Morgan Evans

First Published June 2022


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 

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


Trudi Lalor


Press Release via AS Written, June 2022


TRUDI (right) with MARGO at a REACH OUT RADIO event.

Country music trailblazer TRUDI LALOR is Tullamore bound. Trudi will join the legendary MARGO when ‘the Queen of Country and Irish’ brings her 70th Birthday Celebration Concert Tour to the Tullamore Court Hotel on July 20th. 

          For country fans in the midlands, the chance to see Margo return to the stage will certainly be one of the highlights of 2022. And with Trudi as one of the special guests on the bill (plus Mick Foster, Moyra Fraser, and Alex Roe), the night will be a magical and memorable experience for all in attendance.  

          Already a much loved and admired performing and recording artist, Trudi is regarded by many as having one of the most powerful and pristine voices ever to grace a country record – or the airwaves – in Ireland. But over the last few years, the Laois native has transformed herself into a veritable virtuoso of the country scene, becoming one of its most influential figures in the process. In fact, if Ireland can boast of anyone who comes even close to the phenomenon that is multi-talented American country star Reba McEntire, then Trudi has the strongest possible claim on that crown. And here’s why. 

          Not only has she maintained her recording career at a consistently stellar level, Trudi – already a noted radio presenter of long-standing as well – has also founded a brand new radio station. And, on top of that, she has been appointed editor of a groundbreaking magazine dedicated exclusively to the world of country music. However, despite having checked each box on that astounding list of achievements, it’s something much more down to earth – very like the lady herself –  that perhaps best highlights the heights she has soared to, and the affection in which she’s held by those on the country scene. 

          And it’s this one simple fact. Like Reba, like Margo, and indeed, like Dolly too, Trudi is known to one and all as just that: Trudi. One word says it all. 

          It’s often said that every major moment in history will somehow find or reveal the individuals capable of rising to the challenges those moments present. Well, when Covid slammed on the brakes of the ‘live’ music industry in 2020, it certainly found Trudi more than ready to meet that moment head on. With husband and manager Billy Morrissey, Trudi organised the Reach-Out project, connecting some of Irish country’s biggest names – including Nathan Carter, Mike Denver, and Cliona Hagan – with fans all around Ireland, and well beyond these shores as well. 

          During a time when all of the normal means of connecting with each other suddenly became impossible, Trudi and Billy’s Reach-Out project found a way to bring people back together. And for many fans, it was these special moments that helped them to hold everything else together too. 

          That initiative has since blossomed into Reach-Out Radio, a national and global online station fully dedicated to country music, both Irish and American, with a sprinkling of Irish ballads and folk music added in for good measure. As well as Trudi’s own self-titled show, the station features Billy Morrissey’s Ballads and Folk Show, The Nashville Connection with Max T. Barnes, Marc Roberts with Country Roads, and Kelly’s Country with host Paul Kelly. And the station is adding to its already impressive line-up of presenters all the time, with Tony Brook and Kerry Fearon also coming on board recently. 

          Sealing the deal on Trudi’s standing as a virtuoso beyond compare in Irish country, was her appointment to the role of Editor on the groundbreaking RSVP Country magazine, which has just celebrated its fourth edition. 

          Returning to Reba for those who may not know much about the Oklahoman, she is – without question – one of the biggest names of all time in American country music. She has been among its leading-lights for decades now, having signed her very first record contract way back in 1975. Since then, Reba has gone on to become one of the genre’s all-time greats with more than thirty studio albums to her name. But her natural creative talents, coupled with a sense of ambition, drive, and work-ethic that perhaps only Dolly could ever match, have also led to Reba becoming a familiar face on both ‘the silver screen’ and Broadway. 

          All in all, Reba has established herself as an artist, an innovator, an entrepreneur, and a businesswoman. And all the while, staying Reba. So as you can see, she and Trudi really do have a lot in common. Whether it’s Reba, or whether it’s Trudi, one word says it all. 

          For country fans who make it to the Tullamore Court Hotel to join Margo in her belated 70th birthday celebrations next month, the opportunity to also enjoy the company of Trudi Lalor will definitely be the icing on the cake! 

~ MARGO’S 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION CONCERT TOUR comes to the Tullamore Court Hotel on July 20th, with Margo joined by very special guests TRUDI LALOR, MICK FOSTER, MOYRA FRASER, and ALEX ROE. Tickets are on sale now from hotel reception, or by calling 05793-46666. 




Press Release via AS Written, June 2022


MARGO, the ‘Queen of Country and Irish’

For country music fans in the midlands, one of the biggest nights of the year – and one of the most eagerly anticipated as well – is now only weeks away as the legendary MARGO prepares to return to Tullamore next month. 

          Margo, whose place in Irish entertainment history is already eternally enshrined, will perform at the Tullamore Court Hotel on July 20th as one of the stops on her 70th Birthday Celebration Concert Tour

          Known affectionately within the country scene as the ‘Queen of Country and Irish’, Margo‘s honesty about her life and times – both onstage and off – has endeared ‘the girl from Donegal’ to fans for decades now, including many for whom country music might otherwise have held less appeal. 


Speaking a few years back, on the occasion of a special tour to celebrate her fifty-five years in music, Margo talked about returning to touring after being off the road for a while. In what offered a good indication of how she probably feels about hitting the road again after the music industry’s Covid lay-off, Margo made her love for her fans – and indeed, her acknowledgement of their love for her – very clear…

          “You know the thing I would miss most – cos’ I’d always still sing away – but the thing I’d miss most is not being out there and touring, being with the people. I really missed that contact. My audience are very loving, they’re very caring people who come to see me. And I sort of know a lot of them on a personal basis, they’re more than fans to me. They’re really friends that I’ve got to know on the road to where I am today.” 

          At that time, Margo also went on to say, “I suppose when I look back, I can remember the very beginning [of my career], and it doesn’t seem that long ago, even though it’s fifty-five years. It’s kind of unreal. When I started out, I never, ever thought that I would still be singing the way I am this far down the line.” 


With this tour celebrating her 70th birthday (she was born on February 6th, 1951, but the original dates on this tour were postponed due to Covid), no-one can doubt Margo’s love of performing for her many friends and fans all around Ireland is still as strong as ever.

To help her celebrate her big night in Tullamore, Margo will be joined by some dear friends who are also stars of the Irish country scene. Namely Reach Out radio co-founder TRUDI LALOR, and MICK FOSTER of Foster & Allen, with Mick being joined by his true ‘better-half’, his wife, MOYRA FRASER. Young star ALEX ROE – whom Trudi mentored all the way to the final of TG4’s Glór Tíre in 2020 – is also expected to make an appearance on the night. 

~ MARGO performs at the TULLAMORE COURT HOTEL on her 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION CONCERT TOUR, on JULY 20th. Tickets are ON-SALE NOW from hotel reception, or by calling 05793-46666


Dave McCune


Press Release via AS Written, June 2022


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.


Nathan Carter

First Published June 2022


If you’ve ever been to a NATHAN CARTER show, then you’ll already know that you won’t find a happier place within at least a fifty-mile radius of there. The vibe at one of the Fermanagh based singer’s concerts is always marked by an air of ultra-professionalism from start to finish. But, and this is central to his success over the last decade and more, we’re talking about professionalism in the warmest sense of the word here. 

The existence of that attitude, and the insistence that its how people are treated and made to feel, undoubtedly comes from the man himself and is present in everyone who plays any role in Nathan’s set-up, from Nathan and his manager John Farry to road-manager Ger Butler right through to guys in the band and anyone else on the team. And if anyone forgets this, there’s always Nathan’s gran Anne McCoy to quickly put them back in line! 

In fact, this is one of the surest ways to tell when someone who is ranting on about Nathan in any negative or derogatory way – be it online, in print, or in real-life – has never actually met the man or been to one of his shows. If you’ve done either, then it’s nigh on impossible – unless you’re somewhat of a natural grinch who is seldom happy about anything anyway! – to have anything but admiration and respect for who Nathan is, what he has achieved, and how he and his team take care of and entertain his fans. 

With everything that’s happened over the last couple of years, it’s already been too long since we’ve had the chance to see Nathan on stage here in Tullamore. But thankfully, that will all be put right in a matter of weeks when he returns to the Tullamore Court Hotel on Sunday, July 3rd. And ahead of that return, I had the pleasure of catching up with Nathan as he waited to soundcheck at one of his recent sold-out shows in Bandon. 

Sadly, the news about the sudden passing of a Cork and Irish country music stalwart Sean Donnellan had only broken a short while before Nathan and I spoke. I relayed that sorrowful news to him, unsure if he’d already heard it or not…

“Aaaw, no way! Today? I’m so sorry to hear that, I really am. My sympathy to all of his family and friends. What sad news that is.” 

For more than thirty years, Sean had presented his hugely popular country and Irish shows on C103 in Cork. When writing about Sean’s passing last Saturday, the station noted on their website that, “His easy listening style made him a huge attraction to his listeners and he was also a great friend and mentor to his colleagues on the radio and in the wider music entertainment industry”.

OTRT joins with  Nathan in sending our condolences to Sean’s family, friends, and former colleagues at C103. 

Now that Nathan is back on the road again, I got the rest of our chat underway by asking him if he’d realised there was anything about his musician’s lifestyle that he’d been really missing over the last couple of years. But I didn’t mean anything obvious such as the moment when he walks out on stage and the crowd inevitably goes wild. I was talking about smaller moments, perhaps even ones which might have seemed insignificant when they were simply part of his usual day-to-day routine for so long. Until, that his, they were suddenly removed – without his having any say in the matter whatsoever – from his life. Maybe moments like sitting down with his band for their pre-show meal, perhaps? Or that moment when he’d pull out of the driveway at his Fermanagh home knowing he was on the way to a show? 

“Yeah, do ya know what? I used to give out constantly about having to drive, to travel for all these gigs! But since we’ve been back, I actually don’t mind it. I think we took just gigging in general for granted before. We always looked at the negatives rather than the positives, and the negative is definitely the travel. But I can honestly say now, I don’t mind travelling at all [laughs]. Because if that means that we can get out and gig, sure that’s a little sacrifice that we have to make, ya know.” 

Now usually when Nathan brings out a new album, it garners a huge amount of attention, and rightly so. But it’s also true that the world is usually a little bit calmer when that happens, not in the shadow of a pandemic and with war in Europe on the horizon, as things were when his latest long-player – Little Old Town – dropped last November. Given those circumstances, I wondered if Nathan felt that this collection had perhaps gone under the radar just a little bit? 

“Maybe so, yeah. I mean, we released it in a time where I thought people were looking for new music anyway. But we didn’t really get a chance to promote the album at all, cos’ we couldn’t gig. And as you know, when you release an album you need to be doing a lot of dates and tours to sell the album, and promote it, and sing those new songs. So I’m only really now getting the chance to do some of that material from that album, six months or so on now.” 

It takes a long time to put any album together, even in a ‘normal’ world. But how different than normal was the task and the process of working on Little Old Town this time around, given the challenges of the pandemic? 

“We [the musicians involved] ended up recording separately, which I hate doin’, to be honest. I’d rather get all the lads in the studio and we all kind of bounce off each other with ideas, and come up with the best way of performing the songs that we’ll record. Whereas this time, I’d have to sit at home and record vocals, then send it to the fiddle player in his house and he’d record at home, then send it to the bass player and he’d do his bit. So it was a bit stagnant and separated in that way, cos’ we couldn’t be in the studio all together. But ya know what, I was happy with the way it turned out in the end anyway. But I did miss the camaraderie of all being in the recording studio together and coming up with ideas.” 

When it comes to songs, I’m a titles guy, always have been. That’s what always gets my attention first, and what I always check out first on an album. Of course this means that I’m also always curious about the reasoning behind album titles too. Little Old Town has several cuts which – like the actual title track – could easily have stood out as names for the whole collection: My Life With You, Glory Days, The Returning, and Hold You Now being just some examples. So what made Little Old Town the best choice for that honour in Nathan’s eyes? 

“I think it’s probably cos’ I co-wrote the song with Jake my brother, and a guy called Cappy (Mark Caplice, who we’ve featured in OTRT before), who lives in Dublin. We had the most fun writing that song really. It was just a bit of a laugh. The song is actually about Enniskillen where I’ve lived for about nine or ten years now, but it could be about any ‘little old town’ in Ireland. There’s the old guy at the bar who’s always there whenever you call in, sitting up there. And it’s just about the people being so friendly, like most towns that you go to. I think 99.9% of towns that I go to in Ireland, the people have been so friendly. They’re glad to see musicians coming to the town, and glad to see gigs happening. So it could be about anywhere really, but it is about Enniskillen. And, as I say, we had the most fun writing that song so that’s why we decided to make it the title-track of the album.” 

Even though Little Old Town was only released in November of last year, back in April just gone Nathan released a brand new single – The Journey – which isn’t taken from that album. Can we take it from this that there won’t be any more singles coming our way from Little Old Town, and that his thoughts have already turned firmly in the direction of its successor? 

“Yeah, I’m already kind of writing for that. Well, I haven’t written much yet, but I am intending to write over the next couple of months, back in with Cappy again, and John [Farry], my manager. So yeah, we’re kind of always onto the next project. Once I’ve done an album, for me, it’s done [laughs]. We’ll perform some of the songs off it ‘live’, obviously, to promote it, but I always like to concentrate on the new thing and the next thing.” 

Moving slightly away from the music side of things for a moment, Nathan’s dear friend Lisa McHugh celebrated her marriage recently, and Nathan, of course, was among the guests on her big day. He and Lisa have shared so much of their professional lives in the public-eye since both made Ireland their home, so how cool was it to also share in Lisa‘s wedding day and be there to witness such a beautiful personal moment in her life as well? 

“Aah, it was really special, to be honest. We’ve been friends for over twelve years, I think it is at this stage. So to see her on her big day, so happy with her little son Milo…to be honest, it was the best wedding I was ever at. She’s meticulous when it comes to plans. And she had everything done down to a tee. It was a really fantastic couple of days, a wedding that I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.” 

Going back to the music side of things, I think – by my reckoning – Little Old Town is about Nathan’s eleventh album now, a substantial body of work for any artist, and certainly an achievement to be proud of. In the pop world, back in the day, it used to be that most acts would release three albums and then bring out a Greatest Hits collection on the back of those. By that measure, Nathan would be heading for a fourth such collection by now. So the question is, has putting together a Greatest Hits or a Best Of album of some kind crossed his mind? Is that something that might be on the cards? 

“You’d never know what might happen up ahead! I think the reason I’ve done so many albums is because we tour so much and we always need a new product to give to the fans, because we get the same fans coming back time and time again – something I appreciate so much – and they’re always looking for new material. So that’s probably the reason for that. In the country scene, from the biggest stars to the pub singers, generally one does an album every year. So from Kenny Rogers to Merle Haggard to the lads who sing in the pubs, I think we’re just mad to get new music out there all the time. That’s kind of natural in the scene I’m in.” 

With Nathan’s soundcheck for that evening’s show soon scheduled to begin, we wrapped up our catch-up with a question about being back on stage. Since getting back out on the road again, does performing feel different for Nathan after not being able to do it for so long? Not in the sense of  how he looks, or how much he puts into a show, but rather in how he feels about it all these days? 

“Yeah. I think I don’t take it as seriously. I mean, obviously I put everything into it. But before I used to stress about everything. I’d be worried about the lights, and the sound, just worrying about every little thing! But now, I just try to go up and enjoy myself, and I don’t take it as seriously as I probably did before. Well, I don’t worry as much, I’d say that’s more the thing. I just go out and try to enjoy myself, and make sure the crowd have a good time. Whereas before, I’d take it so seriously that I’d end up stressing so much about it that I wouldn’t enjoy myself.” 

~ NATHAN CARTER plays the Tullamore Court Hotel on July 3rd, with tickets ON SALE NOW from Both Nathan’s latest album, LITTLE OLD TOWN, and his new single THE JOURNEY, are OUT NOW, available on all platforms.