First Published July 2022
“I’M ALL ABOUT SHOWCASING COUNTRY”
This coming Wednesday night, July 20th, sees possibly the most wonderful line-up of country music talent take to the stage in the Tullamore Court Hotel since ‘live’ events were given the green-light to resume. Not only is ‘the Queen of Country and Irish’ herself, the magnificent MARGO, celebrating her 70th birthday, she’s invited some of her friends from the country music world to join her. Also preparing to entertain fans in Tullamore on the night are MICK FOSTER, MOYRA FRASER, Offaly’s very own ALEX ROE, and of course, the inimitable TRUDI LALOR.
In last week’s OTRT (which you can catch at the official OTRT website, www.ontherighttrax.com, if you missed it), we talked to Trudi about what makes Margo so special. Trudi also shared her assessment of where the country music scene stands as it emerges from the troubled circumstances of the last two-plus years, revealed the story behind her latest single They’re Gonna Run (written by Billy Morrissey), and spoke about her passion for the Reach Out Radio project.
This week, in Part 2 of our chat, there’s a whole lot more to come from the Laois woman. And where better to start, than with an Offaly man!
Also on the bill for Margo‘s July 20th show is Alex Roe, and Alex, of course, as country fans around the midlands will well remember, was mentored all the way to the Glór Tíre Grand Final by Trudi back in 2020. I wondered if it was fair to say that Trudi considers it important to mentor and help young artists and that was one of the reasons she took on that role with Alex? And since that experience, how has Trudi seen Alex develop as an artist over the last couple of years?
“I do, I think it’s vital to support the new talent that’s coming out, the young talent, the vibrant talent, the energetic talent that’s there. And the real talented singers, songwriters, and musicians that we have in this country. It’s fantastic the wealth of talent that we have. But we need to support them. And how we support them, in this case with Alex, it was mentoring him. I saw the great talent that we had in him. I saw something very different in him, that I knew would connect with people. I was only just delighted to be able to bring him to a national audience, who just loved him! Recently, we had him out in Portugal on Billy’s trip, his first time out there for a whole week, and he just bowled everybody over. Everybody was mad about him. People that had heard about him…and I’ve seen that time and time again, people that would have heard his name, and then they get to see him at different shows and concerts…what Alex has – and he’s so talented first of all – but what he has is that natural ability to connect with the audience. Very like what Big Tom had, in a very humble, ordinary, but real way. And that’s very important when you’re singing. It’s lovely to put on a performance and do your show, but it’s very important to be real at the back of it. I’ve seen a lot of people gravitate towards Alex, they feel that they can connect with him. He’s always very polite, quiet, and gentle. And very agreeable and helpful. Everything is always, ‘I’ll do that, no problem’. And that’s the kind of way Big Tom was. Anybody who knew Tom well, even in his younger years, has made that comparison.”
“They’ve spoken to Billy and me”, continued Trudi, “and said Alex is very like a young Big Tom, and he is. He’s a really nice guy, and everybody likes him, that’s a huge part of it. And he’s a great talent, a great singer, with his head well screwed on. He’s a clever guy as well. He’s good in the business, and for the business. That’s the kind of talent that I love to see emerging. And there’s great talent all over, with the girls too. Olivia Douglas, Katelyn Molloy, all those young artists out there, I don’t want to be leaving anybody out. But we have a wealth of it out there, a wealth of it, and we need to continue to support and encourage it. We can do that through radio play as well, like on Reach Out Radio. The minute we get something from a new artist we make sure all the presenters play it and get behind it. Because those young artists, new artists, they’re working hard at their careers, and they’ve had a tough time of it [over the last couple of years], so it’s important that we help nurture them.”
“Another role that I have”, addedTrudi, “is editor of RSVP Country, which is a new country music magazine. And from there as well, it’s very important that we do showcase what we have in Ireland. You know that better than anyone. People want to hear about new, up-and-coming stars as well. And I just think Alex, in particular, is one for the future. He definitely is.”
On the subject of RSVP Country, which Trudi had just mentioned, how exactly did that link-up come to be? Was it an idea that Trudi had taken to RSVP, or did they approach Trudi?
“Now in fairness, in this case, they approached me. They have a hugely successful monthly magazine, RSVP, which has been there for years. They contacted me and said, ‘Look, Trudi, through radio and through your connections in country music as a singer, we think there’s an opening for a proper country music magazine – not every month, but four times a year – would you be interested in being the editor?’ So I said I would once I would have full control of content and could guide them in the right direction. They said yeah, absolutely, I would. I found them straight away to be an incredible team, and again, this is a massive platform for Irish country music artists, to be in a proper magazine, up on the shelves, nationwide. They have wonderful photographers, teams of people that are stylists and hairdressers and make-up artists, that want to really show the great talent and the young talent, and the artists that are also there for twenty or thirty years. They want to showcase them all in a positive light through a gorgeous, glossy magazine. When I met with them, I loved the fact that they were fully supportive of country music. They knew how popular it was, but didn’t really know about it. So they were looking to me for that guidance on what’s out there, who’s who, what’s current, what’s this person doing, what’s that person doing. I’d always make sure that new talent is showcased, but also that respect is given to people who have served their time and have paved the way. People like Philomena Begley, who is on the cover of the current edition to celebrate her being eighty years of age this year, and all that she has done for country music. She’s an incredible icon in our business. Margo was on the first cover, then we had Nathan Carter, then Derek Ryan, and we’re now working on our fifth issue as well. The current one, with Philomena, is out now, there’s also a great feature on Mick Foster and Moyra Fraser inside it as well, at their home in Mullingar, all about their life together. There’s a big feature on Alex in it as well. Clodagh Lawlor, Olivia Douglas, and David James are in there too. There’s a gig-guide too to let people know where all their favourite country stars are. So many features.”
Trudi went on, “And we cover some of the American country stars as well, stars that are coming into Ireland on tour, like the Eagles, Brad Paisley. But it’s predominantly Irish country music that we cover, and it just shows it in a great light. It’s another way for people to see their favourite country star and catch up on all the latest news. It’s a positive platform for our Irish country music family. This, and our radio station, all of these things are bringing country music to the next level. RSVP Country is the artists that people have grown up with, but they get to come into their homes and really get to know them. It’s a really personal story that we try and follow. It’s not just about their careers. It’s about their family life, and their home life, and their parents, and whatever else they want to discuss. That really connects with the reader. Thankfully, the three issues that we’ve already had out – and this fourth one is going to be the same – it’s selling out, every one of them. We’re very lucky that the demand is there. And everyone that I’m working with on the RSVP Country team, every one of them, are just lovely, lovely people and respectful of our music as well, and our industry. They just want to portray it in a great light, and they’re doing that.”
So for people who might have no idea about how the whole process of putting together a magazine like RSVP Country goes, could Trudi give us an insight into her role and input as editor?
“Yeah, so I would obviously know what’s going on, what’s current in our industry, what’s happening, if somebody got married or is getting married, I’d know that. Therefore, I could say, well look, this is an idea I think could work. We work on the front cover first, that’s the most important, so we need a lead story, something that’s happening at the moment. So for Philomena to be eighty this year, it’s important to celebrate that. She’s the ‘Queen of Country Music’, it’s important to go inside her life and what she has done as a singer, but also as a mother, and as a grandmother now. Philomena was so open to it. It’s the second interview like that that she’s ever done, where people actually came into her private life as well. She loved it, she had a ball. I have a full team that I work with. I’ll give them leads on this, that, or the other, and say this is a story that might work. I make contact with the singer themselves, to see if they’re open to us doing a feature on them and their lives. And every one of them has said, absolutely, we’d love it. Then the team goes out and does the interview on the day. I’m never on site on the day unless the singer really wants me to be, but I don’t need to be. I’ll get all the photos back, and the proofs, and the write-ups, and I sign off on them then. But they’re a great team, they know what they’re doing. So there’s very little that I have to do other than guide things, maybe say yeah, we’ll keep that in, or we’ll extend that to maybe an extra page, things I know myself that I would like to read about. So I know it would be of interest to our audience and our readers. In that respect, we tend to give 70 to 75% to the Irish country music scene, and the rest to American country artists.”
Chris Sherrard is RSVP Country’s Nashville contributor, with Trudi pointing out that, “…his knowledge of American country music is fantastic”.
“It’s important in that section to cover the artists in America that we would know”, she continued, “people like the Eagles, Brad Paisley, Garth Brooks, the people that we’re familiar with as well here. We all just work really well together, they make it easy for me. But ultimately, obviously, decisions are with me, and I enjoy it immensely. It’s part of what I do. We’re working, as I said, on the fifth edition already, and there’s HUGE surprises in store with this one! We have a Christmas edition lined up as well and we’re already putting together some ideas for that. Then we’ll do it all again next year! Initially, we were just seeing how would it work, is there an appetite out there for it, but we’re very lucky in that all the big shops like Tesco, Super Valu, Dunnes Stores, Easons, and all the local newsagents as well, all have it in stock. It’s very accessible, and price conscious too, at just €3.95. What a lot of people are doing is picking it up for their neighbour or somebody living on their own that they know loves country music, and dropping it in their letter-box, that kind of stuff. The singers are loving it, the industry is loving it, and the most important thing is that the people who love the music – the fans – are loving it. We get so many messages after each issue comes out. It’s showcasing our country music in a great light, which is what I’m all about.”
Before we said our goodbyes, I asked Trudi what else she had on her schedule that she was looking forward to for the remainder of the summer, and indeed, for the rest of the year, maybe in terms of shows coming up, new releases, and possibly getting back into the studio again?
“Well, literally all those three things! [Laughs]. I’m really excited about bringing out my next album, we have just one more song to go, I’m really looking forward to that. With the World Ploughing Championships, to have a Reach Out Radio stage there, hosting and performing ‘live’ over the three days, along with a lot of our country music family, that’s going to be something really special for us. And obviously that’s in Laois as well, my home county, I’m really, really excited about that. There’s so many country music festivals as well, we have one coming up in Wexford on the 7th of August, we’re down in Cork for one as well. There’s a lot of summer festivals. And the Dualla Show, which is a huge day every year, that’s where I’m living now, just outside Cashel in Tipperary for the last twenty-two years. They’re an incredible community and they have a massive Dualla Show day every year, about 30,000 people come into the village and into this amazing area. They have a huge truck show, a food village, it’s a massive festival. 2019 was the first year that we did a country music stage, so we’re back there on the 28th of August this year. That’s so special because it’s everybody that we know from our community coming together. It’s going to be a fantastic day, and we’re really, really excited about that. So there’s the studio for one last song for the album, there’s Reach Out Radio, and of course RSVP Country is flying and we’re working on a very special one as well with Garth Brooks coming into Ireland for September. So there’s something very exciting happening around that. There’s a lot of exciting things happening. Life is good. I’m very happy that we’ve all come through the last couple of years and that the music industry is back open, and bigger it’s going to be. 2023 is going to be a huge year for us all!”
~ TRUDI LALOR will be one of MARGO’s special guests at her 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION CONCERT TOUR show in the TULLAMORE COURT HOTEL on JULY 20th. Also performing on the night will be MICK FOSTER, MOYRA FRASER, and ALEX ROE, with backing from the brilliant RYAN TURNER BAND. Tickets available from hotel reception and/or by calling 05793-46666.