Morgan Evans

First Published June 2022

“WHAT I DO THIS FOR”

Named one of Country Radio Seminar’s renowned New Faces of Country Music in 2020, Australian MORGAN EVANS has forged a path as one of the genre’s most promising stars. He has been named to People’s elite Ones To Watch list, MusicRow’s Next Big Thing list, and Bobby Bones Class of 2018, with additional recognition coming his way from CMT, SiriusXM, Pandora, Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Tennessean, and more. 

His latest EP, The Country And The Coast Side A, sees Evans set aside his signature loop pedal to collaborate with a band of musicians for the first time in his U.S. career. For the project’s current single, Country Outta My Girl, Evans teamed up with Rivers Cuomo of the iconic 90’s band Weezer who offered his own perspective on the track with a brand new verse. The EP builds outward and upward from the foundation Evans created with his debut album Things That We Drink To, which hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and features the Gold-certified No. 1 debut single Kiss Somebody. 

Evans’ recently wrapped a successful weekend at CMA Fest 2022 in Nashville, where he hosted an intimate Fan Party and played the highly coveted Riverfront Stage on Friday, June 10th. And next up, he’s on his way to Europe as the opening act for one of the undeniable greats of country music’s modern era, Brad Paisley. Morgan will be headlining a show at the Lafayette in London on July 14th before then joining Paisley to play two arena dates at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow on July 15th, and hitting our own 3Arena in Dublin the following day. As part of that same world tour, Morgan will also share the stage with Paisley in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand.

However, next month’s 3Arena show won’t be Morgan’s first time to land on Irish shores. He actually kicked off his 2019 World Tour at the Academy venue in Dublin, writing on his Instagram at the time that he couldn’t, “…remember a show where the crowd smiled so widely”. When I had the chance to sit down with him last week, I asked Morgan if he would mind taking us back to that night and sharing a little bit more about what it had meant to him…

“It was just so exciting. As you say, it was licking off the World Tour. And it was also in a part of the world where I had been before, but never spent enough time to feel like I knew my way around. It was a small, underground thing! And it just felt like that, like everyone was there because they really wanted to be there. There’s a level, I guess, of passion required for someone to show up to a show like that. They don’t just show up because they’ve heard one song on the radio or something, they show up because they maybe heard one song somewhere, BUT then they went and found the rest of it and fell in love with it. That kind of connection, I think that’s what I do this this for. It was such an enjoyable night, and it makes me really excited to get back.” 

Is Morgan looking forward to coming back to play in a venue like the fabulous 3Arena this time? 

“Oh yeah! Oh yeah! [Laughs]. That’s gonna be fun, man!” 

One of the most instantly endearing qualities Morgan has when you’re chatting in person, is the fact that he smiles broadly almost the whole way through, clearly genuinely excited and passionate about what he gets to do. And, no doubt, that’s one of the reasons why so many ‘big-name’ stars of country have brought him on-board for their tours as well, with the likes of Taylor Swift , Dan + Shay , Cole Swindell, Chris Young and more all having shown their faith in Morgan the same way Brad is now. 

So when it comes to opportunities like that, walking out in front of someone else’s audience – essentially getting to borrow them each night – what’s Morgan’s approach to making sure those fans go home with him on their mind?

“That’s a good question. Firstly, I think you have to, you have to prepare yourself because like you say, it’s not your own show, so maybe not everyone in there knows who you are. But that means it’s also a great opportunity to introduce yourself. And man, I always see like I’ve got a job to do too, which is to remind everyone that there’s a show on tonight and that they’re about to have a great time! And that that’s ok. I think coming out of the pandemic is an interesting experience because people maybe haven’t been to as many shows recently, so it’s a new experience again to be around so many people. So hopefully we can just go out there and have a great time, and help everyone have a great time as well, and get them ready for Brad‘s show.” 

Is it a bit of a balancing act, the fact that Morgan, as the opening act in these situations, obviously wants to show the best of himself, but he also needs to remind people of what’s coming next and who he’s there with? 

“Yeah, for sure. But I think what helps is that I’m stoked to be on the tour because I LOVE Brad Paisley too [laughs]. So we already have that in common. I mean, his early records – ‘Mud On The Tires’, ‘5th Gear’, particularly those two – I don’t know if they just found me at the right time, or if they were so ground-breaking at the time that they caught my ear – were part of the handful of records that turned my attention towards Nashville in the first place. So he’s been a huge influence on me, and I’m such a big fan. Having that in common with the audience when you go out to play definitely helps.” 

Sitting down with Morgan also gave us a chance to chat about his latest EP, last year’s The Country and the Coast Side A. Now the first thing I thought when I saw the title, was cool…this means we’re gonna get Side B too! Is that something that’s in the works? Or in the can already perhaps? 

“Good question, man. We just started recording it last week, actually. So it’s well on the way. And we’re gonna be playin’ some of the new songs for the first time on this tour. I’m gonna try and sneak one or two in every night! I get impatient! [Laughs]. I wrote these songs, and I love ’em, and I want to share ’em! [Laughs]. We’ll have more music before the end of the year, for sure. I can’t tell you a date, cos’ I’m not exactly sure yet, but it will definitely be before the end of the year.” 

There’s a track on Side A called Country Outta My Girl, and back in March of this year, Morgan dropped a version featuring none other than Weezer frontman, Rivers Cuomo. A really cool song to begin with, but then you add Rivers into the mix as well, and wow! I wondered how the world happened to bring Morgan and Rivers into the same orbit, and why they then decided that Country Outta My Girl was the song they wanted to work on together? 

“It’s funny, man, it’s still funny to me! [Laugh]. This makes me smile [laughs]. When I was off the road, I was doin’ a handful of cover videos on TikTok, and I did this loop set-up. We [Morgan and his wife, country superstar Kelsea Ballerini] came back from Australia at Christmas, and I heard that song, ‘Island In The Sun’ [by Weezer], a lot when I was there. That just reminded me how much I love it. So I made this loop video for TikTok, and Weezer commented on it, and I think they shared it. Then, they reached out through management, and Rivers apparently loved ‘Country Outta My Girl.’ And they sort of asked if I’d be interested in doing something. And I was like, well YES! [Laughs]. What do ya want to do, ya know? [Laughs]. At the same time, I already had this open-verse challenge out on TikTok as well. I just took the second verse out of ‘Country Outta My Girl’ and said hey, everyone write your own version of whatever that is for you and your relationship. And there were some awesome ones on there. But dude, as soon as I said yes [to Rivers], I got sent the finished vocals in an email! That’s like THE vocals that you hear [on the track]. He wrote all those lyrics, recorded his own vocal, sent it over, and we put it on the mix [laughs]. And, I mean, it was just too cool to not share with the world!” 

The Country and the Coast Side A is produced by Dann Huff, also a gifted songwriter and guitarist in his own right. In one way or another, the Nashvillian has worked with artists like Michael Jackson, Amy Grant, Whitesnake, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Faith Hill, Kenny Rogers, Lonestar, and Rascal Flatts…and that’s literally just scratching the surface! Before work got underway on his EP, Morgan and Dann got together to play some guitar, with Evans telling Huff, “Look, this is the guitar I write all this stuff on”, and pointing out how he wanted it up-front on the record, “leading the band like it will be when we go out on the road”. 

I asked Morgan if he wouldn’t mind explaining the importance for him – as a songwriter and an artist – of what he had asked for, and then, being able to work with someone of Huff’s status who could make that happen…

“I mean, firstly, Dann Huff is such a legend, for anyone who doesn’t know all the things he’s done. Even I don’t know all the things he’s done! [Laughs]. I keep finding out new amazing things he’s done every day! You know what I said about the Brad Paisley records, his production on those Keith Urban records at the time, those Rascal Flatts records at the time, and I think he did a couple of the Faith Hill ones too, the huge pop hits that crossed over in Australia, the sound of those records – plus Brad Paisley – is probably what made me move to America! Getting to work with a hero of mine like that was a big deal. But at the same time, he has produced, and is producing, a lot of records. So before we recorded I wanted to sort of get to know each other, and made sure that this record sounded like me, and not just a band with me singing on it. I mean, he is maybe my favourite guitar player of all time! To go and sit down with him and just kind of jam, was unreal. We wrote all these guitar parts, particularly that one in ‘Love Is Real’…I mean, there was a riff, and it was kind of like that, but that day it just got exponentially better! When we went into the tracking session with the band, it’s my favourite thing that happens here in Nashville. These musicians are so good, they can do literally anything. And this particular band we had that day was like all my favourite players, from all my favourite records [laughs]. I was like [to Dann], ‘Man, I really like that groove on ‘Born and Raised’, the John Mayer album’. And Dann would be like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s Aaron Sterling, we’ll get him’. Or I’d say. ‘I really love the bass on…blah, blah, blah’, and he’d be like, ‘Oh that’s Jimmy, we’ll get him’ [laughs]. And Tom Bukovac is in there, Jedd Hughes, it was just all my favourite players. So when we went into them, it was really nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re building the band around’. I think that just set us on a good path to make something that really sounded unique and in the spot that I wanted it to sound. I’m really happy with it. Thank you for asking that question.” 

I think my own personal favourite song Side A is definitely Beautiful Tonight. And I think the reason for that is in large part because Morgan has described it as being a continuation of his song Dance With Me, from his Things That We Drink To album. I love that he’s able to – and willing to – give listeners and fans a glimpse into his relationship with wife, Kelsea. And that led me onto a question about Morgan’s songwriting. It’s not uncommon to hear songwriters claim that they actually find it harder to write the happier they are. I wondered if there was anything that affected Morgan’s writing process in that way? Are there times, for instance, when he knows he just won’t be able to write? On the other hand, might there be times when he simply can’t stop? Or, by now, is it something that he’s learned to have full control over, more or less? 

“Man, it’s so funny. It’s so hard…like, I don’t know what it’s like for anyone else, but for me, it’s a combination of, like you said, you just have to sit down and do it. Otherwise, you’ll never do it! [Laughs]. Sometimes you sit down to do it, and it’s just awful. And you know it’s awful [laughs]. But sometimes you sit there when you don’t want to, and something happens! So that’s what you keep showing up for. Every day I get up and with my first cup of coffee, I just write and see what comes out. I try not to judge it. If something comes out, that’s great. Or if it makes me feel something. I appreciate what you said about that song, cos’ that might be my favourite one too. Love songs are so hard to write for me, I think. They’re easy to write, but they’re hard to make like the ones that you think are great. I think it’s because it’s easy to say stuff, but it’s hard to say stuff, AND make it feel good as well. And particularly with that song, I remember I had that melody and the chord changes for the hook – ‘You look beautiful tonight’ – and then we wrote the whole song. I loved the stories in the verses. The co-writers I was writing with were Jordan Reynolds and Parker Welling, two good friends of mine. I was like, ‘Hey, before we record this, let’s have another crack at the chorus, and just see what happens!’ So I started singing that melody, and we had a screen, and Parker just started re-writing the lyrics, tweaking them to fit with the melody. And she was writing the line as I was singing the line [laughs]. And we just sang the whole chorus down! Jordan was pointing up and down with melody. And we all just looked at each other! Writing that chorus is one of my favourite songwriting experiences ever, actually, for that reason. Because no-one knew where it came from. But we were in there, and we decided to have another crack at the chorus. So I guess just showing up is the thing to do, and then try and catch the magic if it’s there.” 

With Morgan being an Aussie, I couldn’t not ask him about the fact that he’s one of the two most famous Australians in American country music right now, the other, of course, being Keith Urban. Keith is someone who Morgan has referenced as being one of his biggest guitar influences (alongside Charlie Worsham). But how important was it for Morgan to see a fellow Australian proving that to be ‘country’ you didn’t have to be born-and-bred in Nashville, or even in America, for that matter? 

“Really important. And you know what, I probably don’t even know how important it was. When you put out your first country song in America, I don’t know what it’s like now, but when I did it sort of four or five years ago, you go around and you visit every country station in America. I mean, hundreds, right. It takes a long time. But every time, I got asked the question, ‘Oh, do you know Keith Urban?’ [Laughs]. Or, ‘Is Keith Urban your hero?’, or ‘Are you friends?’, all that kinda thing [laughs]. And I guess he might have been asked the question [when he was starting out], ‘Well, why is an Australian here?’ So I didn’t have to deal with any of that, which I’m sure is a result of him and his impact and success. I can also attribute a lot to him because my mum dragged me along to one of his shows in my hometown (Newcastle, New South Wales), and my hometown is not a usual stop on an international tour! [Laughs]. He was playing in a little club, with like a hundred people there. We were sitting at these long tables and he came out and played this show that just blew me away! Within a year, he was in the biggest places in Australia and America. But I remember that night as a night that was kind of like the lightbulb coming on. That was like all the old country music I grew up on, and all the rock ‘n’ roll I love, all put together for the first time. Yeah, I have a lot to sort of tip the hat to Keith for, for sure.” 

To end our chat, I wanted to go back to Morgan being on the road with artists like Brett Young, Rascal Flatts, Old Dominion, and the others we had already mentioned earlier in our conversation. I’m sure Morgan learned something different from each and every one, by watching how they conduct themselves and deal with different circumstances and situations. With the trajectory that his own career is on, it won’t be too long before he’s the one in a position to offer such important tour support slots to new and emerging artists, giving them the same kind of chances that Taylor, Dan + Shay and others passed his way. 

So, when that time comes, what two or three things would Morgan like those artists to learn from watching and being around him? 

“[Laughs] Good things! [Laughs]. I think one thing I’ve noticed, especially with the people who have been doing it for longest, is that they’re all extremely decent humans. They’re good to you, as an opening act. They’re good to their people. They’ve surrounded themselves with great people, people that want to be there, that love being there. I think THAT is the biggest thing I’ve learned, and the biggest thing I’ve tried to cultivate in my band and crew. Man, the first tour I did here, I went out completely solo, with no crew, nothing! [Laughs]. It was me, my loop-pedal in a Pelican case, and a backpack guitar-case, that was it. I rented a car, and I chased Cole Swindell [his tour-bus], three shows in a weekend! And remember, in America, they have tour-buses, right, because they drive through the night, covering crazy miles! So I was doing half of it after the show, in my rental car, and half of it the next morning. Cole came up to me at the end of the weekend, and he was like, ‘Man, are you chasing these buses around in a rental car? Why don’t you just jump on one of the buses?!’ [Laughs]. He literally invited me on one of his tour buses, and Chris Young did the same thing. Experiences like that have been everything. Because you hear all these other stories too, like, ‘Oh, the band wouldn’t let the opener use the full volume’, ya know, that kind of stuff. I haven’t seen any of that with any of the people that I really look up to. I just aspire to continue those good vibes wherever I can!” 

~ MORGAN EVANS opens for BRAD PAISLEY at the 3ARENA in Dublin on July 16th. Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.ie 

THE COUNTRY AND THE COAST SIDE A, the latest EP from Morgan Evans is OUT NOW. 

ENDS

American Young

First Published June 2022

AYII – THE SECOND GO-ROUND

As singer/songwriter duo AMERICAN YOUNGKristy Osmunson and Jon Stone have headlined shows in well over twenty different countries. The pair released their sophomore album – AYII – via MCC/Curb Records in November 2021. Featuring their latest single Country Girls, which was co-written and co-produced with label-mate, Lee Brice, the AYII long-player was crafted in the midst of personal transition and growth for both songwriters, with the result that either or both Osmunson and Stone are credited as co-writers on every track, save for their version of a John Anderson classic.

Kristy and Jon both found success in Nashville before joining forces in 2013. Prior to launching American Young, Osmunson – a fiddle player and former member of vocal group Bomshel – had songs recorded by Joey + Rory, among others; while Stone was an in-demand producer who had cuts recorded by Rascal Flatts , Kenny Chesney , Blake Shelton , and more. Following the release of their self-titled debut for Curb Records, featuring the singles Love Is War and Wasn’t Gonna Drink Tonight, American Young was nominated three years in a row for a British Country Music Association Touring Award, which they won in 2019 solidifying their place as global ambassadors of country music. The duo can also be seen on the first three seasons of the hit E! reality series Very Cavallari.

When we spoke, the pair were soon to be on their way back to the UK for some big dates, including a performance at the Buckles and Boots Festival on June 2nd…

JON

“Yeah, man, we’re lookin’ forward to ’em, we got to get another award too because on our way back last time we broke our award! And they only gave us one! [Laughs]. That was cold [laughs].”

I wondered if there might have been a little champagne involved in that tragedy? 

KRISTY

“[Laughs], No, it was just in luggage, I didn’t pack it right…apparently! [Laughs].” 

JON

“But yeah, we’re excited about it, we’ve got a lot of friends over there. It’s funny, cos’ our drummer, Chris, is actually here – he’s on the couch here behind us – he’s a Brit!” 

KRISTY to CHRIS

“Chris, where exactly is your home over there?” 

In the background, Chris waves at the laptop and responds to Kristy by confirming his hometown as Peterborough, prompting both Kristy and Jon to repeat it in their best British accents! 

JON

“Chris slept on my couch in a full suit last night! That’s the American way [laughs].” 

KRISTY

“This is really exciting for us, to be coming back over there. Our music over there is honestly a bit more understood than even in the US right now, which is interesting. So we’re doing an album release party in London. We actually got some vinyls pressed up, and that’s the first time I’ve ever been part of having a vinyl, so that’s exciting too.” 

JON

“This is the record right here [holds up a vinyl copy of AYII].” 

KRISTY

“So for anybody who likes to listen to actual albums…” 

JON

“I thought you were gonna say music! I was like, ‘That’s some egotistical sh*t! [laughs]. Anybody who actually likes music, we got ya, right here! [Laughs].” 

KRISTY

[Laughs] Yeah, so that’s exciting. And this was a really fun process. And we got to record a music video at a honky tonk, and we also did one here where the vinyl lab is, that was cool and really fun to be a part of!” 

I was one of the band’s many fans on this side of the world eagerly waiting for their AYII album to finally drop, and when it did, it didn’t disappoint! Jon and Kristy’s new single – Country Girls (co-written and co-produced by Lee Brice) – is, I think it’s fair to say, kind of a different song for American Young. Before getting onto the video that accompanies the single, the one filmed at a honky tonk as Kristy had just referenced, I asked the pair to tell me about the song itself and how it came to be…

KRISTY

“So, once upon a time, back in the 90s, there was a song that went, [sings], ‘Tonight will be the night that I will fall for you…’ Do you remember that song?” 

JON

“It’s [a band called] Secondhand Serenade, a guy called John Vesely …” 

KRISTY

“They were a huge emo band, maybe it was like the 2000s? Honestly, I think that dude launched MySpace!” 

JON

“Yeah, he was a MySpace artist, that’s how he blew up. So me, him, and Lee [Brice] got together one day, and I just had this groove on the bass and that’s how the whole thing started! Then Lee started goin’, ‘Livin’, workin’, drinkin’, shine sippin’/ Ain’t much to figure out / Quick-thinkin’, not blinkin’ /Knock you out…’, and I was thinkin’ whoa, that’s fun! [Laughs]. So we got through it, wrote a chorus, and Kristy was like, ‘I want to write a rap!’ I said, ‘Kristy, that’s crazy talk!’ And then she did! And I was like, ‘Well…that sounds awesome!’ 

KRISTY

There ya go!” 

JON

“And then we wrote this fiddle-line, and it all came alive in the studio. And it’s so much fun! It is different for us, but the ‘Love Is War’, and that real Americana sound that we cut our teeth on, is absolutely a part of our sound still, and will always be. But with everybody, there’s an evolution to it [the band’s sound]. We’re at the point in our lives, I think, where we’re wantin’ to have fun, ya know. Do groovy stuff! I just want to write some groovy stuff [laughs]. Stuff that’s fun ‘live’, have people dance, have a good time. This is not crazy, heavy, overly-thought country music, which I love…” 

KRISTY

“And seeing as how our world is at war, we probably don’t want to talk about it much, we want to sing. This is dancing music! [Laughs]. I don’t want to hear about any more bad stuff.” 

JON

“Yeah, so it’s just fun, ya know. I think ‘Country Girls’ will propel us into our next record, which is gonna be really fun. There’s gonna be splashes of that tight harmony thing that we do, we just love doin’ that. It comes so naturally. That’s always gonna be a part of our sound.” 

KRISTY

“And it was really fun to include John Vesely in the country music area. I was a huge fan of his back when I first started music, ya know, that was like the sad break-up music of my youth!”

JON

“It was like super-emo, cry… [laughs].” 

KRISTY

Yes! And then his wife is [now] one of my dear friends, and she’s about to have a baby.” 

JON

“Chris is our baby! [Laughs]. We’re blocking the doorway so that he can’t leave! [Laughs].” 

KRISTY

“We’re stealing one of yours [laughs].” 

I gently pointed out that I was actually Irish, but reassured Kristy that I knew what she meant and we’d be happy to offer Chris refuge, if need be! 

JON

“Well, he kind of is [one of yours], cos’ he’s not an American citizen [laughs]. He’s on a visa, but we may keep him [laughs].” 

KRISTY

“I’m introducing him to all of my friends, so hopefully he’ll find a wife over here!” 

JON

“She’s tryin’ to make everybody have babies!” 

KRISTY

[Laughs] I just had my second and it’s my favourite thing in life! I highly recommend it, it’s the best part about life. Go get yourself a couple! [Laughs].” 

JON

“I’m sorry, Anthony!”

KRISTY

“[Laughs]” 

The video for Country Girls is a real tip-of-the-hat to 90s country, in the most good-humoured and good-natured way. If the video was anything as much fun to make as it is to watch, then I had probably already answered my next question! But the fun element aside – and possibly the retro vibe around 90s country at the moment – what inspired Kristy and Jon to take the video in this direction? 

JON

“Well, it’s crazy, but I had a dream about this. You remember that, Kristy? I was forcing this down everybody’s throat for soooo long!” 

KRISTY

“Yep, Jon had a vision on this one!” 

JON

“I was like, I need to have a mullet, like an Alan Jackson type mullet! And they fought me on it. And I really wanted a moustache!” 

KRISTY

“We hired the girl who does Ronnie Dunn’s hair, Ronnie from Brooks & Dunn! [Laughs].” 

JON

“Yeah! And it just kind of came together the way it did. We met in the middle a lot. It would have been a little more whacky in my brain! But I’ll tell ya…I was sweating like a stuck hog!” 

KRISTY

“It was HOT!” 

JON

“Cos’ I was movin’ so much! And I’m old! [Laughs].”

KRISTY

“There were these amazing TikTok dancers that they got for this video, and they were helping us out. And it was so crazy, because all of a sudden we were like halfway through the day, and we sit down for lunch and I start talking to these kids, and all of a sudden I’m realising that these are the same people I watch on TikTok! And they were actually in OUR video. I didn’t even realise it. People in real-life are so different than when they’re on a little, tiny screen, right? Anyway, it was incredible the amount of talent that lended their talent for this video. I mean, there were dancers from Florida, LA, from everywhere! They were all helping us and having a great time. And the girl who choreographed the dance, she’s been amazing because I feel like line-dancing is such a pivotal part of country music…” 

JON

“It’s a very linear thing… [laughs]” 

KRISTY

“[Laughs] But it is! [Laughs]. It’s a very pivotal part of this industry, and for… God, I don’t know how many years… it’s been out of it! We haven’t had line-dancing…” 

JON

“Oh yeah, they have. All over the country except for Nashville.” 

KRISTY

“Yeah! It’s crazy.” 

JON

“In England, and the UK, it’s probably a new thing over there, huh?” 

Actually, it had been huge here, in Ireland, that is – and to the best of my knowledge, it had been in the UK too – for a long time, especially back in the 90s and early 2000s. But it’s something that kind of fell away…

KRISTY

“It’s fun to see that, like, New Zealand has their version of it, and all over the world people have their ways of doing things. I think, down here, it’s really interesting that in the fraternities they have different line-dances and cultural ideas that they’ll do. Hillbillies and rednecks up here in Nashville, we always enjoy adding our spin to it. So ‘Country Girls’ was our statement on that [laughs].” 

JON

“And you know what? The record sounded so good. John Vesely, and all of us…” 

KRISTY

“Lee [Brice] is such a freakin’ genuis! And John, both of ’em! It was great to be a student, literally, it was great.” 

JON

“The record sounds great, just the sonic sound of the record, there was some special things that I tried on that record. Like, I’m playin’ bass on ‘Country Girls’…” 

KRISTY

“He’s my favourite bass player in this town!” 

JON

“That’s not true. She doesn’t know any bass players! [Laughs].” 

Jon and Kristy are co-writers on every track of AYII, except for their version of John Anderson‘s beautiful 1992 song, Seminole Wind. With both Jon and Kristy being such cool writers themselves, and given that there are just so many gorgeous songs out there from other writers, past and present, I was curious to know what had earned Seminole Wind its spot on this collection…

JON

“Well, I mean it still has the same relevance.” 

Seminole Wind has been described as having naturalist overtones, lamenting the destruction of the environment by humans for economic gain. 

Deborah Evans Price, reviewing the song for Billboard magazine after its release in 1992, called it a “vividly imagistic song”, also saying that it “conveys feelings of urgency and great loss without being self-righteous or preachy.”

KRISTY

Going into Disney World, for me – as a human – driving into Disney World…” 

JON

“As opposed to a cat driving into Disney World…!” 

KRISTY

[Laughs] But they’ve taken all this marsh-land and just turned it into pavement! You know what I mean? Parking lots. It’s really crazy to see the environmental impact that we’re having as America, as we’re developing. I think we need to be environmentally conscious.” 

JON

“And we just like the song, ya know. We love the song. That’s really the short answer. A friend of ours said, ‘You should really do this’, and we were like, ‘Wow! That’s a great idea! Then we worked it out. And that fiddle part, and I had to work out that piano part on the guitar, and it just happened to sound good!” 

KRISTY

“And we got to record it in the original space that John Anderson recorded it, which was really cool. We were listening to the stories of the people who had worked on the original record, it was fun.” 

JON

“And it’s funny, because on every record…well, on all our TWO records [laughs]… it seems like we enjoy tipping our hat to country music by doin’ a cover, ya know. And it’s brought us an audience too.” 

KRISTY

“And I will say, I didn’t know ‘Piece of My Heart’ until Faith Hill did it!” 

JON

“Oh my God! Well that’s just embarrassing! [Laughs].” 

KRISTY

“But it’s a generational thing. I was born before the internet, you guys! [Laughs].” 

With our allotted time just about to run out – and trust me, I could have stayed talking to these guys all day long, they’re so cool and so lovely – I wondered if they each had a favourite song on the new album? 

JON

“Ya know, that changes. I love ‘Country Girls’, but I’d say ‘Let You Down’. 

KRISTY

Yeah, ‘Let You Down’ is my favourite.” 

JON

“It’s just one I keep goin’ back to. That chorus just slams, and Victor Wooten playin’ bass…it’s crazy!” 

KRISTY

“Halleujah!” 

AYII, the brand new album from AMERICAN YOUNG, is OUT NOW. 

ENDS

Dave McCune

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, June 2022

DAVE AND FRIENDS ‘LAMENT FOR UKRAINE’

MENTOR HAZIRI and DAVE McCUNE on stage in Albania

While most of us watch helplessly as the brave people of Ukraine battle Russian aggression, six musicians have decided to remain helpless no more. And, as a result, they collected a special award at the Albanian Video Music Awards in Montenegro on May 27th. 

          These musicians have reacted to this still unfolding tragedy by pouring their hearts into their craft and creating a stunning portrait of the pain of war. Their song, LAMENT FOR UKRAINE – which features the Albanian popstar Mentor Haziri – is their version of the Ukrainian folk song Verbovaya Doschechka, The Willow Board.

          

“In the early weeks of the Ukrainian war”, recalls DAVE McCUNE, one of those Irish musicians involved, “myself and my partner, Joey Moore, heard the harrowing news reports of women and children leaving Ukraine, leaving behind their husbands, their fathers, their sons…  to fight. And not knowing if they would ever see them again. Those reports left their mark on both of us. We felt helpless, but wanted to do something.”

          Dave revealed that he had first heard the Ukrainian folk song Verbovaya Doschechka when he saw the YouTube video Violinists Across the World Play for Ukraine. In that video, a lone violinist in his basement shelter in Ukraine plays a haunting melody, and is then joined virtually by a host of violinists from all over the world in an act of support and defiance. One of those violinists was Irish musician Lynda O’Connor. 

          Lynda is a wonderful violinist, and we work together regularly”, Dave continued. “Lynda shared their version of ‘Verbovaya Doschechka’ featuring Ukrainian violinist Illia Bondarenko and musicians from all across the world. That was the first time I’d heard ‘Verbovaya Doschechka’, and when we decided to record our version, Lynda was happy to take part. Joey and I wrote the English lyrics for ‘Lament for Ukraine’ and the second verse, sung by Mentor, is the original Ukrainian lyric.”

          

“Mentor”, revealed Dave, “was a teenager during the Kosovo War and literally fled for his life. Even though he was safely evacuated, he helped Kosovo refugees in Macedonia. He went from there to Australia as a refugee, and later returned to Kosovo to find his family alive. When I visited him in Kosovo in 2018, we passed one village in particular, Racak, the scene of a massacre which was the tipping point for NATO becoming involved”

        Also featured on Lament for Ukraine is Sharon Gaynor, a freelance singer who regularly appears with the RTE Concert Orchestra. In keeping with the personal nature of this project, Sharon’s husband, Eric Campbell, shot the video footage of Sharon here in Ireland.

          Session guitarist Dave Molloy, played electric guitar – featured on the track’s extended instrumental ending – and Albanian musician Keli Guga played the haunting Persian bamboo flute, the ‘Duduk’, with Dave McCune himself producing Lament for Ukraine, and also playing percussion, drums and bass guitar.

          With the project’s main intention being to further highlight the heart-breaking pain Ukraine is currently suffering, Mentor and Dave had the chance to do exactly that on the international stage on May 27th. They were invited to perform Lament for Ukraine at the Albanian Music Video Awards in Ulcinj, Montenegro, where they also received a special award for the song. 

~ You can view the official LAMENT FOR UKRAINE video by searching Lament For Ukraine (Verbovaya Doschechka) on YouTube.

ENDS

Eric Paslay

First Published June 2022

THE GHOST OF JOHNNY CASH

When you get to sit down and chat with a man who co-wrote country music’s song of the decade for 2010-19 (Barefoot Blue Jean Night by Jake Owen, co-written with Dylan Altman and Terry Sawchuk); who is also a co-writer on Keith UrbanWild Hearts (with Keith, Brad Tursi, and Jennifer Wayne); who had the legendary Ricky Skaggs offer him advice as he waited in the wings to make his Grand Ole Opry debut; who had ‘the Gambler’, Kenny Rogers, record one of his songs AND had Kenny himself request that he be ON the record as well; and – as if ALL of the foregoing wasn’t already cool enough – he’s also the man who brought Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler to the Grand Ole Opry for the first time…THAT, my friends, is a good day! 

And OTRT had just that kind of good day recently when we sat down with the guy who has ALL of the above as part of his story. That man is singer/songwriter ERIC PASLAY, and he took a little time-out from being on tour with UK country superstars The Shires to talk to us. 

On the morning we spoke Eric was in the UK where he had just completed the first few dates of that twenty-five show run opening for Ben (Earle) and Chrissie (Rhodes) on their tour, a road-trip that ended at the London Palladium just last week. With the tour having been postponed a couple of times in the last two years because of…well, you-know-what…, I began our chat by asking Eric how it felt to finally be back out there in front of fans on this side of the world again? 

They’ve been amazing, and it feels amazing! It’s still unbelievable that we’re actually here, that this actually happened. In the music business and the touring world, after over two years of having a tour on-hold, it’s kind of amazing that we’re actually doing it! And I keep telling Ben and Chrissie, ‘We’re actually here! I’m a real boy, in the UK! [laughs]. So it feels great. And obviously it’s great to see the fans again. I’ve been touring over here for about five or six years so it’s cool to see familiar faces. Yeah, we’re back. Back touring live, it’s crazy!” 

Did Eric have a chance to perform much back home in the States since things began returning to something approaching normal, or were these shows with Ben and Chrissie his first chance to be out in front of fans again? 

I’ve done a few little shows here and there, some private shows, and some everyone-wears-a-mask shows, everyone is kinda feeling it out, ya know. Over the last year-ish, somewhere in there, since we’ve been able to play shows a little bit, I lean more on the safer side of things. I don’t even want a person to catch a cold at my show! [Laughs]. But yeah, I’ve been out playin’ some shows at the weekend with the band and kinda getting back to it a little bit. But this is for sure the longest tour I’ve done so far since being back and the world learning how to live again.” 

Well that UK tour gave Eric the perfect opportunity to celebrate his new album, the brilliantly titled, Even If It Breaks Your Barefoot Friday Night. To those who may not know, that title is an amalgamation of some of his biggest hits as an artist and writer, namely; Even If It Breaks Your Heart, Barefoot Blue Jean Night, and Friday Night. The album is a new take on those songs, an approach I love because I think great songs – and these are definitely that – will always stand up to being reimagined. And this concept is always all the better when the writer himself is actually involved. 

But what I was wondering, though, was in deciding to do an album like this one, did it mean that in the back of Eric’s mind there were always different ideas for these songs? Or perhaps, was it more that once he decided to go in this direction, that was when he started to think about different ways they might sound? 

“Definitely lyrically, they’re the original [songs], there might be just a couple of words a little bit different. Actually, on ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’ the original name was Frankie, but I thought I’d put Jake in there [this time] since Jake Owen recorded it. My buddy Jake had his dad hook him up good, ya know [laughs]. I just thought it would be amazing to go in and record some of the hits I’ve had as a writer. I’ve had ‘live’ versions of them that we’ve recorded, like ‘Live In Glasgow’ and some other albums. But yeah, I just thought it would be fun to do that. And fans have been asking for it for years cos’ I play ’em almost every night. Then to go in and reimagine some of my own hits [as an artist] with ‘Friday Night’ and ‘She Don’t Love You’, ‘Song About A Girl’, and to do ‘The Driver’, for which Charles Kelley (of Lady A) and Dierks [Bentley] and I were nominated for a Grammy for, it was kind of a cool experience to do it. And I thought it was time. And thanks to my mother-in-law for having the genius idea of what to name it! She was like, ‘Just put all the names together!’ I tried some, and hey, it worked! And that’s fabulous cos’ it’s just kind of a fun record. I mean, I was like, what do I call this? I didn’t want it to be ‘Greatest Hits’, that would sound like I was full of myself [laughs]. I love the name of it, and I love that it’s out. We’re sellin’ a bunch of records on the road, and it’s fun to see cds get sold and fans lovin’ it. If you come to one of the shows you’ll see that I’m signing every one…my hand is about to fall of! But we’re good, we’re good [laughs].” 

Was there a most fun song to record on the album? 

“Man, I recorded it with Mitch Furr. Typically, I love being the co-producer, sitting there thinking every way possible that we could record a song, like, ‘Let’s add bagpipes!’, ya know [laughs]. But I love his ear, I love what he does with music. I just literally handed him everything and was like, ‘Here, reimagine! These are the only rules that I think we should have…now go break them all!’ [Laughs]. He’s just insanely talented. He’s actually a co-producer on ‘Wild Hearts’ right now, Keith Urban has that song in the Top 5 right now. Yeah, Mitch is amazing. They all turned out great. On ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’ I actually did add a drum-line section, this kinda drum breakdown thing. And when we played at the ASCAP Awards – I think we won song of the year that year (2015) – but we actually had the Vanderbilt drumline come out in the middle and rock it. I wanted to have that experience in this recording, and we did that really well, I think.” 

The song Wild Hearts, which Eric had just mentioned – and which he co-wrote with Brad Tursi and Jennifer Wayne – has been described by NME as being “quintessential Urban”. Now for Eric, who is a huge fan of Keiths first and foremost, that must be pretty cool to read. I asked him if he’d mind taking us back to what it was like to be a writer on that one, and also, to share what Wild Hearts means to him as a writer…

“First of all, yes, I love Keith! I mean, dear Lord. He’s our rockstar, he’s the Mick Jagger of country music! And he’s just such a good dude. A mind-blowing guitar player, such a performer. They played it on the CMT Awards and he’s up there [on stage] spinning around, doing whatever his feet do. I mean, even his feet are rockstars! What in the world! [Laughs]. Brad Tursi, Jen Wayne and I wrote the song, we had the verses, we had the chorus. And I remember talking to my wife, my wife is a music publisher, she got all these songs recorded for me, she’s just incredible. I was thinking that this song ‘Wild Hearts’ was really good. And even Jennifer Wayne was like, ‘Eric, it’s your next single!’ But I’m an independent artist, I don’t have a million dollars to get on the radio right now! So I was like, ‘No, let’s pitch this thing, it’s a hit, I know it is!’ [Laughs]. And Keith heard the song and he passed on it because he didn’t like the verses. And that’s kind of a Keith rule: if he doesn’t like the whole song, he’ll just pass and someone else can do it. But I’m tellin’ my wife I think we should rewrite the verses. They were great, but they were almost too musiciany, ya know? Like, almost too much about music people. And literally the next day Keith Urban called me on the phone – and he doesn’t call me every day [laughs] – and he was like [Eric adapts an Australian accent]…, ‘Hey Man, what ya doin’?’ He was like, ‘Man, I cannot get that song out of my head. But the verses don’t fit me. Are you cool if I rewrite the verses to see if it can fit me?’ I was like, ‘Dude, buddy…if you were in the room that day – it was Brad Tursi from Old Dominion, Jen Wayne from Runaway June, I’m an artist – so why not have four of us in the room?’ Then he goes, ‘Well what do you think about this?’, and he sings the verses for me. I told him I wanted to call up Brad and Jen to rewrite it, ya know, like, ‘Heeeey, ya want to rewrite this thing?’, but typically in Nashville we just write a new one. So everything about it – how it happened – just felt perfectly right.”

Eric went on, “And I said to Keith that I was actually glad he wasn’t in the room that day because then maybe he wouldn’t have written these verses that were just perfect for the song. And yeah, the song means the world to me. For one thing, because Keith recorded it, and we’re actually having a hit with it. And the song is about the experience of what we do, telling people to not stop dreaming, do things that your hometown might not understand because it’s not what everyone does in your hometown. That’s nothing against your hometown. There’s beautiful things that we’re all meant to do. I don’t take it for granted that I get to make music. I don’t have a ‘real job’, but I work all the time, I just love doin’ it. Yeah, Keith’s amazing, and I’m so thrilled that the record came out great.” 

In promoting this new album, Eric has done something that I haven’t seen any other country artist do yet, and that’s bring NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) into play. Now, like most people, I probably have a vague understanding of what NFTs are and how they’re supposed to work, but I was really curious to know what sparked the idea for Eric to introduce them into his career as part of how he wanted to connect with his fans? 

“I came across a company that does NFTs in Nashville. And like everyone, I was like, ‘WHAT is an NFT?!’ [Laughs]. Why are people paying for a picture on their phone?! So I had to re-think it for the music world, of block-chain technology, etc, so it will help with ticket-sales to make sure you’re not scalped. That’s another whole interesting world of making sure the receipt is the receipt, you can’t lie about what’s on the black-chain, which is cool. But to me, I’m just kind of viewing it like the first one, like here’s a golden-ticket. There was a $25 ticket – a hundred of ’em – we sold out pretty quick. It’s kind of like the hundred NFT community, fanclub with the never-ending ticket. So my goal is never-ending value, unpredictability, anything can happen from shows, to hangs, to asking ’em what songs they think I should record for the next album. I’ll play ideas for them. The first meeting I gave away one of the lights that I built that we ended up having as a second NFT, it was called the ‘Light Out of Darkness’, these antique lights. I love those because they cast these amazing shadows. I built the base out of a black wallnut tree that fell in our yard during a tornado we were hit by in Nashville.”

“And right now”, continued Eric, “the third NFT that we’re doing – I mean, they all have a digital aspect to them, the lights are spinning…one of those lights I built that just keeps spinning, ya know – but the one now is sort of like a 3-D image of my head that we did, it spins forever [laughs]. But the biggest part about the third NFT is I’m literally selling away 10% of the album. I’m selling ten 1% ownerships in this album. We’ve auctioned off the first one so far, it went really well. I’m probably still giving everybody a [good] deal, I don’t know! [Laughs]. You’re guaranteed to have five #1 hits, the Song of the Decade in country music, and two Grammy nominations, two ACM nominations, and a CMA nomination…here, would you like to own this album with me? So it’s interesting to see that. And hopefully everybody makes way more money that they bid on it. As a music fan [myself], I think that’d be cool. I wish I could have owned a Keith Urban record, ya know, or a part of it. The more it’s played, the more you get paid. It’s fun. So that’ll be a whole new experience too. I’ll probably have a hang with the ten, or the one! There might be one dude, or lady somewhere, buying up all ten. I don’t know. So we’ll see what happens. Every three days we’re selling another 1% of the album, and there’ll be ten of those. It lasts for thirty days, and it’s still going on right now.” 

To the best of my knowledge anyway, Eric is also the first country artist to do anything like this…

“Yeah I was wondering if there’s like a Wikipedia for it, like ‘First Country Artist to Have a Website’, ya know? [Laughs]. No-one really cares, but it’s interesting. But yeah, I think I am the first country artist to sell-off part of my record. I know they’ve done it in the EDM and pop world, but here we are. I’ll just try to lead the way and show people what might be possible.” 

Eric played the Grand Ole Opry again just a few weeks before our chat. For me, as a country music fan, anytime I get to talk to an artist who has actually played the Opry is always a count-my-blessings moment. And anytime I talk to someone who has played it, they feel that same way about getting that opportunity. So for Eric, what’s his favourite Opry moment or memory? 

“The one that sticks with me the most at the Opry is the first time I got to play it. I lucked out. Pete Fisher was the general-manager at the time, and I knew him for years. We were at a Christmas party, and I think I’d been signed to Capitol for a few years [at this stage], maybe a year. But typically, as soon as you get a record deal the Opry might ask you to play. And I kept thinking, like, ‘God, Pete hasn’t asked me to play the Opry yet, jeez, what did I do wrong? I thought Pete liked me!’ [Laughs]. So we were at this party standing around, and he was like, ‘Eric, you’ve played the Opry, what? Ten times now?’ And I was like…’I’ve never played it.’ He was stunned, like, ‘You’ve NEVER played it?!’ [Laughs]. But it was in December, that’s how I lucked out, because a week or two later I got to play the Opry, and it was actually at the Ryman Auditorium where the Opry originated. It was cool to play the Opry, and in the original room, ya know. I remember standing there, about to go on stage, and Ricky Skaggs is standing next to me. I mean, it’s frickin’ Ricky Skaggs! One of the best bluegrass musicians ever, he’s incredible. And he goes to me, ‘Ya nervous?’ ‘Yeah’, I replied, ‘It’s the Opry and you’re Ricky Skaggs!’ [Laughs].”

Daryl Worley was another great artist who was there that night”, remembers Eric. “He said to me, ‘Man, I hear you’re a little bit nervous, but I heard your voice, you sounded great. You kinda have that Johnny Cash vibe in your voice.’ And he goes, ‘So you’re nervous?’ And I went, ‘Yeah, man! Ricky Skaggs was standing beside me asking me if I was nervous, and then I’m playing the Opry for the first time!’ [Laughs]. Ricky looked at me and said, ‘Ya know what? Your heart’s not in the right place if you’re not nervous at the Opry.’ And it’s true. When you play a room or you play a stage that all of the people you’ve looked up to have…and even at the Ryman Auditorium, you look at the rock acts and the pop acts, everybody has played that room, it’s insane. We’re playing these amazing theatres every night here in the UK, and I love it, I get a rush from it. But sometimes, when you play a lot of shows, you don’t get the butterflies as much as you used to. So it’s cool to go the Opry and you’re still kind of a little nervous. You’re like, the ghost of Johnny Cash is watching me, I better not mess this up! It’s a really special place to play. Maybe someday I’ll pull all the right strings and become a member [laughs]. I’ll just throw that out there [laughs]. But I think anyone who plays the Opry would dream of being a member someday. I remember watching it with my grandmother growing up, and my grandfather was a musician, so I’m sure he and his brothers would get a kick out of hearing me on the radio in heaven sometimes.” 

Staying with the Opry, I’d recently caught sight of a throwback post on Eric’s Instagram that was Steven Tyler‘s (yes, folks, THAT Steven Tyler, the dude from Aerosmith) first time at the historic venue. And whatsmore, it was Eric who was responsible for making it happen!

“Yeah! So, Steven recorded a song that I wrote called ‘Love Is Your Name’, he did a country record and this was a single. I mean, this is a complete Hollywood story. Steven was at the Bluebird Cafe, which is like the place where Garth Brooks, and Faith Hill, and Taylor Swift, and everyone was discovered. But it doesn’t always happen like that, it’s not as cool as it sounds. But Steven was at the Bluebird, heard my co-writer – Lindsey Lee – play the song, and he loved it. So he recorded it. Then he wanted to write with us. He came to my house and we got to write for a couple of days, and then I was like, ‘Man, I gotta go, I’m playin’ the Opry!’ And I was just like, ‘Dude, what are you doin’? You want to come to the Grand Ole Opry with me?’ And Steven was like, ‘Yeah, man! The Grand Ole Opry! No-one’s ever invited me!’ [Laughs]. So yeah! I got to bring Steven Tyler to the Grand Ole Opry! He had a blast. He didn’t play that night, and we’ve got to get him to if he hasn’t by now. I mean, I got to introduce Steven Tyler to the Grand Ole Opry and have him come out on stage to say hi to the crowd. He’s a blast. And I mean, my goodness, his voice… you’re just sitting there when he’s singing ‘live’, and you’re like, ‘You’re Steven Tyler. And you sound like him!’ [Laughs]. He’s incredible, and I miss seeing him. I haven’t seen him, or anybody really, in a couple of years. Amazing guy.” 

Staying with good stories, which Eric’s tale about Steven and the Grand Ole Opry certainly was, what better way to bring our chat to its conclusion than with another! And who better to be a part of this one, than the late Kenny Rogers. Now Kenny actually recorded Eric’s song, Turn This World Around, which is awesome in itself. But even more cool, is the fact that Eric ended up IN the studio while Kenny sang, and ended up ON the track as well…and because Kenny himself wanted Eric there! 

Eric takes it away…

“Yeah, man. So that was a time where I was writing two, maybe three songs a day. I was on tour. I was radio-touring. I was crazy, crazy busy. I remember this one day, I didn’t have time to go home, but I didn’t really have time to do anything else either, so I just thought to myself, well I’m just gonna drive around Nashville! All of a sudden my phone rings. The producer is on it, and he’s like, ‘Hey, is this Eric?  I say yes and he goes, ‘Hey, who sang backgrounds [vocals] on ‘Turn This World Around’? Kenny Rogers is recording it.’ I said yeah, I heard he might be, this is amazing! Then the producer says, ‘Well, we recorded it, and he’d love to have your voice on it if you’re the one singing the backgrounds and the harmonies.’ I said yeah, that would be great, but man, I’m crazy busy right now, I don’t know when we can schedule it because I’m out on the road…!’ But then he asked me what am I doing right now, and I actually had like two hours! [Laughs]. So he tells me to come by the studio and we’d do it. So I pulled in, he’s got this little studio behind his house, a cool little pool out the back. I walk in and…there’s Kenny Rogers! He’s there! They didn’t tell me Kenny was there! It was just him and the producer.”

“And seriously, Kenny was just one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever been around. The best storyteller.”

And through that friendship Eric got to open some shows for Kenny, who he describes as having been, “Just an incredible performer”.

“I remember standing in the studio singing, just layering these harmonies, there was a lot goin’ on, ya know. He taps on the glass, ‘Eric! This sounds amazing! I have to leave cos’ I really need to pee! I’ll be right back. I’m not leaving cos’ it sounds bad, you sound amazing!’ [Laughs]. He just knew how to make everyone feel extremely comfortable. Like I just met the guy. And he’s Kenny Rogers! One of the most famous people on the planet. And after that, I actually received a letter in the mail, he literally wrote me a hand-written letter and signed it thanking me for the song and for sharing my time with him. And I got to see him on his last tour. I know the world misses Kenny Rogers, but I’m glad he was here to share his love with us. I will always cherish that memory, and being able to say that Kenny Rogers was my friend, and a really good guy.” 

~ EVEN IF IT BREAKS YOUR BAREFOOT FRIDAY NIGHT, the NEW album from ERIC PASLAY, is OUT NOW. 

ENDS

Maria Butterly

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written

MARIA’S MUSICAL MUSE HELPS UKRAINE AND MORE

Maria on stage during her performance at the MOTHERS OF UKRAINE charity concert

 Singer/songwriter MARIA BUTTERLY is leading the way in demonstrating the helping and healing power of music.

          The Meath based artist was the driving force behind a hugely successful fundraising concert in Drogheda’s TLT in recent weeks, and has also just launched a new songwriting workshop which has wellbeing as its focus.

          MariaMothers of Ukraine Charity Concert on April 13th saw a glittering parade of entertainers share their talent and time by banding together to raise funds for UNICEF and its work relating to the war-torn country. Maria has since been able to present a cheque for €10, 028.25 to UNICEF representative Amy Maher, funds sure to go a long way in providing help to those most in need of it right now.

          The concert – which was in association with Pat Egan Management – featured performances from Sean Keane, Donal Lunny and Paddy Glackin, violinist Vladimir Jablokov, St. Peter’s Male Voice Choir with MD Edward Holly, the powerhouse Ukrainian singer Maryna Odelksa, and Maria herself. That stellar line-up was backed by an equally heavenly backing band with the steady hand of the great Bill Shanley (who also produces many of Maria’s songs and albums, including her recent single Hero) leading James Blennerhasset on bass, and Jason Duffy on drums throughout the night, while LMFM presenter Sinead Brassil orchestrated proceedings as event MC.

Deputy Mayor of Drogheda Declan Power, Maria, Amy Maher of UNICEF Ireland, and Marian Agrios, President of Drogheda Lions Club

          Reflecting on the concert – which saw Counsellor Ms. Olena Shalopu, Deputy Head of Mission for Ukraine, join Drogheda Town Mayor James Byrne among those in attendance – Maria remarked that every artist had treated the audience to performances “from the heart”. While it was almost impossible for her to stand one moment apart from the next, Maria noted that several moments had struck a chord with large numbers of those who enjoyed the TLT event…

          “The consensus among people who have been in touch with me since is that Sean Keane really set the crowd alight in opening the show. Likewise, the beautiful renditions of classic songs with their eloquent harmonies as performed by St Peters Male Voice Choir & MC Edward Holly will live long in the memory. Donal Lunny and Paddy Glackin – as you’d expect – raised the roof, and Vladimir Jablokov wooed all before him with pieces like ‘Libertango’, ‘Radetsky March’, and the famous piece from ‘Schindler’s List’, too.”

          “And in what was a very special moment for me personally”, Maria added, “Vladimir also beautifully performed an Irish tune I wrote, one titled ‘Tonn na hEireann’, which means ‘Irish Wave’.”

          While Maria was very much to the fore in bringing the Mothers of Ukraine concert from the good idea phase to reality, she readily acknowledges how that journey would have been incredibly difficult without the support that poured in from so many directions…

          “There wasn’t one single instance where I asked someone to help in some particular way, and where that didn’t happen. That’s a reflection of how willing so many people were to do whatever they could, and I honestly can’t express enough my gratitude or appreciation for every single person and organisation who came on-board. I’d like to send a special thank you, though, to Drogheda Credit Union in particular, for their immediate and very generous support as one of our prominent sponsors. I’ve been a member of the Credit Union since I was just ten years old, and it was through them that I was able to purchase my first car.  They were the first local business to come on board and support this event in the very early stages.”

          A full list of Maria’s thank-you’s is available on her official website, www.mariabutterly.com

          Maria also composes music for film and TV, and runs a recording studio which has just opened to the public in Meath (for more information on Maria’s studio contact mariabutterlymusic@gmail.com). 

Given that Maria is so involved in the music world in so many ways, and with the vast depth of her musical experience, it’s hardly surprising that she has decided to pass on some of her knowledge in a way that has the potential to be of huge benefit to others.

         To that end, she has recently launched a Songwriting Workshop with a focus on wellbeing, designed to cater for post-primary students and adults of all ages and levels, from beginners right up to those of a more advanced skillset. The workshop, which is in association with Exit Entry / IBM and Windmill Lane Recording Studio, will see students learn to compose hit melodies and lyrical hooks, how to record their songs, what they need to set up a home studio, and, of course, the all-important business side of songwriting too.

~ You can find more information about Maria’s Songwriting Workshop on her official website, www.mariabutterly.com

ENDS