Glór Tíre

First Published July 2021

LONG LIVE GLÓR TÍRE

Sometimes, just by being around for long enough, what you do can end up being massively taken for granted. Case in point, the hit TG4 show, GLÓR TÍRE. Despite the many complications caused by Covid-19, and the subsequent restrictions and guidelines which needed to be put in place and adhered to, the team behind the show managed to make sure that the 2020 series eventually came to a conclusion late last year. More than just that, though, they also found a way to make sure that the 2021 series went ahead. 


A key-word to pay attention to in everything I’ve just pointed out, is ‘team.’ Because that’s what it takes to make Glór Tíre happen each year. And it’s a team that is in part unseen, but yet, without the talents of all involved, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the on-screen contributions of judges Jo Ní Cheide, Caitriona O’ Sullivan, and John Creedon, as well as presenters Aoife Ní Thuairisg and Séamus Ó Scanláin, and of course, the fabulous house-band. The show is not just about each year’s contestants, it’s bigger than that. 


And yet, if you were to judge things by some of the vile, vicious, attention-seeking, and often desperately ill-informed vitriol that was regularly spewed forth in social media comment sections during the course of this year’s series, you’d assume Glór Tíre and almost all involved with it to be something akin to a TV Taliban, only to be reviled as a gang of clueless chancers. And that description, as colourful as it might be, doesn’t even approach the levels of hyperbole achieved by some of the country music ‘fans’, and indeed, self-appointed commentators of sort who felt the need to grace the world with their opinions. It certainly opened my eyes to some people, and how, and when, and in what manner they seem to like to share their thoughts with the world. All good to know, though. 


Full disclosure, by the way, I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure – of working with EMMA DONOHUE during her successful Glór Tíre campaign under the mentorship of MIKE DENVER this year. Without a doubt, Emma has everything it takes to carve out a career for herself on the Irish country scene. I’m more than certain that her natural talent, a work-ethic that’s simply second-to-none, and a personality that’s every bit as genuinely warm and funny off-stage as it is effortlessly comfortable on-stage, would have ensured this anyway, regardless of how things went for her on the TG4 show this year. I can say that with my hand on my heart. 


Despite working with Emma this year, the last time I actually saw her in person – and probably her mentor Mike as well – would have been at the Keltic Country TV Irish Entertainment Awards at the Tullamore Court Hotel in November of 2019. As far as anything to do with her campaign went, we did everything by phone, email, messenger, you name it. We had little choice, of course, given the complications of the last year and the disruption that Covid has caused in all areas of life. This was my fourth time working with a contestant on the show, and my first time to be involved with a winning act. So I’ve been there before, seeing someone I believed in and wanted to succeed being voted out, or falling just short at the last hurdle. I’ve seen it happen, not understood it, been completely mystified by judges’ decisions, and ended up feeling completely deflated, frustrated, and disappointed. But I’ve never once become abusive about the show or anyone involved in it online, in either a direct or an indirect manner. 


Normally the nights of the ‘live’ shows down at Quays Bar in Galway are bursting with excitement, full to the brim with fans and supporters of the contestants. Despite the nerves, the tension, the inevitable waiting around that comes with television, and sometimes the disappointment, the adrenaline  and the fun of those nights always makes them memorable. That ‘live’ element of Glór Tíre has been a crucial factor in making the show the success it has been for close on two decades now. So it would have been understandable to some degree if the show’s producers had decided that the 2020 series could not finish, nor the 2021 series get underway without a ‘live’ audience being able to attend. But, to the credit of all involved, the power of that evergreen mantra of those who work in the entertainment industry – the show must go on! – was invoked. The 2020 series finally came to a conclusion in November of last year with Offaly’s own Alex Roe – with whom, by the way, I also had the pleasure of working with during his campaign – narrowly missing out on the crown of champion. And following that, also in November of last year, filming got underway for the first episodes of the 2021 edition. 


Now, here’s a point that simply can’t be stressed enough when it comes to Glór Tire. I’ve mentioned it already, but it’s worth repeating. The show is not just about whoever the lucky contestants are each year. Yes, the focus of the show is on the contestants. But the show itself is not just about them. And that’s a distinction that seems to have been lost on a lot of people this year. Without the production crew, the presenters, the judges, the mentors, and of course the band… there is no show. It’s as simple as that. Every year a line-up of new contestants get the opportunity to perform on ‘live’ television, to a national audience, because the Glór Tíre set up is in place. Without each of those elements being in place, the spotlight never lands on any artist. 


This year, everyone involved in the show was asked to accept a certain level of personal responsibility in adhering to the guidelines and regulations necessary for the safety of EVERYONE involved in the show. These guidelines and regulations were not in place just to protect the contestants. Again, they were there to protect the contestants, AND the production crew, AND the presenters, AND the judges, AND the band. And by extension, the family, friends and loved ones of all of those people. Those guidelines and regulations were in place so that the show had a chance to go ahead at all this year. They were in place so that six more new and young country music hopefuls could have a chance that simply does not come their way through any other media outlet in Ireland. 


Everyone knew what was expected and needed from them at the beginning, and everyone agreed to it. 
Now, if you were to base your assessment of how well or otherwise this year’s series of Glór Tíre went from what you might have seen on social media at the time, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, organised by amateurs, and unnecessarily and recklessly cruel to some contestants. And not only that, you’d possibly end up being fully convinced that the show achieved nothing other than bringing country music into disrepute while calling the future of the whole scene into question. 


The problem, of course, is that social media has become the best possible example of how the court of public opinion is so often formed on ignorance, and a few quick lines thoughtlessly thrown out into cyberspace with either no basis in reality or one that can usually be dismissed in well under a minute with a little careful examination. Simply put, a huge amount of the social media reaction to this year’s show was disgraceful nonsense. It served only to betray a lack of knowledge about the music industry in general, and – what’s worse in this case -a lack of any kind of genuine care about the country scene as a whole in particular.

 
Most of that negativity stemmed from the fact that two contestants had to withdraw from the show for breaching the Covid guidelines and regulations that were in place. According to some who felt so compelled to share their wisdom and insight, these guidelines and regulations should not have been enforced at all, and doing so only made a mockery of the show. Gimme a break. Two contestants broke the rules (whether accidentally, unintentionally, or unluckily), and had to withdraw, which was only right. But FOUR contestants did everything that was asked of them, from the beginning of their involvement on the show, to the end.  Now this point has nothing to do with who those contestants were, on one side or the other, because that doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. If, with circumstances such as they were, anyone broke the rules that were in place to protect EVERYONE, then the only right and fair thing to do was to leave the competition. 


However, to go by the reaction of some (and I mean some supporters of those contestants here, not the contestants themselves, let me be very clear about that), you’d swear that when the two withdrawals occurred, there was absolutely no point in continuing on with the show from that point. The show was slammed in various comments as being a sham, rigged, nothing but a money-maker, and having only useless singers left in it anyway. Pardon my language here, but… bullshit, all of it. 


If you think the rules of anything should only apply to whoever you care about, you’re deluded. If you think the best way of showing your support for someone is by throwing out insults in the direction of others, then you’re an asshole. If you seriously think that a show which has been a hugely valuable platform for new artists for so long should suddenly cease to exist just because your favourite contestant had to withdraw as a consequence of their own actions, then you’re a selfish, deluded asshole. 


And it’s not just for new artists that Glór Tíre has done some service, either. Don’t forget that each mentor gets to perform a full-televised show every year as well. That fact should not be forgotten so easily. Long, long before The Late Late Show began trying to paint itself as an altruistic endorser and supporter of Irish country music – which it isn’t – Glór Tíre was there. While Glór Tíre creates a space for new and emerging talent to begin to make a name for themselves and build a career, The Late Late Show has a view of country music that can only be described as willfully and woefully myopic. The future of the Irish country music scene depends far more on Glór Tíre than it does on The Late Late Show, just as much as the country music as it is today, owes far more to Glór Tíre than it does to The Late Late Show. 


Talk of the show being rigged, or a sham, or just a money-maker are each so equally preposterous as to warrant immediate dismissal rather than too much further time. But also, such ridiculous notions should never be just let slide. So…


Everybody knows the format of the show, and how the voting system works at the outset. It’s no secret. And nobody ever has a problem with it until…again…their favourite supposedly falls prey to something as sinister as…the obvious! Contestants who get the least votes run the risk of being in the bottom two, and having their fate then decided by the judges. If a contestant ends up in that position, that’s not the show’s fault, or the judges’ fault, or any of the other contestants’ fault. The system is the same for everyone, from start to finish. Now, I’m not for a minute saying that I’ve always agreed with every decision that the judges have made, because I most definitely have not. There have been occasions, including this year, when I’ve been left somewhat baffled. But, in those situations the judges are doing their job, and doing so as they best see fit. And that’s exactly what they’re there to do. And their opinions should be respected. Opinions will always differ, after all. That’s the nature of everything. 


Perhaps the most sickening – and stupid – comments that kept showing up in one form or another revolved around the aspersions cast on the ability of the singers involved this year. Just think about that for a moment. Everyone who vomited up such ill-thought-through opinions considered themselves to be better judges of talent than the actual mentors on the show, AND the people involved in the production of the show who go through this process every year. Imagine being able to strut through life with that level of blissful arrogance? Must be some feeling. And every time comments such as those were posted, even if they didn’t actually name any of the remaining contestants, imagine how that felt for the singers who remained in the competition. Because the contestants would have seen them and heard about them, don’t think they didn’t. So imagine how that felt. How it felt for their families. Just think about that for a moment or two…


They’d done nothing wrong. They were just doing something they love, chasing a dream in what is a really tough industry to ‘make it’ in anyway. And yet, they were being subjected to such shameless and unnecessary negativity. 


You can take it as fact that the people who were posting such comments did not – not even for a heartbeat – consider the feelings of anyone except themselves on those occasions. They were angry, they wanted to vent, so vent they did, just playing up to the online crowd by contributing their two-pence worth to a sewer of ramblings and ravings that never amounts to more than the manifestation of a ‘mob’ mentality in these situations. If they were in possession of even a shred of self-awareness, and for even half a heartbeat had thought about what they were writing and saying before finally publishing those comments, the sheer embarrassment of relaising that they were acting in such an entitled, childish, and – in some cases – just plain stupid way, would have been enough to make them delete every word as fast as possible. 


But something else that you can take as fact is that those people would never come out with such rubbish if they ever found themselves standing face to face with any of the people involved in Glór Tíre and whom their comments were directed at. Just wouldn’t happen. Cowards tend to become rather shy when they venture out into daylight. 


Being chosen to participate in Glór Tíre this year (as it is any year) was a brilliant achievement for all concerned. It should have led to a host of moments they could look back on proudly for the rest of their lives, regardless of where their careers do or don’t go following the show. And hopefully all six contestants will be able to look back on some moments that will always warm their hearts to remember. Unfortunately, however, everyone’s experience will have been tainted somewhat by some of the nonsense that polluted the comment sections on so many posts about the show.

One of the main reasons that seems to have allowed this to happen, is that a certain number of country ‘fans’ have come to take the existence of Glór Tíre in our lives, as part of the country music calendar, very much for granted. What a mistake, and what fools. 


Glór Tíre has offered so many artists the chance to perform to a national audience for the first time. And the chance to perform on television for the first time. And sometimes, to perform with the backing of a full, professional band for the first time, too. Opportunities like that are priceless in the development of any new or emerging artist’s career. And, as the show always sees some of the more established artists on the Irish country scene mentoring each year’s contestants, you have a coming together of different generations, with some of those who have already been stars forever and some of those who are the stars of today, meeting and sharing their hard-won wisdom and experience with the potential stars of tomorrow. 


THAT is what Glór Tíre makes happen every year. THAT is what Glór Tíre does for Irish country music every year. 


And none of us should be taking it for granted. It deserves better. 


Long live Glór Tíre. 

ENDS

Louise Morrissey

First Published July 2021

“MY MUSIC IS FOR THE FANS”

LOUISE MORRISSEY has long been one of the most loved artists on the Irish country music scene. Respected by her peers, and looked up to by younger and up-and-coming artists, you would need to travel a long road to meet someone who better personifies all that is traditionally regarded as being best about country music.

With a voice that you could listen to from one end of the day to the next, and songs that will have your feet taking on a life of their own, can stop your in your tracks as you’re softly called back to another place and time, or that fill your heart with all the light of love in so many forms, Louise has a place in the hearts of Irish country music fans that she’ll never have to worry about. 


And those fans will be back wearing smiles they can thank Louise for later this week as she releases her brand new single. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a sneak-preview of WE RISE AGAIN (written by Leon Dubinsky),and let me tell you this, folks, it’s a BIG song from Louise. I also had the great pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Louise last weekend, and to get things underway, I asked her how she came to find the song, and why she decided to cut it right now? 


“I was sent the song last year, once the lockdown had happened. A friend of mine – Paul Egan – who I’ve known for a long time and would have given me songs in the past to record and who would have suggested songs for me as well, he sent me this. He thought it was something I might be interested in because of the words and what it was about, and because of the times we’re in and all of that, he said this might be worth a listen. He said I might be able to do my own thing with it, put my own stamp on it. Anyway, I really liked it, the chorus especially. It’s got a very strong chorus. So that’s how it came about. Of course, I had to wait a very long time then before I could get to a recording studio because of lockdown and travel restrictions, ya know. I went up to Peter Maher – where I live in Tipperary, Peter is about an hour away, up in north Tipp, up in Cloughjordan – I knew that Peter would have been the right man for this song and for the production and arrangement it needed.”

We Rise Again became a staple of Canada’s pop scene back in the 90s. Recorded by folk group The Rankin Family, the track featured on their 1993 long-player, North Country, becoming a crossover hit by reaching the Top 20 on pop charts, and the Top 40 in the country equivalent. When Louise and Peter were sitting down to plan their approach to the production of We Rise Again, given that it is such a big, anthemic song, what was going through their minds? 


“Well I sent the song to Peter and said,”Have a listen to this.” Straight away, I said to him that it’s not a country song as such, and that’s what I would be known for, obviously. But I also come from the folk scene and I sing a lot of folk songs but with my own little stamp on them, do them in my own style. So I said [to Peter], look, this song needs a certain kind of production. It’s not going to be something that’s specially done for the dancing scene. Sometimes we record songs especially for dancing, but this was always going to be a concert song. I could hear lovely whistles in it, and pipes, it was that sort of vibe. Peter agreed, and we went along with that. The original recording didn’t have that, but I thought it would give the song that lovely sort of Celtic style. And going back to the chorus of the song, that’s what stood out to me straight away. We’ve all had setbacks in our lives, and we’ve all had things happen to us in our lives. But no matter what happens to you, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and you get going again. You’ll meet some setbacks or knockbacks over and over again, they might keep happening. But no matter what happens, life keeps going on. We rise again all the time. So I just thought with the times we’re in, with the Covid pandemic, and all of the restrictions, how it’s been for everybody right across the world with people not able to see and meet their families and their loved ones – and people who lost their loved ones as well – but still now things are starting to improve, thank God. So we can bounce back, and we will bounce back. We rise again, ya know.” 

The weeks leading up to a new release are always busy and exciting anyway, with so much to get ready and prepare. And the week just gone had been an especially thrilling one for Louise as she had a brand new video shoot on her schedule as well. She has something very special in store for her fans…


“Yes, I saw the final cut the other night and I’m delighted with it. Again, thinking about the song…we’ve done all kinds of videos, some might be in concert, or you might be out in a dance situation…but I wanted to do something a little bit extra-special with this song. I thought it needed a little drama, and it needed the Atlantic ocean, cliffs, lovely scenery like that. So we (with Steve Bloor) went to Achill Island to film it. We went up on Monday night, started bright and early on Tuesday morning. We were out and on the road at half-seven, and we drove all over the island all day. We climbed up rocks and down rocks, down into coves, up hills to try and get to the little spots we wanted to get the best views. It’s the most beautiful, stunning place, and the weather was gorgeous. That kind of scenery was perfect for this song.”

The last year and a half or so has been a tough time for everyone, and especially the music business. So much so, that a lot of artists have almost withdrawn form the public eye, all but vanishing completely, and we’ve barely heard or seen anything from them. Louise, however, did not take that approach, continuing to release new music in that time-period. I asked her why she thought that was so important to do, not just for herself, but for her fans also…


“Yeah, well for my own sake it was to stay sane! [Laughs]. It was great to be doing something. And when you are bringing out a single, as you mentioned, it is a busy time, you have a lot of things to get organised. But for the fans, who’ve been always there for us throughout the years, and even though this awful pandemic came and hit everybody, the fans are still there and listening to the radio, they’re still fans. They’re still there, still supporting us by watching our videos or requesting us on radio all the time. So it’s for them as well, the new music. All my music is for the fans. Because those people are so important to all of us. None of us would have careers without our fans, it’s as simple as that. So I just wanted to do that. And to keep busy myself as well. I will say that I am enjoying the time-off at home, with no big long journeys in the car or anything like that. You don’t miss that [laughs]. But you do miss the people. So it was nice to keep doing something, and I really enjoyed getting back up to the studio a few weeks ago to record that song. And I had a great time in Achill as well, just to be out, and to be somewhere different, outside of Tipperary [laughs]. Much as I love it! [Laughs].” 

Speaking of being on the road, it’s still hard to know when exactly – or even roughly! – ‘live’ music will return in anything close to the form we’ve always known it. But, looking ahead to next year, by which time we WILL hopefully be back to something closer to some kind of normal again, Louise will be hitting the road with Declan Nerney and John Hogan as part of Declan’s nationwide tour, something I was sure Louise is probably looking forward to already. And just out of curiosity, I wondered if Louise could recall when her last proper gig had actually been? 


“The last gig that I did was about two nights before the lockdown in 2020, in Wexford, in the Talbot Hotel. Declan Nerney was on the show the same night, I remember. There were five or six of us doing guest spots on a country show. And we were all there chatting in the Green Room about Covid and how the country might be going into a lockdown. That was the big topic of conversation on the night. And literally two days later, the country went into lockdown. And that was the end of that! The only other gig that I got to do where I got to work with a band – and the Ryan Turner band is the one that I would work with quite a lot over the last twenty years – we got together to do Glór Tíre last November. That was the only show that I got to do, and haven’t got to do anything since. Just one or two little bits, contributions to charity events online where I would have pre-recorded something at home. But that’s it. No ‘live’ shows since. It’s an awfully long time to be not doing your job.” 

So when it comes to finally getting back up on stage again, when Louise hits the road with Decland and John in 2022, I imagine moments like that are going to be very emotional for a lot of people? 


“I think it will. And I’m really looking forward to the tour and looking forward to working with Declan and John. We’ve all known each other a long time, and worked on different shows together over the years. But this is the first time we’re going on an official tour with Declan. We’re going to be doing lovely theatres and concert venues around the country. I’m so looking forward to that, to catching up with the boys, catching up with the band members, catching up with all the fans that are going to come to those shows. It will be lovely just to get doing that again. I was joking at home recently, I said God, will we all be gone too nervous to go back on stage! [laughs]. We’re away from it so long! But I think, with music – like a lot of things – you fall in where you left off. So it’ll probably feel like it was just last week [since our last show]. I think that’s the way it will be.” 

Louise, Declan, and John are all part of the same generation of Irish country music stars. But in her role as a presenter on Tipp Mid-West, Louise gets to hear and see many of the new and younger artists who will become the next generation of country stars. I asked Louise for her thoughts on the talent that’s out there on the country scene right now, and also to tell me about her show, Lunch With Louise…


“Yeah, I love it, I’m there almost a year already, I can’t believe that I’m presenting the show. It’s on every Friday from twelve-to-two on Tipp Mid-West. That was just like a lifeline for me as well, when that opportunity presented itself for me to go in and do a show. Like we spoke about, I was at home, there was nothing happening, we were in lockdown. So it was fantastic to get that opportunity to go in and present a show and play all the Irish country, because most of my show is Irish country. I’d play one of two of the American artists as well, but I end up sticking with the Irish country because of the requests that come in. It took me a little while to settle in and to learn how to use all the controls and work everything so that I could work away on my own, and that’s what I do now. Now I do still press an odd wrong button here and there [laughs], but it’s all part of ‘live’ radio. It keeps you on your toes! But yeah, it’s lovely, and I’m on all the presenters’ mailing lists now so every week there’s new stuff being sent to me from all the new artists. And it’s lovely to get it, ya know, because that was where I was years ago starting out. I think there’s more opportunity for airplay nowadays as well, with all the great radio stations all over the country. We didn’t have as many when lots of us started out. So that’s great. And all the young singers, they’re going in and they’re recording the best of stuff, in with all the best producers and coming out with good stuff, it’s great. They’re starting off the right way. And I know it’s expensive too, it’s very expensive to record. But it’s a tool of the trade, if ya like. It’s just something that you have to do if you want to get out there.” 


Something that I’ve been noticing a lot more recently, and perhaps it’s because I’ve been paying attention to how often it seems to be happening in the music business in general (a BIG shout-out to Linda Coogan Byrne and her Why Not Her? team for their work on this here in Ireland) and in American country music, is how many shows are dominated by male artists. You can see line-ups with five, six, or even seven male performers, and maybe just one female artist in amongst them! Now, as Louise and I both know well, there are SO MANY amazing female artists in Ireland, from brand new to rising stars, and from the already well-established to those who have long been household names. So personally speaking, I just can’t understand how anyone can put together a show with such an unbalanced line-up, look at it, and think to themselves, ‘Yeah, that’s the finest. Job done, nice one!’ I asked Louise for her thoughts on this subject.


“It is something I would have noticed from time to time when you see that somebody puts up a poster for something, or in a newspaper for some upcoming event or show, or festival, whatever it might be. And yeah, very often there’s only one female singer on the show. I don’t know why, to be honest. Because as you already said, there’s some fantastic female artists out there in Ireland. That’s something that I’m very conscious of every week with my radio show, that I play a lot, or as many of the girls as I can fit in, with the boys as well. It’s important. The girls are putting in as much effort as the boys are. If they go in to record, it’s costing them as much as the boys. And if anything, the girls, with style and clothes, and make-up and everything, ya know, it can be costly. But I just don’t know why it is. I suppose, maybe some people would say that the guys will get a big female following straight away so then the husbands or the boyfriends bring them to the shows because they want to see their favourite male singer, ya know. Some people would have the idea that that’s a lot of it. But I honestly don’t know. I mean, I know that I would have a lot of female fans out there as well, and always had. But the scales should be balanced better, there should be more women on the shows, on any show.” 

I point out the importance of young female artists, or girls and women even before they become artists, needing to see other women doing what they too dream of doing, to see and know that it’s possible, and Louise agrees…


“They do. And it’s like any job, you have to learn your trade and get experience. And the only way you can do that is by being on shows. And yet, you do see a lot of situations where there’s only one girl on a show of six or seven artists. I would love to see more girls getting work as well, and for the scales to be more evenly balanced.” 

A lot of artists we’ve spoken to, including Nathan Carter when we spoke with him a few months back, have mentioned how this whole time of Covid has seen them reevaluate how they intend to do things when we make it to the other side. With Nathan, for instance, he shared that he probably won’t be on the road as much, having had a chance to do some other things during this break. I wondered if this time had changed Louise’s perspective on how she plans to enjoy music and life from now on? 


“It has, definitely, without question. Before Covid and lockdown came in, you could see how busy some bands were, and it was like helter-skelter, six nights a week, all through the year. Which was fantastic to see, ya know, people being busy. But I think it’s very important that you make time for yourself, and make time to have a life for yourself outside of your job. You shouldn’t work seven days a week, all year round. Everybody needs to spend time with their husband, their wife, their boyfriend, their girlfriend, their family, their friends, and to be able to do that. And just have a little bit of time to yourself at home, to do the things that you want to do, and have some other hobbies outside of your job. That’s definitely something that has come about for me in the last year and a half. I would have thought back on some of the years when we would have worked so hard, and I’d think God Almighty, how did we do it at all?! I hadn’t time to bless myself, really [laughs]. But please God things will open up, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel now, so when things open up again I’m going to cut back, definitely. I’ll pick what I want to do, and just do so many in a month, that kind of thing, and have a lot more time at home. My husband was sick during the lockdown, he had surgery in January, and I’m glad that I was at home, to be there to look after him when he came home from hospital. It was a tough time for him. And when he was in hospital, I couldn’t get to see him, as was the situation for everybody that had someone in hospital. And how dreadful it was for anyone that lost loved ones during Covid, and couldn’t get to see them, a dreadful situation. But, I still obviously want to do my music, and from now on it’s going to be just concerts. And I’m not going to do long stints away from home anymore, either. I would have done it before where you’d go away on a tour and be gone for maybe three weeks at a time, I’m not doing that anymore. I just love my time at home, but I want to work as well. So there’s going to be a very happy balance.” 


Before we wrapped up, I asked Louise if she had any message for the fans that she hasn’t been able to see in person for so long, but – hopefully – will be seeing again in the not too distant future? 


“I want to say a big thank you to all of them for their continued support throughout the years, and through the lockdown as well, fans have continued to support all the artists by requesting us on the radio, and watching our shows on YouTube and Facebook, on everything. They were fantastic people to come out and support the shows before lockdown as well, and we know we’ll be seeing them again when things open up. And I’m looking forward to seeing them all again and catching up with everybody. Because we’ve missed everybody, we have. And I know they’ve missed all of us too.” 

WE RISE AGAIN, the brand NEW single from LOUISE MORRISSEY, will be available from all digital platforms from July 9th, and to request from radio stations nationwide from July 12th. The video for We Rise Again will premiere on Louise’s official Facebook page on July 17th. Louise will also be performing at the Star Trax music venue’s Drive-In Country Show in Cork on July 25th. In an event hosted by Hot Country TV’s Hugh O’ Brien, Louise will be joined by Olivia Douglas, TR Dallas, and Paddy O’ Brien, all backed by the Glen Flynn Band. See Louise’s Facebook page for full details. 

ENDS

Alex Roe

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, April 2021

NEW SINGLE IS ROE’S FIRST LOVE

Known more so for his catchy and fun songs, ALEX ROE is about to reveal a much softer side to his soul with the forthcoming release of his new single, I LOVED HER FIRST.           The midlands man has emerged as one of Irish country’s brightest new talents over the last few years, a trajectory that seemed certain to reach new heights in the summer of last year.  However, as we all know by now, the summer of 2020 was cancelled, and Alex’s career – to at least some extent – has slowed down to a speed he wasn’t expecting. And yet, that unexpected and unavoidable change in gear and circumstances may well have led the twenty-something year old from Clara in Offaly to explore songs that are more about the whisper of a heartbeat than the whirling of feet around a dancefloor. 
          “I was playing a lot of gigs before everything came to an end last year, and I’d been working to that same kind of a full diary for a good few years at that point. So you naturally tend to gravitate more towards the faster, more uptempo numbers that will keep people out on the floor. And the same applies when you think about what you’ll record. You want to entice people to come along to your shows because they like what they hear of you on the radio. Now, I’ve always had some slower songs in my set, the same as every artist would. But what’s happened during this break is that I’ve found myself turning more to songs like that when I’m just listening to music myself. And I suppose what I realised is that these songs – slower, more sentimental ones – they can connect with people just as easily. And that’s why I decided to record ‘I Loved Her First.'” 
          When it comes to tearjerkers, I Loved Her First is a song that shows no mercy when pulling on the heartstrings. Released by the American country band Heartland in the summer of 2006, it was both the title-track and the lead-off single from their debut album. Penned by songwriters Walt Aldridge and Elliott Park, I Loved Her First hit the top of the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart late in that same year. In the style of so many great country songs, what seems to begin as a straight-forward love song soon melts into a moment a little over three-and-a-half minutes long that has become a treasured and ever-lasting wedding day memory for countless fathers and daughters.  
          Roe first recorded a video of I Loved You First, which he debuted on his official Facebook music page back at the beginning of April. That video, recorded with Wayne Thorose at Ballyrose Studios, generated a reaction from fans that took the young country star by surprise…
          “Back when it had been safe to spend some time in a studio, we took the chance to put together a few things that we’d be able to use as the year went on. We didn’t know then how the rest of the year was going to turn out, so the plan was to have some content created for social media and that would help to keep things ticking over and make sure that I still had a way to reach out and connect with fans. But to be honest, the way this song has connected with people has been amazing. That very evening that I first posted it, I started getting messages from some radio presenters asking me to send them on the single, I couldn’t believe it. The first couple of times I explained that I’d just done a video for it and it wasn’t actually a single at all. But by the next morning, with more messages coming in all the time, I had changed my mind! [Laughs]. 
I gave Wayne a shout and said look, I think we actually have a single here!”          

Alex continued, “I’m just delighted that people are enjoying it so much. I actually had another single planned for around about now anyway, but given the response to ‘I Loved Her First’, we’ll just hold onto that one for another little while.” 


I LOVED HER FIRST, the brand NEW single from ALEX ROE, will be available on all platforms from Friday, April 30th. 

ENDS

David Connor

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, February 2021

NEW HIT PROVES DAVID A ‘DOWN HOME’ KINDA GUY

DAVID CONNOR, one of the stars of the new series of TG4’s hit show GLOR TÍRE, has announced the release of his latest single, DOWN HOME. The man from Mayo has recorded a heartfelt version of the 1991 #1 from American country rock giants Alabama, which became available on all platforms at the end of January, and duly hit the top of the Irish country charts. 

          David, from Claremorris, is being mentored on this season’s Glor Tíre by none other than singer/songwriter MICHAEL ENGLISH, one of Irish country’s most accomplished male performers with numerous awards to his name. While this year’s series of the long-running show will be somewhat of a learning experience for everyone involved given the challenges of operating in the era of Covid, as far as the music side of things is concerned, David knows he couldn’t be in better company for learning! 

          “Michael is such a talented musician and performer, I’ve always been a big fan of his. His songs are brilliant, just so catchy and so lively to dance to as well. But more than just that, he’s the ultimate professional. For a man who’s so well known and who has had so much success, he’s just remarkably down to earth and humble to talk to. And he’s given me so much advice already. It doesn’t matter when I have a question – or if it’s something I might feel like is a shocking silly question to even have to be asking! [laughs] – Michael is always there with an answer. Whatever way Glór Tire ends up for us, I know that I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. Michael is a pure gentleman.” 

          Indeed, those same words – a pure gentleman – have often been used to describe David himself in Mayo and the wider west. A stalwart of the ‘live’ music scene in that part of the world with his band, Southern Revival, David’s first adventure into a recording studio was back in 2016, and as befits the man, it was all to help others. As Mayo bravely battled ever onwards against the weight of history and a tidal-wave of expectation in their continuing pursuit of the Sam Maguire, David and his sister Jenny recorded the Mayo Cup Song, with all proceeds going to support a cystic fibrosis charity. 

          Country music has always been a central part of David’s life, so much so that he was, as he says himself, “reared on it!” He went on to add, “Mid-West radio was always on in our house, every hour of the day. It’s as ingrained into my memory as anything else that has made me who I am today, and that’s the truth.” While David’s first experience of actually singing on stage came in a youth variety show, it was in February of last year that he took his first steps onto the national scene, releasing his official debut single, a rousing version of the Zac Brown hit As She’s Walking Away. 

          That choice of song offered an insight into the influence of American country music on his life, with artists like John Fogarty, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Glen Campbell, the Eagles and Elvis quick to roll off his tongue when enquiries are made as to his musical inspirations. He’s equally quick to add, however, that, like his dad, he was also a huge fan of Big Tom and the Mainliners. The follow-up to As She’s Walking Away came in August of 2020, a cover of the Luka Bloom song, You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time. And so it proved, with the track claiming the #1 spot on the iTunes Irish country chart on the day of its release. 

          With Down Home, produced by Wayne Thorose, as were those first two singles, David is returning to the American country songbook to share a song that – as a country boy himself – has long held a special place in his affections…

          “There’s so many lines in this song that I can relate to, and that are about the life I’ve always known and the life I try to live. This was always going to be a song I tried my hand at somewhere along the line. It’s about appreciating where you’re from, and the simple things that are actually so important in your life, all the characters and places that you’re so familiar with. I think country people in general, wherever you find them, are of a very friendly nature, in both difficult and happy times. It’s that community that reminds you that you’re in a place where – as it says in the song – ‘they know you by name and treat you like family.’ And, in the chorus as well, where ‘a man’s good word and a hand-shake are all you need.’ They’re simple little things, but they’re so important to me.”

          David already has the experience of opening for the Keane Family and Finbar Furey to his credit, as well as performing with 2010’s Glór Tíre winner Eunice Moran and her band. And, with his down-home charm and Down Home as his new single too, it’s a safe bet to say that there are many more big experiences still to come the way of the Claremorris man.

DOWN HOME, the brand NEW #1 single from DAVID CONNOR is OUT NOW, and is also available to request from radio. To stay fully up to date with David’s musical journey, you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. 

ENDS

Emma Donohue

First Published April 2021

BRIGHT LIGHTS, WELLIES, AND COFFEE WITH ISLA GRANT

By the time you’re reading this for the first time on the morning of Wednesday, April 7th, the line-up for the Grand Final of the 2021 series of GLÓR TÍRE will have been decided. And depending on how things went in last night’s semi-final of the long-running TG4 TV show, the mood around Killoran in Galway could be one of either elation or heartbreak. But, regardless of what’s been or what’s yet to come, two things are certain as far as student-nurse EMMA DONOHUE is concerned.


The first is that – whether last night turned out to be her last performance or whether she’ll be back next week with her mentor MIKE DENVER to try and claim the title – Glór Tíre is just another step along the way in her music career. Her time on Glor Tíre will eventually come to an end one way or another, but her career is still only in its infancy. And make no mistake about it, the name of Emma Donohue is one that will be spoken about on the Irish country music scene for many a year to come. The second thing that’s for certain for Emma…is that there’ll still be work to do on the family farm! 


“You could hear a duck, a rooster, a cow, a dog, you could hear anything! And you could hear Mammy roarin’ in ten minutes! [Laughs].” 

That was Emma’s response to my question about the array of background sounds coming down the phone-line when we spoke on Saturday afternoon as she prepared lunch for her family. Multi-tasking could well be this girl’s middle-name! Exactly how well Emma keeps her feet on the ground will be revealed in a story later on in our chat, but for now, let’s just say that this rising young country music star is just as comfortable living life in high-heels and under the glow of the spotlight, as she is in her Wellingtons and going wherever those boots need her to go. 


Her latest single, a stomping cover of the Isla Grant hit LOVE ME TONIGHT has just been released, and to immediate acclaim from the legendary songwriter herself among others. Emma continues to juggle the life of a student-nurse who’s both working on the front-line during this pandemic as well as studying for her upcoming exams, with that of a recording artist, and with the commitments that come along with playing a central role on a show like Glór Tíre. The fact that she takes it all in her stride not only tells you everything you really need to know about the twenty-one year old, it also proves that she’s right where she’s meant to be in her life. 


This year’s series of Glór Tíre followed the 2020 edition in running into an unplanned but not altogether surprising need for a Covid-related pause in proceedings. As our chat began, I wondered how much did that unscheduled break in the show affect Emma and her campaign? 


“Well, obviously I was disappointed when it did take a halt, but I’m happy now that it’s back on again. I didn’t stay idle or anything during the last few weeks, though. I wasn’t planning on releasing my next single until after the show, but when the opportunity arose, I just said, ya know what now, while we’re on this break, let it go and let it fly! So I’ve been working on that single and the campaign for that. And I suppose it’s after tying in very well with radio now that Glór Tíre is coming back again. So it all fell into place nicely.” 

Going into Tuesday night’s semi-final (again, last night, if you’re reading this on publication day), how was Emma feeling about being back in front of the cameras again? 


“I’m feelin’ good about it, yeah. I’m excited to get back. When you get so used to something every week, and I suppose you develop that routine, when it’s taken away from ya it leaves ya on the down-side of things. But when you know you’ll be getting back into it again, it’s a ‘go, go, go!’ situation. I’m lookin’ forward to it. There’s a few butterflies, but that’s only natural, I think. It’s all good.” 

At what stage on Tuesday night did Emma think it might hit her that she was actually in the Glór Tíre semi-final, and that her next time in front of the cameras could…potentially, and God-willing…be for this year’s Grand Final?


I think as soon as I stand on the stage on Tuesday, it’ll hit me! [Laughs]. I don’t think it’s even quite hit me at all yet either. Everywhere I go people are saying congratulations on being in the semi-finals, we can’t wait to see ya, ya know. And I’m just goin’, oh yeah, grand! [Laughs]. But yeah, when I’m standing on the stage with the mic in my hand, then I’m going to realise, right…this is for real! [Laughs].” 

So what has the level of support been like for Emma locally in and around her native Killoran in Galway? 


“It’s been huge. I didn’t expect it! The level of support from the wider community has been absolutely huge. If I go to Tesco or anywhere in Ballinasloe, everyone is wishing me luck, they’re all coming up to me. It’s great, because there’s a good auld buzz when it’s goin’ on. But it’s definitely unexpected. You feel like you’re a local celebrity, even though you’re only from Killoran! [Laughs].” 

From always being a fan of Glór Tíre in years gone by, to actually being part of the show this year, how different has it been from how Emma thought it might be? 


“Well, obviously it’s very different this year because you can’t go around gigging and things like that. And unfortunately the duets with our mentors were pulled as well due to social-distancing, and that was a bit disappointing. But I have to hand it to Glór Tíre and to all the staff and to all the crew that’s working on it, they’ve been absolutely mighty. Anything that you need, or that you want, they’re there on hand. They’re so helpful. It’s like a big family, is how I describe it. Anything you need in any way, shape, or form, they don’t bat an eyelid, they just sort it out. And that does add to the whole experience of it, because it makes it a lot more fun, and for you – as the contestant – it puts you a lot more at ease.” 

While Glór Tíre is undoubtedly a great platform for any new artist to showcase their talents, it’s so important to also have plans for after the show comes to an end. And in that regard, Emma definitely has a few things up her sleeve…


“Yeah, I’m currently working on my album, so when restrictions lift, hopefully I can get back into the studio. I’m working on that with Enda Dempsey and Paddy Jordan, and all going well, I hope to have it out next year. If not, definitely very early in 2022. There’s a lot of lively songs comin’ on it, a lot of well-known songs as well, that people will like. So I’ll be focusing a lot on that. We’ll plan as much as we can for the future, but it’s still unknown territory whether we’ll be back gigging or anything like that. But if an opportunity arose where there was an outdoor festival, I’d be willin’ to jump on that opportunity or anything else that might be goin’ on. I’d definitely get involved with things. But I suppose the album now would be my main focus. I’ll be gettin’ out more singles and music videos as well, if I can.” 

As far as that album goes, how set in Emma’s mind is the final shape that things will take? Or is there – and excuse the pun – still a little play in how that all might go? 


“There’s a little bit of play at hand, for sure. We haven’t finalised fully all the songs we want to do yet. I think there’s at least two that are in the mix for whether we’ll keep or whether we’ll leave for another day. It’s very much open at this stage. With this album I want it to be about me. As everyone probably knows, I’m a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none [laughs], but I do have that personality where I’m kind of happy-go-lucky, and go with the flow. But I want this album to portray the message I want to get out, bringing back old songs that haven’t been released in a long time, but put a new lease of life in them. But I want that to match who I am, so I suppose it’s trial and error as well. And I definitely want to put in an original song as well. Lookit, hopefully it will all work out!” 

Well Emma’s brand new single is certainly an older song that she has brought back to life again, and how! Love Me Tonight, written by the brilliant Scottish singer/songwriter Isla Grant, was a part of Isla’s Only Yesterday album nearly twenty years ago. And in the week just gone, as Emma’s version went to radio and was released, she even had a bit of a surprise from Isla herself…! 


“I did! We serviced the single to radio, to all the presenters, through Debra Dowler, at Debra Communications, and she did a fantastic job. And out of that, I actually got acknowledged by Isla herself, which was a huge, huge surprise! I had to look at it two or three times to see was it actually real [laughs]. But it was! She messaged me and said she was delighted with what I had done with her song, she loved this version of it, and she wished me luck in Glór Tíre as well. And then, through further emails, she said that one day when restrictions lift hopefully we’ll get to meet up for a coffee and a chat. So it’s a huge honour to be acknowledged by the woman who wrote and produced the song, but then to be invited for coffee when all this lifts was a bigger bonus! I was absolutely honoured that she loved what I did with her song. It’s always a risk when you do a cover of a song that was originally put out by the person that wrote it, because you don’t know if they’ll like it or not. To say I was on cloud-nine now would be an understatement!” 

Emma had mentioned his name a few minutes previously and when last we spoke, she had emphasised the importance of the role he plays in her career, both as a friend and as her producer. And as it happens, Enda played a big part in Emma’s decision to cut Love Me Tonight


“Yeah, he did. We had it narrowed down to three songs that we were going to do. And I was kind of humming and hawing about different ones. Ya know now when different personalities come together [laughs]. But Enda said, no now, Emma, this one is gonna be a good one. I remember him saying that he knew the guys who originally produced Isla’s recording with her back around 2000, so I think it had a sentimental meaning to him too. He said he’d been waiting for someone to do it for a long time, and he said to me, give it a go. So I said, do ya know what, let’s give it a shot. I was never ruling it out, I always wanted it to go on the album, and maybe put it out at some stage, I just didn’t know when. But he said it was going to be a good one, and I just needed to have faith in it. And he’s never steered me wrong yet. I’ve known him for a long, long time, through the dancing and everything. But as a producer, and as a best friend at this stage, he’s never steered me wrong in my music career. And the signs are on it, because the song is hopping on all the stations all week! I’m delighted.” 

I asked Emma how does that feel, hearing her latest single being played all over the radio? Especially as an artist who is still relatively new to the scene and trying to establish herself in a notoriously tough business…


“It’s an absolute pinch-me moment. It really is. Everytime. It’s a surreal feeling. You’re thinking to yourself, they’re actually talking about me! My song, my music, my work. And it’s great to be acknowledged. And ya know, I have to say, fair play to all the radio presenters and DJs, because without them up-and-coming artists like myself, who are trying to make our names on the scene, it’s very difficult at best. Without them, I wouldn’t be half as far along as where I am today. They keep country music alive. To be part of their play-lists on their shows, near and far, across Ireland and further afield, it’s definitely an honour. And it’s a huge experience, and huge exposure too.” 

Emma is still studying and working as a student-nurse right now, as well as living and working on the family farm, and running her Glór Tíre campaign while also building her country music career in a more general sense. That mix of different sides to her life led to a little bit of a funny encounter the very next day after the last ‘live’ show of Glór Tíre, as Emma recounted for me…


“[Laughs] After the last ‘live’ show, we came home and I was still in my lovely white dress, but that was short-lived because when we got home into the yard, Mammy was ready and waiting for work! We actually had two calves born that same night. So I was out of the dress fairly lively, and it was back into the wellies, and out the gap! [Laughs]. But the following day, unfortunately, we had a little calf that was under the weather and we had to go to the vet. And of course, Emma here was wearing wellies, a track-suit, not looking the best like she did the night before! I was sitting in the back of the trailer with the calf, waiting for the vet, and I was covered in…I won’t tell ya what! [Laughs]. Anyway, he came out, and he looked at me, and then he looked at me again, and then he said, ‘Were you not on telly last night?!’ I was, says I, and he goes, ‘Talk about a full 180 turnaround, goin’ from a white dress to being covered in muck in the back of a trailer!’ [Laughs]. But sure it made for an interesting day anyway. They were all laughing at me telling me I was a Jack-of-all-trades! But sure lookit, that’s part of life, it’s part of farming, it’s part of everything.”

As Emma takes a look back on the past year of living with Covid, working through so much of it on the front-line, and building her career as a new artist on the country scene all at the one time, what has she learned about herself that perhaps she might not have known before all of this? 


“Well, I definitely had doubts, I suppose, before even goin’ on Glór Tíre, about where I was going or how I was going to make a name for myself. And I kinda didn’t know what angle to take, or how to push myself forward. Glór Tíre has helped me in so many respects. I feel like I’m a politician like, asking them to vote for me [laughs]. But that’s good in a way, because I’m actually getting a lot more confident in myself, and I’m meeting a lot more people. And now I know that the support is there if I want it. It’s just about getting a campaign out there. And that’s something that I would never have done in my life. I’d never have been out asking for votes before, or putting myself out there in so many respects, so much so that my face is plastered all around county Galway and further afield! [Laughs]. Definitely it’s all been a huge confidence boost. I didn’t know myself that I could do it. I suppose…not fully believe, but I just wouldn’t have been the kind to just say, right, let’s do this. But now, this year – and I remember saying this to Enda, and to mum and dad – I said this year was gonna be my year for music. Regardless of Covid, and regardless of anything else, I am gonna give it everything I have! And let’s see if it pays off. And so far, so good. I mean, Isla Grant has contacted me about my version of her song, I’m on Glór Tíre in the semi-final, Mike Denver – a huge name in country music – picked me to be his contestant. So even to be able to say those things, in such a short time-frame, that’s a dream come true and certainly something that I could never have seen happening in 2020.”


To wrap things up, and of course, not yet knowing what the semi-final of Glór Tíre would hold in store, I asked Emma what message she’d like to pass on to her fans and supporters…


“Thanks a million! Just thanks a million for everything they’ve done so far. I know there’s been a little bit of a break and it can be hard to get back into things, but nothing goes unnoticed. I see everyone who’s sharing posts, I see all the ‘likes’ and comments, and shares. So I want all of those people to know that none of that goes unnoticed. Everything that they do for me, be it little or large, or whatever way they want to do it, even to spreading the word to their friends or their relatives, it all really helps. And you’re making my dreams come true. That’s something that I’m very grateful for. I don’t know how I’ll ever thank everyone who’s got me behind me. I’m excited, I suppose, to see what the future holds, and to see how Glór Tíre ends up and what happens after it!”

LOVE ME TONIGHT, the brand NEW single from EMMA DONOHUE, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. You can follow Emma on Facebook and Instagram at Emma Donohue Music. 

ENDS