Country music stars SABRINA FALLON and SHANE MOORE have served up what might well be the romantic duet of the festive season with the release of their new single, CANDLELIGHT AND WINE.
Usually by the time both singers make it to December, they’re coming to the end of what will already have been a jam-packed year, while also heading into some of the busiest weeks of their year too, as the Christmas party mood sweeps the land. This year, of course, well, it’s all been just a little bit different, to say the least! For Sabrina, who regularly features on the summer festival circuit and the concert season of autumn and winter, the chance to return to some kind of normality by hitting the airwaves again with a new record has in itself been the perfect Christmas gift…
“It feels like it’s been the longest year ever, it really does. So first of all, even just getting back into the studio to lay down the new record with Shane was the best feeling ever. I had a single out back in the summer as well, ‘When Will I Be Loved’, but even that feels like forever ago now! So just being back in a studio again, back doing something that felt so normal again, it was amazing. I hadn’t been in the studio since before the summer anyway, so I was definitely missing it. And then to be able to work on such a gorgeous song with Shane, who is a really good friend of mine and has such a brilliant voice, it was so lovely to be able to do that after being so long without music.”
Candlelight And Wine is an old folk song, written by Dermot O’ Reilly, who then recorded it with the band Ryan’s Fancy. Foster And Allen, Mick Galvin, and the groups Barleycorn and Fiddler’s Green have also recorded their own versions of Candlelight And Wine over the years, with the Fiddler’s Green rendition produced by Eamonn Campbell of the Dubliners in the city’s famous Windmill Lane studio.
While gigs, shows, concert and festival appearances may have been missing from Sabrina’s world for most of 2020, she definitely wasn’t just sitting home twiddling her thumbs and watching the hands of the clock go round. The singer/songwriter, who also hosts her own weekly show on Spotlight TV – Country Time With Sabrina – also completed her Master’s Degree this year…
“I think we all have many sides to us, and I’m no different in that way, I suppose. Creativity is something that’s central to my life, be it in songwriting, or be it through my work with textiles and things like that. And sometimes, in strange times like these, both worlds – that of music and textiles – can merge. As part of my college work, I actually deconstructed some of the dresses that would have been my stage outfits, then reconstructed them in ways that I feel show how we’re all going to have to find a new way to live our lives now. And that’s in both the personal and the professional sense. Something else that I had a close look at and worked on was the effects of Covid vulnerability. More than it just being something that really interests me personally, I think it’s something that we’ll all have to pay a lot of attention to in society as a whole now.”
Candlelight And Wine, produced by Wayne Thorose, has proved an instant fan favourite at country radio since it’s release, featuring in the upper-heights on the airplay charts for several stations, including a climb all the way to #2 on the Irish Country Music Radio station chart, and to #3 on Midwest Radio. The single has even broken into the Top 30 and Top 40 on Midlands 103 and Tipp FM respectively, charts that are all-genre, which see Sabrina and Shane keeping company with Niall Horan, Miley Cyrus, and Gavin James.
~ CANDLELIGHT AND WINE, the brand new duet from SABRINA FALLON and SHANE MOORE, is out now, available on all platforms and to request from radio.
Singer/songwriter LARISSA TORMEY enjoyed a double-delight last weekend with the news that she had been nominated in two of the most esteemed categories in HOT PRESS magazine’s HOTTIES Awards 2021.
Larissa is among the artists up for Female Artist of the Year, where she joins some of Ireland’s most distinguished performers, including Imelda May, Denise Chaila, Sinéad O’ Connor, Emma Langford, and Mary Coughlan. A prolific writer, and with plans underway for the release of a contemporary album of original material later this year, the Kilbeggan based artist also finds herself in the company of some well-known names for the Best Songwriter prize. Also included in that category are Bono, Hozier, Dermot Kennedy, Lisa Hannigan, Sorcha Richardson, and Niall Horan.
In what Hot Press have described as being a “dazzling diverse selection of talent on offer right across the country, homegrown music has never been so exciting,” the celebrated magazine is inviting its readers to have their say. And in speaking about her own inclusion in two of those categories, Larissa was almost lost as to what to say…
“When I got the message from a friend with the link to the nominations, I couldn’t believe it at first. I didn’t know what to say, I really didn’t. And as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not usually short on words! [Laughs]. I saw the Female Artist of the Year category first, and just seeing my name beside such inspirational women as Imelda May and Sinéad O’ Connor, and so many more, it was definitely a shock alright. And definitely a surprise too. But I think more than anything, it’s just such an honour. It’s been such a difficult twelve-months for the music industry, and a very, very challenging time for any artist. Like so many, I’ve been doing my best to keep things going, and keep putting some music out there, and to stay connected to fans. This moment in itself is a lovely recognition of that.”
Larissa’s latest single, Agree To Disagreeis a duet with British singer/songwriter Dave Sheriff. Released in time for St. Valentine’s Day, the track – which was written by Dave and produced by Peter Ware – offered a light-hearted look at love and was the second time Larissa and Dave had teamed up, having previously sung together on the Michael Commins penned Breath Of Fresh Air (together with Scottish accordion champion Brandon McPhee), the title-track of Larissa’s latest album, which was released last November.
The Breath Of Fresh Air collection also includes Larissa’s own songs, You Miss My Smile, Old Fashioned, and Inner Angel, so her nomination in the Best Songwriter category is more than warranted as well. Nevertheless, seeing herself in the company of Bono, Hozier, and Niall Horan was a little hard to take in…
“It made me smile with happiness, because there are so many huge internationally recognised stars in that category, and there I am too, an independent artist living in the middle of Ireland, trying to do as much as I can by myself. Without a record label to back you, and a team that helps to get your name and your music out there, it can be hard sometimes. But what always drives me on is the enjoyment of creating, my passion for music and for songwriting. So it’s a very satisfying moment to even be included in the Best Songwriter category. That too, is an honour, and one I’m very grateful for. I will enjoy this feeling for a few days…then back to work! [Laughs].”
As times change, so too do Awards, with the Hotties now including categories for Live Stream of the Year, as well as one for Non-Binary Artist. And in keeping with the long Hot Press tradition of covering all areas of Irish life and culture, the Readers’ Poll also includes your chance to vote for your favourite comedian, radio DJ, TV show, book, game, hero, villain, and more. Rapper and hip-hop artist Denise Chaila has been nominated for a staggering eight awards.
~ To vote for Larissa, or in any other category, simply go to the official Hot Press website, www.hotpress.com
~ Larissa’s latest single, AGREE TO DISAGREE – her duet with Dave Sheriff – is out now, available on all platforms, and to request from radio.
Country music star LARISSA TORMEY continues her flying start to 2021 with the release of another new single, ONE MAN BAND. In keeping with what you might expect from a lady whose last release, Agree To Disagree, was a duet with British country great Dave Sheriff, and who has also just been nominated for two Hot Press Awards alongside names like Imelda May, Emma Langford, Niall Horan, and Hozier, there’s a big-name link involved here too. And it’s one that leads directly to none other than SIR TOM JONES himself.
One Man Band comes from the pen of JON PHILIBERT, a gentleman whose achievements have justifiably earned him the distinction of being regarded one of the leading lights of British country music songwriting. The Londoner is the man responsible for writing what became – and remains – Jones’s longest ever country charting record, the beautifully titled, I’ve Been Rained On Too. The song became a top-ten 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.
For Kilbeggan based Larissa, the opportunity to work with Philibert, who has also seen his songs recorded by artists like the great American country giant Bobby Bare, as well as Irish country stars like Mick Flavin and Trevor Loughrey, was an easy yes!
“Well first of all, who doesn’t love Tom Jones? [Laughs]. Like so many, I have always been a fan. And even more so because I’m a singer as well. I think any singer, regardless of age or genre, has an appreciation of both the amazing career he has had, and also the beauty of his voice. It’s quite timeless, in a way. For me to have any kind of a link to Sir Tom Jones in my career is something I never expected. But for it to happen by getting to know a gentleman like Jon, such a fabulous writer, well I can easily say that this is definitely a highlight of my life as a singer so far. Jon’s connection to Sir Tom is in the history books, and obviously Jon’s talent as a songwriter is the reason why. For me to be able to record and release ‘One Man Band’ is an honour.”One Man Band is a perfect example of excellence in country music songwriting, and of why so many people fall in love with the genre and its storytelling. Both a clever and a touching song about marital fidelity and a golden wedding band, the track has an ultra-catchy and radio-friendly hook, recalling the glory days of artists such as the Kendalls, Highway 101, and the Judds, with a feisty vivacity exquisitely entwined with a modern country sensibility.
~ ONE MAN BAND, the brand NEW single from double HOT PRESS Award nominee LARISSA TORMEY, written by JON PHILIBERT, is available now on all platforms, and to request from radio.
If you were tuned into the Tommy Tiernan Show on RTE 1 last Saturday night, then you’re probably waking up this morning with a smile still on your face. Now, on any given week, Tommy himself – thanks to his wonderful way of both talking to people and just letting people talk – could well be reason enough for smiles that last for days. Last weekend, however, Tommy was almost a guest on his own show and an observer filled with wonder, just like the rest of us sitting at home, as the powerhouse pairing of Tullamore singer/songwriter TOLÜ MAKAY and her best friend, the Longford poet, FELISPEAKS took centre stage.
The love for each other, for life, for their respective art-forms, and for creativity, that sparked between the duo – and into the middle of which they welcomed Tommy as if he himself was a long-lost friend of theirs – was the kind of wild, pure energy that, if it could be harnessed and shared, would be a light bright enough to lead us all through however many dark days remain until the last year becomes, at last, a ‘remember when.’ But thank God we had them to enjoy last Saturday night, all three; Tolü, Felispeaks, and Tommy. And thank God we’ll have all three and their prodigious talents to look forward to enjoying ‘live’ and in-person when the sun rises once more on those days we so long for. And in the meantime, for the journey, we have Tolü’ to soundtrack our lives.
Born in Nigeria, raised in Ireland, and at home in Tullamore, it’s no exaggeration to say that Tolü is made for the world stage, and is already well on her way to a point in her career where recognition on that level begins to come her way. A nominee in the Hot Press Hottie Awards 2021; a landmark debut EP – Being – already in existence; a first long-player in the works; a place in the hearts of the nation courtesy of her tender treatment of N17; three sold-out shows in Dublin coming up between the end of May and early June; after last weekend’s stellar showing, it can surely only be a matter of time before Tolü becomes a regular sight on our tv screens; and not forgetting, of course, the beautiful balm for the soul that is her latest single, Used To Be, out now too…Tolü’s presence in the world is a force of nature and a blessing. And perhaps the most exciting part of it all is that her time in the limelight is just beginning…
In Part 2 of our recent chat with Tolü, and before we got onto some of the amazing things that have been happening for her – such as her by now famous, aforementioned, and oh so glorious version of N17, being part of Irish Women in Harmony, and the not so little matter of those several sold-out shows – I just wanted to ask Tolü a simple question: How was she doing? I’d seen her say about a week before our chat that it had been a year and a half since she’d seen some of her family. With the whole Covid situation being what it is, it’s difficult for all of us not being able to see people that we love and care deeply about. But in Tolü’s case, that also means not being able to share these magnificent moments in her life with her family…
“Thank you for asking. People don’t actually ask that. It’s been very tough. I’m actually going to start getting emotional now [laughs]. It’s been really hard, especially December, normally that’s when we go back home to see everyone; parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, all of that. Even though all of these amazing things are happening, it feels quite lonely at the same time. I have amazing friends, and I absolutely appreciate all the goodness and all the love that I’m receiving. But then, with family, you also want them to rejoice with you and see the magnitude of what you’re experiencing. I can’t send them every single newsletter that I’m in, I can’t send them every post that everyone sees, or every TV show that I’ve been on. So it’s just little scraps that they see, so it’s hard for them to kind of engage with it all. Some days are tougher than others, but honestly, the support I’ve been receiving has been keeping me very positive. And I’m so grateful for that, because if I didn’t have my amazing management Welcome To The New World, and my friends that are showing me love every moment and asking me how I am, and who are actually being there for me to be able to see them, I think it would have been a very, very, very, tough, tough, tough [laughs], and weird space to be in. Because from the outside it looks amazing, but then on the inside I’d be really sad. I’m really grateful that I have people around to share moments like this with even though my family aren’t with me.”
On then to Tolü’s magical version of the Saw Doctors hit, N17, which really did bring a tear to my eye when I first heard it. And I know a similar experience to that was shared by so many. It’s one of those moments where the listener can only sigh at the beauty of what they’ve just enjoyed when the song ends. But how did it all – Tolü, N17, and the RTE Concert Orchestra – come to be?
“Yeah, so it was Kite Entertainment, they were the ones who were recording – they picked the song – and they were the ones who put me forward. But a friend of mine called Susan Scannell, I think she works with them and she was also there on the day when we were shooting, she was the connecting factor really. Kite got me in contact with Gavin Murphy from the RTE Concert Orchestra, we had a conversation – and I don’t even think we had a phone conversation, this was all WhatsApp texts, and him sending the arrangements for the orchestra. This was all done on WhatsApp, it wasn’t even a proper file or anything [laughs]. Then I quickly sent a voice-note with me singing over the tracks, so he could get a sense of what I was planning to do with it, and he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s perfect, yeah, that sounds beautiful already.’ And I was like OH GOD! [Laughs]. Then we went to shoot down in the Camden studio, and everything was obviously Covid friendly, and everyone was just lovely. It took a few hours to shoot, which was fine. They treated me really well. But even the night before, I was speaking to some of my family and stuff, and I think that kind of helped me to tap into the emotion that I needed for the next day. It was a long few hours!”
Tolü, of course, has also been one of the artists involved in the Irish Women in Harmony collective, sending their version of Dreams by the Cranberries, to the top of the Irish charts…
“Oh that was amazing! I need to say a massive thank-you to Erica Coady who hit me up first, and then I got in contact with RuthAnne who is…whoah!…such an amazing person! She has so many accolades, and has written for some of the biggest artists we know of (Britney Spears, Niall Horan, Westlife, One Direction, Bebe Rexha, and more), so to be in her presence with so many other amazing Irish women, I was just like YES! Absolutely! How could I say no to this?! [Laughs]. And obviously we all know how amazing the Cranberries are. I think the song ‘Dreams’ is what we needed in that moment, in 2020. No-one really expected it to just grip everyone’s heart like that. It was something I knew I needed anyway, because there were no gigs, no concerts, I wasn’t going anywhere! I was stuck in Tullamore doing live-streams! [Laughs]. And I really didn’t like the appeal of live-streams, especially the ones on my Instagram because it was really hard to get a response, except for ‘likes’, but those are silent. I’m trying to see if Instagram will pay me for a feature that I think would be really cool for them [laughs]. But yeah, ‘Dreams’ was such an amazing moment. I really needed that collaboration to keep me going, and to feel motivated, and to have that drive, and to feel important and be part of something. No kidding, I really believe that in the next maybe five, no, even less than five years, some of the biggest artists that we’re going to be getting in this world are going to come from Ireland, because there’s just so much talent that’s pouring into this country constantly, and genres as well. It’s exciting to be part of something bigger than you. And that’s what Irish Women in Harmony did for me.”
Looking forward instead of back next, Tolü has some big moments coming up in May and June – all going well – with a chance to get back in front of a ‘live’ audience again for her very own shows. How excited is Tolü for those shows to happen, and what does she want that experience to be like for her fans?
“Oh I’m really excited! We have three dates in Dublin, and dates in Galway and also Cork, so it’s kinda like a mini-tour. I had a dream about headlining [my own show] in 2018, and I was like I have to do it! I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ve planned it out exactly how I want it to be; outfits, the entrance, how people are going to be seated, what people are going to see, and smell, it’s very detailed. It’s called an ‘experience’ for a reason. I want people to feel alive. I want people to be able to sink into every emotion that I’m portraying. I want it to be like a spiritual moment, but not like Godly or anything like that. I want people to tap into their emotions with every song that I sing. I want it to be world-class, but obviously you have to start somewhere, and this will be my first show. But I hope it will be the foundation for even greater shows. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to set a really good bar for myself so that I can develop the ideas that I really want to be able to manifest.”
I pointed out to Tolü how I loved that she’s even planning her entrance, because sometimes I hate it when people just walk on and begin, something Tolü’s response indicated she agreed with, and certainly won’t be happening with her!
In talking about how she was appointed as assistant to her choir’s head-mistress when she was just fifteen, Tolü once remarked, “It taught me how to performwithout knowing what performance was.” But I wondered what have all the things she’s experienced in the last year or so taught Tolü about who she is as an artist and as a person today?
“The past year has taught me that I can be very hard-working, I’m tough on myself, probably tougher on myself than anybody else that’s around me, to be honest. But it’s also taught me that I really do love myself. I’m trying to learn or navigate how to be a better person, and I think that’s a really cool aspect that I have of myself. Another thing that it’s taught me is that I’m not patient! [Laughs]. I am not patient! I want things now! [Laughs]. It’s also taught me that I’m loving, and that means I’m lovable as well. It’s taught me that my need to express my emotions is ok, and being emotional is fine. You don’t always have to be so tough or have a tough exterior all the time. It has taught me to trust people more, because trusting people more also means that you trust yourself with the decisions that you make. That was a really big one I learned. What else has it taught me? Oh, and also to do as much as I can, but to leave room for the universe to do whatever it needs to do.”
What does Tolü do to protect her energy? Parts of her job, such as speaking to me and those like me, obviously take up not just her time, but her energy as well. Any artist will have to put themselves in a certain frame of mind to spend so much time talking about themselves and their work to all kinds of different people. So how does Tolü make sure that she takes care of herself in that regard? I saw that she draws, for instance. Does that help?
“Yeah, I did a bit of drawing last year, just to kind of find something. But lately, because it’s just been a rush of amazing, new, exciting things, and I’m still trying to navigate this new space of like…media attention [laughs]…it’s been interesting! I suppose one thing that has really helped me is not being on social media as often. Knowing when to turn off my phone. And also scheduling my days. I’m still quite bad at saying ok, Sunday, I’m gonna not work. Because I do find that I’m constantly working, which is very weird but I think is just something that artists do all the time, without even noticing. You’re constantly working, that’s not normal. I’ve started to take acting classes, professional ones, so that I can actually get better at that skill and focus a little bit more of my time. I have other projects that I’m doing as well. That helps me to remove myself as this ‘artist’ persona, and also helps me to be really disciplined with my time. That way, if I have an interview, or a show or something, it’s all scheduled and aligned and I’ve prioritised what’s the most important to me. Choosing what’s most important to me makes me happier, because even though it may still be work, it still makes me feel a lot more fulfilled than drained, if that makes sense?”
And with that, unfortunately, we came to our last question. As regards Tolü’s vision for her debut album, which she hopes to release later this year, and taking into account the kind of person Tolü is – she had mentioned being an empath, being shy, and I know a teacher once called her an old soul, and also being a student of psychology and philosophy – I felt like she won’t be able to ignore everything that’s happening around her in the world, from the effects of Covid to the BLM movement, and such. Will her debut album, when it comes to us, touch on those issues in any way?
“At the moment, with the songs I’ve selected, no. I think with the way I write, I don’t like to be as direct with political issues. And not even political issues, just things that we cannot control. I’m still trying to understand or even put words into context to even make sense of things. It’s more so sounds that come out, and me shouting and roaring rather than it actually being a song. But with some of the songs, I think it will stand the test of time in the sense that the emotional cue is there. And I think that no matter what situation we’re in, there will be certain songs in there that you can still relate to if a really horrible situation happens. For example, there’s one of the songs in there, that I’m still writing, where it just kind of talks about – and this sounds really sad, but I actually wrote this last year in spite of all the positivity – I wrote about finding somewhere else to live. Not like locations, I meant it like I wanted to get out of Earth. Which is really depressing to hear, but I was just like, is there an alternative? Cos’ this sucks. I wrote that song in the heat of BLM, and the whole situation that was happening in Nigeria with the police brutality [SARS]. I just felt like this really sucked, and it seemed to be the same thing over and over again, with famine, and brutality, and all these horrible things that are happening globally, and seems to be never-ending. You know, what’s the point? And that’s really depressing, and I’m soooo sorry! [laughs]. When I write songs like that, I don’t want to pinpoint one specific issue, because the way I feel is like every [emotion] in one. And it’s a lot to navigate. It’s a weird thing. I feel like I just grasp more to the emotional element rather than the actual situations. But hopefully in time I’ll get better at using words to explain and be more concrete with topics.”
~ USED TO BE, the brand NEW single from TOLÜ MAKAY is OUT NOW. Her Dublin shows for THE TOLÜ MAKAY EXPERIENCE are now SOLD OUT, but some tickets remain for her Galway and Cork shows. For more information, visit Tolü’s official website, www.tolumakay.com You can also follow Tolü on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
You only need to hear CHANTELLE PADDEN sing once to know that she has the voice of a superstar. And truth be told, Chantelle has a voice miles better than many artists who have forged hugely successful careers and have had bestowed upon them that title of ‘superstar.’ More than even just that, though, you only need to see or hear Chantelle interviewed once to know the lady from Belmullet has the personality and charisma to match her vocal talent. And in the same way her voice is both authentic and unique, so too is Chantelle herself.
So, given that shows like The Voice are based upon the whole premise of finding the world’s next vocal superstar, you’d imagine that once Chantelle had made it through to the ‘live’ shows, it would be impossible for a panel of four of music’s biggest names to leave her behind. Chantelle, after all, is EXACTLY what they were looking for. The voice, but also the looks, and then the personality as well, not to mention the work-ethic…everything was there. Everything was ready. Chantelle was ready. Her time, surely, had come…
Ah…but the problem, of course, with TV shows like The Voice, is that they are – and always will be – TV shows first. And that, by definition, means that the performers must come second. The idea that the judges must first choose their teams based only on hearing performers sing is great. What happens next, pitting performers against each other in ‘battles’ where one must be told they’re not good enough – for whatever reason – is actually disgraceful. That is not the way to showcase, encourage or support talent. It might make for good television from time to time, but those kinds of moments – certainly in my opinion anyway – are not worth treating people that way. Simple.
Anyway, if you tuned into the latest series of the show to watch Chantelle’s ‘battle’ a few weeks back, you were probably as flabbergasted as I was that Olly Murs decided her time on the show was going to end that night. A choice as bizarre as it was ridiculous. Well, as the saying goes, and it surely suits such a moment…their loss! Olly’s and the show’s. Chantelle’s talent, and indeed, Chantelle herself, are bigger than The Voice. And time, I’m sure, will prove it. Chantelle, to be fair, would never even think that way, let alone say something like that. But she doesn’t have to, because I will. And I’m not alone in thinking that way, either.
Chantelle Padden is a born dreamchaser. And souls like that have an inner-fight that drives them on and on, and on again, until their dreams are in their hands.
We’d been planning on chatting to Chantelle for OTRT for quite a while, before it was even announced that she was going to be performing on The Voice this year. And thankfully, that news gave us the perfect opportunity to finally put a date in the diary to do just that.
So with Chantelle’s battle only days away when we sat down to talk the other week, I began our chat by asking her how she was feeling about it, what the past week had been like for her, and…what did she think the Saturday night ahead of her would be like?
“I’m really excited! It’s another chance to showcase a little bit more about myself, and what I’d like to bring to the show, I guess. It’s the battle stages, and unfortunately only one can go through as there’s no ‘steals’ left. So the pressure is on to hopefully try and win Olly over. Hopefully he’ll see that the industry needs more female country artists in the UK and Ireland. At the end of the day, the prize is a record deal with Universal Records, so I’m hoping that I’m showing that I can be commercial and would be worth putting in a position to potentially grab that prize! We all go into this competition with that dream, everyone wants to do well. But I’m the only country artist on the show this year, I’m the only one flying the flag for country music. And of course I’m the only Irish contestant as well, so the pressure is on, I’m not gonna lie! [laughs]. It’s nerve-wracking, but at the same time, do you know, it’s exposure and experience that money can’t buy. So I’ll just be trying to do the song justice and get across the story of it. It’s a song that really resonates with me, being from such a small town, always longing for more, always wishing to grab a hold of that dream. I’ll do my best, and hopefully come out the champion of the battle. All I can do is hope. There’s millions of people watching this show, so it’s going to be of benefit regardless, so I’m definitely excited!”
Chantelle’s breath-taking blind audition really threw her into the limelight on a massive scale, something she seems to have been handling brilliantly. Having worked so hard – and in some ways, waited so long – to get a break like this, I asked her to describe how it now feels to be at the centre of so much attention?
“Well, for a very, very long time, I felt like I was slipping through the net. I wasn’t getting any opportunities when I was at home because I was just so far away from everything. The kind of country artist I am, I don’t exactly fit into the kind of country that we all love here in the west coast of Ireland. That’s a quite bluegrassy sound, with a jiving and waltzing feel to it. So I felt if I was to have any chance of getting signed to a label, that’s not the country they go for. So I felt like I had to try and break out from that, break the mold a bit, and bring something new to the Irish country scene, to try and make a name for myself in both the UK and Ireland. Everyone thinks that if you’re into country, it’s just ‘Ah sure go to Nashville, you’ll be grand there’, but I don’t think that should be the way. I think we should be able to make a stand at home, in our own country, on our own soil, and of course, in the UK too, where I have an amazing and a growing fanbase. And they’re all loving the fact that there’s something different on the show this year. And no matter what part of Ireland someone comes from, if you get on a show like this we’ve very proud of them and we always get behind them. But you never, ever see anyone on shows like this from where I come from. I come from ‘the sticks’, as they call it, literally! [Laughs]. I live on a peninsula, we’re only connected to Belmullet by a bridge! I had The Voice team Googling where I’m from! And after my blind audition, I had Mayo County Council reach out to me to tell me that Belmullet was trending on Google, but for good reasons! [Laughs]. People were actually looking it up to see where it is. And they [The Voice team] were gobsmacked to see that I come from a place that doesn’t even have traffic-lights, we’ve only one roundabout, and it’s the only roundabout in Europe that you can park on! [Laughs].“
“So it’s a very different angle”, continued Chantelle, “the fact that I’ve made it onto the show this year. You often hear about someone who comes from the middle of nowhere and they have a dream to be a superstar, but yeah, I kinda moved to the UK to start recording in the style I’m doing. It’s kind of the only avenue I could have gone down for 2020. I was very hesitant in the beginning to even go for the show, because, you know yourself, we don’t see a lot of country on these shows. So I thought maybe they wouldn’t get who I would like to be as an artist. Looking back on it now, I’m delighted I did obviously, because I made the televised shows. And to be fair, the feedback has been amazing so far, and hopefully it will continue…fingers crossed! [Laughs]. People know my name now, whereas for years, I just wasn’t getting any opportunities. I felt like I wasn’t able to just get up and go see a band in Ireland, regardless of what genre, because we’re so far away from everyone. There’s an awful lot of hidden talent around here, where I’m from, but we just don’t get the opportunity. I have an awful lot of younger followers who look up to me, and they message me on a daily basis for advice, and to just ask, well how did you do it, that kind of thing! And I tell them to just go for it. I love the fact that people around here aspire to be musicians. If you come from a small town, or if you’re stuck in a city even, where you’re kind of outnumbered by people taking the limelight, just try your best and get out there. Scream so loud that they can’t ignore ya! [Laughs].”
Chantelle’s talent – and indeed, the lady herself – will transcend genres anyway, but her heart is undoubtedly in country music. And her latest single, a version of Carrie Underwood’s Church Bells from her Storyteller album, follows on from her recordings of songs by artists like Maren Morris, Lady A, Dolly, Cam, and Little Big Town.
“Well! Do ya know what! It was actually just meant to be a little cover to upload on social media! And as soon as I announced that I had a new cover coming, I had loads of radio stations messaging me wanting a version of it to play. So that’s how it came about. I’m hoping to start releasing my own originals now soon, which is the same vibe as the covers that I’m doing my versions of. So yeah, people were requesting it, and I didn’t want to say no! [Laughs]. Even though it’s a cover. So I said there would be no harm in sending them on my little version. But there’s only one Carrie Underwood! Hers would be tough shoes to fill! But I’m glad that people are appreciating that I’m trying to bring that kind of vibe over here and make it a bit more current, and get it out there a bit more. I believe that that more commercial country – Maren Morris, Carrie Underwood, Lauren Alaina – I wish that was more popular over here. To a lot of country fans, it sounds quite pop, and that’s what I used to get on the show. They kept saying to me, ‘Are you sure you’re country?!’ [Laughs]. They all thought country was banjos, fiddles, diddly-aye, and I was like, no! Country is progressing so much. It can sound really rocky, or it can sound really poppy. I just have the benefit of dibbling and dabbling in the more rockier or more poppier sounds. But I’ll always pay respect to what I grew up on, which was actually Irish country. There’s always going to be that little bit of a mixture going through me. You’ll always hear little sean-nós vibes when I do a ballad. I’ve been told loads of times that I have what’s called a sean-nós curl. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a type of technique that sean-nós singers in Ireland use. I’ve just picked up so many different traits from listening to so many artists over the years. I’ve listened to anyone from Nan Tom Taimín, who is a phenomenal Irish folk singer, right up to Dolly Parton, Celine Dion, Whitney! Bon Jovi! Guns ‘n’ Roses! [Laughs]. I listen to such a mixture. That’s why I’ve always been a bit muddled up! [Laughs].”
Chantelle had mentioned that Mayo County Council reached out to her recently, but – and no offence to Mayo County Council – someone else a little more glamorous did just that, too! None other than American country giants Dan + Shay, after Chantelle posted a cover of their huge hit, Tequila…
“Well, like the ‘Church Bells’ scenario, I just popped ‘Tequila’ up as a cover on my socials and I just tagged them in it. Because if I’m doing a cover of someone’s song I’ll always credit them and mention who it’s originally by. So that’s what I did. And the next thing, they liked it! And they commented on it, and they sent me a lovely message! And I was like, is this really happening?! Because this was before The Voice was even aired. So yeah, that was just really exciting. Because the likes of those people, who are just so busy – even during these crazy times, because I’m sure they’re flat-out recording or writing – the fact that they took the time to sit and watch some randomer’s cover of their song, and then felt the need to message and reach-out, I thought that was so…I don’t know, just very genuine of them. They really appreciate their fans. And that’s what I am, I’m a massive Dan + Shay fan. Maybe they appreciated the fact that I’m a country singer, from rural Ireland, over and back to the UK a lot, because you can see by looking at my page that I’ve been trying to build my name and get out there, and trying to popularise the same style of country that they sing. Yeah, that was definitely a, ‘WHAT is goin’ on?!, moment! [Laughs].”
As a country fan, and as someone who is involved in the country music business, it actually breaks my heart to think that someone with Chantelle’s talent, her work-ethic, and her personality as well, felt like she had to leave Ireland to pursue a career in country music. But, at the same time, I unfortunately understand it too. Chantelle has spoken about being told that she didn’t “fit in” on the Irish country scene, and how she felt like she had no “pull” on that scene. I asked Chantelle to tell me more about that, and I wondered if there was ever a certain moment when she knew it wasn’t going to happen for her in Ireland?
“When I began releasing little self-released albums which were done in local studios, nothing big-budget, it was my parents who funded them, and they happened to have got played on the local radio like Midwest and stuff, I was ten years old. So my name has been floating about for a while as a child singer. I was only young. Then, as I went through my teens, I focused on school, ya know, as much as I could, my heart belonged in music! [Laughs]. But I had to make it work and juggle the two of them! I always carried on gigging at the weekend, and we got the chance to perform over in the UK in the Irish centres, there were lots of gigs, nothing too crazy. But I was always hoping that an opportunity would come along if someone heard me. You’re classed as a brand in the music industry, so someone is not going to buy into you unless you can make them money. As I grew up, I became more serious about music. I knew it was the only career I wanted to do. And to be quite honest with ya, it’s the only real job I’ve ever had! I don’t think it would have been in me to walk away from it. But I did go through spells where I actually did hang up the microphone, and that was out of sheer disappointment. I remember going for different kinds of competitions over the years and no-one got why I did country. And I didn’t really know anyone on the Irish country scene to reach out to, to bring me up singing with them, or to get my name out there in that way. Then in 2018, going into the third year after I’d left secondary school, I was still gigging with one of my best friends, Sean Fahy. He carried on gigging with me after my grandad retired when I was sixteen. He was a major help to keep me going. Obviously as a friend, but he was a fan as well, and he loved supporting me as well, and to this day he does. And he was the main reason I kept gigging when grandad retired. I genuinely didn’t think I’d have the courage to do it on my own. I was a very self-conscious teenager, so I definitely needed grandad as that safety behind me to give me that pep-talk if I ever got nervous.”
“So having Sean there to fill that place when grandad retired”, explained Chantelle, “that was amazing for me. We were gigging near my hometown, at an annual festival called the Inver Festival, where Johnny Brady and his band were down headlining. Me and my friend Sean were the warm-up act, so we were doing a little slot beforehand, just using backing-tracks and a guitar and a drum-machine and that was it. Johnny heard me singing for the first time and he was like, “What?! Where?!”, he was very taken aback that he’d never heard of me at all! And I was just like, well, I don’t really play much outside of Belmullet, I wouldn’t really be known. That’s when he asked me onto a country music show on TG4, called Glór Tíre. That’s actually about three years ago now since I was on it. We clicked, he was right up my street, his was really the kinda vibe that I’d love to see in country. And to this day, he’s one of my best friends in the music industry. So Glór Tíre was kind of the moment where I realised, oh…do I fit into the Irish country scene? Now, I got amazing comments from Caitriona, Jo, and John, the three judges on the show, it was always amazing feedback. But it was always, well, you’re more so r ‘n’b, or maybe rock? That, to me, was like, ok, I obviously don’t fit in on the Irish scene. But to this day, I’d still be good friends with the judges. Caitriona and Jo, we’ve always stayed in contact after the show. I’ve done interviews with Jo and everything, and she’s always saying to me, “But sure we were right, you’re very American country.” [Laughs]. See, they were afraid that I’d try to fit into the Irish country scene, and neglect the kind of passion I have for the American scene.
And as it turned out, Chantelle’s time on Glór Tíre left her well prepared for her time on The Voice when it arrived…
I learned so much from the show. Sure I had never been on TV, with cameras and everything. As an adult singer, I had lacked all that experience, because I’d never had a chance to do it until Glór Tíre came about. So I got used to cameras, and interviews, and to how everything ran, I guess. And without that, I would have struggled with The Voice. I think I needed that bit of experience. I think I came fourth on Glór Tíre [laughs]. But do you know what, it was an amazing experience. And it’s a voting show, and to be fair, sure no-one knew me [laughs]. So I wasn’t expecting to get far on the show. In order to win by votes, you need to be popular and well-known! But I knew that going into it. So I said, do you know what, it’s exposure, and nothing but good can come from it! After that, it wasn’t how Glór Tíre panned out, it was more so the fact of what do I do now? If I don’t fit into the Irish country scene, what am I going to do? Because that was the only country that would get you gigs over here. I was so kind of over-thinking the whole situation, and I was so disheartened about what opportunities I might get at all, so I left Ireland to go to the UK. I moved over to Cambridge, and yeah, I gave up music. I stopped gigging, cancelled any gigs I had in the diary for Ireland. It was a crazy time!”
~ CHURCH BELLS, the brand NEW single from CHANTELLE PADDEN, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. Stay tuned for PART 2 of our chat with Chantelle coming your way very, very soon!