First Published June 2020
FINDING PEACE IN COUNTRY MUSIC
If everybody had the same genuine passion and love for life as CLAUDIA BUCKLEY has for country music, oh what a wonderful world it would be! Born into the limelight as the daughter of the famous JIMMY BUCKLEY – one of Irish country’s most popular entertainers both as a solo artist and as a member of The Three Amigos – the lure of the stage and the spotlight was Claudia‘s companion from an early age. And while Claudia is now answering that call to her soul in the most stylish of ways, it’s not simply the moments on stage and in the spotlight that she lives for.
No, for Claudia, from the start, and still today, it’s all about the song, the music, the chance to put a smile on someone’s face. If that’s in front of one-thousand people, one hundred, or just one – and sometimes even when she’s just singing for the sake of her own spirit – that’s all by the by. What matters most to Claudia, is that she’s singing. And singing country music. Listening to Claudia sing is a pleasure, and so is sitting down for a chat with her.
Back in Part 1 of our chat when we spoke a couple of weeks back, Claudia had mentioned that she knew from very early on in her life that she wanted to be an entertainer. But from just how early, I wondered?
“Oh…I’d say from five…six. I said my dad is a singer, so I want to be a singer. I wouldn’t have thought it was any different if say Mary from down the road said her dad was a teacher, so she wanted to be a teacher. Or someone else’s dad was a postman, so they wanted to be a postman. Or a dentist, or whatever. I just wanted to do what he did. I was thinking well if he can do it, why can’t I do it? [laughs]. There was always a little bit of that as well! I always wanted to follow in his footsteps and I’m very happy and pleased to be doing so. I’m so, so proud of him, and seeing him go from strength to strength over the years, through all of the knocks and all of the hardships. If I can have even half of his success in my career, I’ll be a very happy lady.”
As I was preparing for my chat with Claudia, it crossed my mind that she actually has a lot in common with Miley Cyrus. Both have famous dads in the music business, both became well-known to the public at a young age, both have gone on to establish themselves as artists in their own right, and both Miley and Claudia have a lot of younger fans who look up to them. I wondered how Claudia felt about being someone who others look up to? Is that something she ever thinks about or is aware of?
“I’m definitely very, very aware of it. As in I’m blessed because I think it’s the most loveliest thing in the world when we’re doing gigs or shows and a little girl or a little boy will come up to me at the end of the night, and they’ll be shy and holding their head down but wanting to take a picture or have a little chat. And ya know I go out of my way to sit with them and have a little talk, and if they have any questions I’m more than happy to answer them. Because I was once that little girl who would go to all of these gigs, and I would look up at the likes of Susan McCann. I remember going to one of her gigs when I was really, really small, and I thought there was absolutely nothing like her! The way the lights shone on her, she looked so beautiful, she was such a star. And she sang amazingly. And she went out of her way when I was small to come and speak to me. So I will always, always do that for younger fans. And I’ll try to be a good role model. I pride myself on being down to earth, being very approachable, and easy to talk to. I think I’m someone you can have a laugh with. And I like going out on stage every night because I know I can make the audience laugh. And hopefully I can make them cry as well with an emotional song! My dad always says, ‘If you can make them laugh and you can make them cry in the one gig, you’re not doin’ too bad!’ [laughs]. So that’s something that I’ve always kinda held close to my heart, that little statement. But no, for sure, I’m absolutely thrilled and privileged to have younger people looking up to me.”
So what has it been like for Claudia coming into the music business properly – as an entertainer in her own right – as the daughter of her dad? Did that put extra pressure on her shoulders, not wanting to let him down? Or was it a worry, perhaps, what people might think or might say about her being ‘Jimmy Buckley’s daughter’?
“Well I suppose there’s definitely a stigma attached to being the daughter or the son of someone so successful, someone who is well-known in Ireland, England and so on. But my dad put zero pressure on me growing up. He just knew that my face would light up when I’d hear a song I loved, and I absolutely loved to sing. I loved to perform. I loved to make people happy. I loved to make people laugh. That’s all what I was born to do, I suppose, and that’s what I’m happy to do. I do get asked that question a lot at gigs, I suppose, do I feel pressure carrying my dad’s name. But no, absolutely not. I’m not embarrassed of it, I’m not shy of it. I’m very proud to carry his name. He’s one of the most successful entertainers in the country. And of course I want to make him proud, and I want to make him happy, but I’m a singer and a performer in my own right. I’m confident in what I’m doing. Jimmy and Claudia, we’re always going to be known that way, and I’m happy with that. He loves what I do, and I love what he does. He pushes me to do more than I think I’m capable of, and I do the exact same thing to him. Without him, I wouldn’t have the head on my shoulders that I do. I am twenty-two, but I often think I’m more fifty-two in my head because I’m always thinking like an adult! [laughs]. Thinking like a man, I suppose it is! [laughs]. Dad says I think like a man because I’m surrounded by men all of the time. I work predominantly with men, it’s just one of those things. It is what it is [laughs]. But no, I don’t feel in any way pressured. This is what I want to do. I’ll continue to try and put my best foot forward. If anyone’s putting pressure on anyone, I’m putting pressure on myself. I’m my own worst critic, I’m very hard on myself. But in some ways, that’s a good thing. It means I’m always striving to do better, always looking to the next step, always trying to look forward and stay somewhat ahead of the game. Dad is who he is, and I am who I am. We’re singers and entertainers in our right. Very different, but very similar. I’m very proud to go on stage with him and sing our duets and have the craic back and forth. People love to see it, the whole father and daughter aspect. But that’s also a very special thing. When my dad – God forbid – gets older, I mean, obviously it’s gonna happen, but he’ll be able to look back on these memories. And I’ll be able to say, God, how lucky was I that I was able to sing with my dad and work with him, and share these amazing memories. I’m very, very lucky and I never take it for granted.”
As well as doing so many shows with her dad, Claudia was also on tour with Nathan Carter recently. And I’m sure she’s probably met every big name in Irish country music by growing up with her dad at the heart of it all. So what’s the best piece of advice that someone has given her along the way about being an entertainer, or beginning to be in the public eye so much?
“Be yourself. Working with Nathan has been a fantastic opportunity, I’ve really loved it. He’s one of these people that you meet and you talk to him, and within three minutes you’re saying God, he’s one of those really great people that you’ll meet in life. He’s so kind, he’s so nice to his fans, he goes out of his way to meet people. And he’ll stand and do a three-hour meet-and-greet after a two-hour show, no bother. And he’ll do that night after night. I’ve seen it doing those shows with him. He came into me after one of those shows and he said to me, ‘You know, people like you for being you. So continue to be yourself.’ He’s given me great advice and support. As have the likes of Philomena Begley. God! Sure she’s the Queen of Country Music. We were at a wedding together not so long ago, and she sat with me. She said there’s only a couple of artists trying to do what you’re trying to do, but you’re making it work because you believe in it. So keep believing in it and it will work.’ So when she gave me that little piece of advice, you carry it with you. You do say to stay true to yourself. Because when you do stay true to yourself and just be who you are, you’re never gonna look back and say that didn’t work because I wasn’t being myself. At least I was being myself, ya know. So just be yourself! That’s what everybody tells you. And it’s something you should take on board as a rising face on the scene, I suppose. People will gravitate towards that, and like it hopefully! [laughs].”
Claudia is definitely one of the most confident people I’ve ever spoken to, be it an artist or otherwise, young or old. But in a really lovely way. She’s so calmly self-assured, knows exactly who she is and what she wants to do. And make no mistake about it, that’s a great thing for someone to be. Long may it be so with Claudia.
One of my favourite things that Claudia has been doing of late is her videos, which are just her voice and her guitar. The reason why is simple, we get to enjoy her voice in all of its glorious natural beauty. And Claudia always seems so relaxed and so absorbed in the song she’s performing. What, I wondered, are her favourite songs to sing that way?
“Hmmm. Oh God! There’s soooo mannnny! [laughs]. I love to sing Storms Never Last on the guitar with my dad because it’s one of those special songs. Well, it’s a sad song, but we’ll often end up laughing in the middle of it! It’s a weird thing [laughs]. But it’s a nice thing, too. I love to sing Grandpa, by The Judds, because again it’s another one of those beautiful songs. I’ve sang it for years, but I uploaded it the other day, and the amount of messages that came in from people saying it reminds them of a grandparent who has passed, or going to a grandparent for advice while all of this is going on now. If me and my voice and my guitar can make people feel that way, that it resonates with them, that’s very, very special to me. I also love…well, everybody loves to sing a little bit of Dolly Parton on the guitar, don’t they! [laughs]. Satin Sheets is another one that I love. Anything that’s really soulful. I mean, God, there’s so many beautiful country gems out there. And I suppose I’m so lucky to know them. I don’t want them to be forgotten. Don’t get me wrong, new country music, it’s class. It’s unbelievable the way new tracks are produced, and the way they sound on radio, it’s absolutely phenomenal. But we got these new ideas from old stuff from years and years ago. And I don’t want that to ever be forgotten. So if it takes me, and all the rest of the real lovers of country music to bring back the old stuff and show the people of today who aren’t familiar with it how beautiful it is, and why people love it and why people play it, I’ll be absolutely happy to do that. I don’t know, I am very relaxed doing it. It just makes me very happy. I feel ten times better after when I put my guitar back into its case and carry on with my day. I feel more…at peace. It’s a strange thing. But it’s true.”