First Published January 2020
CLODAGH’S UP WITH THE BEST
The last year has been one of dreams coming true for young country music star CLODAGH LAWLOR. And the Clare woman had yet another reason to be all smiles on Monday night last as she headed out the door of the Mullingar Park Hotel with the prize for Best Newcomer under her arm and bearing her name at the Sunday World Music & Entertainment Awards. Clodagh burst onto the Irish country scene when she was crowned winner of The Late Late Show’s Search For A Country Star early last year, leading to a string of high profile concert and festival performances throughout the summer of 2019 and the remainder of the year, including many appearances alongside country heart-throb Nathan Carter.
I’m pretty sure that Clodagh’s voice would have lead to her emergence as a country star eventually anyway, with or without The Late Late Show being part of the equation. While that Late Late Show success may have jump-started things for her, it by no means lessens the work-load and work-ethic needed to keep a career in country music on the road. As much as she’s become a proven crowd-pleaser on stage, Clodagh is also as great a chat away from the glow of the spotlight. I had the pleasure of spending some time in her company a little while back, and we began by going back to where Clodagh’s country music adventure all really began, and how it’s been since then…
“When I started off doing this after The Late Late Show, I said look, I’m gonna give this a right go. Because you have to put your whole mind-set into it, don’t ya. And if you don’t, sure you might as well just be at something else. Like, I don’t know how anybody else can work another job as well, and concentrate on that, too. I really admire them for being able to do that, because I think I’d go off my head! [laughs] My head at times does be fried at home on the computer or on the phone, that seems to be all I’m at trying to organise things. I’m doing it all myself at the moment. I don’t want to rush into that side of the business just yet – management or whatever – because it’s obviously a big decision. So I want to make sure I get my image right and out there first, and then we’ll see what happens after that. It’s a tough industry…”
It sure is. And Clodagh was probably coming into it from the outside, so to speak, in that she hadn’t been gigging on the country scene before The Late Late Show…
“No, I was just lucky that after The Late Late Show, that really put my name out there. From there, people started getting in touch with me.”
It was that Late Late Show win that really brought Clodagh to national attention, so what was that experience like for her?
“It was surreal! Just the feeling that you were going to be going on The Late Late Show. But then it was another surreal feeling knowing that you were going to be singing with Nathan! It’s not every day that you get to work with him, let alone to be in his presence. And especially for someone who was only starting off, it was just incredible. I don’t even know how to describe it even now! [laughs]. To have your introduction to the country music scene be on The Late Late Show, at twenty-four…sure what more could anyone ask for!? Now, don’t get me wrong, it was very, very scary! We were going out there and singing something that obviously wasn’t a country song (‘Shallow’, from the movie A Star Is Born), and trying to deliver it as best as we could. Me and Nathan only got to practise that song once, and we’d only met each other prior to that at the auditions. Actually I’d met him only a few days before that at the Hot Country TV Awards Concert as well. But I was scared to be going on stage with him then because you know how sometimes you’ll be hoping that there’s a chemistry there. especially for a duet with someone. Because not everyone gels well together when they sing. So I was kinda worried about how we would look together on tv and everything as well. But it was all amazing, it was unreal. I couldn’t have asked for any better introduction to the country music scene really.”
So how did the competition first come to Clodagh’s attention in the first place?
“I was actually up at one of my friend’s house in Galway, and we were sitting down watching The Late Late Show when Mike Denver was on. And it was Mike who announced the competition. And as soon as my friends heard that, they were like, Clodagh, you should definitely enter that! And you know, for so long, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get into the country music scene, because it’s so small really. So it’s difficult to try and get feet in the door. So I said, ya know what, I will! I was going to America with a group called The Young Irelanders, they had asked me to be the lead singer in that band, and I was going to the States only a week later, for a month. So I went online, like everybody else, uploaded a video, sent all my details about myself, did all that but heard nothing back. I went to America, a month went by, still nothing. And I was always refreshing my email to see if there was anything there at all! [laughs]. And then it dawned on me that I never even got a confirmation that they had received my application, you know how you usually get one when you do something online? So I started to panic, and I was wondering, Jesus, did my application go in at all?! And I was also thinking but sure I can’t send in another one, that’ll just like this girl is so needy!! [laughs]. So I just waited! And then I think it was about a week before the auditions that I finally got the call.”
Clodagh continued, “And on the way up – because sometimes tv isn’t about the music, it’s about how you look or whatever – I was saying to my Ma, some twenty year old producer or researcher is gonna tell me I can’t sing and I’m gonna be gutted for the next two years! [laughs]. So I was really nervous about the whole thing then, and I kept thinking I was doing it all wrong, ya know. I was thinking I was gonna get a ‘no’, and then be gutted for another two or three years, because when I did The Voice of Ireland, that really took a toll on my for a while. We got up there anyway, and there was swarms of women everywhere! And I was like, what is goin’ on here?! I’d seen that Ryan was going to be there, so I knew about that, because it was the launch and everything. But I couldn’t figure out why there was so many women outside the door of the hotel, and that made me even more nervous because I started thinking there was thousands applying for it! [laughs]. The Ennis Brothers were there as well, I knew the lads from the Cowboys and Heroes Festival, and they were like, did ya see all the women outside? And I said yeah, what’s all that about? Oh Nathan Carter is here, they said! And I was like, what?! [laughs]. So then I was having a mini-heart attack, thinking I’m not prepared for this mentally! [laughs]. Then I saw Margo, and the lads were like, yeah, Margo is a judge as well! But then I started thinking well look, if I don’t get this, at least I’ll be able to come away with some constructive criticism, ya know. They know what they’re talking about, so if a ‘no’ comes from them, well I wouldn’t have been as gutted about it.”
But there was another surprise waiting for Clodagh when her audition began…
“So the producer asked me would I sing Shallow, and I said, yeah, no problem. And then I just came out with this – and even as I said I it I was thinking Clodagh, why are you after doing that?! [laughs] – I said Nathan, sure if you want to sing it with me, you’re more than welcome to! [laughs]. And he said no first, but I had to go back out to my Mum to get the backing-track and when I came back in he said he would actually sing it with me. I came out of the room after it then, and everyone was like, ‘Did you just sing with Nathan Carter?’ And I was like, yeah, I did! But you know what I have to say, Nathan is the most down-to earth person. Like I was saying, when you’re going into such a small family – country music – you’re kinda scared, you don’t know who you can go to, or who you can’t go to. Nathan is probably the first person I’ve really dealt with in the business, and he’s just so humble. For his age, all that he’s accomplished is incredible. I’ve always admired him. I’ve loved everything about him, as far as his professionalism and work-ethic goes. He’s such a role-model for people in country music, especially new artists. When I did the Marquee in Cork with him, you really see how much goes into what he does. It’s not – and it’s never – as easy as just getting on stage. You have to put everything into what you do if you want something as big as what Nathan has. And everything he gets, he deserves.”
Clodagh mentioned her experience on The Voice and the toll that took on her…what exactly did she mean in that regard?
“I was eighteen when I entered that, and I wanted to sing, and I wanted to be on tv, and I wanted people to know me. That’s what you want – what you think you want – at that age. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to get that opportunity to get on tv. But it’s not a music show. It’s not about music. It’s a tv show. And I know that now. I’ve learned about things like that in the business now. But there was a lot of things that I never expected to be a part of it, and that never came across on television. You think that you’re with the judges all the time, and that they’re always giving you advice. I picked Kian Egan, but sure I was with him for about five minutes, I’d say. That was all. But they were all so lovely to me, they were. Una Healy was a judge, Rachel Stevens, Bressie, and Kian Egan. And they were all so lovely. But you don’t see them. It’s not that you end up in the same room as them or anything like that. I hate to say it, but if anyone asked me for advice about talent shows, I don’t think I’d tell anyone to do it. Because as I said, you’re there in a room, singing a song and giving it your heart and soul, maybe for a twenty-year old researcher to tell you if you’re good enough or not to go onto the next stage. And I just don’t think that’s a great thing for anyone’s self-esteem. Once you hit the screens, especially with social media nowadays, that’s a big thing, and it’s all about what you make of it. But I think if I’m being honest now, at twenty-four, and with everything I know about the industry, I’d be able for it a lot more than I was at eighteen.”