Marc Roberts

First Published August 2021


Part 1

There are certain artists who don’t just fall into the category of ‘gentleman’ in the world of Irish music, but whose very names could well be used to define the term. And singer/songwriter MARC ROBERTS is most definitely one of those artists. Simply put, if you were to name someone with a bad word to say about Marc, I’d name you two liars in return. And you’d be one of them. 

As well as sharing his own considerable talents with us over the years, Marc has also represented Ireland on the international stage, taking the song Mysterious Woman – written by Nathan Carter’s manager (and no slouch himself in the songwriting department), John Farry – to within one place of glory in the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest. Not just someone who happens to make his living in the music business, Marc also harbours a deep appreciation for those whose musical gifts have graced the world. This sense of gratitude led to him recording the album A Tribute to the Music of John Denver, with a live show performing the hits of the Country Roads legend also giving rise to ‘full-house’ signs going up at venues nationwide. In fact, that show even made it to Denver’s hometown of Colorado. 

It was under Marc’s expert guidance that Daniel O’ Donnell himself first ventured into the realm of songwriting, something we’ll come back to in much more detail during Part 2 of our chat. 

So, with all of the foregoing considered, it seems more than fitting – and especially given the monumental achievement of his fellow county-men in dethroning the Dubs at Croke Park last Saturday! – that we point the OTRT spotlight in the direction of this proud Mayo man this week. 

I had the pleasure of catching up with Marc a week or so ago, with the main reason for our chat being the release of his latest single, CONSIDER IT DONE. I asked Mark if that song was based on anything in particular from his own life, or was it more a case that he came up with the hook or a couple of good lines and just took it from there? 

“It’s kind of a mixture, because the expression, ‘consider it done’, just came to me, and I thought, wow, that’s catchy. But what could it mean, though? Then when I started to think about it, it’s kind of like how your life progresses and the way you should think. The chorus is, “Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride/ It’s not how you look, but how you feel inside/ And if you need a helping hand, consider it done.” Don’t ever be afraid to ask for a helping hand. It’s all about the whole idea that life is about choices. I was always torn between the expressions, ‘Everything comes to he who waits’, and then, ‘He who hesitates is lost.’ Because how can they both be right? ‘Consider It Done’ was on my first album, and for me at the time it was my perception of the business. How does it start…God, I’d need the guitar on my knee now to think of the lyrics [laughs]. ‘When you sit and count the stars in the sky/ You want to touch them, but they’re too damn high/ If you want the brightest star, consider it done.’ Everything seems like, oh my God…how is this gonna happen? But if you have a bit of belief and faith in yourself and what you’re doing, and you know it’s right…then karma! It’ll happen! If it’s supposed to happen, it will happen. Consider it done.” 

While I didn’t realise that Consider It Done had also appeared on Marc’s debut album, I did notice that it was also the title of his publishing company. So ‘consider it done’, as a phrase, obviously has a much deeper significance in Marc’s life? 

“Well yeah, that’s it. And that’s the explanation for it. It’s my publishing company, and our record label is C.I.D., which is also ‘consider it done.’ It’s like a positive affirmation. If you want something, consider it done. Believe in it. Believe that it’s going to happen, and have faith. The problem is a lot of us don’t know what it is we want [laughs]. I think everybody is the same, no matter what walk of life you’re in. You want something, whatever it is. But if you believe that it can happen, just believe in it, then consider it done. It will happen.” 

Marc mentioned how he was always torn between the two phrases, “He who hesitates is lost”, and “Everything comes to he who waits.” But of those two, which one did Marc himself tend to veer more towards, I wondered? 

“All my life it’s been a mixture of both, and that’s what always kind of confused me. How can they both be right? Everything comes to he who waits. So, if you sit back and wait for something to happen…allegedly it will happen. But I do believe that everything happens for a reason. People come into your life for a reason. Things happen in your life for a reason. So it would be more that than he who hesitates is lost. That used to always throw a spanner in the works for me. I used to try to figure out, well, if I hesitate too much…time is passing, life goes on, things change, everything changes. Music changes. Thankfully for me, that song still means as much to me as it did when I wrote it. And I see it in so many people, and it’s such a positive affirmation to have. Just consider it done, whatever it is.” 

Was there any particular reason why Marc wanted to bring the song back into the public arena right now?

“Because anytime that I performed it ‘live’, people loved it. And I wanted to bring it to a different audience. I got it remastered and edited for radio, so it sounds very much of what’s happening now in lots of ways. It’s very radio-friendly, and any presenter that’s heard it has loved it. So thankfully, from that point of view, it’s been playlisted everywhere, including RTE, which is great. It’s a very polished production. It was Chris O’ Brien and Graham Murphy that did it, and they’re both Grammy nominees, as you know, for their production. And Billy Farrell, who I write with, and produces quite a lot of my stuff, is also a Grammy nominated producer, he mastered it for me. There’s still a lot of people who hadn’t heard, so to them it’s a brand new song anyway.” 

Consider It Done is the follow up to Marc’s previous single, Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes. What process does Marc go through when he’s considering a new release? 

“Well, to be honest with you, I’d normally be a bit more organised than I am now [laughs], but with the way things are with the pandemic…! ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes’ was a huge radio hit from our point of view, and again, it ticked a lot of boxes for me. It’s a song that I was inspired to write by my niece and nephew when they were kids. And it all came from the way when you’re a kid, and you know when you look up at the sun and you get tears in your eyes? And my wish for them was that the only time they’d have tears in their eyes was when they looked at the sun. So ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes’ was my little way of twisting it around and saying don’t get those tears in your eyes. And again, the song was very much along the lines of something that you could live your life by, at any age. ‘Let tears of joy be the only tears you cry/ May the universe guide you in everything you do/ ‘Cause love will always see you through.’ It goes on, ‘Speak your mind, but listen when you’ve spoken/ Choose your words so no-one feels the pain/ Open your heart, although it may get broken/ Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ Again, it’s saying to live your life in a positive way. Be good to people. You’ll get it back tenfold. Help people whenever you can. And I’ve always lived my life by that. So that song was me telling them what I felt would help them in life.” 

Even just listening to Marc speak about those two songs – Consider It Done and Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes – and hearing him recite some of the lyrics, it really emphasises how philosophical a songwriter he seems to be. I asked Marc if he thought that was a fair observation? 

“Hmmm…I can be. Depending on the type of song. Those two songs, for instance, they almost wrote themselves, both of them. Because they’d be very much an extension of the way I would think. I wouldn’t like to see myself pontificating to people that they should do this, or that. But it’s to remind people that life is always full of choices. There’s lots of things that you can do. If it can be half-full or half-empty, it’s always better to be half-full. It’s that kind of thing. You only have to listen to the younger artists now to realise – and this is in general, in pop music, Ed Sherran, Tom Grennan, any of these guys – the lyrics are so important. I think people don’t realise how important they are. It’s not all about, ‘I love you and you love me.’ That’s been done a million times. You have to find a different way of saying that, but still keeping the sentiment. I think, if you can make people think, you’re halfway there. If it does nothing else but somebody gets something positive out of it… Usually people will just go, ‘Ah it’s a lovely song, I love the melody of it.’ But then all of a sudden they’ll come back and go, ‘Wow, I was listening to the words!’ It proves that the perfect marriage has to be both words and music. Words are so important. Down through the years, a lot of the time, they’ve become lost. And that’s a pity, because they’re very important.” 

Given how hard the last seventeen or so months have been for the music, entertainment, and arts industries, did being a songwriter help Marc to get through it all? Was he able to fill some of that extra time writing, or, like a lot of songwriters, did he actually find it a hard time to write? 

“Good question. I’ve done some writing, but no more than I would have ever done. I’m not very regimented and orderly in that sense. It’s hard to explain. I’ve never done a 9-to-5 writing job. I know that works for Gilbert O’ Sullivan and Chris De Burgh, and people like that, and that’s great. But I don’t know, I kind of consider that too much like work! [Laughs]. I always used to write better when coming home from a gig, it could be three or four o’ clock in the morning and there’s nobody on the road, you have a coffee, and you take your time. Just empty your head of any thoughts, and that’s when I get ideas. My only thing that I was very conscious of from the very beginning of Covid, was that I didn’t want to write anything negative. I didn’t want to write anything that was going to be very much of a pandemic type of song. Because we all just have had enough of it. We just want to get on with life. We want to get back to some semblance of normality. I wrote one with Charlie McGettigan, and in that one we actually went there. It’s one called ‘To Hold You Again.’ We were both kind of thinking God, ya know there’s people that would come to our gigs that we’d give a hug to at the end of it. And we were thinking if only we could get back to that person again, that would be an indication that things were normal! But, we’ll just have to wait. I’ve always done a little bit of writing, the usual scribbling down little bits and singing my heart out into my phone. That’s what I do. I’ve finished a song with Max T. Barnes, that’s going to be a single soon.”

CONSIDER IT DONE, the brand new single from MARC ROBERTS, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. You can also tune into Marc’s shows on Galway Bay FM every weekend, The Feel Good Factor (Saturday and Sunday afternoons), and Sunday Night Country. 


Dubh Lee

First Published August 2021


Photo Credit: Keery Irvine

It’s hard to believe it, but here we are. Sixteen months on from the beginning of the Covid era, and ‘live’ music and events are still most notable by their ongoing absence in our lives. And, the harsh truth of it all is this: we’re still a long way from even the slightest sign that things might actually be returning to pre-pandemic norms sometime soon. All that being said, however, thanks to a series of different government supports, there are at least more opportunities for small numbers of people to enjoy the unmistakable, incomparable buzz of a ‘live’ show. While not a perfect scenario – and to be fair, no-one in government is for a moment suggesting it is – this in itself is something to be grateful for. 

And just such an event is coming to Tullamore this very weekend – August 5th, 6th, and 7th – when a series of intimate outdoor gigs titled RISING 21 comes to Lee’s Bar and Venue on Church Street. Well-known in Tullamore and beyond as a ‘live’ music venue and a supporter of the arts and local events, Lee’s has a new name over the door now, as John replaces Joe. In some ways at least, the passing of this particular torch will signal the beginning of a new era. What anyone attending Rising 21 can be sure of, though, is the same warm welcome that ever and always greeted visitors in times pre-Covid, remains the same. 

Among the artists taking to the stage over the course of the Rising 21 weekend will be Tullamore singer/songwriter NIAMH DOOLEY, aka DUBH LEE. Having graced Lee’s with her vocal majesty and guitar-playing virtuosity at many’s an Open Mic night there over the years, Niamh will be returning to her roots with a band for the second time in eight months when she takes to the stage as part of the event’s early show on Friday, August 6th. 

The last time Niamh and I spoke for OTRT was back in November of last year. At that stage, any mention of gigs and performing revolved around reminiscing about her last chance to be on stage, and wondering when the opportunity to return to doing what she loves most would come around again. Now, while we’re still far from out of the woods yet, Niamh has – thank God – been able to get back to playing a little bit more often than had been the case for a long time. And Friday’s performance will give her the chance to shine again in her natural habitat…in front of an audience. I had the pleasure of catching up with Niamh last week, and we got things underway with her telling me all about Rising 21 and her involvement…

“Rising 21, it’s across three days, with two or three events per day. I’ll be playing on Friday, the 6th of August, and I think my slot is around 3pm. Gavin Ghee will be on before me, and there’ll be a comedian involved as well, and Pat Carty from Hot Press will be hosting. Jerry Fish will be headlining that early show on the day, I’m looking forward to that. I’ve opened for Jerry Fish before, in Maynooth, so it will be nice to do it again with a band this time, last time I did it acoustically. Unfortunately my keys player, Josh Murtagh, isn’t around so I’m gonna do it as a three-piece, with myself on guitar, David Griffin on bass, and Rob Kennedy on drums. So that’s fairly rock ‘n’ roll! [Laughs]. It’s a shame that Josh couldn’t make it, but I’ve done it before with the three-piece, so it’ll be a nice challenge. The concept is that it’s local acts mainly, plus the headliners, and it’s Offaly rising. The rising element ties in with the Phoenix imagery that’s associated with the town, which is cool. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to it because it’s been a while since I played a gig to an audience.” 

Will it be much of a challenge adjusting things to allow for the absence of Josh, I wondered? 

“Well, because I had done a few gigs without the keys last year, it’ll be easy enough to adjust. It’s just that in my ears it will sound less full minus the keys, if you know what I mean? We’ll be rehearsing with the other two lads, so we’ll make sure any gaps of where the keys would normally be are filled. We might have to take a song out of the set-list and replace it with another, that kind of thing. But it’s not too big a job. Because I have a large enough repertoire, that means I’m safe enough.” 

Back in December, also in Joe Lee’s/John Lee’s, Niamh performed at the first show that I had been to since the previous March. And, what made that day all all the sweeter for her, was the fact that as well as getting to play in her own hometown, with a very, very cool band (same guys that will be with her again this time around, minus Josh, of course), but her family were there in the audience too. I asked Niamh to take me back to that moment and tell me how it felt, especially after everything that had preceded it in 2020…

“That was fantastic. I think they asked me maybe only a month before, to see if I was available to do it. And we were in and out of lockdown so much last year it was hard to know where exactly I was at the time [laughs]. But I was just so delighted to be able to finish the year with a significant gig! And especially because I’ve never gigged with a band in Joe Lee’s. On the day of the gig, we had to do a very quick change-over with I Draw Slow, so it was hectic enough getting the soundcheck and everything done, but when it came to the performance, everything went amazingly. It felt great. Mam and dad were there, and my brother. And obviously the audience was very limited, I think there were only like fifteen people there. But I got a really good reception, so that’s all that really matters [laughs]. Then I got to stick around and watch I Draw Slow, who were amazing, and who were on directly after me. So yeah, it was a surprise, first of all, to get the call to do it from Cherrycool Promotions, the guys who do Castlepalooza, I wasn’t expecting it. But it was an absolute pleasure from then on.” 

Obviously it would have been very busy in the lead-up to the show with getting everything ready, but maybe when it was all over, given the circumstances involved, was it an emotional kind of day at all? 

“Aaah… I wouldn’t say I was teary or anything. Gigs generally just make me happy! So it was a very happy situation for me to find myself in. And I suppose happiness is an emotion [laughs]. There’s so much going on on gig-day, with your nerves and with worrying about all your equipment and everything else, that until you’re on stage and actually doing it, there’s not a lot of space for anything else, or to pause and reflect [laughs]. Afterwards, though, I actually had a lovely time, I went up to Joe Lee and Dolores for a good hour while there were other acts playing, because my family are distant relatives of the Lees, I believe, somewhere back along the way. So we went upstairs and they gave us soup and sandwiches, and it was really, really nice. It was very sweet. But yeah, I remember that day as a very happy situation, I wasn’t on the verge of tears at any point [laughs].” 

Before Rising 21 comes around, fans of Niamh will have a chance to see her in action at a very special pre-recorded show from Moat Theatre, scheduled for broadcast a few days after we spoke…

“That was recorded the Monday before last…it could even be longer, it’s three Mondays ago, I think, on the 5th of July, whenever that was [laughs]. It was another one of these LPSS (Live Performance Support Scheme) gigs. The government gave out grants, and CS Promotions in Naas were lucky enough to avail of it, and they called me and asked would I like to do the pilot gig for the series they’re going to run. I said absolutely! It’s a two-hundred seater venue and they were planning to have an audience of maybe thirty people, really spread out, so that was really exciting. But as it got closer to the gig, there was all this talk about the Delta variant and they just decided they didn’t want to be the source of an outbreak. So they decided to just record the gig and put it out online later. I was disappointed because it’s so much nicer to play to an audience where you can get that direct feedback. But, at the same time, it was the safer thing to do. So we played it to an empty theatre and they recorded everything, Darren Skippy Productions were the video crew. That should be coming out on the 31st of July. Even though I was playing to an empty theatre, it was still a great experience. And it was nice to play on such a big stage, there was lots of room which is always a relief. I wasn’t tripping over my bandmates and cables and stuff! [Laughs]. The gig went great, my performance was very strong. So I’m curious to see it as well, I haven’t seen it yet.” 

In November of 2020, back when Niamh and I had last spoken, she had just released her single, Carousel. In 2020 and 2021, given the strangeness of the times, how does an independent singer/songwriter like Niamh gauge a single’s success? What metrics does she use to measure progress? 

“‘Carousel’ as a single did fine. It’s still steadily creeping up in streams. And the video is performing very well on YouTube. The single got a decent amount of media coverage and a good bit of radio-play as well, and radio-play for a long time after it was released, which is good. Overall, I’m happy with it. Obviously, it didn’t shoot me into superstardom or anything [laughs], but that’s not how it works in real-life, ya know. It’s a long-game. When it comes to measuring how you’re doing, for a lot of people it does come down to streams. And a lot of it comes down to social media following as well. But for me, I think you can have amazing artists that maybe aren’t streaming so well. Maybe I tell myself this to make myself feel better [laughs]. But I think a good metric for me is people booking you for gigs. Do people want to see you in real-life? There’s two places you can perform: online, or real-life. You could be doing well in both aspects, or just in one. But I think it’s nice to still be getting calls for bookings even when gigs are so quiet. So my metric for if I’m doing well is if people are calling to say we’d love you to come and play at our show.” 

Does Niamh track airplay for her singles? 

“I do. What I do is, in the three months around the release, I buy a three-month subscription to WARM (World Airplay Radio Monitor), Brí (another brilliant artist from Tullamore) put me onto that. So I can check how it’s doing for three months. Obviously that has now run out for Carousel, but I was able to see things for that three months. And I got a decent amount of international airplay around that, which was really interesting to see.” 

If you haven’t already seen Naimh’s video for Carousel, then make some time to check it out as a matter of urgency. Consider it a little treat to yourself. It’s way more than just rolling the camera, getting some footage, and editing it all together. Far from simply complimenting the song, this thing is a little work of art in its own right. And, it was produced by…Niamh’s brother, Declan! 

“Thank you! When it came to the video, I asked Declan if he would be interested in doing something again. The first single I released, ‘Virtue’, I had an idea and had the script which I gave to him and then we worked on it together. But this time around, for ‘Carousel’, I said, look Declan, do what you want, make it weird, I just want some crazy visuals! [Laughs]. And he was like, cool, deadly, let’s do it! I live in Dublin, but I came home I think for a week at a time twice last year to work on the video. A lot of it was me perched in front of a green-screen and all of the trickery happens in post [production]. So the brunt of the work was on Declan. All the editing took ages. When it comes to all the visuals that were there, they were basically his ideas. I think it turned out pretty class. It was thematically accurate, with lots of spinning visuals. And the colour in it is amazing. He has a nice lighting set-up. And we used a drone for a couple of shots. He even made proper mounts and rigs so that I could revolve around, so we could get all these smooth shots. An insane amount of work went into it on his end of things.”

One of Niamh’s more recent songs, When This Is All Over, is also accompanied by a beautiful, enthralling, and cinematic video. When This Is AllOver is a most tender and affectionate song. I asked Niamh to share a little about how both song and video came to be…

“I remember I wrote it in bed at some point [laughs]. I think it was July last year. I had been listening to Bob Dylan and I was learning travis-picking on guitar. So I had this Bob Dylan vibe in my head and I thought I wanted to write a song like that. It was also a few months of having no gigs by then, and it was like when is this gonna bloody end?! [Laughs]. I came up with this really sweet chord progression and I thought a positive message would suit it. It’s all about looking forward to when life goes back to normal – or whatever the new normal is – and getting to see people again, and see your family again. And also, the very last verse deals with how I’m looking forward to performing in front of people and hearing everybody singing along with me again. There’s a lot of yearning there for that future point where that can happen again. When I wrote it last July I thought well I’ll put it on an album sometime and it will eventually get recorded. But it’s taking a while for things to happen, for me to get funding for any EP or album. So this March, because I was at home, I just said I’d do a recording of it and make a video of it, and just put it out as is. That video is a collection of videos and images from, that has an amazing royalty-free, license-free database of images and videos. I was looking for stuff from the seventies and eighties, trying to correlate it to what the song was about. It took a while to organise and put together, but I did it, and then Declan recorded me in front of the green-screen and superimposed me on top of the whole shebang! I think it turned out like a really hopeful, and really sweet song.” 

One of the things that I’ve always liked and admired about Niamh, and it’s something which is always evident in her songs, is the fact that she’s clearly a deep-thinker. Her opinions are always carefully considered and well thought-through. So, I was fairly certain that she wouldn’t have looked at the government’s recent pilot music festival in Kilmainham and just thought, “Yeah, cool, whatever.” So… what did she make of that event? 

“Yeah [laughs], I do have an opinion on this [laughs]. So, it was nice to see activity happening again in the sector. However, that event went ahead with an audience of 3, 500…great. It employed lighting and sound engineers, so some people got work out of it. The audience got a chance to see some music, that’s brilliant. But, at the same time, in other countries where similar events – pilot events like that one – have gone ahead, they’ve used PCR testing for everybody going into the event and coming out again, and used that to collect data about the nature of having large events in times of Covid. This didn’t happen here. There was no data collected. It wasn’t used as a way of figuring can we open up the country more, can we have these large events? So I think it’s great for the small number of people who got to go, but we’re still in a place where we can’t have loads of those gigs because we don’t know whether they’re a good idea or not! And obviously, I’m delighted for the artists who were booked, but it is very much the top 1% that got that opportunity. For your regular everyday musician, say if you’re just a cover musician and not an original artist, you’re completely left out in the cold. Live music is not permitted indoors until November as it stands, I think I heard. I get my bread-and-butter from going in and playing in small venues. And if I wasn’t an original recording artist on the side, that would be my only revenue stream. So [even after the pilot festival] we’re still completely in the dark about other types of performances, like indoors. I’m glad it went ahead, but I think they could have done a lot better of a job with it.” 

Does Naimh get the feeling that it was a PR event more than anything, and that if it had just been presented as such – as a morale booster of sorts – it would have been better received? Because nothing, after all, is going to happen in the way that event did on any wider scale, it’s just not practical on so many levels.

“Yeah, definitely. I think it was more on the PR end of things. And a lot of people saw through that, and that’s why people aren’t happy.” 

On the day we spoke, both Bressie and Jerry Fish had been talking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk about the sense of frustration – and indeed, desperation for some – that still exists right across the events industry. For Niamh, and her peers and her friends in the business, how are they all feeling about the way things stand at the moment? 

“I feel like I have the same conversation with my fellow musicians all the time now. ‘It’ll be over soon.’ ‘It’s pretty bad right now, but it’ll be over soon.’ But that conversation’s been going on since last March and April. I think a lot of people are optimistic. I’m a member of the M.E.A.I. (Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland), and you can see there that a lot of people are disgruntled and frustrated, and aren’t getting supported by the government through this. There’s a lot of…I’m not gonna say hopelessness, because everybody’s hopeful that things are gonna go back to normal…but there’s a lot of frustration about the way things stand, and about the lack of information for performers who are at our level. Every now and then I’m kinda like I’m just sick of talking about Covid, ya know [laughs]. There’s nothing new to say in the conversation because there’s so little information being put forth by the powers-that-be.”

So for Niamh, for the rest of 2021, what has she got planned? And, she mentioned an album earlier, and God knows I’ve been bending her ear on that for years wanting to know when we’ll see it…so…might it be 2022? 

“[Laughs] Basically, I’m gonna try and record an EP this year. I was gonna try and release it, but it might have to be a case of recording it this year and releasing it next year. That’s gonna be a four-track EP, I’ve decided. I know I keep changing my mind about things, but this time, I’m serious [laughs]. My studio of choice wasn’t available, so I’m kinda studio hunting at the moment. This first EP is gonna be called…’Animals and Friends’! It’s a reference to one of the lyrics on one of the songs that will appear on the EP. It’ll be on the rockier end of things, it’s not gonna be super folky. Once I have that recorded, it will probably be early next year when I do all the promotion stuff. At the moment I have a YouTube video in the works, and it will probably be up before this article goes ‘live.’ It’s a video of myself and Joshua Murtagh, the keys player from my band, we’re covering a song called ‘The Water’ by Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling. That’ll be up in the next few days. My YouTube’s been kinda quiet lately because I got bored of it! [Laughs]. I’m trying to keep life interesting and have a bit of variety during Covid [laughs]. Then mid to late 2022 – I already have the album written and planned out – so there’ll be an eight-track album next year at some point. Big plans, big plans! But it’s taking a while to get around to them. I think that’s mainly Covid’s fault [laughs].” 

DUBH LEE (Niamh Dooley) will be performing at RISING 21 in JOE LEE’S/JOHN LEE’S, Tullamore, on Friday, August 6th. You can follow Dubh Lee on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. You can also enjoy this interview with Dubh Lee in full on the official OTRT website, For more information on Rising 21, check out 


Olivia Burke

First Published July 2021


It’s been a while – too long, in fact – since we last had a new reason to enjoy the glorious voice of OLIVIA BURKE. But thankfully that all changed last Friday with the release of her brand new single, YOU’RE ALIVE. A superb songwriter in her own right, You’re Alive sees Olivia take on the role of artist only, as she brings this Keith McLoughlin and Grace Day penned creation to life. 

We had the pleasure of catching up with Olivia last week on the night before You’re Alive officially entered the world, and we kicked off our chat with her explaining how she became involved in this project…

“Well I’ve known Keith for a good few years, he does a radio show on the station Dublin South FM, and I’ve done a couple of interviews and performances on the show. And we just stayed in contact. So Keith wrote that song with Grace, and I believe they did most of it over Facebook video-calls, because obviously with the pandemic and everything they weren’t able to do it in person. Then they passed it onto me and asked would I be interested in singing it. The  minute I heard the song I said yeah, it’s definitely something I’d like to be involved in. I just thought it was really catchy, there’s just kind of a good vibe around it in general. After that, I got involved in the pre-production side of things, and took part in some of those video-calls with Grace and Keith, along with Rohan from Beardfire Studios who produced the track.” 

From the time Olivia first heard a version of You’re Alive, to the finished product that we were all about to hear a few hours after she and I spoke, how much did her involvement change the song? 

“The melody mostly stayed the same, the lyrics and the chords stayed the same. There were a couple of bits, little sections, that were shortened and things like that, instrumentally, when we went into the studio. Over the video-calls, we all had a lot of input in picking out songs that would be good reference tracks, to the point where we were actually listening to tracks and saying do ya know what, we like the drums out of this track, and then listening to something else and liking the guitar out of that. It was a very focused approach to it in that regard. When I did hear it first, though, it was only an acoustic demo with Grace singing and playing guitar. So we did, we changed it a lot. One thing led to another. When we were discussing it we said we might take it a more pop route instead of going acoustic country with it. Although it still has those nuances to it, it’s definitely more kind of radio-friendly…although country and acoustic would be as well…I don’t know, it’s more universal, I suppose? Just because it is hitting the pop scene.” 

I’ve known about Olivia for a good few years already, and always as being a songwriter herself. So I was wondering, with something like this, where she was coming on-board as a vocalist, was it her first time doing that? And if it was, what was her reaction to being asked? 

“Yeah, absolutely, my first time doing anything like this. I went and studied music for four years in college, in BIMM in Dublin, so I was doing a lot of collaboration, but nothing to this level, but just playing with other people and performing original music from other people. And I really enjoyed that collaborative side of it. So when I heard Keith and Grace’s song, I knew I liked it, and that it was something that I’d like to be a part of. I was absolutely delighted to be a part of it. Of course, it was kind of a different experience, coming at it from the perspective of a songwriter. But I thought the song was great, so in that sense, it wasn’t something that felt too far out of my comfort zone just because I’d been used to playing with other people over the last couple of years.” 

So as an artist who is also a songwriter, what was Olivia’s approach to getting ‘inside’ the words of other writers? 

“I think music is a form of communication, more so than anything else. And you really want to communicate with the listener and get the message across. So I suppose I took the same approach as I would to a cover-song, when I was thinking about how to approach the emotion in it. Because you need to connect with whoever’s listening to it. I spent a lot of time reading the lyrics and trying to come about those emotions in my mind, the ones the song was representing for me, and trying to convey that in the way I sang it. In the studio recording it, I think we took three vocal takes for the main vocal. And every time Rohan was pushing me to put more emotion into it! [Laughs]. He’d be saying, you did great in this line conveying the emotion, now push it for the next line. And it worked in the end. In a way, there is a bit of drama to it, I suppose [laughs]. It’s a bit like acting in a way, isn’t it.” 

Was Olivia able to link the lyrics to something in her own life to make that personal connection, or was it – as she had just said – more a case of acting it out? 

“I think in a way, all lyrics – even when it comes to ones I write myself – you want to make them universal so that it’s something that everyone can relate to. But at the same time, this song deals with the feelings around the end of a relationship, or a friendship, and drawing parallels between that and the feelings of grief if you’ve actually lost a loved one for any reason, death, or if they’ve moved away for some reason. So I suppose they are things that I would relate to, but also that everyone would relate to as well. Although it’s a personal song, it’s not very specific. So I was able to approach it from my perspective as well.” 

As Olivia had mentioned, she’s just finished four years studying Commercial Modern Music and Songwriting at BIMM in Dublin. So I asked her to tell me about her time there and what it’s set her up for next in her career…

“Well, first off, I had an absolutely amazing experience there. I’ve been slow with releases and everything the last couple of years just because I’ve been trying to focus on that, and wanting to make the most of my time there. I’ve made amazing connections with other musicians that I know will be life-long friendships, and life-long musical partnerships, hopefully. Covid has put a bit of a spanner in the works because it’s harder to collaborate with people and work with people. BIMM is so great because they teach you about the business side of it [the music industry] and the law side of it. I feel like, as a musician – when all you want to do is play, and write music – you push that more practical side of it to the back of your mind. In the sense of what you need to do marketing-wise, business-wise, what you need to know about the legalities of it all. So learning about all of that, as well as being able to perform, was absolutely amazing. We all like to think that as musicians we’ll be in a position where one day we’ll have people dealing with all that kind of stuff for us [laughs]. But at the same time, I think it’s good to actually have a base in all of it, and know what you’re talking about, and what’s right and what’s wrong. If you’re offered, let’s say, a contract or something like that, to know that you’re not getting screwed over, basically [laughs]. But it was a great experience, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough for musicians, or anyone else interested in the music business in general, because you learn so much. It was four or five days a week, four years, so a level-eight course, so a proper bachelor’s degree. Which is unusual in itself for a music course which is so modern. As you know, in Ireland most courses are related to Irish music or classical music. So it was really cool, even though it wasn’t all just sitting around and playing music. Even though that would have been great! [Laughs].” 

So when did the thought of going to BIMM first come into Olivia’s head? Was it always her plan for after secondary school? 

“Absolutely! I think when I was in third-year, or transition-year, I heard about it for the first time, and I knew that was definitely what I wanted to do. There were obviously other things I was interested in school, but I said ya know what, I want to go and pursue my passion, and see what comes of it. I believe when I was filling out the C.A.O. form that was the only thing that I actually had written down [laughs], I was just banking everything on that! [Laughs].” 

So now that Olivia has completed her four years in BIMM, how will everything that she’s learned, as well as all of the relationships and connections she’s made, help to lead her into this next stage of her career? 

“Well, I’ve found a new love in music, in production. I love producing music now. A lot of that was through BIMM and what they’ve taught us in relation to demos, and different software to make demos. A lot of the assignments on the course I did would be submitting portfolios of songs. I released a single in May called ‘Anybody Else’ that I self-produced, and just recorded at home. And I have other stuff that I’m working on and I’m hoping to bring out. So it’s benefited me in that way, especially at the minute because even with the worry of Covid, it means that I can still get music out without having to go and record somewhere else, ya know. And it makes it easier to show people your ideas, if you’re able to throw something together at home and say look, this is what I’m thinking of. Rather than trying to explain yourself and maybe not being able to find the words. Music, as I said, it’s a lot about communication. And that comes down to working with other people as well. And BIMM has been great for giving me that knowledge, to be able to show people what I’d like to do.” 

Olivia is still only twenty-two, but even six years ago, at just sixteen, she released her debut EP, Notes On My Napkin. I remember being at that launch in Hugh Lynch’s in Tullamore, and being blown away by just how special a talent Olivia already was, even at that very, very early stage of her career. But to end up with an EP at just sixteen, means her writing career itself began even earlier…

“Ah, thanks so much! [Laughs]. Yeah, I started writing when I was just a kid. I always loved music. I was writing songs that were basically rip-offs of Britney Spears songs [laughs]. I’d take whatever I heard on the radio and try and make something [else] of it. But when I was about twelve, I think, I learned how to play the guitar. I started writing lyrics then, and I’ve been at it ever since. It’s second nature to me now at this stage, I suppose.” 

Staying with Olivia’s writing, and her time at BIMM, I wanted to know how much that had helped to change, or develop, her approach to songwriting. By ‘changed’, I wondered if her approach now was completely different to when she first went to BIMM four years ago. And by ‘developed’, I wondered if her approach was perhaps the same, only now honed much closer to perfection…

“I think it’s a bit of both, to be honest. Because I would look at songwriting in a different sense [now], because I’m well-aware of all the theory around it, the practicalities of it, and the things that are in place that songwriters have been doing for years. Even taking thematic approaches to songs rather than just writing down lyrics that come to my head straight away. I don’t think my approach has necessarily changed, because I’ve always been someone who would write lyrics, melody, and music at the same time. But I definitely feel like I’ve become a more rounded songwriter. I can write songs now from other peoples’ perspectives as well, or about things I haven’t necessarily gone through myself. I think things like that are always positives for a writer. And as well as that, the practise of having to write songs specifically for briefs and assignments, has pushed me more. But in my mind, it’s always going to be quality over quantity anyway, so if I go through a bit of writer’s block, sure that’s all part of it [laughs].” 

Olivia had briefly mentioned Covid earlier in our chat. I was wondering how it might have affected her life – not being able to perform, not being able to see people, all of that – and in turn, how that might have affected her writing? 

“Environmental factors are always, always going to be a part of it, whether you’re even conscious of it or not. But I think music has shifted to becoming more…emotional in a way, I suppose. People want a little bit more substance to lyrics instead of just easy-listening on the radio. Not to say that stuff from the last couple of years isn’t good or anything [laughs], I love listening to pop music. But I think people want stories right now. With Covid, because it is such a universal thing, honing in to those emotions and those feelings that everyone has known; being stuck at home, or feeling a bit lost, that’s something a writer can use to try and connect with people a little bit more than maybe they could before. Because there is that solidarity about what we’ve all been going through.” 

With You’re Alive due out only hours after we spoke, I asked Olivia what the rest of 2021 looked like holding in store for her…

“Well I’m hoping that as soon as things start to open back up for ‘live’ music that I’ll be out doing open-mics and stuff back in Dublin, and hopefully a few gigs. I’m working on a new single that will hopefully be coming out at the end of August as well, called ‘Graves’, which is an original. So hopefully that will be out around the end of August, early September, I’m not entirely sure yet. But that’s another self-produced one. There’s a lot of ‘hopefully’ involved in looking ahead right now [laughs]. ‘Graves’ is a song I wrote when I was in my first year in college, it’s about people using different vices to survive in life, whether that’s drugs, alcohol, toxic relationships, that kind of thing. It’s a song about self-sabotage. It’s written as a love song. It’s an interesting one, it’s an interesting one [laughs]. I’ll be sticking with the pop route, but it’ll be a little bit heavier than ‘You’re Alive’, but still radio-friendly. More Billie Eilish than any country kinda vibes! It’s a little bit more hip-hop inspired, I suppose.” 

If Olivia wrote Graves in her first year in college, four years ago, does that mean that she probably holds onto a lot of songs for a long time? Until she feels the time is finally right to finish them and send them out into the world?

“Absolutely. There’s songs that I’ve written six and seven years ago that I’d be happy recording and releasing now. But at the same time, the last single that I released back in May, ‘Anybody Else’, I only wrote that one over the pandemic. And it was to do with what we were just talking about, those feelings of loneliness, grief, and everything people were feeling over lockdown. Feeling a bit detached from yourself, ya know. I wrote that and released it very quickly afterwards. So it just depends really. I’m only getting to a stage now where I feel confident enough with my production to actually release things properly. So I have a lot of things built up. Folders upon folders of lyrics and songs that I’d like to get out into the world. Look, it’ll be a long time before they’re all out there [laughs], but hopefully we’ll get there someday!” 

YOU’RE ALIVE, the brand NEW single from OLIVIA BURKE (written by Keith McLoughlin and Grace Day), is OUT NOW, available on all digital platforms and to request from radio. 


Larissa Tormey


Press Release via AS Written, July 2021


Even in the 21st century, an old-fashioned love is still what some girls dream of. And singer/songwriter LARISSA TORMEY just so happens to be one of them. In fact, Larissa is such an old-fashioned romantic herself, that she followed her heart all the way from her native Russia to her new home in the Irish midlands when she married a good old-fashioned Irish farmer, her husband Christy. So maybe it’s no surprise then that her new single will be the somewhat tongue-in-cheek single, OLD FASHIONED.  

Set for general release across all digital platforms on July 30th, Old Fashioned is another original from Larissa’s own songbook, and features on her latest country collection, Breath of Fresh Air. That album hit stores last November, but this particular song holds a special place in Larissa’s affections, and she’s always had an equally special plan for it…   


“I think everyone should just be themselves, I think that’s so important for everybody. And if that means that you might be a little bit old-fashioned in your ways, that’s grand, that’s no problem. It’s much better to be authentic than to ever feel like you need to pretend to be someone you’re not. Even though it’s a fun song, and a happy one, it does have that message in it, too. I think being old-fashioned is a great thing, and lots of girls still prefer gentlemen to bad boys! [Laughs]. After all, not everyone needs to be modern. At least not in every way.”  


Larissa continued, “This is one of my favourite songs on my last album because it’s so funny. And I know it’s a little bit…maybe sarcastic you could say, but it’s in a very gentle and affectionate way. It’s just a playful song, and it’s the kind of thing you can say to a gentleman because you know they understand that. Because I loved ‘Old Fashioned’ from the moment I wrote it, I was really tempted to put it out as a single before now. But I decided that it would be even better to wait until summer came so that we could make a video here at home on Loughnagore Farm! So that’s what I did! So we recorded that last week and I’m delighted to say that one of the stars of the ‘Old Fashioned’ video will be a gentleman called Tom Lynam, who is not only one of our lovely neighbours, but a very good family friend as well. And of course we couldn’t film a video on our farm in the summer without making sure that our cattle got in on the action too! [Laughs].”  


Despite the ongoing troubles faced by the music industry as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, Old Fashioned will actually be Larissa’s fourth release of what has already proved to be a busy 2021. Her musical year began with the duet, Agree To Disagree, with British country legend Dave Sheriff back in February. That was followed by One Man Band in March, a track with links to none other than Sir Tom Jones himself as it was penned by Jon Philibert who also wrote the Welsh legends 1984 hit, I’ve Been Rained On Too. Then, as summer began to appear on the horizon in April, Larissa treated fans to another original of her own, Slightly Mad, which will feature on a full original album she has in the works for before the year’s end. 

With two Hot Press Award nominations also coming her way last March, in the Female Artist of the Year (alongside Imelda May, Denise Chaila, Emma Langford, and more) and the Best Songwriter (alongside Lisa Hannigan, Dermot Kennedy, and Niall Horan to name a few) categories, it’s already been a year to remember, no matter what else happens between now and December 31st. 

But Larissa isn’t one for resting on her laurels. She’s always planning her next move. You could say, she’s kind of old-fashioned like that. 

OLD FASHIONED, the brand NEW single from LARISSA TORMEY, will be available on all platforms from Friday, July 30th, and is now available to request from radio stations nationwide. 


Hot Country TV/ Hugh O’ Brien

First Published July 2021


Long renowned as an innovator within the Irish country music scene where he has been an influential figure for more than a decade, Cork based HOTCOUNTRY TV host and founder HUGH O’ BRIEN, is about to launch an exciting new venture which will create almost fifty new jobs while offering artists an opportunity to grow their fan-base on a worldwide scale.

The Hot Country FREE HD TV iPlayer will open a portal for artists and fans alike to share and enjoy the best of Irish country anywhere across the globe.

The iPlayer (also known as the Hot Country TV Media Player) – which will be an on-demand service, similar to that provided by Netflix, Amazon Prime, Discovery, Now TV, and others – will be accessible via all Smart TVs and digital devices, taking only about ten seconds to download.

Speaking about his new venture, the Corkman, who first broadcast on SKY TV almost twelve years ago, explained how the new Hot Country TV iPlayer will change the landscape of the Irish country music scene.

“This is a first for Irish country music as currently there is no iPlayer available which can be downloaded to SMART TVs. This gives the viewer comfort, with top quality picture and sound at the flick of a button. If they like country music, and indeed associated programming, then this is the place to be. Country music is hugely popular and has the second highest audience rating on RTE 1 each year, The Toy show being the biggest.”

As well as creating up to fifty new jobs nationwide (with more to be added) by way of camera and sound operators, presenters and researchers, editors, sales and office staff, O’ Brien revealed that the free Hot Country TV iPlayer platform will also be available at extremely attractive rates to other video producers. These might be producers who have either a series or once-off shows available for broadcast. As this platform – that of TV and in this format is not available at present – he expects this option to prove very popular among creators. With the Hot Country TV iPlayer also offering a pay-per-view facility, O’ Brien has no doubt that its arrival will mark a new era for country music, and any and all associated businesses. 

In fact, he sees this as an exciting opportunity to be availed of by businesses of any shape or size, and in any sector, remarking that, “We’ll have hugely attractive advertising rates, and we’ll happily talk to anyone about how we can work together. No problem at all.”

The Hot Country FREE HD TV iPlayer on-demand service will include the award winning Hot Country show (long noted for its role in helping to launch the careers of stars such as Nathan Carter, Derek Ryan, Mike Denver, Cliona Hagan, Jimmy Buckley, and many more), plus: Hot Country XTRA;The NewStars Of Irish Country Music, promoting Ireland’s newest country singers and bands; the Life & Times show profiling the life of Ireland’s top stars; TheMost Awesome Bathroom Singer in Ireland; as well as star interviews, a regular gig-guide, infomercials for wedding suppliers, shows from Nashville TN, and shows on farming, tourism, motor-sport, and more yet to be announced.

Now, one of the above-mentioned shows in particular may have caught your attention, and that’s The Most Awesome Bathroom Singer in Ireland.

If we’re all being honest about it, then most of us would have to admit that we think we’re a country star when we’re singing away to our heart’s content in the bathroom! And that’s whether we have a voice like Mike Denver or – as the saying goes – even if we couldn’t carry a melody if it had a handle. So here’s the BIG question: Have YOU ever fancied yourself as a bit of a Nathan Carter, a Derek Ryan, a Jimmy or a Claudia Buckley when you’re standing in front of the bathroom mirror? Or, when doing your best Daniel O’Donnell, Olivia Douglas or Sabrina Fallon impersonation while in the shower, has the thought ever crossed your mind that you could take that talent and step into the real-world spotlight with it? If the answer is yes, then there’s another question that awaits you…

Do you think you have what it takes to take home the title of The Most Awesome Bathroom Singer in Ireland?

Well, if you do, the chance to prove it is coming your way, and again, it’s coming courtesy of Europe’s longest-running country music TV show, Hot Country, and it’s founder Hugh O’ Brien. “Some of us wouldn’t sing in public even if we were paid to!”, exclaimed Hugh when we spoke recently, adding with a laugh, “And I’d be one of them!”

“And yet we’ll nearly all sing in the shower without any embarrassment. Believe it or not, there’s a scientific explanation behind such soapy musical stylings. Think about it, you probably don’t sing when you’re sad, unless you’re singing the blues, of course. For many people, shower time is the only time they’re alone all day. You’re in a warm, small, safe environment, and you’re comfortable enough to be in the buff! Stress literally washes off you. When you relax, your brain releases dopamine, which can give your creative juices a jumpstart.”

Hugh continued, “The warm water rushing over you relaxes you, and makes you feel good. And it turns out that singing makes you feel even better. You see, singing, because of the breathing you put into it, gets more oxygen into the blood. This gives you better circulation, which in turn improves your body and mood. Because you have to breathe a little deeper to belt out a song, you get some of the same relaxation and mind-clearing benefits as meditation. And when you’re singing, you really can’t think about your problems, so there’s more stress relief for ya!”

Hugh went on to explain that the best thing about singing in the bathroom is the acoustics. Because bathroom tiles don’t absorb sound, your voice bounces back and forth around the room before fading away. And because the shower is a small space, it also boosts your voice and even adds a little bass, making your singing sound more powerful. The sound bouncing gives your vocal styling a slight reverb effect, which makes your voice hang in the air longer and evens out variations in your singing. This can be thought of as a primitive auto-tune, making you sound better than you actually are, and giving you an added confidence boost in the process. 

So, how exactly can you go about becoming the most awesome bathroom singer in Ireland? Well, that couldn’t be more simple. 

All you have to do is record a video of yourself being the star that you are when you’re singing in the bathroom. Whether that’s in front of the mirror, in the shower, or even while relaxing in a bubble-bath, we’ll leave those choices up to you! 

When you’ve captured the take that you’re happiest with, simply send your video to, and you’ll be in with a chance of winning a holiday for TWO in Spain, and a number of product hampers from Galway Irish Crystal.

The best videos will feature as part of the brand new original show on Hot Country TV’s newly launched Free HD iPlayer, presented by Jodie Lucas. This can be downloaded to all SMART TVs worldwide, plus all digital devices including Apple and android phones. The show will also be available on the Hot Country TV website

With Hot Country TV, the whole world really is a stage…even your bathroom!

So get your voice warmed up, and get your phone out, because YOU could be…’the most awesome bathroom singer’ in Ireland!

~ Hot Country is Europe’s longest running country music TV show, broadcasting for the last twelve years and currently on the hugely popular Phil Mac’s Spotlight TV channel Sky 365, plus Freesat 516, Freeview 87 (Manchester), and Free to Air Satellite all over Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe. Broadcast times are Monday at 8 pm, repeated on Saturdays at 6 pm, also available worldwide at and Hot Country is edited by Leo Fitzgerald at Music Row Studios in their state of the art video and audio studios in Ballydesmond, Cork, Ireland.