Ger Reidy

First Published May 2022

A HELL OF A MAN

Part 1

If you’re a regular reader of this column, then you’ll know that OTRT is a huge fan of RTE’s SPECIAL FORCES – ULTIMATE HELL WEEK show. And we’ve been lucky enough to sit down for a chat with the show’s Chief DS Ray Goggins, as well as two of the stand-out performers on this year’s celebrity version of the show; eventual winner Ryan Andrews of Fair City fame, and world champion dancer Laura Nolan from another of RTE’s most successful creations of recent years, Dancing With The Stars.

Both Ryan and Laura had captivating and enthralling stories to tell from their time on the show earlier this year, made all the more compelling, of course, because we – the viewers, sitting in the comfort of our own homes with a mug of tea in hand – got to ‘share’ that journey with them. Talking to Ray, though, that was a different experience. And why wouldn’t it be. Whereas Ryan and Laura are famous faces to us, and well used to the spotlight, Ray and his colleagues in the Army Ranger Wing have purposely spent their careers staying out of sight, keeping their heads down, and for the most part going unnoticed by the rest of the world. Until, that is, Ultimate Hell Week came along and changed all that. 

This week, we have the pleasure of adding the name of DS GER REIDY to the list of Hell Week stars we’ve had the privilege of sitting down with. And sitting down with someone like Ger isn’t just a chance for a great chat. As with Ray, it’s a chance to learn. 

Now, whether Ger likes the term or not, there’s no doubt that he, along with his fellow DS’s (Ray Goggins, Robert Stafford, and Alan O’ Brien) – are the ‘stars’ of the show. But more than simply being one of the show’s main figures, Ger is one of the core group responsible for the show even existing at all. Before we got on to that, though, I wondered if the show’s success and the way it has really captured the public’s imagination over the last few years had taken him by surprise at all? 

“Yeah, it actually has. Because what we do in the Unit (the Army Ranger Wing), and the Unit’s existence, was kept fairly secret for years. So we were quite surprised when it started to take off, because we didn’t know how people would take it, ya know. But I suppose our main concern at the time was how the guys in the Unit would look at it and look at us, because obviously we tried to give some indication to people of what it’s like to go through selection, and show the public what it’s really like to go through that type of thing. So when it took off, yeah, it really did surprise us. We didn’t think there’d be that many people who’d be into this type of thing.” 

So is it a thing that Ger finds himself being recognised more when he’s out and about now, thanks to his involvement in the show? 

“Ah it is, yeah, and it was very weird there for me – and for the lads – for a long time. I spent twenty-one years in the Unit, and in twenty-one years I never wore my uniform home. No-one ever really knew what I did. Even in the town, and I live in a small town where I was highly involved with playing a high level of soccer, and Gaelic, my main sport was Gaelic football so I played that a lot even when I was in the Unit. When the show kicked off and came out, it was fierce funny because I was getting a lot of different looks from people in the town who never knew what I did. And guys would be sort of half afraid of me to come near me on the pitch [laughs]. So it was kinda weird.” 

When Ger, Ray, Robert, and Alan, were first approached by Motive Television about the idea for Hell Week, it was far from a matter of everyone responding along the lines of, “Yes, brilliant, television, let’s do it!” In fact, it was actually something which all four put considerable thought into, not only as to whether or not such a show should happen, but if it did, what shape it would take…

“Yeah, that was kinda weird as well. I was on tour for a while and I came home and got an email talking about this. That email came through another ex-Unit guy who was approached as well. I thought it was a wind-up. And obviously the four of us are mates, so I sent the email on to them saying, ‘Here, did ye get this?’, cos’ we’re all paranoid, like, ya know [laughs]. And they did. Then we met Jamie [D’Alton] from Motive TV, and again, before we met him we all had a good chat, because again, we’re all paranoid [laughs]. We didn’t know where this was after coming from, or if it was a joke, or someone just pulling something out of their underpants, as we would say [laughs]. We met him, and it was funny, because we met so he could kind of interview us, but it really turned the other way around and we started interviewing him! But eventually he told us how it had went up the chain [of command in the Army] and then back down and it was all ok that way, and we were the guys they wanted to do it. And even at that, when he spoke to us we didn’t say yes straight away, it took us a while. We had a lot of coffees, the four of us together, and had a good talk about it. We kind of knew how the perception would be when it went out, and we told them. And it was hard for them as well, because we told them, look, when ye see us switching into this mode, it’s gonna be really weird to you. Because I was talking to them like I’m talking to you now. But when we switch into a training mode, it’s a different type of environment.”

“And the production crew”, Ger pointed out, “would never have experienced that. We were trying to explain to him that when this goes out on air, people that don’t get it will probably think we’re bullies and that, but people that do get it will understand. And we were trying to explain that what we do is nothing new. This is done in every SF (Special Forces) unit in the world. We didn’t pull this out of our underpants, and neither did they [any other SF unit). Everybody talks to each other because this is such a small community. We see how we all train things and how we bring in guys, and we change things. So the selection course changes quite considerably every year to try and make it better and get more people in. We understood that we’d get that label for a while until people kind of got it and understood. Then, of course, when we got out there and were doing a couple of interviews like this, we were trying to explain that there’s a process to it. Everybody is treated fairly. Everybody is on the same level once they come into the Unit. But our main concern at the time when the four of us spoke about it was actually the guys in the Unit, because we were trying to portray a representation of what everybody goes through in there. We really wanted their OK more than anybody else’s. We didn’t really care about anybody else’s! So once the guys in there were happy that it was a fair representation of what they go through, then we were happy enough. We were gonna get labelled with whatever we got labelled, but we were willing to take that on the chin and put ourselves out there. And that was a big thing. We knew we were gonna be in the limelight, and that was very hard for us. Because as I said, we’ve spent the last twenty-odd years hiding from all that kind of stuff! [Laughs].” 

Before talking more about the show, I wanted to talk a little about Ger himself. Some people might watch him on Hell Week and think, ‘Yeah, he likes to shout, and yeah, he could probably take on five or six lads in one go…but is there anything else to him?’ Well, the answer to that is a simple and definite yes! Try a Master’s Degree – with First Class honours – in Forensic Computing and Cybercrime from UCD. I asked Ger about his decision to go in that particular direction…

“Well I was always into tech, but I kept that to myself. Because the guys in work would be lashing me out of it, ya know, they’d be calling me nerd and everything [laughs]. But when their phone would break, I’d fix it, ya know! So I was always dossing about taking phones apart and taking computers apart and fixing them or trying to put my own little bits of code onto them, that kind of thing. But that was just a hobby. Once the Afghanistan and Iraq war kicked off, things changed in the intelligence end of things. We used to work in the olden days as a triangle. That would be from the top down, with intel coming in, then down to the guys on the ground and they’d go do their thing. Nowadays – it comes from all directions – but a lot of it comes from the ground in, all the way up the triangle, sorted at the top, then it comes back down. And the reason that happens is because of all the technical stuff now. It’s what we call TEO, Technical Exploitation Operations. It’s like a forensic investigation, but it’s done in quick-time. We do the same thing as the police would do if they go into a crime-scene, except they get themselves suited up to take the fingerprints. We do all that, but in quick-time. We have five-minute, ten-minute, and fifteen minutes windows because obviously there’s bullets flying our way and that. So we come in, lift fingerprints, look for the stuff that you can use to actually make bombs, all that kind of thing. Then with the phones, we have machines to take all the information off them, and laptops, all of that. I did a lot of courses in that kinda stuff in SF schools around the world, because we’d all get taught the same thing. So I could go into any other team, or the guys could go into any other team around the world, and do the same drill because it’s the same thing that’s taught to everybody.” 

Ger continued, “That’s where I got into it. I just decided then that we might be able to put this to good use within the unit and get a technical side of things set up. So I found that course in UCD and I could do the restricted one because I was in the military. That has an extra couple of courses on it that the civilian one doesn’t. I went hell-for-leather at that. And it was hard-going for the two years. Well, it was about two-and-a-half for me when I put my head to it. I think you needed ninety credits or something to pass, that would equate to nine courses, and you could break that down over the two years. But of course I wanted to do everything, so I think I did about twelve courses, and then a dissertation as well which was another thirty credits. I didn’t need to do a dissertation, but I wanted to because I was interested in things and how it all could benefit the Defence Forces, and relate it to the Defence Forces. So that’s why I decided to do that.” 

I think it’s fair to say that everybody in the Army Ranger Wing needs to be a leader. And Ger’s career has examples of leadership that few people could match. Just some examples include being a Team Leader, a Team 2i/c (2nd-in-command), Platoon Sergeant, an NCO in Lebanon, Close Protection Team 2i/c for a trip to Beirut by the President, being Close Protection Team Leader for a visit to Ireland by the US Army’s Joint Chief-of-Staff, and countless more that the general public will probably never know anything about. But in leaders who Ger has looked up to, what have been two or three of their main attributes that he’s admired? 

“I suppose one of the big things – that I find anyway in leadership – is the integrity of a leader. Integrity in a nutshell is you own up to your own faults. Accept the mistakes you make. I’ve been under some guys in those positions and they’d never accept their own mistakes. But we’re only human, everybody learns from their mistakes. And especially in the SF community, that’s how we get good at what we do. And that’s why guys are so good at what they do, they always learn from their mistakes. They have an ability to really critique each other a lot, accept those mistakes, and move on from them then, and do things better the next time that situation comes around. Some leaders are just naturally born [that way], but some have to work really hard at it. But there can be small traits there that enable them to bring out the leadership qualities in a person. And you have to be a good follower as well. That’s what makes good leaders as well, being a natural follower is part of the process. Another big thing is actually listening to people. I’ve often seen it, even in the corporate world, where a young guy or girl comes in and they want to talk to the CEO or whoever it is of the company. He might walk by and ask the question, ‘How’s your day?’, but without really listening, do you know what I mean? But I’ve seen others who are very good working in that environment, where they’ve actually asked their peers, or their peers have asked them, ya know, ‘How’s your day?’, and they’ve stood there and listened to them. Because of that, they get the responses they want to hear, like ‘I love working there.’ Why do you love working there? ‘Because people listen, people care, they look after you.’ All that kind of thing.” 

And Ger’s own strongest quality as a leader? 

“Well I like to think that it’s there or thereabouts [the quality of leadership], because I’ve been involved in a lot, even in the civilian end of things, not just with the military, where people end up looking up to you. And you don’t really realise it. I never really realise it when I move from the military [environment] because it’s such a natural thing, especially in the Unit. The majority of the lads at any stage can step up into that role. They’re sort of finely-tuned when they come in. And even if you’re not a leader [by nature], just by being around the senior guys all the time it’s sort of brought out in you more and more. I remember when I went in as a young guy, it took a while for that to come out in me as well. But when senior guys are over you and they’re mentoring you, you see your mistakes and you learn from them. And even some of the younger guys are very good as well and some of the other [older] guys will learn from them.” 

I’m also a big fan of the Channel 4 show SAS: Who Dares Wins, but one difference I’ve noticed between the DS’s on that show and Hell Week is that Ger and his colleagues stay ‘in-character’, as it were, right up until the moment someone hands over their armband, at which point their humanity instantly returns. On SAS: Who Dares Wins, however, the DS can often have little moments where they actively reassure or encourage someone. So I asked Ger to tell me why his team believes it’s so important to keep that barrier between DS’s and recruits…

“If you break that barrier then sometimes it can give a false sense of security to the recruit or the candidate. And sometimes that can end up breaking the mold that we’re trying to get them into. We have to get them into that mindset [that we want them in] fairly quickly, because it’s only a short period that they’re there for. We have to get them into that quickly, and then keep them in it. For them, it’s really a battle between their own heads if they want to succeed or not. The battles go on in their head, ya know. We’re there to keep them in that environment as much as we possibly can. They have to understand that although it’s a show, we’re not gonna take any sh*t. If it goes wrong, or it’s not going how we want it to go, then in a heartbeat we’ll just switch it and pull them out. But at the same time, once they hand over the armband and once they go, then we obviously do show that [more human] side, because they’ve come down and put that effort in.”

“They’ve put their life on hold”, acknowledges Ger. “And some of them have good jobs, some have businesses, and they’ve put all that on hold and put the sacrifice in for the couple of months or weeks prior to the show to try and prep themselves for it. And they’re not getting anything from it. They volunteered. They’re not gonna win anything. Some might have put in all this preparation, and within an hour they’re gone. Or even stepping off the bus they’re gone because they just have four hairy guys coming at them! [Laughs]. So we understand the process of what they’re going through, or what they’re going to go through, the sacrifice that they’ve made. But this is not a career choice [for them]. For us, this is a career choice. When I make a sacrifice, that’s when I’m going to work at it. They’re not gonna work at this. They’re gonna go back to their jobs. And not only that, they’re after being on television. They didn’t do what they thought they were gonna do, maybe. They have to face all that when they go back to their normal lives. But we’re not gonna be assholes – as some people call us [laughs] – for the whole lot of it. We are human! You let them know that they’ve put in a fierce effort, and you congratulate them.” 

SPECIAL FORCES – ULTIMATE HELL WEEK, airs again TOMORROW night (Thursday, May 19th) at 9.30pm on RTE 2. 

ENDS

Caitríona O’ Sullivan/ Chayce Beckham

First Published March 2022

MUST-HEAR NEW SINGLES FROM TWO EPIC VOICES

We all know Kerry’s CAITRÍONA O’ SULLIVAN from her long-running role as a judge on TG4’s hit show Glór Tíre. But what some people may not be as aware of, however, is that the wealth of wisdom and advice which Caitríona shares with contestants on the show each year isn’t just that of a passive observer. Far from it, in fact, because Caitríona herself is quite the accomplished recording artist and performer too. And to prove it yet again, the singer/songwriter and TV personality has just released DON’T SAY GOODBYE, an original pop-country style record that big name American country acts such as Lady A would be proud to call their own. 

And the good news for country fans in the midlands is that we’ll soon be able to enjoy Caitríona ‘live’ because she’s among the artists who will be lending their support to the VOICES FOR PEACE concert at the TUAR ARD Arts Centre in Moate on April 14th. Caitriona will join event organiser, the singer/songwriter Larissa Tormey, along with P.J. Murrihy, Charlie McGettigan, Alex Roe, this year’s Glór Tíre winner Aishling Rafferty, Dave Lawlor, Ger O’ Brien and the night’s MC Eddie Rowley of the Sunday World, for the fundraiser which will donate proceeds to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. 


With intimate yet powerful vocals and catchy hooks, Don’t Say Goodbye is a heart-felt, radio-friendly, modern pop-country love song co-written by Caitríona, Stephen Andreucetti and John Walsh / Symphonic. It was produced by Ray McLoughlin and features some of Nashville and Ireland’s top instrumentalists. The track was mixed and mastered in Ireland and the UK, and was released on all digital platforms on March 25th, giving Caitríona a #1 in the process. The accompanying video was shot in the beautiful Barrow House, Tralee by Cinetex films and is scheduled for release on April 1st.

Caitríona also scored a #1 hit on iTunes in the Irish country music charts with her original duet This Country Girl in 2021a co-write and duet with renowned Irish country-rocker Johnny Brady. That single earned the duo airplay across both national and regional radio stations. 

In recent times Caitríona has also enjoyed performing and releasing numerous songs on social media with Mark Cahill on The Ivory Sessions, and numerous other online and live gigs such as her Sounds of Cinema series performed with Kerry’s Scotia Ensemble, a project that met with great enthusiasm from music fans.

Hailing from The Munster Bar in Tralee, Caitríona grew up listening to and performing a wide variety of music there in her parents’ bar. Classically trained in voice and piano, she studied at the Kerry School of Music and went on to study opera with renowned voice coach Dr. Veronica Dunne in the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She has a first class honours B.A. in music and Irish, B.Mus. and was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Masters in music from UCD.

A prolific songwriter, Caitríona wrote the Irish language lyrics to the chart topping tune Fionnghuala in 2016 in collaboration with John Walsh / Symphonic which featured on the Eir ad and on The Late Late show in 2016, and was sampled by renowned DJ Vini Vicci.

Caitríona’s musical story also includes a very successful album of original songs entitled Fallen Angel froma few years back. That project included the single I’ll Be There, which topped the airplay and Irish music charts, being playlisted on radio stations nationwide. Some of the tracks from that album were featured on RTE’s award winning drama-documentary Proof


As her long stint as a staple on Glór Tíre suggests, Caitríona is also passionate about the Irish language and is author of no less than EIGHT Irish language secondary school textbooks for Gill Education, including Aois na Glóire 1, 2 and 3, and she is co-author of Mol an Óige 1, 2, 3 , Samhlaíocht and Spreagadh.

One man we’d love to hear Caitríona duet with someday is CHAYCE BECKHAM.

Now it sounds like a cliche, admittedly, but when it’s true, it’s true, and the fact is that Chayce is one of the most buzzed about newcomers in American country music today, having won over millions of hearts while competing on Season 19 of ABC’s American Idol. The reigning Idol winner and 2022 Artist to Watch – from the likes of Country NowSounds Like NashvilleCountry SwagMusic Mayhem Magazine – has released the smooth, southern comfort track TELL ME TWICE. With what Wide Open Country has described as Chayce’s “raspy, blues-rock voice” front and center, the catchy, easy-listening track boasts a vibe reminiscent of that golden-era of 90s country.

Beckham, who Katy Perry said sounds “like the heart of America”, was also scheduled to perform on ABC’s American Idol on Monday of this very week March 28th at 8/7c (1am BST), as he mentors the remaining hopefuls through Hollywood Week.

“This title was my mom’s idea for me to write because it was something we had said to each other,” reveals Beckham in talking about his new record.

“It made me think about all the things in life that you should just do and not have to think twice about it. Growing up I really did learn the value of a dollar because I watched my family work hard for everything we had. This song is a reminder to not take the good things in life for granted and remember to appreciate them.”

After winning American Idol and the hearts of fans across the nation just last year, Beckham released his self-penned track 23 that skyrocketed to the top of numerous viral charts, racking up more than 75 million on-demand streams, a figure that’s still very much on the rise even now. 

Also climbing the country radio charts with his sensual yet supercharges duet Can’t Do Without Me with label-mate Lindsay Ell (the recently announced host of Canada’s Got Talent and an artist we’ve been privileged to chat to for OTRT), the “rugged, country crooner” as Beckham has been pronounced by USA Today, really shows the depths of his artistry with the life-lessons taught in his new track Tell Me Twice. 

Written by Beckham with Isley Juber and ace producer Ross Copperman, the song highlights how it’s the simple things in life that are most important, with Beckham singing lines like; To take a day off when you need the rest / Loosen up the drag on a two-pound test / Drink a cold beer when the weather’s right / But you don’t got to tell me twice.” 

Beckham actually auditioned for American Idol after undergoing a particularly difficult year, but went on to become the first-ever show winner to claim the title with an original song, an achievement which kickstarted his journey to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a singer, songwriter, and entertainer. With his family, his hometown of Apple Valley and now America behind him, the mellow 25-year-old released his debut single, the aforementioned 23. 

The song, a semi-autobiographical account of his struggles with alcohol and of the lows it can take on a person, quickly shot to the top of both the iTunes Country and All Genre charts, and numerous viral charts, racking up on-demand streams in the millions upon millions. Now signed to 19 Recordings in partnership with BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records and finding his home in Nashville, Chayce is getting ready to share his signature sound with his legions of fans with more new music slated to drop this spring, with Tell Me Twice giving fans their first taste of what they can expect. 

Currently on tour with Jimmie Allen, Beckham is also headlining shows across the country and will join Luke Combs on the road this autumn. For more information and a full list of tour dates, visit www.chaycebeckham.com.


DON’T SAY GOODBYE by CAITRÍONA O’ SULLIVAN is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

Caitríona is also one of the featured artists performing at the VOICES FOR PEACE concert at the TUAR ARD in Moate on APRIL 14th, with proceeds going to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. Also performing on the night are LARISSA TORMEY, P.J. MURRIHY, Eurovision legend CHARLIE McGETTIGAN, ALEX ROE, Glór Tíre winner 2022 AISHLING RAFFERTY, DAVE LAWLOR, and GER O’ BRIEN, with EDDIE ROWLEY from the Sunday World as MC. Tickets are just €20, available from the Tuar Ard box-office at 090-6482042. 

TELL ME TWICE, the brand new single from AMERICAN IDOL winner CHAYCE BECKHAM, is also OUT NOW and available on all platforms. 

ENDS

Colin Kenny/ Aishling Rafferty

First Published February 2022

GOING FOR GLÓR TÍRE GLORY

By this day next week, GLÓR TÍRE will have added a new name to its eighteen season-long roll-of-honor. The big question is, will last year’s winner, Galway girl EMMA DONOHUE, have passed on her crown to a new queen – for only the fifth time in the show’s history – or will we get a new king of country in 2022? Well, a couple of people with more than a passing interest in how it all unfolds are two of this year’s semi-finalists, COLIN KENNY and AISHLING RAFFERTY.

If you believe in signs, then Aishling might well be waking up with a gigantic smile adorning her face a week from now given that her mentor this year is country superstar MIKE DENVER, who also guided Emma to glory last year. And that was Mike’s second time to taste victory as a mentor, having helped Mayo woman Eunice Moran navigate her way to the title back in 2010. Could Tipperary’s Aishling help Mike land his hat-trick? 

Well, not if Colin and his mentor OLIVIA DOUGLAS can help it! Olivia, herself a former contestant on the show, has become one of the hottest names on the Irish country scene over the last few years. And in choosing Colin – a native of Banagher, but now based in Borrisokane in Tipperary – as one of her contestants this year, she clearly knows a star in the making when she spots one herself. With Colin’s recent debut album ANNIE featuring ten original songs, all either written or co-written by the man also known as ‘the singing barber’, his talent as a songwriter has been keeping speed with his ever-growing reputation as a vocalist and assured entertainer. 

Last Friday, despite having hectic weekends ahead, both Colin and Aishling were kind enough to take a little time-out from their busy schedules to have a chat about their Glór Tíre adventures so far…

COLIN KENNY

Having watched the show at home on his couch for so many years and seen people he knows, such as his mentor Olivia Douglas, his good friend Alex Roe, and not forgetting John Molloy from the midlands as well, how does it feel for Colin to now be part of that very show himself? 

“It’s an amazing experience really, to be honest. From looking at it at home with my parents or with my family [to now], it’s a dream to be on the show. And now while I’m on the show, I’m really embracing it for what it is. I’m really enjoying myself and having fun with it. A lot of people are talking about the show. They come into me in my business, my barber shop in Borrisokane, and tell me they’re voting for ‘the singing barber’, which is always great to hear! [Laughs].” 

When Colin says he’s embracing Glór Tíre “for what it is”, what exactly does that mean for him? 

“Well the show is different this year, of course, in that there’s no crowd. But that almost suits me better because it’s kind of a concert style, even though there are audiences at concerts but it’s a quieter environment. So you’re more relaxed. I’d be more relaxed in that environment myself, personally. But embracing it also means the cameras, make-up and all of those wonderful things that are thrown into something like this [laughs]. I’m very fortunate in that I’m being supported by the brilliant Guy Clothing menswear store in Tullamore so this gives you an opportunity to dress up for the day as well, which is always good!”

When Colin talks about the cameras floating around or getting his make-up done before performing, those are things that he wouldn’t usually experience at a normal show, so what has it been like for him adapting to those situations? 

“Very, very easy, to be honest! Not so much the make-up side [laughs], but usually my shows consist of working all day of a Saturday, then leaving work, going home to get changed, shower, back on the road again for maybe an hour or two hours of a journey, lifting equipment into a venue, getting it set up, being ready to go. And then, doing that whole procedure again in reverse at the end of the night. The easiest thing is singing. At least with Glór Tíre, when you go down to the show, you’re actually treated like royalty down there. The production team and everybody look after you so well, it’s a very easy environment to be in. And like I said, I’m really enjoying it.” 

What would Colin say has been his own personal highlight of his time on the show so far? 

“I have a couple, to be fair. Number one I would say is singing with such fantastic talent this year. There’s a broad spectrum there of American country, Irish country of course, Americanna, and country and western as well. That’s a big deal for me to meet those people. But also, to be able to sing my own songs as well. I had the opportunity as well in week one to sing a song I wrote called ‘I’m A Country Singer’, and last week I sang a song I wrote about my parents called ‘Will You Dance With Me, Annie?’ And after the show I got an awful lot of well-wishes from people saying they really liked ‘Will You Dance With Me, Annie?’, and that’s always lovely to hear. And of course, hearing that from my mother, that was the highlight for me! [Laughs].” 

From a career point of view, how important is it for Colin to be recognised so widely now as ‘the singing barber’, but also as a songwriter, as someone who is bringing something new to the Irish country music scene? 

Well of course like anything else, in the music business you want people to remember you, both as a singer and a songwriter, and also to remember the songs you sing. The tag-line of ‘the singing barber’, I have my own business in Borrisokane in north Tipperary as I mentioned – there since 2015 and I hope to be there for some time into the future – but I hope to be a full-time singer as well. I enjoy doing all my shows on Saturday nights, but also my guest appearances at concerts or dances and some fundraisers, and what I do online, too. I do a lot of different work on the music scene, and really, I just want to become a full-time fixture on that scene. So being so widely known as ‘the singing barber’ is a big plus for me.” 

Last week Colin was able to enjoy performing without having the threat of being up for elimination on his shoulders. This week, that will all have changed. As we spoke last Friday afternoon and looked ahead to last night’s semi-final, I asked Colin how he was feeling about everything, and what the next few days were going to be like for him? 

“Yes, last Tuesday was a breath of fresh air really, to be honest. I haven’t experienced what the other contestants were going through in that eliminator round. But this week coming it will be my turn! I suppose, like anything else, it’s a campaign trail that I’m on. So what I’m doing is getting out into my local community and meeting people who would have supported me before I was ever on Glór Tíre. So for example, all the local businesses in Borrisokane. I’ve called into the local vet, the hardware store, the fruit-and-veg and grocery shop. But also as well, places like the North Tipperary Ploughing. In my home county of Offaly, in my local town of Banagher, the businesses there from my local takeaway Angelo’s to the supermarket, Flynn’s. And going back to my own GAA roots, Offaly GAA have got behind me as well, so I have a big thank-you to say to the chairperson Michael Duignan for that.”

As we were talking ahead of the show, but this interview wouldn’t be available until after it aired last night, Colin was able to let us in on what he had in store for fans in the semi-final showdown! 

“On Tuesday night I’ll have two songs, and the good news is that one of those is in Irish and one is in English. So that’s obviously going to be a challenge in its own way. But it’s one I’m looking forward to. One of my songs will be Derek Ryan‘s ‘God’s Plan’, and Derek, of course, is a tremendously talented songwriter and performer from Carlow. My second song is from another midland’s gentleman, Mr. John Hogan, and that’s ‘Those Brown Eyes.’ I’ll be delighted to sing that because I’ve met John in the past and worked with him on different shows, and he’s a gentleman in country music, also known as the prince of Irish country. A lot of the songs I’ve performed on the show, I’ve either written myself or have been by Irish writers, which I think is important. Apart, that is, from my very first song which was ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’, but that was also my very first single so I had a good reason – a good sentimental reason! – for singing that one.” 

A show like Glór Tíre is an amazing learning experience in so many ways. I wondered if Colin had taken any lesson from his time on the show so far that he’ll be taking forward with him for the rest of his career? 

“Yeah, I think the biggest thing is song-choice. And that goes for doing your own shows as well. You have to think strongly about your song-choice. So moving forward, when I’m releasing songs in the future, I won’t be just recording songs so that I have something to release, I’ll be releasing songs that I think will do well, and also songs that I like and that the public will like, which is most important. The second thing is that you get used to talking into microphones and being interviewed, which is great, like today [laughs]! But also, the show is a chance to meet others in the industry which we don’t get an opportunity to do that often either. Generally, I’m a one-man show and I travel from town-to-town every weekend, so you don’t actually get an opportunity to meet the other singers out there. So the chance to do that is something else I’ll cherish from this show. And, of course, the experience of singing on ‘live’ television. While it was daunting, it was also very enjoyable looking back on it.” 

We couldn’t fail to mention Colin’s mentor Olivia Douglas, someone Colin has known for many years already, and a previous Glór Tíre contestant herself back at the beginning of her career…

“Yeah, Olivia – for me and my fellow contestant Rachel McConnell – has been our rock, really. When things were beginning to get nervous and things like that, she was always there for us with a calming word, and a positive word as well, which was fantastic. She was also very helpful for me when it came to song-choice, we spoke at length about that, about what types of songs, and about my own songs. And she was very confident in any decisions I made, so I was very happy with that.” 

Aside from Glór Tíre, what else is happening in Colin’s career right now, and what has he planned for the rest of 2022? 

“Well, my big plan at the moment is that I would like to bring a concert tour to the public, bring that on the road, maybe perform it in three different locations around the midlands. Hopefully we’ll be booking those dates soon, and then when Glor Tíre is finished people will be able to come and see…possibly Olivia [laughs]…and myself and some of the other Glór Tíre contestants on the road, somewhere near you, as they say!”

Given that we didn’t know how Tuesday night would eventually unfold as we spoke last Friday, I asked Colin if, nevertheless, he had any message for all of his fans and everyone who had supported him during the course of the show – and, indeed, his career – so far? 

“Just a big thank-you! Thank you to everybody who took the time to view the show. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me as well. It means the world to me! I hope everyone will stay supporting me in the years to come, both as a solo artist and when I’m on different shows too.” 

AISHLING RAFFERTY

As with Colin, I began by asking  Ashling how it felt having watched Glór Tíre on television for so many years – and even making the trip down to the Quays in Galway to be there in person a time or two – to now actually be one of the stars of the show herself? 

“I don’t even know how to describe it! I can hardly believe it still [laughs]. When I was down there before there were cameras everywhere and I was just completely taken aback by it! And now that I’m there in my own right, I just can’t believe it. And I’m still blown away by it [laughs]. I’m privileged and honoured to have been asked to be on the show. It’s a great platform to get myself out there. And even my ‘likes’ on Facebook are after going up by so much as well! It’s brilliant, and it’s a huge milestone for me on my musical journey.” 

Aishling referred to it as being a great “privilege” to be on Glór Tíre, and indeed it is. So I asked her to take me back to the moment that opportunity came her way, courtesy of her mentor this year, the man who guided Emma Donohue to glory last year, Mike Denver...

“Yeah, well I had a few gigs with Mike over the summer, Willie Carty – Mike’s manager – had got in touch with me. So we’d just been working away on those few gigs, and, as Mike says himself, I went down a storm at the gigs [laughs]. Then, once they found out about Glór Tíre this year, Willie contacted me straight away to see if I’d be interested. And of course, there was no hesitation on my part in saying yes! [Laughs]. That was back in October, I think. The phone just rang and Willie asked me the question, and I said yes straight away, I didn’t even have to think about it [laughs]. I was honoured. It was a shock, it really was. I never really expected that Glór Tíre would be something that I’d be on, because I think every young singer aims for it. So yeah, it was a very big shock. But then, the more time goes on, the more I think I was deserving of being asked onto it because I have been putting in a lot of hard work and I think this was a sign of it beginning to pay off.” 

Has there been any particular moment that stands out to Aishling as being her personal highlight of the show so far this year? 

“I suppose just doing my family and my friends, and my neighbours and everybody proud has been a huge thing, seeing all the comments coming in on Facebook. Even if I had never got through to this stage, everyone would still have been so proud. It’s been great to see all those lovely comments coming in and everyone being so supportive, and I suppose, just realising how much of a fanbase I really do have, ya know. Sometimes you kind of doubt that, and you don’t realise how big of a deal it is. But now, I do, and that’s from seeing all the messages and comments rolling in. That’s been a big thing for me.” 

In last week’s eliminator round, three contestants were unfortunately sent home, with only one – Aishling – living to sing another day. What was the experience of that show like for her? 

“Well, I had done all my work and I knew I was ready for it. But it was still a shock to the system coming in and doing things ‘live’, and it was a long day and everything. But as I say, I had done my work so I knew that whatever happened I was going to be proud. So to even get through it was huge. But it wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all if I didn’t either because I’d have known I had put my 100% effort into it. I was prepared for it either way. If I didn’t get through, I’d still be going out and doing my gigs at the weekend, it wasn’t going to change anything drastically. And if I did get through, that was just going to be a bonus. So I was taking it, and am taking it, one day at a time.” 

Again, when Aishling and I spoke last Friday evening, last night’s semi-final was still to come. So I asked her how she was feeling about everything in the build-up to the big night? 

“I’m just going to go to my gigs this weekend as normal, and just keep working hard on my songs, and learning my Irish songs by heart. I’m very lucky that I’m in college in the Academy (the Irish World Academy in Limerick, where Aishling is a student of Voice) so I’ve been practising my songs up there as well, so it’s been great to get feedback from world-class tutors too. So yeah, my next few days are going to consist of me just concentrating and really putting my head down and working as hard as I can for the semi-final. And, of course, trying to get through to as many people as possible for votes as well [laughs].”

As Aishling and I were speaking on a Friday evening, that meant last night’s semi-final would have aired before our chat was published. And that being so, I asked Aishling to let me in on what she had planned for her semi-final performance…

“Well I’m singing ‘Will Ye Go Lassie, Go’ in Irish, a song I’m very familiar with because I’ve been singing it for years. And I love Irish as well, I do some Irish up in college, so it’s great to have such a lovely song that I’m able to do in Irish. The other song that I’m going to sing is one by Jimmy Buckley, it’s called ‘Roll Out The Red Carpet’, another song that I’ve been singing for ages. So I hope everyone enjoys them because I absolutely love singing them, and every time I sing them at the gigs as well I get great feedback.” 

Has there been any lesson that Aishling has taken from her time on Glór Tíre so far, that she’ll now take with her into the rest of her career, given that the show provides so many new experiences for contestants? 

“I suppose just hard-work pays off. I’ve worked so hard to get to Glór Tíre, and I’m working so hard on the show as well, and I think that could have been seen last week as well. Hard work, that’s it. And I’m always going to keep doing that, because if you stop you’ll be left behind. So loads of hard-work, that’s what it takes.” 

Leaving Glór Tíre to one side for a moment, I asked Aishling to share both what else is happening in her musical career right now, and what she has planned for the rest of 2022 as well…

“I’ll have my album coming out in the next few weeks, which I’m really excited about. Everyone will know a lot of the singles that I’ve already released from my album, there’s ‘Darling, Say You’ll Love Me When I’m Old’, ‘Grandpa, Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Old Days’, and ‘Truck Driving Woman’, to name but a few. I’ve worked so hard on this over lockdown, so it will be great to finally bring it to the people. I think there’s something there for everybody to enjoy. And of course, I want to keep the gigs going as well. I’m only twenty years of age and I’m out three and four nights a week, which is great. And I’ve started on the social dancing scene as well, as some of your readers might know. And I want to get busier at that as well, and it’s slowly starting to happen. So all of that is my plan for the rest of the year.” 

Fingers crossed that as you guys are reading this now Aishling is already making plans for next week’s Grand Final, where – hopefully – she’ll also be joined by Colin. As with Colin, though, when we spoke on Friday last the semi-final was the next hurdle facing both. But regardless of how things went, I asked Aishling if she had a message that she wanted to send to her fans, and to everyone who has been behind her so far on her Glór Tíre journey? 

“From day-one, since I started out on the country music scene, I’ve been blessed to have great people following me on Facebook, and supporting me by coming out to the gigs. And even being on Glór Tíre wouldn’t be possible without those people. So just a big thank-you to everyone who has requested my music, who has streamed my music, who has messaged me on Facebook wishing me well, and who has voted for me. It’s overwhelming! And I can’t believe the support I’ve been getting for such a young girl from Tipperary! It’s mad [laughs]. So yeah, thank-you to EVERYONE who has been supporting me so far. And I’m sure Glór Tíre is only the start of a lot of things for me as well, please God!” 

~ The Grand Final of GLÓR TÍRE takes place next Tuesday night at 9.30pm on TG4. NEVER SAID GOODBYE, the brand NEW single from COLIN KENNY, and SUDS IN THE BUCKET, the brand NEW single from AISHLING RAFFERTY, are both OUT NOW, available to request from radio stations nationwide. 

ENDS

Eurovision 2022/Brooke Scullion

First Published February 2022

NIGHT OF GLORY FOR BROOKE

Last Friday was a night of glory for BROOKE SCULLION as the charismatic Derry singer/songwriter emerged triumphant from this year’s selection process to become Ireland’s Eurovision entry with THAT’S RICH. Brooke will now set her sights on Turin where she’ll represent Ireland at the 66th edition of the EUROVISION SONG CONTEST. Brooke will take part in the second semi-final on May 12th, performing That’s Rich – a song she’s also a co-writer of, along with Izzy Warner and Karl Zine – in the second half of that show. 


And, for my money, more nights of glory are on the cards for Brooke. For the first time in a long, long time, I believe we have a genuine chance of adding an eighth title to our collection. Given that our last win was with Brendan Graham’s almost mystical The Voice, so superbly performed by Eimear Quinn back in 1996, it’s well beyond time that we put up a serious challenge for the crown again. And in saying that, it is, of course, both important and only right to note that Marc Roberts – one of Irish music’s truest gentlemen – took Mysterious Woman (from the pen of John Farry, another gent) to a well-deserved second-place finish in 1997. 


But since then…well, since then we’ve even sent a puppet, in the shape of Dustin the turkey back in 2008. That’s a moment that should – as a nation ever brimful of culture and creativity – still shame us. And yes, it’s true that his God-awful song, Irelande Douze Pointe, won the public vote, and part of the problem – a huge part of the problem – is that the ‘powers that be’ in RTE allowed a song like that to even participate in the National Song Contest final. And those problems continue to this day. Last Friday night’s Late Late Show Eurosong ‘Special’ is all the evidence that’s needed to prove that. 


For a start, selecting our country’s song for the Eurovision Song Contest deserves a show of its own, and not just being reduced to yet another Late Late Show ‘special.’ 


There’s a truth about The Late Late Show that has been glaringly obvious for years and years now. The show is still in existence only because of the reputation it built, and the place it secured for itself in Irish life, when Gay Byrne was the host. A presenter of rare skill – albeit not without certain flaws in some circumstances – he was, nevertheless, a once in a lifetime talent. Once he retired, The Late Late Show soon became a pale imitation of what it had been for so long. If it was a show that had come into existence with Pat Kenny, then it would have ended with him too. In more recent times, however, the show has become more of a parody than anything else, with – to be fair – some exceptions from time to time. And again, if this was a show that had first hit our screens with Ryan Tubridy at the helm, it would also have sunk long ago. 


The influence that The Late Late Show has today is afforded it by two factors: the reputation it built during Gay Byrne’s time as host, and it’s prime-time Friday night slot. 


But back to last Friday’s show. Of the six finalists – selected from 330 entries – the RTE connections among some of them are something else. How anyone could even note this in passing and not be left scratching their heads, beats me.


Patrick O’ Sullivan, who performed One Night, One Kiss, One Promise, was the winner of RTE’s recent show, Last Singer Standing. That show, incidentally, was basically karaoke. It had a panel of judges who, on the face of it, and given their own careers and achievements, should have been able to contribute so much in terms of feedback. But the contributions of Nadine Coyle, Joey Fatone, and Samantha Mumba – as far as offering anything constructive or insightful went – were not even weak, they were almost non-existent. Anyone watching that show would scarcely have learned anything about the music business from listening to what that panel contributed on-screen each week, and that’s a crying shame. I honestly didn’t think that I’d ever see a panel on any TV show ever contribute in such a meaningless way ever again. But, Friday night proved me wrong on that score. 


Anyway, One Night, One Kiss, One Promise had Nicky Byrne as one of its co-writers. And Nicky, of course, as well as hosting one of RTE’s best shows in the shape of Dancing With The Stars, was also the presenter of Last Singer Standing. Nicky was also internally selected by RTE – so there was no National Song Contest, no public vote – to represent Ireland at Eurovision in 2016. He finished 15th out of 18 in his semi-final. 


Now, I actually like Nicky, and I think he’s a fabulous presenter. In fact, he would have been an ideal host for a proper National Song Contest show. 


Janet Grogan, who sang Ashes of Yesterday on Friday night, was also a finalist in Last Singer Standing. And Janet was also part of the RTE team in 2016, when she sang backing-vocals for Nicky. Janet was on duty again in 2018 when she filled the same role for Ryan O’ Shaughnessy, who – would you believe – was also internally selected by RTE. 


Brendan Murray, who sang Real Love on Friday night, was internally selected by RTE in 2017, when he sang a song that had British and Swedish songwriters. That’s something else that needs to be addressed, and which I’ll also come back to. Brendan also failed to qualify from the semi-final in 2017. 


I, for one – although I would imagine that I’m far from alone – find it remarkable that out of 330 entries, so many of RTE’s final six had so many RTE connections. I mean, really? 


Just to be very clear on something, however, let me repeat something I stated on social media last Friday when I wished all of the performers and writers involved the best of luck for the night that was to come. They can only go along with the process that’s in place. But man, that process has some gigantic issues with it. 


Going back to the subject of the studio-jury on last Friday night’s show, I’d love to know the thinking behind how that panel of Paul Harrington (the only obvious choice as a former winner), musician Caroline Corr, singer Lucia Evans and presenter Bláthnaid Treacy, was formed. It was certainly a pretty random group. But at the end of the show, that random group had it in their power to distribute votes that would go towards determining the overall winner, so in that respect, their presence on the night was very important to how everything turned out. 

This jury gave Brooke’s song, That’s Rich, just four points, while both the international jury and the voting public awarded her twelve points each, the highest mark possible. That doesn’t say much for the studio-jury’s judgement. Or, for that matter, the judgement of whoever appointed that studio-jury in the first place. 


Rachel Goode’s song last Friday night, I’m Loving Me, was written by a team of Swedish writers, some of whom were also involved in Poland’s entry last year. 

Surely, for Eurovision at least, where there’s a chance to represent your country on the international stage, we can find Irish performers AND writers? 

We don’t lack either. Truth be known, we have both, and in abundance. 

As puzzling – but maybe not surprising – as so many finalists having ties to RTE was, it’s incredibly frustrating for RTE to then, on top of that, select a song that doesn’t have a single Irish writer involved. But if you think back on Friday night’s show, you’ll be hard-pressed to recall songwriters getting any attention at all. Back in the day, an emphasis on the songwriter, and their story too, was always part of the National Song Contest, and it was the part that I most enjoyed. Arguably, when RTE brought You’re A Star to life they essentially relegated the importance of the song to a distant second place. A huge, and arrogant, mistake. 

Their contempt for songwriters is also a feature of The Late Late Show’s country music ‘specials.’ But that’s an argument for another day. And I’m sure that day is probably not too far away again either. 

Let me be very clear about this when I talk about having performers and songwriters who are Irish. I don’t care where someone’s passport says they’re from, that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about any performers or writers who live and work here, and for whom Ireland is home. People who may have moved here, settled here, married here, or happen to work here, but are every bit as much a part of our ever expanding, ever more colourful, ever more beautiful cultural fabric as someone who happened to enter this world in Dublin, Donegal, Galway, Cork, or anywhere in between. If someone is living with us and among us, and has talents to contribute, that’s cool with me. 

And that’s a very different scenario to having a team of outside writers who have no other link to a country except wanting to represent it on one of the biggest musical stages the world can offer. 

Look, not everyone cares about the Eurovision Song Contest and whether or not Ireland is involved, let alone how we select the song that goes on to represent us. But, a lot of people do care as well. Whichever camp you belong to, the Eurovision Song Contest is a massive opportunity to present our country to an audience in excess of 180 million people. 

So, selecting the song that represents Ireland IS important. We need to give this selection process the standing it deserves. And the first thing it deserves to have is its own stand-alone show. On last week’s Late Late Show, you had – as you do almost every week – Ryan Tubridy offering viewers at home the chance to win a cash-prize. A show to find our Eurovision representative shouldn’t have something like that happening in the middle of it. And it definitely doesn’t need what has by now become the Late Late Show’s annoyingly condescending attitude to the studio-audience when it comes to giveaways. 


The second thing this process should ALWAYS involve is the Irish public having a say in things. 
And the third thing that should always be a given every year, is that Irish writers – as well as performers, of course – are the ones who are given the chance to represent their country, that should be without question. And ‘Irish’ can be a definition as simple as the one proposed earlier, or something similar. 

Ahead of last weekend’s show, I stated that in my opinion the best song of the six was Yeah We’re Gonna Get Out Of It, by Miles Graham. And I thought Miles and his team put in a brilliant performance on the night. And in fairness, I was also very impressed by Janet Grogan’s performance of Ashes of Yesterday, which revealed the song in a whole new light. However, after nailing my colours to the mast for Miles ahead of last Friday night’s show, I also said that, “I’d be equally happy to see Brooke Scullion, with ‘That’s Rich’, take the glory.” 

And to be honest, Brooke’s performance on the night, as with Janet’s, brought her song to a whole new level and won me over. As did Brooke’s brilliant personality. I’m delighted Brooke won, and I have no doubt at all that she’s going to do us all proud in Turin. 

I fell in love with the Eurovision Song Contest because of people like Dana (All Kinds of Everything, Derry Lindsay/Jackie Smith); Johnny Logan (What’s Another Year, Shay Healy, and again with his own Hold Me Now); Linda Martin (Why Me, also by Johnny); Niamh Kavanagh (In Your Eyes, Jimmy Walsh); Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan, Rock and Roll Kids, Brendan Graham); and Eimear Quinn, The Voice, again by Brendan).


That’s a relationship that’s been on the rocks for a long time now. But, I’m putting my money on Brooke to make me fall in love with the Eurovision Song Contest all over again. 
Roll on May! 


THAT’S RICH, by BROOKE SCULLION is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. Brooke will represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin in May. 

ENDS

Colin Kenny

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, February 2022

COLIN MARKS GLÓR TÍRE SHOWS WITH NEW SINGLE

COLIN KENNY has announced a surprise for his fans across the country this week, with the news that he’s sending a brand new single to radio. From Friday, February 4th, NEVER SAID GOODBYE, written by the man himself – and taken from his highly impressive debut album, Annie – will be available to request from stations nationwide. 

          Having already built up quite a following on the country scene over the last few years, Colin, known by many as ‘the singing barber’, is very much in the public eye right now as one of this year’s contestants on GLÓR TÍRE. Now in its eighteenth season, the hit TG4 show has proved to be a hugely important milestone in the careers of many household names where country music is concerned; Lisa McHugh, Sabrina Fallon, and more recently Colin’s fellow Offaly native Alex Roe being just three. Another, of course, is Colin’s mentor this year, also hailing from the Faithful County, the brilliant OLIVIA DOUGLAS. 

          And as he prepares for the ‘live’ shows, the Banagher man has been quick to praise Olivia‘s contribution to his progress so far…

“Having Olivia as my mentor this year has been a real added bonus, to be honest, on top of just being on the show which is a great privilege in itself. Myself and Olivia have known each other for years, and it’s great watching her establish herself as one of the best-loved and most admired young female artists on the Irish country scene. The double benefit of that for me, is that Olivia has a wealth of knowledge to pass on now, both from her own time on Glór Tíre, and from everything she’s gone on to achieve since then. And she’s been more than generous, to both myself and to Rachel (McConnell, Olivia’s second contestant on the show), it must be said, in always making time to have a chat about what we should do.”

“But because we know each other from years back”, laughed Colin, “Olivia doesn’t have to be polite with me! She can tell me everything exactly as it is, and that can be a good thing at times, too, I think!” 

Never Said Goodbye will be the latest single Colin has released from his album, Annie. And it’s notable that the Borrisokane based barber has had a hand in the penning of all ten songs on that collection, with this particular track being one of a few that carries only his own name on the credits. Regardless of where his Glór Tíre journey comes to an end this year, one thing that’s for certain as far as the rest of his career is concerned, is that his original music is always going to have a central role to play in his plans. 

“We all have the same dream of following in Emma Donohue‘s footsteps from last year, and managing to be there on the last night, and to be the last name called out. But only one of us will get to experience that moment. So for me, this is all about taking it all in, enjoying every moment, learning as much as I can from Olivia, the judges, the lads in the band, and everyone connected with the show. All of that will be immensely valuable for what comes next. And part of what comes next will definitely be more original music. I love performing, but I love songwriting as well, and it’s been a pleasure to be able to combine the two.”

        Laughing, Colin remarked that, “I think with ‘Never Said Goodbye’, I’ve nearly released every song on the album as a single at this stage! So when I finally get to launch it officially – which I’ll be able to talk more about soon, please God – we’ll definitely have earned that night of celebration! And after that, it’ll be back to work on the second album!” 

NEVER SAID GOODBYE, the NEW single from GLÓR TÍRE contestant COLIN KENNY – taken from his debut album, Annie – will be available to request from radio stations nationwide from FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4th. You can follow Colin on Facebook and Instagram at Colin Kenny Music. 

ENDS