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.
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 MayoCup 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.
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.
EMMA DONOHUE, who has proved to be one of the stars of the 2021 series of TG4’s long-running show GLÓR TÍRE during her run to the semi-final, has revealed details of her new single. Student-nurse Emma, who is being mentored on Glór Tíre by country superstar MIKE DENVER, will release LOVE ME TONIGHT on April 3rd.
Announcing the news on her social media last weekend, Emma said, “I’m thrilled to let you all know that I am releasing my brand new single, ‘Love Me Tonight’, on Saturday, April 3rd. I can’t wait for you all to have a listen to my take on this beautiful song.”
The track, which will be the fourth release from her upcoming debut album, sees Emma take a trip down memory lane to bring fans her version of the classic from Scottish singer/songwriter ISLA GRANT. Originally released on Isla’s Only Yesterday album back in 2000, Emma breathes new life into Love Me Tonight, a tune that’s sure to turn back the clock for fans of Isla, while also turning today’s generation of country fans onto one of the Irish scene’s newest young talents.
With the production team of Enda Dempsey and Paddy Jordan once again on hand to shape the song’s sound, Emma’s trademark ‘lived-in’ vocal – which belies her still tender years – together with her love of uptempo, playful, and instantly catchy songs, is perfectly complemented by an arrangement that highlights the Galway girl’s natural flair for fun. As the latest taster from a first collection that’s expected later this year, and which will include previous singles, Coat Of Many Colours, Ramblin’ Man, and I Fell In Love, Love Me Tonight is certain to see the sense of excitement around this young rising star from Galway continue to grow.
Given that ‘live’ music has yet to return, and with the remaining Glór Tíre shows currently on-hold over Covid concerns, Emma felt it was important not only to get some new music out there, but to make sure it was something that would put smiles on the faces of fans when it comes on the radio.
“I think we’re all searching for reasons to stay upbeat and keep the best side out right now”, she explained, continuing, “because it’s been a tough year as it is. And I think hitting that one year marker of trying to live with Covid in our lives – when it’s still affecting so many things, and while it’s still so hard to see exactly when we might glimpse that little bit of life at the end of the tunnel – that’s been tough. There’s no denying it. So I wanted to give fans something that would take them out of the moment, and just get people tapping their feet and thinking to themselves, I can’t wait until I can get back out on the dancefloor to this one!”
“This is a song that will remind people of what we can enjoy again when all this is over”, revealed the Kiloran lady, “and if a song can make people remember what there is to look forward to, while bringing them a few minutes of happiness in the present as well, sure that’s perfect. You couldn’t ask for more from a single right now.”
The current series of Glór Tíre was suspended on March 14th, with the last two shows – the semi-final and final – postponed in the interests of the health and safety of the contestants and crew. While voting has also been suspended since that date, all votes cast up to then will still be valid when voting resumes.
~ LOVE ME TONIGHT, the brand NEW single from EMMA DONOHUE (written by Isla Grant), will be available on all platforms from April 3rd. You can follow Emma on the remainder of her Glór Tíre journey and to stay up to date with plans for her debut album at Emma Donohue Music on Facebook and Instagram.
This year’s series of The Voice UK came to an end last weekend, with the Scot Craig Eddie confirmed as the winner. Last year’s victor, Blessing Chipata, also returned to the show to perform her new single. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not, and have never been, a huge fan of shows like TheVoice anyway, and this is one more reason why. While the show would never be on my must-watch list, I do tend to have a fairly good idea of what’s happening in the music world. And yet, I have no idea who Blessing Chipata is. No offence to her personally, of course, but nothing about anything she’s done before or since winning has ever registered with me. And, sad to say, I think the same thing will happen with Craig Eddie.
His debut single will do well, and maybe the follow-up if the song choice is right. Chances are, though, by the time a debut album is ready to hit the streets, the shine on the title of The Voice UK Winner 2021 will be starting to dim. And that’s not necessarily a reflection of Craig Eddie’s talent in any way at all. The problem is that The Voice as a brand, as a TV show, will need to redirect the spotlight to its 2022 series. With very rare exceptions, a career built on being the last one standing on a show like The Voice almost always limits the winner to that fabled fifteen minutes of fame. And as if that wasn’t bad enough in itself, that clock starts counting-down as soon as your name is announced as the winner. The one thing that being this year’s ‘next big star’ guarantees, is that you have less than a year before you’re officially out of date. And good luck to you after that.
From that perspective, CHANTELLE PADDEN – in the long run – has probably had a lucky escape. The Mayo woman, who first came to national attention here in Ireland when her golden, lucious voice saw Irish country star Johnny Brady choose her as his contestant on the TG4 show Glór Tíre, wowed judges Olly Murs and Will.I.Am earlier in the series. With both men wanting Chantelle on their team, she opted for Olly, who went on to describe her as a “superstar.” A few weeks later, however, when the ridiculous ‘battle’ stages arrived, Olly’s enthusiasm had waned and Chantelle’s journey was at an end. But only as far as The Voice was concerned. For Chantelle, bigger things, moments and achievements – ones that won’t come with a best-before date on them – are on the way. Her journey, the real journey, the one with music and not a TV show at its heart, goes on. And central to the next chapters of that story will be her manager Jeremy Medcalf, and her label, Legacy Records.
In fact, it’s a pretty amazing story as to how Chantelle first came to Jeremy’s attention. And not only that, but also about how the pair turned out to be living only twenty minutes away from each other after she moved to Cambridge, even though at the time, Jeremy wasn’t even aware that she had moved to the UK. As we begin Part 2 of our chat, Chantelle picks up the story…
“Well, the kind of frame of mind I was in, I wasn’t expecting anything to come of music. I was just like right, I need to get a day-job now, I need to start making some money. I can’t live on fresh air! [laughs]. I applied for a job in Boots, went through the whole rigmarole that we all have to do with interviews, and I got it anyway. I remember going in on my first day, it was a Monday, and I went in at 8am or something like that. I was sitting at the computer screen where we had to log in all our details, and I was like, uuugh…what am I doing?! I’m working here in Boots, when all I’ve ever wanted to do was sing. How did I get to this point? It was coming near the time of my break, so I remember getting up, grabbing my handbag, went down the street, saw H&M, and I said I’m gonna go shopping! Whatever money was in my purse, I said I was going to go shopping with, and it would cheer me up. Typical girl! Shopping solves everything [Laughs]. Went in, did a load of shopping, came out, and my partner – who was working in Cambridge – came to collect me when he finished. I’d have stayed shopping the whole day otherwise! I had to go down to Boots because that was where he was collecting me from, and I got into the jeep with a load of bags. And he just looks at me and goes, ‘Emmm….how was work?!’ He was looking at me as if I had two heads! I just said, ‘Don’t even talk to me!’ [Laughs]. I just said then, ‘Ah, it’s not for me’, and he burst out laughing and said, ‘I told ya so!'”
Chantelle continued, “But while all of this was happening, me having my little meltdown and wondering what was I going to do, a video of me singing at my going-away party was going viral. There were people from Egypt messaging, from Australia, it was very surreal. I’m not sure if it’s still online, it was on my local pub’s page, so I’d have to go back and look, but I think the song was about a hundred years old! A random song that someone had asked me to sing. But yeah, didn’t it start to go viral. And at the start of the video I was like oh please don’t go ‘live’, just because I was in such bad form, ya know, I didn’t want to be online. And you can actually see it, I wouldn’t look at the camera because I was thinking she’s goin’ ‘live’! [Laughs]. I was just down in the dumps that day, but it’s the reason why the song grabbed everybody’s attention, because it was a very sad, Irish folk song that I was singing. And that’s how Jeremy saw me. There’s no other way he could have seen that video [other than it going viral], because we had no mutual friends, he had no connection to Belmullet whatsoever. That video came up on his timeline, and he ended up reaching out to me online. There were messages over and back with him explaining who he was, and I was asking questions too, just to make sure that it wasn’t some randomer that was raving who was messaging me! [Laughs]. He asked me was I represented by anyone or did I have management because he would be really interested in arranging a meeting to talk over some ideas. I was like management, representation? What are you raving about! I’m currently working in Boots at the minute! [Laughs]. It was so crazy the way it happened.”
While Chantelle was by now almost resigned to the fact that a career in music may have slipped away, Jeremy, thankfully, had other plans in mind…
“He was talking about arranging a flight over and we’d meet at a place of my choosing and all the rest of it. But I had to tell him, sorry, I’m not actually in Ireland anymore, I’m over in the UK, and I’m not really doing anything music-wise, but thank you for reaching out. But he was persistent, he was like what do you mean you’re not doing anything music-wise, I think you’re phenomenal. But then he said, well actually Legacy Records is based in the UK, that’s where I’m living as well, and he asked me what part I was in. I said I’m actually in Cambridge and he was just like…what? I think one of his messages was just, ‘Are you having a laugh?’, he thought I was messing with him [laughs]. He happened to be living in Willingham, and I was in Harleston, literally twenty minutes away from each other. Absolutely crazy.”
When she and Jeremy met, Chantelle wasn’t actively doing anything anymore as far as music was concerned, with no real contacts to speak of, and no idea about how she might even record anything. Having grown convinced that she didn’t have a chance of making it as an Irish country artist, she had been hesitant to even think about going near a recording studio. But by reassuring her that commercial country was the lane Chantelle should actually be in, Jeremy helped to change that. And, as Chantelle was about to reveal, Jeremy actually had very close personal links to the Irish country music scene himself…
“Now a lot of people don’t know this, but Jeremy’s mother worked on the Irish country scene, she toured with Foster and Allen, Daniel O’ Donnell, Philomena Begley. Michelle Calaz was her stage name. She even performed on Live At 3, a show I’m sure some people will still remember fondly. So he has some idea of how the Irish country scene used to work back then. And he was very surprised to see that it’s still working that way, with a lot of the same people who were heading the shows back then are still the main headliners. His idea was well, ‘Why don’t you try to bring something different to the table?’ Now obviously, I respect anyone I grew up listening to. Philomena Begley rang me the other week, and I was starstruck! The only time in my life I’ve ever been starstruck! [Laughs]. I wasn’t even starstruck meeting Sir Tom Jones, but when Philly rang me I was like WHAT is goin’ on?! [Laughs]. But I still got what he [Jeremy] was saying, and I explained that they were all still pulling in the crowds. But Jeremy suggested that maybe it was because no-one has tried to actually do something really different. That got me thinking. And I asked him if he thought that where I fit in the scene, would that work in Ireland? He was like, well, there’s only one way to find out! Lo and behold, the first album we released with Legacy was called Let’s Begin, and it went to #1 on the Irish charts on iTunes. So that was a sign that ok, I have some hope. My only problem is getting my name out there. I knew that I needed to be seen on certain platforms, be it a talk-show, or performing somewhere on stage. I went on tour with Nathan, which was amazing. He brought me on his 2018 summer tour. Phenomenal experience for me. A few things started happening when I got with Legacy, because I had the right kind of input, and they offered me great advice on how to approach things. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m always trying to improve and stuff. Legacy helped me to realise that if I don’t take the risk, I’m just going to be like everybody else. And I’ll keep slipping through the cracks, ya know.”
Moving slightly away from the music side of things for a moment, one of the things I really love, and admire, and respect about Chantelle, is that she’s so open about having the same kinds of insecurities as everybody else. She acknowledges that what people generally see online – from most people – is usually made for online, it isn’t real-life, so it’s not always going to reflect real-life. One of the reasons why I think all of that is so important about Chantelle is because – certainly on the outside – her, and her life, seem pretty much perfect. Now, she could just let that perception be the only thing that anyone knows, but she doesn’t. I asked her why she felt it was the right thing to do, to say, as she has done, “Hey, I love my coffee, I love my chocolate, I love my filters, and I sometimes don’t love myself as much as I should…”
“I think back to my younger self, and if there had been more public figures who had been more open and more real, I don’t think I would have felt so self-conscious. Even though it [social media] wasn’t really a big thing when I was in my teens – it’s only after exploding now in the last while – but I’m well aware that I have a lot of younger followers. And they message me a lot of the time to tell me if they’re insecure about something, or if there’s something bothering them. And I always would keep that kind of connection with…I don’t even like calling them just fans, to be honest with ya. I’d be nothing without the people that follow me. Fans is kind of a basic word used by everyone. But I want them to feel like I can be a friend as well. An awful lot of younger people, and even people older than me, reach out. Everything we see online can be very…[pause]…edited! [Laughs]. It’s made to look perfect, and we only post the good parts of our lives. But ya know what? That’s not the way life works! Oh Jesus, when I say I went through an awkward phase, I mean I went through an awkward phase! [Laughs]. And I’m still insecure. But I’m open about it. Yes, I wear make-up, and I put on big lashes to try and make myself feel good, to feel ‘pretty’, whatever that is. I’ll never be perfect, and I don’t try to be. I can be the world’s worst! I’ve done shoots working with The Voice and I’ll be like, make sure you get a good angle on me now! [Laughs]. Part of me is making a joke, but a part of me is saying, oh Jesus, do I have to suck in now when I’m speaking here! [Laughs]. But that’s real-life, though. No matter whether you’re a size-zero, or a size thirty, whatever, you’ll always have different insecurities. It might be that you don’t like your figure, or you don’t like your hair, or your skin. I’ve always been open about the fact that my weight fluctuates. If I want to be good, and tone-up, and lose weight, I’ll just cut out the crap and try and be strict on myself. But then there’s another part of me that sees my skin flare up all the time from wearing make-up, your typical first-world problems [Laughs]. But I don’t see the problem in making those things known. We’re only human. And it might help someone else feel normal by doing that.”
Chantelle has described her musical journey as feeling like “a never-ending road of potholes” sometimes! Apart from her love of music itself, and of performing, what else has given her the strength to keep going on that road?
“Do you know how some people can work in a job that they may not necessarily like, but they still do it because they need to? Well, it’s kind of like I need to keep doing what I love because I know I won’t like doing anything else. My journey has been literally like a never-ending road of potholes [laughs], there’s always set-backs, there’s always knocks. But do you know what? I can honestly say that any knock or set-back – and there’s been a few – I’ve grown from them. Sometimes, if you’re not good enough, you need to take it on the chin, and you need to work on it. I’ve always had that mentality. Whatever is not going my way, I figure out where it’s going wrong, try and resolve the issue, and then crack on again! And if it keeps happening…well, your luck has to change some day! [Laughs]. Anyone who’s ever had longevity out of their careers has to do that. Look at Sir Tom Jones, for instance, he once had to work on a building site for years before he had his first number-one hit at the age of twenty-four. I’m only twenty-four, so hopefully I have some hits coming [Laughs]. But people like him, like Dolly Parton, they grew up in hard times, they’ve definitely had set-backs. Shania Twain has had set-backs. Even our own Margo. I actually had a conversation with that lady recently too, lovely woman. And she said to me, ‘Don’t let it hold you back, that you come from a small town, I’m the same. I come from the middle of nowhere too!’ [Laughs]. If I give up, then it will all have been for nothing. And someone that never gives up, will never fail. If you keep on tryin’, you’ll never be a failure!”
~ CHURCH BELLS, the latest single from CHANTELLE PADDEN, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio.