because we’d like him to do the soundtrack.’ I was just like, YES, Please! [Laughs]. I think she thought I’d be a bit more coy about it, a bit more like, ‘well have your people talk to my people’, or whatever! But I was just like, oh my God, that sounds incredible!” “So we met up and had a chat about it, and I read with Shana who is the leading lady, and there was a chemistry. So we went ahead with it. The movie kept getting put back because of lockdown, and I kept getting fat and slim, and shaved and bearded! [Laughs]. So ‘China In A Box’ is the main track. In fact, ‘China In A Box’ wasn’t going to be on the EP, I was saving it. But then they said, look, it’s going to cost us a whole load of money to shut down the whole production, but we can do a day of it and we need to get a few shots of when you first met, and your relationship before it all goes wrong. So why don’t we do that, and film a musical video for ‘China In A Box’ as a little teaser, so that was that. On the same day the EP comes out, I’m going into London to quarantine for a bit, and then we’ll get to filming. I can’t wait to get started. I’m absolutely terrified [laughs], because I’ve never really played myself in anything. I mean, I’m not playing ‘Niall McNamee’, I’ve got a part to play [laughs]. But they are my songs and there are elements of me in there.” 

It had been Bono’s 60th birthday the day before we spoke. And Niall, I can absolutely guarantee you, is the only person I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with who has the coolest of stories involving Bono (to an extent), one of the best Bonds ever in the shape of Pierce Brosnan, AND…and with Jackie Chan! And a story of fighting Jackie Chan, at that! Talk about literally having one story cooler than another…


“Well I was playing Neil McCormick in ‘Chasing Bono.’ He, by all accounts, set up a band at the same time and they both thought they were going to be the main hitters in the music world. The story is about how it didn’t really quite happen for Neil, who’s a really good friend of mine now, and a great journalist. But it didn’t go the way he wanted it, while Bono obviously went off and became…Bono! [Laughs]. That was an incredible time, to get that opportunity on stage for all that time. And to have so many lines, to be given that responsibility. Sally Woods, Ronnie Woods’ wife, was producing it, she was amazing. And Ronnie came down loads of times, he’s a good bloke, and they’re a lovely couple. Then press-night came, and they invited their friends…and one of their friends was Imelda, and that’s where we met. Yeah, she came to watch ‘Chasing Bono’ and we swapped numbers. I don’t think we knew what for, but we obviously liked each other. And then the rest is kinda history! ‘Chasing Bono’, and the friends I made on that, that was such an important time. It felt like my ‘moment’, in many ways, and I’d really worked hard for it.”


“And as for ‘The Foreigner'”, continued Niall, “that was mental! [Laughs]. That was the first film role I ever did, which was crazy. I was still working on the building sites and I remember going to the audition, without knowing what it was for. Because you don’t go into an audition knowing that you’re auditioning for a Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan film! But I knew I was sort of in the ‘RA or something like that [laughs]. I had five lines in the audition. I don’t know what they can take from five lines, but it can’t be much. But I was the last person of the day. It was five o’ clock, I came in, and they were like, ‘Oh hi ya, look, don’t want to put ya off, but because we’re running really late, we’re going to be packing up during your audition.’ So I thought fair enough [laughs]. But I did these five lines, and I got the part. Then my agent rang me up – to tell me that – but without saying hello or anything, just started reading the script, and reading this fight scene between me and Jackie Chan! Within the next few days, I’d quit the building site and I was getting collected in this fancy car and taken to my trailer. For the first three weeks, solidly, we were choreographing a fight with Jackie Chan. It was mental! And there was a part of me thinking at the time, do ya know what, if things go tits-up and I don’t make it as an actor, I’ll always have this! It would be an interesting one for the ‘office news’ of what people used to do, ya know! So we spent three weeks learning the fight, and I’d never done any combat training or anything like that, I’m not a fighter really. Especially not on stage or on screen. So I worked so hard to get it right, because I really wanted to do it well. And I got it bang on! I was like, this is it! I’m smashing this, I’m ready.”

But then,” recalled Niall, “I remember like ten minutes before we started filming, on the first day, someone came up to me and said, ‘Ahh, Jackie’s not actually happy with your fight, some of the moves and stuff. So he wants to change it.’ And I’m going, oh my God, no, no, no! [Laughs]. So I said right, show me. And they showed me the first bit, and I kinda got that. Then they showed me the second bit, and I was like, here, look, I am never gonna get that! And I asked what could I do. So, I went up to Jackie Chan… [laughs]…and I said, ‘Listen…Jackie…’, [laughs], ‘I’m lost here. I don’t know what I’m doing. They’ve changed it.’ I had to. And it was grand, it worked out great. Even though you shouldn’t be, I was constantly just worried that they would sack me! [Laughs]. A lot of us there, we didn’t really know what we were doing there. I don’t really know what the casting process was. Maybe they just found all the right people, but that’s rare. So Jackie said, ‘Oh, right.’ And I had this fake knife. So he said, ‘Well, when they say action, just try and stab me, and I’ll do the rest.’ And there was me worrying, like, ‘Oh no, what if I kill Jackie Chan?!’ [Laughs]. How arrogant, to worry that on my first day of filming I might be too good! [Laughs]. So I went to stab him when they said action, and he grabbed onto the end of the knife, kinda pulled it back and forth, and I was following the knife, then he just flipped me over his shoulder and smashed me through a glass table! I was lying there winded going, oh my God, what was that?! And at the same time, the crew are like, ‘Right, let’s get in the next fake glass table.’ And I’m thinking, fake glass table?! I didn’t know anything about this! [Laughs]. And if you watch it back, it looks like I’m going for him. But I promise ya, it was all him! He took my knife, made me fight him, and then beat the sh*t outta me! [Laughs]. And it was incredible, it was amazing!” 

“And then obviously Pierce Brosnan was a lovely man. I actually remember the lads taking the mick out of me because of the wrap-party, which everyone was fairly excited for. I thought I’d show where my loyalties lie, and I said I don’t know if I can make the wrap-party because Ireland were playing England at Twickenham and I had tickets. So, I turn up at this wrap-party, half-cut, with my Ireland scarf around me, and the lads are goin’, ‘Ah Jeeesus, what are ya doin’?’ Then Pierce Brosnan turns up ten minutes later with a scarf around him, after being at the same game. And I remember saying to him, ‘You could have given me a fu*king lift!’ [Laughs]. That whole experience of that movie was definitely one of the cooler moments of my life!”

STEP BY STEP, the new EP from NIALL McNAMEE, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms. 

ENDS

Colin Kenny

First Published June 2021

DOIN’ IT ‘WRITE’

The country music scene in Ireland needs new artists coming through in order for it to truly thrive. And to thrive must be the aim, to evolve and grow, not merely to remain static, sometimes stagnant. But for that to happen, new artists alone are not enough. It needs new songs coming with them. In no other genre on this island – and hardly anywhere else on the planet, I’d say – do you so often find new artists coming along and trying to make a name for themselves and build a career by singing the same songs that have been sung for years by every other artist already out there. Or, and only slightly better, covering the same songs that everybody else seems to be doing around the same time. Looking at it from the perspective of a writer, of a country music fan, and of someone involved in the country music industry, artists going down this road has always puzzled and frustrated me in equal measure. 


So why does it happen? Is it a lack of imagination? In part, yes. Is it a lack of ambition? Again, there’s no doubt that this plays a role. Is it fear? Quite possibly. Peer or industry pressure? For sure, unfortunately. One thing that’s certainly not to blame is a lack of fine songwriters. We have them. But too many of them just aren’t getting heard, at least nowhere near often enough. In truth, the ins-and-outs of why that might be would require an entire column all to itself. And believe you me, it might well come. But today is about a man who is definitely going against that grain, and is determined to carve out his own place – in every regard – on the Irish country scene. 


Singer/songwriter COLIN KENNY is doin’ it the ‘write’ way, and he releases his latest single this coming Friday, June 4th. And that particular song, YOU’VE GOT THAT SOMETHING, will see him continue down a road he first embarked upon a few years ago now, that of recording and releasing only original material. In fact, so far down that road has he now travelled, that he’s also close to finalising his debut album…and it will consist entirely of songs written or co-written by him. I’ve known Colin for years, and had the pleasure of working closely with him during the early stages of his country career, and many times since. It’s also been my pleasure to co-write his new single with him.


And with release-day on the horizon, Colin and myself sat down for a chat about that and more last weekend. Having had the pleasure of co-writing You’ve Got That Something with Colin, I obviously knew the song already from my own point of view. So to get our chat underway, I asked him to tell me about the song from his side of the story…


“Well, I suppose when I write songs I try to get a tag-line or a line that will stick in peoples’ minds, rather than a one-word song-title. So ‘You’ve Got That Something’ is aimed at the people who go out dancing on the Irish country scene, and it’s got that love-at-first-sight idea about it. It’s a boy-meets-girl song, and about hoping that everything will work out in the end. That’s always a good theme for a love song, and I think it worked out pretty well.” 

And even though it is a love song, it’s also very much a feel-good, up-tempo, fun song as well…


“Yeah. And as you know, the bones of the song was written a number of months ago, but it ended up having a very summery feel to it. So it’s an all-round feel-good song, it just so happens that we’re releasing it coming into the summer. And coming out of Covid and all that, it’s just nice to have a bright song to look forward to. And lucky enough too, it’s been getting great feedback so early after going to radio and ahead of it’s official release next Friday.”

You’ve Got That Something is the latest in a long line of original singles from Colin, something that’s unusual from most artists on the Irish country scene, but it’s an approach to his career which Colin has very purposely decided upon. I asked the Banagher man to tell me why he felt it was so important to record and release original material…


“Well the album will be ten original songs when that comes out, and I think ‘You’ve Got That Something’ is my fifth or sixth original release now. My main reason behind it, I suppose, is trying to be a little bit different from the status-quo. And as a singer, I wouldn’t be saying that I’m the greatest in the world, so I wanted songs that would maybe stick with the public, rather than trying to sing a classic song better than the original. Because like any Elvis number, or something from Johnny Cash, you’re not going to do it better than the original singers, ya know. It would take a fair singer to do that! [Laughs]. So that was the reason behind doing original music. Back a few years ago, I wrote my first song, and I actually called it ‘The Best Song of All Time.’ It was a nice foxtrot and told the story of all the great songs out there, both country songs and Irish songs as well. It was kind of like a tribute to the greatest songs of all time. Since then, that side of things has kept picking up, and now we’ve got ten originals ready for the album, so it’s great.” 

So The Best Song of All Time was also Colin’s first song to ever write? 


Yeah, it was. My writing experience had been dabbling with a couple of choruses, a couple of verses, but that was the first original song I put down on paper in full, and actually went on to record, and release, yeah.” 

Colin’s last release before You’ve Got That Something was a song called Will You Dance With Me, Annie?, based on his parent’s own love story. Also in his songbook is the track I’m A Country Singer, and I know his forthcoming album will feature a beautiful song about the callows around his hometown of Banagher. How do all of those different parts of his own life find their ways into his songs? 


“Well, I suppose it has a lot to do with Covid, believe it or not. When that came into Ireland back in March of last year, we finished up our jobs. My parents are in the September of their years, if you like, so I decided to move back down to Banagher to stay with them. And what I thought might be a fortnight ended up being about five months in the long run! [Laughs]. So while I was in Banagher I wrote. And one of the songs I wrote was ‘The Callows Are Home.’ I wrote it, I suppose, when you could still only travel within your 5-K. So I used to drive down to the Shannon, and things like that, in the bog, and places that I’d forgotten about maybe over the years. And as I was living with my parents and not seeing anyone else really, we’d just start talking about old times, and all of a sudden then, songs were written. Before ya knew it, I had three or four songs written that will all be on the album ‘Annie.'”

“And with that song, Will You Dance With Me, Annie?”, continued Colin, “that was all over a small,’ simple story of back when my mam and dad worked together in a factory outside of Banagher, back in the day. They used to pass messages on notes to each other through a friend of theirs, because dad was on shift-work, and mam worked during the day. The story unfolds with me finding a box of those old letters and talking about what one of them said, that’s where that title line comes from, ‘Will ya dance with me, Annie?'”

We had both mentioned Colin’s forthcoming debut album a couple of times at this stage, so I asked Colin what more he could share with fans about what they can expect from that eagerly awaited long-player, and – as importantly – when can they expect it, too? 


“Sure, well, on the album ‘Annie’, it’s actually all of my original work over the last few years. There’s songs on it like ‘Head Over Heels In Love’, there’s another new one called ‘Rockin’ And Rollin’, and another new one too, called ‘Never Said Goodbye.’ There’ll be touches of old-style American country from the sixties and seventies. You’ll get some folk and some ballads, and you’ll also get a gospel song, one I wrote a few years ago called ‘Let’s Step Together.’ That’s what you’ll find on the album. And with everything goin’ well, and with all the stars aligning, we’re hoping to have it out by the end of June, maybe early July. It’s very, very close. It’s all done on my end, I’m just waiting for a few more things to line up right now.” Colin continued, “I’ll be hoping to do two album launches, one in my hometown of Banagher, and one in Borrisokane, with a dance on the Saturday night. So you’ll probably be talkin’ about a weekend launch, with a Friday night concert, a Saturday night dance, and a Sunday concert as well, something along those lines is what I’m looking at. I’ll be doing more shows on the social dancing scene in future as well. Those album launches will probably be early next year, or the middle of next year, just depending on how things are. Before then, though, I’ll be looking at doing a virtual launch for the album, maybe in the middle of the summer this year, and possibly something with the lads at Spain AV.”

One of the fairly unique things about Colin as an artist is the broad range of performers that he’s had a chance to support during the earlier stages of his career. There’s been pop legend Tony Christie, one of Irish country’s biggest ever names in Mike Denver, folk greats The Fureys, and even a man who may well have been Ireland’s most loved entertainer of all time, the late Brendan Grace. For a new artist, learning his trade and building his profile and reputation back then, what were the biggest lessons he took away from moments like those? 


“The biggest lesson was really to enjoy those moments at the time. At that time, I suppose, I was very fortunate, a lot of things rolled into each other in a very short space of time. For every singer, the easiest part is when you’re on stage. But you have to enjoy the process of going to the venues, meeting the management there, also meeting other artists along the way and their management as well. It’s important to learn the business side of things. That’s what I’ve taken on-board over the years, that side of it. The advice that I would give to any singer starting out is that you have to understand it’s called show-business. Understand the show side of it, but understand the business side of it as well.” 

What other advice would Colin pass onto any new artist who might be coming onto the scene for the first time? 


“Well the first thing I would say is don’t rush. Don’t rush into anything like recording songs or releasing them. I started with a couple of covers, the first was actually a favourite of mine, one called ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ by Keith Whitley, a slow ballad, and it went down very, very well. The next one was a cover as well. I suppose you kind of have to find your own niche, your own path that you want to follow. I’m a great believer in the fact that you have to give fans something that the other singers are not doing. With me, I decided to go down the route of original music. Fun, happy, up-tempo, but with some serious numbers too. But songs that everyone could relate to. So for any new singer, the advice I would give is to choose your songs wisely, take your time with releasing them, and enjoy the whole process as well.” 

Although there have been no ‘live’ shows over the last year and a bit, that hasn’t meant no shows for Colin. He’s been taking to Facebook on a regular basis for Facebook ‘live’ performances. And I suspected that was something that wasn’t just a great way to connect with his fans and keep those bonds strong, but also, simply a way for Colin to continue to enjoy playing music until he can get back on a real stage again? 


“Well, yeah, that’s it. What I did initially, was I was a one show in a blue moon kinda guy! I wasn’t very tech-savvy! But I suppose like anything else, you get used to it by just doing it, and you become more relaxed at it. I started off doing one show a week last October, because my single, Will You Dance With Me, Annie? had been released and people were asking me would I come on and sing the song for them on a ‘live’ show. So that was how it started. Then, as the turn of the new year came, I had moved it up to two shows a week, and now I’m at about three shows since last February time. I’m really enjoying it, I don’t overplay, I do about fifty to sixty minutes of a show. I have a nice following of between fifty to a hundred people who tend to join in all the time, they’re a very loyal group of ladies and gents. So that kept me on my toes as well, kept me playing guitar, and looking forward to having that outing three times a week. It kept the music going rather than just putting everything on stall and up on the shelf, ya know that kind of a way.” 

As we look forward to the return of ‘live’ events hopefully moving closer, what shape does Colin – as someone who has been a part of some huge events as we mentioned, and more with Hot Country too – think things will take as they do return? 


[Laughs] If I only had those answers! [Laughs]. But no, on a serious note, it’s clear to see, I think, that it will be a slow process. Unfortunately, no-one wants to admit that. But it will. There’ll be outdoor shows during the summer, and later on in the year when people can come back into a room together, it will probably be like before when you could have a minimum of forty or fifty people. The bad news for dancers is that it could probably be later still in the year, or maybe next year, before dance events can take place again. That’s just what I think. I’ve seen it with my own job, we were out of work for six to seven months last year, and five months this year. So it’s not all gonna come back overnight, unfortunately.” 

Because none of us have any of those answers, that means that it’s very hard to plan as well. Now Colin has his debut album coming up soon, but beyond that, what is he looking at for the rest of this year? How is he putting some shape on that time? 


“Well, I’m obviously delighted to be back at work, which is the first thing. Music-wise, I’m hoping to record a couple more songs later on in the year, and I also hope to release a few more. So my plan for this year is to release a song maybe every three months. So the next one will be maybe September time, and hopefully one before Christmas. Moving forward to next year, I have plans to run a weekend in Scotland, but with Covid and everything it’s a little bit tricky to work on that. But hopefully Scotland will go ahead, around the middle of next year. That will be a dancing weekend with some other singers on the trip too. We’ll be going to the Scottish highlands, the idea being that it will be going from the midlands of Ireland to the highlands of Scotland. That’ll be the name of the tour. So I’ll be looking forward to putting things in place for that. And hopefully as well, of course, there’ll be some guest appearances at some of the concert shows that take place around Christmas, and into next year as well. So that’s the plan if everything works out!” 

We couldn’t wrap things up without talking about how Colin has become affectionately known as ‘the singing barber.’ I wondered how he feels about that title? And also, now that he’s back at work, and having just opened his own premises in Borrisokane, is there a chance that over time it might become as well known here in Ireland for its connection to the world of country music in the same way that some locations in Nashville have done with American stars? 


“Well, I’m delighted, first of all, to have the chance to open my own business. I’ve had some great help over the past five years with my partner Laura, working in the Serene Hair Salon in Borrisokane. I’ve been established in the locality since 2015, and delighted to be where I am now, too. As for the other part of your question [laughs], I don’t know if I’ll ever be as famous as some of the venues in Nashville! [Laughs]. A lot of people call in to get their hair cut, and I wouldn’t really know who everyone is, but after a couple of minutes they always ask, ‘How’s the singin’ goin’?’ [Laughs]. And then the conversation would turn to them having heard me sing on Tipp FM, or maybe Midlands 103, ya know. And that’s always lovely, to be honest.” 

YOU’VE GOT THAT SOMETHING, the brand NEW single from COLIN KENNY (co-written by my good-self), will be available on all platforms from FRIDAY, JUNE 4th. The song is available to pre-add and pre-save right NOW from Apple Music, Spotify, and other platforms. You’ve Got That Something is also AT RADIO NOW, available to request from your favourite shows and stations nationwide. You can follow Colin on Facebook at Colin Kenny Music. 

ENDS