Tara Mooney

First Published January 2022


Part 2

Back at the beginning of November we featured Part 1 of our chat with as inspirational a woman as you’re ever likely to cross paths with, the force of nature that is TARA MOONEY

Not only is the Edenderry native a fitness instructor, personal trainer, one of RINKA Ireland’s leading lights, and – in what spare time she might have left – a model and brand ambassador (FitPink Fitness and Complex Wear) she’s also making a name for herself on the Irish and international powerlifting scene. In fact, since we first spoke to Tara a few weeks back, it’s been revealed that she placed Top Twenty in the ABS Series of competitions for 2021…across no less than NINE countries. 

It’s a list of reasons exactly like that, and the fact that Tara seems to be fuelled by positivity as much as by a healthy and carefully designed and prepared diet, that make her such an impressive and inspirational figure. This, let us not forget, is a lady who thought nothing of the fact that she had recovered from a broken back to eventually begin her career in the fitness industry, a fact that only came to light as an aside at the very end of our chat! This is also the lady who travelled to Berlin to take on one of Germany’s biggest fitness stars and social media influencers after only a few weeks of proper preparation…and came within a few reps of coming home victorious. That battle has been viewed almost 1.5 MILLION times on YouTube.

As magnificent as all of that is – and it is – the most admirable trait in Tara’s make-up is undoubtedly her positivity. It’s just impossible to sit and chat with her without laughter permeating the conversation, and feeling your energy levels rise simply by being in her presence. Not just the mark of a good fitness instructor or personal trainer, if you ask me, but the mark of a good soul as well. Tara is the kind of person you’d go into battle with. And definitely not someone you’d want to go into battle against! 

To begin Part 2 of our chat, I asked Tara how much her training routine changes – if at all – when she has a competition coming up? 

“It’s pretty much the same. If I’m doing a competition, that means I’m doing weight-training four days a week. I’ll put more effort into my cardio as well because I’ll need to drop weight for the competition, and I’ll obviously put more effort into my food. Food is major. I prep all my food. I walk around with my Tupperware when I’m in work, when I go to my parents house, everywhere. It’s the norm with me! That’s my lifestyle. I still have a meal here or there as well, I have to live as well, but I do prep my food, plan it, bring it with me, all of that. Food is probably more important than training. If you want to lose weight, it’s more important than going into the gym. Definitely.” 

Tara is also the lead midland’s instructor for the company Rinka, and just like powerlifting, it’s something that she’s  passionate about…

“I LOVE it! I would have loved it when I was a kid. It’s for kids who don’t fall into GAA, that don’t make the swimming team, that can’t kick the ball straight. It’s for them. Because what is there for them? There’s nothing. So, they fall off being active, they don’t enjoy sports because it’s so competitive. It’s for these kids. I do it everywhere, Athlone, Moate, different venues, sometimes birthday parties as well, schools, pre-schools, everywhere, you name it. We go in and make exercise fun. They’re in a sweat leaving! They’ve had so much fun. It’s so much craic. We’d do jumping-jacks, but for the little ones we’d get them to be like a soldier, so they have to be really serious. Or a star, and they have to have a big smile. They’re doing jumping-jacks and they don’t even realise it. Or it could be squat-jumps where they’re Peppa Pig jumping into a puddle, simple stuff like that. It’s really, really good for kids who don’t fall into competitive sports. It’s all about praise as well. If you have a child that missed nine out of the ten kicks, we focus on that one that they got and tell them how amazing it was, and how great they are. And if they can’t do something, you praise them for trying and giving it a go. They’re leaving the class after being active, and they’re feeling good about themselves.

Tara continued, “I adore it. I have kids who have nearly grown up with me, they’ve been doing it for three or four years. I get so much out of this kind of work. It’s going to be so interesting to see them as adults because they have this foundation in being active. We do mindfulness with them as well, so we talk about how if they’re feeling angry, they can calm themselves down with breathing [exercises]. We talk about healthy eating, we talk about how much water they should drink. In the space of fifty minutes, so much is packed in there, and I absolutely adore it. You can tell by me talking about it that I do [laughs]. I have a helper with me, because obviously for toilet-breaks and stuff like that to keep an eye on everyone, because we could have fourteen, fifteen kids in a class. And yeah, we do classes all over Ireland. RINKA have been on TV, on ‘Nationwide’, they’re an Irish company actually, based in Donegal. I’m the instructor for the midlands area.” 

So how did Tara become involved with RINKA? 

“I saw it advertised, and I was like, ‘Kids Fitness Instructor? Oh my God, I’d love this!’ [Laughs]. I’m nuts, I’m so on the level of kids [laughs]. We had a training day with RINKA, and they were just like, you’re perfect for it! I’m one of the kids, like!”

Although Tara herself isn’t the kind of person to even think of herself as being a role-model in a bigger-picture sense, for anybody on the outside looking in at her life and her achievements, there’s just no doubt that a role-model is exactly what she is. Through her work with RINKA, as well as being a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor, and most importantly of all, of course, being a mum, Tara is more than well aware of the importance and the power of a positive example. But does it ever cross her mind how much of a role-model, whether she likes it or not, that she actually is for so many people? 

“I don’t really. I would like to think that I’m more relatable to people. I wouldn’t like somebody to look at me and say, ‘Wow, well I could never do that.’ I want the opposite of that. I want somebody to think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it!’ That’s what I want. I want to be relatable in that way. And that’s what it is. I mean, I WAS somebody who was never able to do a push-up. Or a pull-up! I always wanted to be able to do a pull-up! I always wanted to be able to do that. So that’s how I’d like to be seen, as someone who went out and proved she could, ya know. I’d never want to put myself on a pedestal. I’d be so embarrassed if I thought that! And I think on my Instagram as well, I think you can see that I don’t really put myself out there and… ‘sell’…this image that I’m whatever, glamorous, or amazing, or anything like that. I want to be very relatable. Because I am. I’m a normal person. I always encourage people to ask me questions. I’ve been from A to…, well, I don’t think I’m at Z yet! [Laughs]. I think I have more still to achieve [laughs]. But I’ve been every step of the way. I mean, when I started, I couldn’t run, so I was walking. I know how hard it is to get there, and how it has to be step-by-step. So people can come and ask me anything. It’s the same with my PT clients. Goals are very achievable things once you have the knowledge, and once you’re accepting of the fact that it won’t be a perfect and straight road as well.” 

Does Tara remember the moment when she knew or decided that she wanted to get into fitness as a career?

“I was actually working on reception here [in the Bridge House Hotel, where she now works in the Leisure Club], and I was powerlifting at that time, into fitness, and I was always training down in the gym. Damien, the gym manager at the time, would always be coming over to me at reception and joking, ‘You’re wasted here, wasted here!’ [laughs]. I had no gym qualifications at the time, but everybody knew how into fitness I was, so eventually we were able to arrange for me to make that switch over. And when I went over there, that’s when I went and got my qualifications so that I could teach as well. That was it. And I’ve never left! I’m like the furniture down there [laughs].” 

Who are the heroes or inspirations in Tara’s life? 

“There’s loads! I look up to all the girls on the ABS Powerlifting team. It’s a club with 150 members. And my God, if you think I’m strong, you need to see these girls! They’re incredible, unbelievable. When you train with them, man, they keep you on top of your game. They’re crazy strong. They’re travelling all over the world. When you train with them, they’re inspiring. ABS stands for Advanced Barbell Systems. It’s the biggest powerlifting club in Ireland. The guy that owns it is the Irish coach, he’s my coach when I’m powerlifting. The strongest people in Ireland are in that club. One of the guys there is squatting 430 kilos, that’s a LOT! It’s crazy! We actually had him down in the gym here for an open day. He might sound intimidating, but he’s really good craic, so he was entertaining. And my kids, of course! Daniel and Georgia. I always want to inspire them, and make them believe as they get older that they can achieve anything. And anything they want to be, that they can do it. And my partner, Carlos, he’s incredible. He’s bodybuilding at the moment, he’s very inspiring in his own right as well. What he’s going through [in his training], I wouldn’t have the self-discipline for. He’s from Spain, and we actually met through powerlifting. He’s extremely focused, way more than me, WAY more than me [laughs]. It’s inspiring to live with somebody like that because they can keep you on track. I’m a very boring person, because it’s all fitness orientated. So to be with someone who has the same interests, that’s great.” 

I wondered if Tara had a life-motto, or any piece of advice that she was ever given that has always stayed with her? 

“You get judged for being a woman and weight-lifting. You definitely get judged. But there’s a saying I love that goes, ‘To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.’ So women, don’t be afraid of weights. There’s a big misconception that you’re going to get bulky. Or a lot of people who I would have for PTs, they’d look at my upper body and be like, ‘I don’t want my upper body to get too big’, and I’m like, don’t worry, it took me a LOT of work to get this big. You won’t get that big. So don’t be afraid of lifting weights. It’s not gonna make you look like a man [laughs]. If anything, it’s very flattering, it’s a flattering look. When you go into the gym, don’t be afraid of lifting weights in front of guys, thinking they’re going to be judging you or anything like that. They should be in their own heads, and if they’re not, it means they’re not working hard enough [laughs]. That’s all important to realise. Things are changing now, strong women are seen as feminine.”

Anyone who follows Tara on Instagram will notice that she rarely posts a gym selfie or video minus her headphones. So what does she listen to to fire-up her work-outs? 

“You don’t want to know the stuff I listen to! [Laughs]. It’s f*&ed up! [Laughs]. It’s pretty heavy stuff. Depends on my mood. There’s a band called Neffex that I really love. The last competition that I had, they asked me which song did I want on my video, and I picked their song ‘Fight Back.’ I love that song, it’s very inspirational. I was training for something recently and I listened to the audio-book of ‘Relentless‘, it’s about a coach called Tim Grover who worked with Michael Jordan, and he talks about different athletes and their mentality, and how to be relentless. Some of the things in it are a bit too much, because you can’t just give up on family life, you need a balance to things. But it’s very interesting in terms of the mentality that the likes of Michael Jordan had, and how zoned-in they were on being successful. They’d win a whole tournament, and straight away be like, I want the next one! ‘Relentless’, excellent book!”

So for somebody thinking about trying to get fit but they’re worried about it, nervous about it, or they just don’t know where to start, what would Tara advise them to do? 

“If you’re a complete beginner, definitely get a coach or an instructor. That’s what they’re there for. And they’ll definitely be 100% on your team. Because it is, it’s scary at the start. A lot of women say to me that they’re intimidated going into the weights-room in a gym, but I’m like, girl, they don’t know what they’re doing either! [Laughs]. But if you have somebody with you who shows you the ropes, so you can have the confidence to know you have the correct form and everything, that’s important. So to start off anyway, and that’s not saying that you’ll need one all the time. And take it step-by-step. A lot of people, when they’re dieting, they’ll start where they’re eating whatever they want, but then they go to 1,600 calories, and for me that’s insane. You want to be losing weight on as much food as possible. I would always say start high and work your way down slowly, because you will plateau. And if you start plateauing at 1,600 calories, where do you go from there? If you go to 1,400, it’s just not gonna happen, you’ll fall off track. Then you’ll just beat yourself up about it. Slow and steady wins the race.” 

Do different diets – vegan or vegetarian, for example – affect how people can train? 

“No, I don’t think so. Once they’re getting enough protein in other ways, I don’t think it would affect things, definitely not. But Keto, and things like that, I don’t really agree with cutting back on carbs, especially if you’re training. Not a good idea! The girl that I went up against in Berlin, she was a vegan. And she was strong! [Laughs].” 

And what about advice for someone who might be really struggling with their motivation, either to get back to training or to stay training? What words of wisdom would Tara offer in those circumstances? 

“I would say that 80% is better than 0%. A lot of people go in and go hell for leather, 100%. But if you have one day of sitting on your ass and not eating chicken and rice, that’s ok. But people have this mentality where it has to be all or nothing. There needs to be a bit of consistency. If you put 80% in, that’s so much better than nothing. 20% is nothing. It’s like an overweight person eating one healthy meal and expecting to lose weight. If you’re keeping on track and you have one bad meal, you’re not going to put on weight. Just be fair on yourself. It doesn’t have to be 100% [all the time]. Don’t rely on motivation. Be disciplined. Have your structure. It will be difficult in the beginning, but eventually you will completely rely on it, and you’ll actually enjoy that structure. 

~ You can find, follow, and contact Tara on Instagram at @tinypowermum


Aishling Rafferty


Press Release via AS Written, January 2022


With 2022 shaping up to be the biggest year yet in her young career, rising country music star AISHLING RAFFERTY is set to get the year underway with a brand new single. With a first television appearance to look forward to when she takes to the GLÓR TÍRE stage under the mentorship of country superstar MIKE DENVER in the coming weeks, the Tipp lady is about to treat her ever-growing legion of fans to her take on SUDS IN THE BUCKET. 

          The song was a hit for American artist Sara Evans back in the early 2000s, a period now regarded by many as coming at the end of the country genre’s most recent golden-age in the States. Evans was one of the biggest names on the scene at the time, and Suds In The Bucket gave her a #1 back in 2004. Close on two decades later, and as her career continues to bloom here in Ireland, there’s every chance that Aishling – who is certainly putting her Tipperary homeplace of Knockshegowna on the Irish country music map – will take that song back to the top of the charts. 

          “We’ll see what happens”, laughs Aishling, “that would be lovely, of course! But the chart side of things is only a small part of what’s important when you release something new. And the charts can change so quickly too. It’s a lovely feeling when your single does well when it comes out, and that support from fans always means a lot to me. So yeah, hopefully it will get a good response to it. Fingers crossed, as always!” 

          2021 was a busy year for the Irish World Academy music student, with five very successful singles no doubt playing their part in bringing Aishling to the attention of Mike Denver who will be her mentor on TG4‘s long-running hit show Glór Tíre in the coming weeks. Darling, Say You’ll Love Me When I’m Old, Truck Driving Woman, Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Ol’ Days), Thanks To You, and Mama He’s Crazy all topped the Irish iTunes country chart. But not only that, all five singles quickly became fan favourites and made their presence felt at radio throughout the year, and indeed, are still being requested regularly. And it’s that same level of airplay that Aishling is hoping to achieve again with Suds In The Bucket. 

          “I still get excited whenever I hear one of my songs on the radio! I don’t think that feeling will ever get old for me, to be honest. And what’s really so satisfying as a recording artist is when you hear a song still being played months and months after you released it. To know that presenters and DJs still enjoy giving it a spin, and that fans still want to hear it, that’s the best feeling. With this new single, because of the time of year it is and everything, I wanted to give people something that was fun to listen to, something nice and upbeat. ‘Suds In The Bucket’ is always that kind of song for me when I hear it, and singing it always puts a smile on my face too. So hopefully with this song I can spread a few more smiles around the place!”  

          And as for Aishling’s soon to begin Glór Tíre journey, how is she feeling about that?

          “I’m delighted to be taking part in the show this year. I was gobsmacked when Mike asked me to be involved. He’s obviously one of the biggest stars in Irish country, and has been for years. And Glór Tíre is a show that I’ve always watched on television growing up. I’ve even been down to a few of the ‘live’ shows in years gone by and I’ve loved everything about it. Now, to actually be a contestant this year, that’s an amazing honour for me. Everyone will have the same dream of possibly winning, of course, but that dream will only come true for one of us. That’s just the way it is, and I think once you’re ok with that, then you can really make the most of the experience. No matter what happens, I know it’s going to be a brilliant learning curve for me and that’s something that can only stand me in good stead in the future.” 

          With her voice of gold and a personality that glitters, not to mention a head fitted perfectly in place upon her young shoulders, the future is gleaming for Aishling. And already, 2022 promises to be an exciting next chapter. 

SUDS IN THE BUCKET, the brand NEW SINGLE from 2022 GLÓR TÍRE contestant AISHLING RAFFERTY, will be available on all platforms from January 10th. 


Larissa Tormey


Press Release via AS Written, January 2022


Singer/songwriter LARISSA TORMEY is beginning the new year in a reflective mood with the release of another of her own original songs as her first single of 2022. MIRROR, written in a style where jazz meets a more contemporary sound, will be available on all platforms from Friday, January 21st. 

          Recent years have seen Larissa record and release new music in both the country and more contemporary pop genres, and – more often than not – material from her own impressive songbook too. In 2021, this artistic versatility was rewarded with nominations in two of the biggest categories at the Hot Press Awards. She joined names of international renown such as Imelda May, Sinead O’ Connor, and Mary Coughlan as well as Denise Chaila, and Emma Langford in contention for the Female Artist of the Year prize, while keeping company with Bono, Hozier, Dermot Kennedy, Lisa Hannigan, Sorcha Richardson, Niall Horan, and more in the line-up for Best Songwriter

          For the Kilbeggan-based chanteuse, the release of Mirror marks a continuation of a journey she began on her 2015 debut album, Perfect As I Am

          “From a very early age, as a songwriter and as a singer, I was always drawn to a certain kind of jazzy sound. But with a contemporary twist of my own on it as well. I think there’s a freedom in that style for any artist to really express themselves without having to wonder if their work is ‘enough’ of any particular sound. It can just be what it is. And as a person, that’s very much what I’ve always been like too. On my debut album, ‘Perfect As I Am’, the songs I recorded were deeply personal and full of different emotions. ‘Mirror’ takes me back in that direction, I think.”

          Larissa continued, explaining how different styles of writing allow her to access and express different parts of herself as an artist…

          “When I write a country song, for example, because country music is so much about the art of storytelling, that’s what I want to do. I want to share something in a way that the listener can relate to it, so that it can somehow make sense to them in their own life and experience. And in country music as well, even though there can be sadness and heartache, there is also a lot of fun and cheekiness too, which is so important. Fans love that, and we all need it in our lives. When I write a pop song, it can be more just about a feeling. You don’t have to try and tell a story or share something in particular. Most of the time, you just want to make people feel happy and alive. And that’s just as important and I love being able to do that too.” 

          “But with a song like ‘Mirror’, written in this kind of jazzy way”, observes Larissa, “I can be a little bit more serious, and go a little bit deeper in my writing. I think we live in an age where peoples’ attention spans have shrunk to matters of seconds, and I don’t like that at all. Everything has to happen now, straight away. Fast isn’t even enough anymore, it has to be instantaneous. And that’s crazy. That’s not how you live life, that’s how you miss life. Too many people these days are completely engrossed in themselves. Everything is about ‘me, me, me.’ And if you’re only thinking about yourself, you’re only looking inwards. But again, that’s not where life is or where life happens.”

          For Larissa, the inspiration behind Mirror is the concept that the world you see is a reflection of your inner state…

          “Yes, this is what I believe, and very much so. And this applies especially to love and to relationships. The world you see in front of you will reflect your inner state. If you, as a person, are full of love, then that is what you will give to the world, and bring into the world. In order to receive, you have to be able to give. One cannot really happen without the other. And likewise, if you are empty, then emptiness is what you will see around you. And it’s what will stare back at you from the mirror too.” 

          Mirror, arranged by Kevin Whyms and with an accompanying video by Andrew Jordan of AJ Films, will feature on Larissa’s forthcoming album of original contemporary material, currently scheduled for release in March. 

MIRROR, the brand NEW single from LARISSA TORMEY, will be available on all platforms from FRIDAY, JANUARY 21st. 


Norman Borland


Press Release via AS Written, January 2022


Not a man to ever spend too long away from the studio these past few years, Donegal’s NORMAN BORLAND is already on his way back to the airwaves  with his first record of 2022 before the month’s end. And Norman‘s cheeky take on Jon Philibert‘s light-hearted tale of heartache is exactly what we need to guide us through the early days of a brand new year and set us on a perfect course for brighter days ahead. 

          “I have a list of songs in the back of my mind that I want to record someday, and it’s something I’m always adding to”, reveals Norman, before laughing as he adds, “That’s probably one of the reasons why I spend so much time in the studio! And SHE DON’T LOOK THAT LONELY TO ME has been on that list since the moment I first heard it.”

          “And I’m not talking about the moment I first heard the whole song”, he points out, “I mean from the moment I heard the first few lines. It’s just one of those perfectly written country songs that has a way of putting a smile on your face even though it’s about a heartache! That’s the genius of great songwriting. And there’s no doubt about it, Jon Philibert is that kind of genius. I’m a huge fan of his work, and it’s an honour for me to be able to put my stamp on any song of his, but especially this one.” 

          Working once again with his long-time producer Brian Kerrigan, SHE DON’T LOOK THAT LONELY TO ME sees Norman follow on from what was a very busy year of releases in 2021, with the man who modestly describes himself as simply being “a country singer singing country songs” sending four tracks to radio in the last twelve months. The first of those was his take on the Don Williams hit Healing Hands this time last year, with Gerry Guthrie joining him for their version of John Bunzow‘s up-tempo feel-good tune Ain’t No LittleThing in April. In June, Norman was once again joined by a special guest as the wonderful Patricia Maguire shared vocal duties on the Randy Travis, Steve Dorff, and John Bettis penned Friends Like Us. Norman’s biggest hit of 2021 was his final release of the year, the Jerry House number Working Woman.

          With the ‘live’ music scene still shrouded in uncertainty, Norman admits that it’s tough to plan too far ahead in that regard, but he can’t wait to get back in front of as many people as possible as soon as he can. And in the meantime, there are no prizes for guessing where he’ll be found…that’s right…in the studio! 

          “I’m talking to people about ‘live’ dates for the year ahead, and we’re putting some plans in place where we can. I’m certainly open to talking to anyone in that regard, all they have to do is get in touch and we’ll chat, no problem. But what I am 100% sure of is that there’ll be more new music coming throughout the rest of 2022, that’s for certain. And what a song to kick things off with in Jon Philibert’s SHE DON’T LOOK THAT LONELY TO ME. We’re setting the bar high for ourselves again, but that’s the only way to do it. Country fans deserve no less.”      


Regarded as one of British country music’s leading lights when it comes to the art of crafting a song, Londoner Philibert holds the distinction of having written the song that is a special part of the Tom Jones story, with I’ve Been Rained On Too being his longest ever country charting record. The song became a top-ten hit for the Welsh legend in 1984, going on to hold a place on the Billboard Country chart for a staggering twenty-two weeks. I’ve Been Rained On Too has also been recorded by Charlie Landsborough and featured on his 1989 collection, Still Can’t Say Goodbye. Other Irish artists to have recorded titles from the Philibert songbook include Larissa Tormey, Mick Flavin, and Trevor Loughrey. 

SHE DON’T LOOK THAT LONELY TO ME, the NEW SINGLE from NORMAN BORLAND, will be released on all digital platforms on FRIDAY, JANUARY 21st, and will be available to request from radio from Tuesday, January 11th. 


Niall McNamee

First Published January 2022


Part 1

“This is my ‘Willie McBride’ and I really hope fans will like it. I wrote it when I was eighteen, and finally recorded it in Belfast at Halfbap studios three years ago, so it’s been a long road.”

Dundalk’s NIALL McNAMEE is a singer/songwriter and actor, known for his passionate, thoughtful and full-blooded songs. And the one he was talking about in the quote above – and a perfect example of just why his work is so highly thought of – is his latest release, the very beautiful ALL I NEED.

A self-taught musician, Niall has been immersed in music his whole life. Throughout years as a struggling young actor, he supported himself by performing Irish folk songs, resulting in his knowledge of traditional music growing rich and deep. But all the while, he was writing his own material, drawing not only on his Irish heritage but also pushing into contemporary rock and pop territory, finding inspiration from artists as diverse and celebrated as Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Pogues, Christy Moore, and more recently, The Undertones as well. 

Niall has starred opposite Pierce Brosnan, fought with Jackie Chan, played comic foil to Bono, and even romantically duetted with Imelda May. He also landed a starring role in the feature film Love Without Walls – due for general release this year – which saw him performing his own songs. 

OTRT had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Niall ahead of the release of his superb debut EP, Step By Step, last year. And we recently had the pleasure of catching up with him again, this time to talk about his latest single, the aforementioned, All I Need. The song narrates the story of a man in his last moments before death, with the listener catching glimpses of that man’s life flashing before his eyes. As Niall remarks, “He sits in the pub of his mind and looks around at his friends – all going off to war soon – with the knowledge they’ll not return the same. But ultimately it’s about an impossible promise. To get home safe and make his way back to Edinburgh from London where his sweetheart waits for him.” 

Niall told us more about how All I Need came to be…

“I wrote this song when I was eighteen. The song is a love song mixed with what I wanted to be an anti-war song. It was definitely inspired at the time by a song that was definitely my favourite, which is ‘Willie McBride.’ I remember wanting to write something along those lines about the injustice of war. There’s obviously the mention at the end of France, that it’s ‘not so far’, which my mate – who’s called Francis – thought it was his mam shouting, ‘Francis, not so far!’ [Laughs]. He was like, ‘Why is that in there?!’ [laughs]. But anyway, it’s an anti-war song.”

Niall continued, “For the music video, I tried to get loads of different pieces of military or conflict gear, to represent loads of different conflicts. This is about working-men dying against other working-men, under millionaires giving the orders. The chorus are British towns now that  think about it, but that was more because I was having a romance at the time with a girl who lived in Edinburgh and I lived in London, so that’s just the train ride between the two [laughs]. One of the things that scared me the most about this song is that it could be interpreted as some sort of poppy or pro-British Army song, which is interesting because it’s meant to be the opposite of that. It’s about men who don’t want to go, and shouldn’t be going. It’s about the love they have in their families, ya know. Any working-men across Britain, Ireland, anyone who fought in the Great War who was conscripted, you wouldn’t need to go into politics to show that they shouldn’t be going and don’t need to go. I think loads of people have touched on that over the years. While there’s injustice in Irish soldiers going to World War One, or any war, there’s injustice in any working-man being made to fight. [So] this isn’t an anti-British Army thing either. I don’t want to disrespect anyone at all.”

As he mentioned, All I Need is a song Niall wrote when he was just eighteen. So it is a track that could have been in contention for a place on his debut EP, Step By Step, which was released early last summer. I wondered if one of the reasons why it didn’t make the cut for that selection was perhaps because Niall always saw this song as belonging to this particular time of the year? 

“It’s the first song that I can remember writing. I don’t have any songs in my repertoire that I play that are older than it. It’s been with me for so long. To be honest, it was really hard putting songs together for the EP because I had so many, because that was my first EP. I didn’t know which ones to put [out] first. And when you’re starting out, there’s a feeling that you have to put some of your best ones forward to get ya out there. But equally, you know that you’re sacrificing them a little bit. It wouldn’t be too different, I suppose, if you were in a fighting situation, or a war, you have to put strong people forward first. But also, you lose them first. So with ‘All I Need’, I was too precious about it, to be honest. That’s why it hasn’t been released until now. That’s why I waited. I tried to record the song loads of times. And as you can see, I’ve released two different versions of it as well, because I just couldn’t decide. I’d played it for too long, just me and a guitar. I played it for too long with different bands, with different versions of it. I was always thinking if I release this the music video is gonna cost me millions! [Laughs]. And I haven’t got millions [laughs]. I was thinking I need this to be absolutely perfect. But then I just realised, do ya know what? This is a song that I love and I just need to get it out there. I need to move forward. It was like getting a monkey off my shoulder, because it was so precious to me. It was like my first child and you want to give it a good opportunity in life. I felt, maybe, that I couldn’t give it the push that I wanted to. But then I thought I’m a songwriter! I need to release the songs that I’m writing. And that’s kind of why it all started a bit late for me. Not late, but I had enough songs to release an album probably six or seven years ago and I still haven’t done that. So I’m trying to be less precious, but still be protective and not be too naive, ya know.” 

Staying with Niall’s Step By Step EP, these last twenty or so months have surely been a strange time (to say the least!) for anybody releasing new music, let alone for someone sending their debut EP out into such a crazy world. Looking back on it all now, from the perspective of six or seven months on, what was that whole experience like for Niall? 

“It was strange…well, I say it was strange, but I didn’t know any different at the time. It was a new experience. It was like starting a new job in a new industry you’ve never worked in before, and during the pandemic. It would be more unusual knowing what it was like in real-life, when Covid wasn’t around. All I can say is that I found it far more difficult to get one single out when things have been a bit more opened up than I did to get that whole EP out during the pandemic. During the pandemic, I had time. I had people who were around and who wanted to do things. It could be that I’ve only just finished releasing ‘All I Need’ so it feels like I’m wrecked now. Maybe the EP was harder. Not to downplay anything about ‘All I Need’, because I love it and I’m delighted with it – and it’s actually doing far better than anything on the EP which is good, I suppose, because you want to see progress – but, I was very aware when I was releasing the EP that the industry always says you can only release your first stuff once. You can only release your first album once. You can only release your first EP once. There’s an industry side to that, but also there’s a spiritual side to that. The hope [laughs], when you’ve never released something before is that you can go, ‘Well, when I release this, this is it! This is gonna be brilliant. It’s gonna solve all my problems.’ It’s like when you start acting, you go brilliant, I’m starting out now, I’ve got my first audition, I don’t see why I wouldn’t get this part. I’ll get that, and then it will all work out!’ [Laughs]. You only get a couple of times like that before you get a couple of no’s, and you start going aaw f*$k, this isn’t actually as easy as I had hoped it would be! [Laughs].””If I’m being honest about it”, confessed the Dundalk man, “without being too glib about it, it was more scary doing this single, ‘All I Need’, because I knew the work that I had put in before. I felt like with the EP I really didn’t give myself a second to rest for months and months and months. And then here I am releasing a single at Christmas and thinking now I’ll have to work ten times harder than that [for the EP]. And it’ll be the same again next time when something else comes out next year. It gets harder, and harder, and harder. And you keep having to get better, and stronger, and try not to go mad! I suppose one thing that helped with the single this Christmas was I recorded it three years ago in Belfast. So I’ve had it there for a long time. It could well have gone on the EP. The difference with ‘All I Need’ and the songs on the EP is that some of them on the EP I had to record and get ready for release. Whereas ‘All I Need’, I could have just put it out at any point in the last three years. But I held onto it.” 

On the day we spoke, Niall had been supposed to play a show at the Water Rats venue in King’s Cross. Unfortunately, like so many shows in 2021, this fell by the wayside. I asked Niall if he would mind sharing what it’s like for an artist when this happens, both from a practical and an emotional point of view…

“Yeah, it’s strange. I remember the lockdown at the start, the last day I lived in London – with my pals and stuff – it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day. And we had a big sold-out gig ready to go and we had to call it quits. And that was very hard. It was almost harder cancelling that first gig because we didn’t know about pandemics, about what it was going to be like. It was disappointing because we were like, ah God, St. Patrick’s Day, sure it’s only once a year! What a shame [laughs]. We wrote a big message about it, and felt loads of guilt having to explain to people that we were cancelling it. I find it a lot harder when there’s not an official lockdown. Because there are gigs happening tonight. It is really hard, but I felt lucky that I’ve been on tour for the whole month of December. I’d overworked myself, to be honest. Imelda was saying to me that you’ve got to give yourself time to rest because people will put work in front of you anyway. I booked a tour; Glasgow, Dublin, Dundalk, and Belfast. But I was thinking about it, and I think most people were assuming it’s cancelled, when the restrictions started to come in and as Christmas started coming, I was getting messages from people saying, ‘Aw, I’m sorry about your gig’ before I’d even cancelled it [laughs]. So I decided to have a real think about it, and I spoke to my agent, and he said he thought I should cancel. Then we spoke to the venue and they were like ok, so then I was like well hang on, do THEY want to cancel it? And my agent said they’d do it if I wanted to, but it was up to me. Niall went on, “So I said ok, we’ll do it. But then I just thought to myself actually, how would I feel – really – if I found out someone got Covid at a gig? Or, if I did my gig, and took a test, and realised the next morning that I had Covid? How would I feel knowing it’s probable that someone would either not be able to go home for Christmas because of the gig, or, be going home for Christmas not knowing that they’d been made ill by someone at the gig? And I thought that would kill me. I wouldn’t deal with that well at all. I felt like people wanted to feel safe. It’s really hard. And especially when you’re building up to that last moment. I’m flying back to Ireland tomorrow – hopefully, I’ve got my test this afternoon – but that gig was going to be that final moment after a long time of non-stop work, so yeah, that was hard. But it just felt like the right thing to do. And that’s all you can go by really. I’ve got my vaccination and all that kind of stuff, and my family are kind of the same, we’re strong people, so if it came to it and I had to spend Christmas on my own, it wouldn’t kill me actually. I’d happily sit around on the sofa and do nothing! That’s my instinct anyway, I might be totally wrong [laughs]. But for everyone else, I don’t think I have it in me to risk someone else getting ill from the gig. So that was that.” 

“And in terms of how it feels cancelling gigs now”, continued Niall, “it didn’t need much of an explanation, just had to put ‘cancelled.’ It was like, you know what it is [laughs]. Having played a load of gigs in December, and looking at the industry, one thing that’s been really interesting is that a lot of people aren’t asking for refunds. They understand that the money still needs to go into the industry, and actually the twenty quid or fifteen quid or whatever it is they’ve spent, will go to helping whoever is on stage. About fifty-per-cent of people who had bought tickets were actually coming, so I thought, ya know, we can do this another time, in these circumstances.” 

ALL I NEED, the brand new single from NIALL McNAMEE, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio.