Curb Records Special

First Published October 2021

feat. LEE BRICE/ ROD + ROSE/ DYLAN SCOTT

Celebrating 56 years in business, Curb Records is one of the world’s leading independent music companies. Owned and operated by Mike Curb since 1964, Curb has achieved a staggering 435 number-one singles, over 1,500 hundred Top Ten hits and charted over 4,500 records in total. Curb Records has been influential in the careers of some of the biggest names in country music, including Tim McGraw, Hank Williams, Jr., Rodney Atkins, LeAnn Rimes, The Judds, Dylan Scott, Sawyer Brown, Wynonna, Lyle Lovett, Jo Dee Messina, Hal Ketchum and Desert Rose Band, to name only a few. Their current roster includes some of the top names across multiple genres of music, with one of the biggest on the country side of things being one LEE BRICE. 

Bricerecently took the top spot at U.S. country radio with his current single, Memory I Don’t Mess With, a track taken from his hit 2020 album Hey World. Written by Brice, Brian Davis and Billy Montana, the song hit a chord with audiences as it evokes both a nostalgic look at your life and reminds us that some memories are best left preserved in the past, untarnished. 

When Brice isn’t selling out arenas, writing and recording songs, or building new brands like American Born whiskey, you’ll find the family man with his wife Sara, their two young boys, and their daughter. With over 3 billion on-demand streams, and over 3.6 billion spins on Pandora, Brice has been enjoying massive success at digital streaming services, as well as at country radio and on the road. His recent  #1, the aforementioned Memory I Don’t Mess With, followed three prior chart-toppers; One of Them GirlsI Hope You’re Happy Now with Carly Pearce, and Rumor, a record which was also nominated in the category Single of The Year at the 55th Annual ACM Awards. 

Brice, in fact, is one of the most-played country artists of all time on the Pandora platform, and was the second country artist behind Keith Urban to receive the Pandora Billionaire plaque. Lee is also a GRAMMY nominee, a CMA and ACM award winner, all on top of his nine #1 radio singles, A Woman Like YouHard to LoveI Drive Your TruckI Don’t DanceDrinking Class, keeping company with those we’ve already named. Brice is also a talented songsmith in his own right, Garth Brooks, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney and many others have taken his songs into the studio. Brice has performed on numerous TV shows, including NBC’s Today, ABC’s The Bachelor, NBC’s The Voice and FOX’s Miss USA 2018, and also performed as part of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honoring Garth Brooks which aired on PBS in March 2020. 

At the 54th Annual CMA Awards, Lee took home the prize for Musical Event of the Year for his song with Carly Pearce, I Hope You’re Happy Now, while at the 56th ACM Awards that same record won Single of the Year and Music Event of the Year, with Lee and Carly Pearce performed the song live. 

Also on the Curb Records roster are duo Rod + Rose (Rodney Atkins and Rose Falcon), and their latest offering is the commitment-filled ballad, Put Me Back Together, which dropped earlier this month. Described as a slow-burning track, the release previews the couple’s forthcoming and self-titled EP,  which is due for release in late January 2022. 

Together, Atkins and Falcon—married since 2013—are an unstoppable force in life, love and music. She was a rock ’n’ roll princess who was offered a record deal at just 15 and has since written songs which have been recorded by Faith Hill, Lady A and Eric Paslay. He is an established country voice and a working man’s songwriter – the kind who understands how real people feel – with 6 #1 hits to his name, many of which topped the charts for four weeks plus. And now, for the first time, they’ve joined creative forces in an official capacity for Rod + Rose.

Rod + Rose have been singing side by side for years and share two sons: Ryder and Scout. Most recently, the duo co-wrote several tracks for Atkins’ latest album, Caught Up In The Country, whose gold-certified title-cut, featuring The Fisk Jubilee Singers, set the record (at the time) for the longest-running single in Billboard Country Airplay history at 57 weeks.

New single Put Me Back Together was written by Caitlyn Smith, Trevor Dahl, Brenton Duvall, Johnny Price and Kiara Saulters, and was originally performed by electronic music trio Cheat Codes, featuring Kiara, but the lyrics read like the Cliffs Notes to Rose and Rodney’s real life love story. “To me”, observes Falcon, “it’s a song about falling together instead of falling apart during difficult times. 2020 was a challenging year for us and most everyone we know, but we got through it. When life gets messy, we lean on, and into, each other. We aren’t perfect, and it’s not always butterflies and roses; but we stick together, and at the end of the day, we can laugh at all the crazy times we have been through.”

Atkins produced the track alongside Seth Mosley (who has also worked on projects with High Valley, and for KING & COUNTRY), and it follows Rod + Rose’s debut offering, Being Here, Being There which came our way back in August. 

Together, Rod + Rose offer the merging of lean writing and pure poetry, straight up country intertwined with a little bit of roots, a perfect merger of love, songs, life and the way two people from different places perfectly complement one another. In a world where differences often drive a wedge, these two use those things to create a whole that embraces it all. And they sound so good doing it.

Now, one of the complaints often levelled at modern day country music – especially where male artists are concerned – is the number of songs that talk about trucks, girls, and beer. And that’s definitely a valid argument, no question about it. But just because a record happens to mention a truck, doesn’t mean it’s automatically a bad song. Like so much in life, it’s all about how you do things. And Curb’s DYLAN SCOTT does it pretty damn good on one of his latest cuts, New Truck. At radio now, the single had already clocked up over 13 million streams by the start of this month when Scott also dropped the ‘live’ video, taking that chance to celebrate being back on the road playing to fans, and using exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from his current shows.

“The first time I heard ‘New Truck,’ it sounded different than anything else I was listening to,” the Louisiana native shares. “We’ve all been in a situation where you and your significant other have broken up, and it’s tough. Every time you get back in your truck, you go back to certain memories of them in there as well. So this song is saying, ‘Man, I need a new truck to quit thinking about her.’”

The release of that New Truck live video follows the release of new single Static back on October 1st. “‘Static’ is a song that relates to a lot of people’s lives, including mine, to a T,” explains Scott. “You grow up in a small town, and all you can think about is leaving that small town, chasing a dream, chasing a dollar, moving to a bigger city. And once you get there, it’s all great. But sometimes you’ve just got to get back out in the middle of nowhere, back to your roots, where there’s nothing but a little static on the radio.” Both New Truck and Static were penned by HARDY, Hunter Phelps, Ben Johnson and Ashley Gorley.

Currently wrapping up a stint touring as the main support for Luke Bryan’s Proud To Be Right Here Tour, 2021 CMT Music Award winner Scott is the total package—a powerful singer with a deep, resonating drawl; an old-soul songwriter with a young spirit; a heartthrob with an easy smile; and a dreamer who followed in his father’s footsteps to Nashville. The double platinum-certified My Girl became his first #1 at radio, followed by platinum Top 5 single, Hooked, then his latest #1, the gold-certified Nobody. His Nothing To Do Town EP hit #1 on the Billboard Country Album Sales chart, and the project’s title-track has been certified RIAA gold, as was his self-titled debut album. 

With career on-demand streams having already hit a staggering 1.2 billion, the Louisiana-native has headlined shows and opened for Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan and Chris Young. Scott garnered his first career nomination for Best New Country Artist at the all-genre 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards and was named among Country Radio Seminar’s coveted New Faces of Country Music Class of 2019. Additionally, he released a seven-song EP honoring legendary singer/songwriter Keith Whitley with An Old Memory (A Keith Whitley Tribute). 

Memory I Don’t Mess With by LEE BRICE, Put Me Back Together by ROD + ROSE, and Static by DYLAN SCOTT, are all OUT NOW. 

ENDS

Outdoor Country Music Festival

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, October 2021

COUNTRY FUNDRAISING CONCERT A HUGE SUCCESS

September’s Outdoor Country Music concert which featured a line-up of Irish country’s star-names at DON’S BAR in Moate, has raised an incredible  €11,382.36 for the KEVIN BELL REPATRIATION TRUST (KBRT). The presentation of the cheque took place recently with some of the event organisers – Aidan Higgins, Dolores Burke, and Tom Duffy – meeting with the late Kevin Bell’s parents, Colin and Eithne. 

The concert took place on September 12th last, featuring performances from TR Dallas, Larissa Tormey, Olivia Douglas, Alex Roe, John Molloy, Shane Moore, and David Mills, and the iconic Seamus Moore. It came in response to tragedies suffered by three midland families – the Duffys, Higgins, and Burkes – each of whom had their own heartbreaking reasons to be thankful for the service provided by the KBRT earlier this year, as Tom Duffy explained in the run-up to the concert…   

     

My first cousin, Michael Burke, who lived on the Clara Road (out of Moate), died unexpectedly in Liverpool on February 17th this year. And by an untimely coincidence, that was the same day that his aunt Carmel, my own mother, was buried. To make matters even worse, though, that came just five weeks after Carmel’s brother Sean, who was Michael’s father, also died suddenly at his home on the Clara Road, on January 11th. As well as dealing with the shock of a wholly unexpected double-blow, the Burke family were faced with having to pay for two funerals in little over a month. Having heard about the KBRT, I contacted them and it was Colin Bell who answered the phone himself.”

The KBRT is named in memory of Colin Bell’s son, Kevin, a GAA player from Newry who was only twenty-six years old when he was killed in a hit-and-run traffic incident in New York in June 2013. Colin, and Kevin’s mother, Eithne, were not only faced with the horror of hearing that one of their twin boys had been mown down and left for dead, but they were also faced with the logistical nightmare of trying to organise the return of their beloved son’s body to Ireland, and the huge expense involved in making that happen. Overwhelmed by the generosity of their local community which raised an amount far greater than Kevin’s repatriation cost, Colin and Eithne founded the Trust in memory of Kevin, using the surplus monies there was to get the KBRT up and running. The aim of the KBRT is to support other families who suffer the hurt and hardships of losing a loved one abroad unexpectedly.      

   

Since its formation in 2013, the KBRT has repatriated 876 loved ones to their families in Ireland, from countries as far away as Australia, Argentina, the United States, South Korea, Canada, Ecuador, Cambodia, India, and Uganda, as well as Britain.     

 

For the fantastic work of the KBRT to continue”, observed Mr. Duffy, “it depends on the goodwill of those who have received the help of the KBRT to put something back in the kitty. That’s why some of us got together to organise the festival at Don’s Bar.”

Mr Duffy continued, sharing the story of how help from the KBRT had been forthcoming as soon as contact was first made.

“On hearing how this tragic series of events had unfolded, Colin Bell immediately offered the assistance of the KBRT to help get Michael Burke’s remains home. From then on Colin undertook the task of organising Michael’s repatriation, with the very much hands-on help of Aidan Higgins, Michael’s uncle, here at home in Ireland. I have to say, Colin Bell was true to his word in every way, and Michael’s remains were returned a fortnight later, about the normal timescale for the arranging of a funeral in Britain. The Burke, Higgins and Duffy families here in Moate and Tubber, were so grateful to the KBRT, and everyone was delighted to be able to do this for them. And of course, we couldn’t have done it without all of the artists who performed on the day, and everyone who bought tickets and came along to enjoy the music. So we’re very, very thankful to everyone who played their part in helping such a worthy cause.”

ENDS

Photo Attached (L-R)Aidan Higgins, Eithne Bell, Dolores Burke, Colin Bell, Tom Duffy

Cassadee Pope/MacKenzie Porter/ Olivia Lane

First Published September 2021

POPE LEADS TRIO TO WATCH

Grammy-nominated artist Cassadee Pope has confirmed the October 15th, 2021 release of her upcoming album, THRIVE, featuring latest single, Tomorrow Night, which is out now to stream and download.

The album, co-produced by Nick Wheeler (All-American Rejects) and Karen Fairchild (Little Big Town), also features previous singles What The Stars See and Say It First, both released earlier this year.

New song, Tomorrow Night, written by Pope, Dein Guisande and Aaron Chafin, is an upbeat track leaning further into Cassadee’s pop-punk sensibilities and describes a longing feeling that everyone can relate to – whether it is anxiously awaiting a well-earned holiday or anticipating the return of a loved one, we all understand wanting to push the clock forward. 

“I had a chorus idea before my session with Devin Guisande and Aaron Chafin that really excited me. As a big Weezer fan, I really wanted to lean into that influence for this track,” says Pope. “It’s a love song at its core, wrapped in walls of guitars and high energy percussion. I hope people relate to this lyric of just wanting to fast forward to the moment you get to be with the person you’re in love with.” 

Following a premiere last week with PEOPLE.com, Cassadee went on to share the music video for Tomorrow Night via YouTube. Directed by Kamren Kennedy, the quirky video calls back to the style and feel of the early 2000s as it takes us through all the fidgety ways in which we may try to busy ourselves while aching for the time to pass. The conclusion of the music video features someone near and dear to Cassadee’s heart and who she can’t wait to see every day – her beloved dog, Cuppy!

“I knew I wanted the music video for ‘Tomorrow Night’ to be fun, quirky and early 2000s nostalgic,” says Cassadee. “I wrote the treatment and was so happy that Kamren Kennedy was up for bringing it to life. I’ve never had so much fun shooting a video before. Getting to spend the day shooting with my dog, Cuppy, was such a blast. I hope this video makes people smile and feel like they’ve been transported to a time that was so influential for me.”

Cassadee is a Grammy-nominated, platinum-certified singer-songwriter, and Thrive will be her ninth album when it drops next month. The album’s first single, the aforementioned What The Stars See – featuring Karen Fairchild and Lindsay Ell – is a raucous anthem about longing to see what a past partner is doing since going separate ways. Pope performed the track on The Kelly Clarkson Show where she also revealed  what the title of her latest collection would be. The project is special to Pope – blending her influences from her pop-punk days fronting the band Hey Monday, and the country music storytelling and songwriting that she now calls home.

Last year, Cassadee released her first acoustic solo album co-produced by Pope alongside Todd Lombardo. The project followed her album, Stages, featuring hit singles Take You HomeOne More Red Light, and If My Heart Had a Heart.

From fronting rock band Hey Monday, to winning Season Three of The Voice and releasing her #1 debut album Frame by Frame, Cassadee has effortlessly re-arranged the lines of country and pop. She has already experienced tremendous success throughout her career, with Platinum-selling single, Wasting All These Tears being awarded with Breakthrough Video of the Year at the 2014 CMT Music Awards, and her #1 hit Think of You with Chris Young receiving a 2017 Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group.

Cassadee has toured extensively, joining legendary artists Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley, playing London’s iconic O2 Arena during C2C: Country to Country Festival, and earning the distinction of the only country artist to perform at 2018’s Warped Tour. Cassadee performed If My Heart Had a Heart on the TODAY show and toured with Maren Morris on her Girl: The World Tour. Cassadee continued to tour throughout the spring of 2019 as the headliner of the 2019 CMT Next Women of Country Tour, which brought the franchise outside of the U.S. for the first time ever.

Put October 15th in your diaries now, because as far as contemporary country music goes, you’ll make few better moves this year. 

Rising singer-songwriter OLIVIA LANE is another name to watch out for, and she’s just released her new full-length album HEART CHANGE, whichisalsonowavailable to stream and download also. The album features eleven songs, all of which are written or co-written by Lane, along with well-acclaimed songwriters including Matt Nolen (Eric Paslay, Trace Atkins, Lindi Ortega) and Skip Black (Craig Morgan, Jana Kramer, LOCASH), among others.

“When thinking of what to name this body of work, I had to reflect on what I had experienced in my life over the last few years,” says Lane. “I’m learning heart changes lead to growth, maturity, heartbreak, heart mending and new ways to look at life. They are necessary in becoming our truest selves.”

Olivia’s new collection features the brand new song BREAK, as well as recently released Lois Lane, Woman At The Well, and I Let The Devil In which has received airplay across the UK and Europe following its exclusive first play on BBC Radio 2 in February. Streams for the album tracks released to date have already totalled over 3.9 million, with 2.4million+ views for the official music videos, and features on high profile playlists including Wild Country and PopCo (Spotify), New In Country (Apple Music) and Country Waves (TIDAL).

Most people would probably know Olivia Lane from her appearance on NBC’s Songland, as host of her Living Instead podcast, by the songs that have earned her recognition as one of country music’s new top female artists, or from the highly lauded entrepreneurial spirit that led to the launch of her own publishing venture, Liv Write Play Music. 

But, this new album, Heart Change, heralds the arrival of an Olivia Lane her fans have yet to experience. A Houston native, Lane spent time in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California before settling in Nashville in 2013. Her sweet, soulful voice and insightful songwriting helped Lane earn an enthusiastic following and she continues to grow her audience on her socials and her consistent headlining UK tours. She’s a savvy businesswoman who enjoys being a publisher and mentor. 

At her essence, Lane is a singer/songwriter, and entertainer, and she’s excited for her audience to experience the songs on her new album.

Add Heart Change to your music library and you’ll find that it’s a long-player you keep coming back to. 

And finally for now, we come to Big Loud Records’ Country riser MACKENZIE PORTER who has released track-one in a series of new songs to come with UNLONELY ME. 

Penned by Porter herself, along with Nick Bailey and Craig Wiseman, the song is a light and sunny ode to wanting to rekindle a former flame, and is an infectious country track.   “I wrote ‘Unlonely Me’ at the very start of quarantine in 2020,” explains Porter. “I was super resistant to write over Zoom because I’m very much an ‘energy in the writing room’ person, but when I jumped online with Craig Wiseman and Nick Bailey, I started playing those chords and this song just kind of fell out. We wrote it about the beginning of a relationship, but for me personally, it was about feeling pretty lonely at that time. I can’t wait for y’all to hear it.”


This song comes on the heels of the launch of the Buy Dirt Tour withJordan Davisat The Fillmore in Minneapolis, MN. Porter is tapped as support for the tour this fall. From Minneapolis, she will start the three-month club run across the country, stopping at legendary rooms such as Webster Hall in New York City and Joe’s Live in Rosemont, IL. Porter also recently released a new Amazon Original cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn. Featured on the playlist cover, Amazon Music listeners could find Porter’s cover of Torn on the highly coveted Breakthrough Country playlist. They could also find her on Canada Now, Amazon Music’s playlist celebrating the best new Canadian music. 

The 2021 JUNO Award nominee for Country Album of the Year is also featured on hitmaker Dustin Lynch’s current single Thinking ‘Bout You that is quickly climbing up the U.S. Country radio charts. About to knock on the doors of the 20s, this song has shown itself to be a massive hit. Selected by Lynch during a blind audition, Porter delivers her signature “girl-next-door vocals” that, according to Billboard, “cut like a blade.” 

Recently wrapping her 2021 extension of The Loft Sessions, directed by Caleb Donato and shot at the iconic Bluebird Caféin Nashville, the series originally launched in 2019 with These Days and continued in January of 2020 with a cover of Alanis Morissette’s Hand In My Pocket. With Nashville taking notice of what American Songwriter magazine has called her “authentic heart”, and Billboard paying attention to “her mesmerizing vocals and hook-driven songs”, Porter was also inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2021, joining an elite sisterhood of trailblazers and tastemakers.


Signed to Big Loud Records, Porter is currently enjoying the spotlight thanks to her headline-making Thinking ‘Bout You collaboration with Dustin Lynch at Country radio, plus her own Drinkin’ Songs: The Collection, an arsenal of two years’ worth of new music produced by Joey Moi.

Since moving to Nashville in 2014 from her native Canada, MacKenzie has developed a radiant country style which threads the needle between traditional heart and modern energy, often collaborating with songwriting mainstays like Nicolle Galyon, Craig Wiseman, Natalie Hemby, and Tommy English. Her songs have sparked a list of headline-worthy accolades, including multiple Canadian Country Music Award nominations – four times for Female Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Fans’ Choice – as well as 2021 and 2015 JUNO Award nominations, both for Country Album of the Year


In really making her mark, Porter became the first female artist to have three back-to-back #1 singles at Canadian Country radio in twenty-two years with About YouThese Days and Seeing Other People in early 2020, following Shania Twain who last achieved that feat back in 1998. Porter also earned her first crossover Top 10 at Canadian Pop radio – a first since 2003 for a Canadian Country artist – with These Days (Remix), and joined CMT’s elite sisterhood of tastemakers and trailblazers as one of their Next Women of Country class of 2021.

The Pandora 2021 Country Artist to Watch has toured extensively on her own, also sharing stages with Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Chris Lane, Blake Shelton and Dallas Smith, and co-starred in the Netflix series, Travelers. Her newest release Unlonely Me is part of a series of new music to come.


THRIVE, the brand NEW album from CASSADEE POPE, will be available on all platforms from October 15th. HEART CHANGE, the NEW and full-length collection from OLIVIA LANE is OUT NOW, available on all platforms, as is the latest single from MACKENZIE PORTER, titled UNLONELY ME. 

ENDS

The Mark Hayes Project

First Published September 2021

STARS BACK MARK ON CANCER VOYAGE

Some of Irish music’s biggest names have come together to help raise funds for a young father and teacher, MARK HAYES, who is currently in Mexico receiving potentially life-saving cancer treatment. 


Ireland’s king of country Daniel O’ Donnell, country superstar Nathan Carter, the multi-talented Cliona Hagan, Eurovision winner Charlie McGettigan, Sawdoctors legend Leo Moran,Offaly’s man for all seasons Simon Casey, songwriter and presenter Marc Roberts, folk star Don Stiffe, and one-third of the famous Three Amigos Jimmy Buckley, have joined songwriting great Johnny Duhan in recording a very special version of Duhan’s classic hit THE VOYAGE in aid of the forty-three year-old Westmeath man who is bravely battling colon cancer. 


THE MARK HAYES PROJECT, as this collective of extraordinary talent is known, will release THE VOYAGE across all digital platforms on Friday, September 24th, with the single available to pre-add/pre-save right now, and also available to request at radio stations nationwide. 

PRE-ADD/PRE-SAVE HERE


In the years that I’ve been writing this column, I’ve often told you guys that there’s a certain single or maybe an album by an artist that you’ve “got to” go get and add to your collection. Usually, of course, that’s no more than a recommendation of something that I’ve really enjoyed on a personal level, most often by an artist I usually have a lot of respect and admiration for as well, and I do it because I hope you’ll get to experience that same sense of joy. But ultimately, of course, whatever you decide to do is completely up to you. 


This week, though, and this time, it’s different. Very different.


I’m not simply giving you my opinion on The Voyage by The Mark Hayes Project. I am straight up asking you to BUY this single. And more than simply asking you, I’m going to say please, please, and PLEASE again, because this is important in ways that are almost beyond the scope of any words to put shape on. By doing this, you’ll be helping to give Mark a fighting chance in his ongoing battle against cancer. And let’s face it…there but for the grace of God – or just luck, call it what you want – go any of us. 


So, right now, if you can, please go to the website www.marksfight.ie, and click on the link that will let you pre-add or pre-save the record. And while you’re there – and only if you’re in a position to do so – maybe you could think about making a donation to Mark’s GoFundMe campaign as well. By pre-adding or pre-saving the record, you won’t have to do a thing on the day of its official release on September 24th, it will go straight into your music library. You’ll find that same link in my bio on Instagram (AnthonyOTRT). 

The Voyage is also available to request from radio stations all over Ireland right now too, so please request it everywhere and anywhere you can as well, because that will also help to raise awareness of Mark’s fight. 
Now, on to the man himself. Let’s get to Mark’s story…


Mark Hayes is a father to two young daughters – Emma and Olivia – with his wife Marie. He was a fit, healthy, and active thirty-nine year old who had hardly ever been sick in his life when his world was turned upside-down by his colorectal cancer diagnosis in 2017. At first, the shock of that news was tempered by the assurance that his tumour could be removed, an operation Mark underwent in February 2018.

Sadly, however, that sense of relief was short-lived as tumours were revealed on his liver just a few months later in November, leaving Mark in a fight against stage-4 cancer. Despite the right side of his liver being removed at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, the cancer returned within a few weeks of that operation. At that point, and in those circumstances, Mark and his family were given the devastating news that two years was probably the best outcome they could hope for in terms of his life-expectancy. 


With further surgery on his liver not an option, and with continued chemotherapy the only treatment on offer here in Ireland, Mark and his family began the search for additional treatments that might be possible abroad. With Mark no longer working in his role as a teacher at Merlin College in Galway, a GoFundMe was set up by his family. And with the support that option has generated from people all across the country, Mark has so far been able to avail of several treatments outside of Ireland, and is currently in Mexico. 


However, these trips, and his continuing fortnightly chemotherapy sessions have exhausted a substantial amount of the funds already raised up to now. While the cancer remains confined to Mark’s liver, recent scans have shown that further tumours are also present there. This development means that time – now, more than ever – is of the essence in Mark’s fight. His continued treatment at the Berkeley Institute International Centre in Ensenada, Mexico is what could end up saving Mark’s life.


Thanks to the incredible outpouring of love and support from Mark’s family, friends, and so many generous souls who they don’t even know – and might never even know – the GoFundMe has already raised in excess of €100,000. However, to put this amazing figure in its true context in relation to where Mark currently is in his battle and with his treatment, it is vital to stress that a substantialamount of these funds have already been drawn down and used.


For this reason, because Mark’s fight – in every sense – is still ongoing, we need to continue to fundraise and to highlight his situation. This is where, and why, we really need everyone to help raise awareness of both the single and the GoFundMe, by helping to spread the word about both, and again – if possible – by please supporting both.


Marie, Mark’s wife – who works in the Galway Clinic – explains further why it’s so important that fundraising efforts continue…

“The GoFundMe campaign (aka ‘Mark’s Fight’) was set up in December 2019 to fund supplementary treatment for Mark. The initial target was €100,000. Research was underway for any therapy or treatment that could help him. We decided we would tackle this disease from every angle possible. With Stage 4 cancer, we could not rely solely on standard of care treatment, we simply had to try more. It could be the combination of modalities that make the difference.”

Marie continued, “Thanks to the immense generosity of all who donated to ‘Marks’ Fight’ to date, Mark was able to avail of multiple treatments in Spain and the UK, in conjunction with his fortnightly chemotherapy sessions here. We believe that the two dendritic cell vaccines he received along with several IRE ablations (Nanoknife®) and more recently the use of the “Care Oncology Clinic (COC) protocol”, is the reason that Mark has maintained some disease stability. The cost of these treatments are very high and the funds raised were disappearing quickly.”

In April 2021, reports showed that there was some progression in Mark’s liver tumours, despite being on continuous chemotherapy. The side-effects of the chemo drugs were intensifying and now it appeared that the cancer was beginning to out-smart it. Marie takes up the story again…

“Research led us to a biotech company in the US (Berkeley Institute) who have figured out a way of giving chemotherapy at a higher dose and with less side effects (SEF Chemo) and they have reported many positive outcomes. If there was any chance that this could help Mark in his fight, then we had to try. So, in April 2021 the GoFundMe campaign was re-ignited and the target was increased to €200,000. Over 90% of the initial funds raised had now been used in ongoing treatments for Mark, so we had to start again. The response has been overwhelming and by August 2021, there was sufficient funding to allow Mark to travel to Berkeley Institute’s international centre in Mexico to receive his first treatment of SEF chemo. It is very challenging for Mark to live so far away from his family while receiving this treatment, but throughout the past four years, he has always been determined not to give in to his diagnosis.”

“This is a trial treatment,” Marie stresses, “and several sessions will need to be completed before doctors can tell if Mark will respond well. So we need to be able to keep him there for as long as it takes.”

As for The Voyage itself, well listen, almost everyone in Ireland knows Johnny Duhan’s beautiful song, thanks in the main to Christy Moore. And over the years, it has, of course, been recorded by many more artists. This version, however, must surely rate as one of the most beautiful that there’s ever been. Certainly as far as I’m concerned. Yes, the story behind it on this occasion adds even more emotion and poignancy to every line.

But even if listening to this record from a purely musical point of view, it has to be said that this collection of voices blend together exquisitely. And they’ve all been captured expertly by Tony Maher and Joe Egan. 
As well as the line-up of stellar vocalists involved in this project, the musicians featured are some of the finest in the land. There’s Mairtin O’ Connor on accordion, Ciara O’ Connor on fiddle, Jim Higgins on percussion, Frank Kelly on the gut string guitar, Enda Dempsey on acoustic and electric Guitars and vocal harmonies, James Blennerhasset on upright bass, and Tony Maher himself on piano and synth.


But beyond all the famous-names and star-players involved in this project, the very reason why this recording of The Voyage even exists at all, can be described in one simple word…love. 


Everybody involved in the project, regardless of whether or not they even know Mark personally themselves…they know love. 


They know Mark’s family – his wife Marie and their two young daughters, Emma and Olivia – and his friends, all love him like we all love our own families and our friends. And they know that love can change everything. And in a situation where love was all they could give – in the form of their talent and time – then they were willing to give their all. And they have. And you can hear it – that love – in every line of The Voyage, a version that is as much a prayer as it is a song. 


If you can find the couple of minutes it will take to go and pre-add or pre-save the song today, it will mean the world to a whole lot of people. Not least of all, a young father who – as you read these very lines – is sitting alone today in Mexico dreaming of being back at home in Ireland with his three girls…


THE VOYAGE, by The Mark Hayes Project, will be available on all platforms from FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24th, and is already available to pre-add/pre-save RIGHT NOW by clicking on the link you’ll find at the website, www.marksfight.ie The Voyage is also available to request from radio stations all around the country right now. 

ENDS

Editorial

First Published September 2021

MUSIC, ‘LIVE’ EVENTS, AND A GOVERNMENT THAT NEVER CARED

Anyone who couldn’t have foreseen the current government’s appalling treatment of the music and ‘live’ events sectors simply hadn’t been paying attention. The signs were on it right from the moment Catherine Martin T.D. was handed a portfolio that included responsibility for tourism, culture, arts, the Gaeltacht, sport, AND media. 


The argument can rightly be made that each of these areas needs and warrants a department of its own, given the importance of each to Irish life. At the same time, however, realism, pragmatism -and, in fact, the constitution – dictate that not every area of significance and consequence can be afforded the luxury of a department in its own name, given that our government can have no more than fifteen members (Article 28), including the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and the Minister for Finance. So in effect, minus the aforementioned, only twelve seats – at most – ever remain to be filled in the cabinet. 


That fact notwithstanding, however, the decision to ask one minister to take on responsibility for six sectors which, each in their own right, play such prominent roles in Irish life, seemed crazy at the time. And nothing that has happened since has shown otherwise. Now, to be clear here, I understand that there’s seldom a perfect way to do anything in politics, and that no matter what any government – or minister – might do, there will be someone on hand straight away to say why they should have done the opposite. That, unfortunately, is the way of politics in general, and certainly in Ireland.


Moreover, when it came to the easing of restrictions, it’s perfectly understandable that a phased approach had to be taken, and that whatever such approach was decided upon, it would end up with some group or section of society having to bring up the rear. A phased approach makes sense. But a phased approach could still have included all stakeholders to some extent. 


What this situation has also revealed – laid bare in no uncertain terms, in fact – is that politicians – for the most part, there have been some exceptions – simply have no idea how the music or ‘live’ events sector. It’s not a matter of turning a key, opening a door, and hey presto…back in business, back to normal all in one move. There are very, very few music or ‘live’ events of any nature that happen without the need for a lot of advance planning. A lot of planning from a lot of people. Artists, their management team, their PR team, venues, sound and lighting experts, ticket outlets, and more. Everything needs to be coordinated on multiple levels. 


To be able to plan ahead, you need to be able to see ahead. And yet, as I write this, with September only a couple of sunsets away, no line of vision on a return to normality for the music or ‘live’ events sectors has even been hinted at in any detail, let alone laid out in black and white. 


For a profession so fond of hiring advisors, the ability of most politicians to communicate is worse than abysmal. A politician’s job, no matter what anyone says or thinks, is incredibly tough. There’s no doubt about that. Yes, they’re well-rewarded, but most of the people who only or primarily focus on that fact wouldn’t put up with the abuse that comes with the job for even a day. And to be fair, if they tried working as a councillor, a TD, or a minister for a week, they’d quickly find out that most in those roles – most…not all – more than earn their living. And that’s across the board, politicians of all parties and none.


A quick word on abuse, while we’re here. While frustration and anger, and a lot of other emotions are all understandable given where we are in this time of Covid, and everything that we’ve already had to deal with and come through, resorting to name-calling – sometimes in a way that’s really vile, vicious, and completely unnecessary – is not to be condoned. That’s just bad manners, childish, reflects extremely badly on those who do it, and it helps absolutely no-one in any way at all. Anybody who acts like that, regardless of who they are, doesn’t deserve to be a part of finding any way through this. 


However, there are many things that politicians could so easily do to make their own lives easier, and the lives of their constituents better. Communication is top of that list.  And right up there with it, is respect. And respect is not shown to anyone by running a so-called ‘pilot’ concert in a way that precisely zero events without further government funding could ever run in the real world. And respect is not shown by overseeing a grants process that sees several artists awarded more than one, while hundreds more received no help at all. That is not respect. Of course it was impossible to make sure that everyone who applied for funding of some kind got something that would help them. But what was always completely within the power of those who ran that operation to control, was making sure that no-one received multiple grants. Simple. 


Anyway, respect is what takes me right back to my opening point, that how little this government thought of the arts was evident from the moment the Green Party’s Catherine Martin was tasked with heading up a department that included six portfolios; tourism, culture, arts, the Gaeltacht, sport, AND media. 


Now, as far as Minister Martin herself is concerned, I admire her for having the courage to take on such a workload, and I have nothing but sympathy for the mess that she’s found herself at the centre of as far as the return to normality of the music and ‘live’ events sector goes. Even at the best of times, in a ‘normal’ Covid-less world, Catherine Martin would still have only twenty-four hours in her day, and seven days in her week, all to be divided between the six different portfolios for which her department has ultimate responsibility. Even at that, her task is monumental. Throw in Covid and its complexities, and it’s not just one magic wand she’d need, it’s a new one for every hour of every day of every week! 


The gov.ie website currently lists eighteen official government departments, and only one really comes close to Catherine Martin’s in terms of the spread of its duties, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, overseen by Minister Roderic O’ Gorman, although there are clearly more obvious links between each of those. There are some departments, which, understandably and for obvious reasons, must stand alone. Health, Foreign Affairs, and Justice. But surely, back when this government was being negotiated, more thought and care could have been given to the overall balance of things? I, for one, believe so. And have done for a long time. The madness and mayhem of the mess that has been the government’s treatment of the music and ‘live’ events sectors over the last number of months have only served to reaffirm that belief. 


So, what could have been done differently then, back when this government was formed? What would have given Minister Catherine Martin a fighting chance of representing artists and musicians with all of her might, which I genuinely believe she has always sincerely wanted to do? Well, let’s have a look…


The Department of Transport, as important as it is, could surely handle something else too. Tourism, perhaps? And do we still really need a Department of Finance AND a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform? Make them one! And, would not the Department of Rural and Community Development be a fitting and natural home for the care of the Gaeltacht as well? These questions give us somewhere to start from. 

With the Department of Finance becoming the Department of Finance, Public Expenditure, and Reform, that immediately frees up one department. The portfolios of Higher and Further Education should also come under the watch of the Department of Education, full-stop. That would mean that we then have a stand-alone Department of Research, Innovation, and Science. From the burden that rests on Catherine Martin’s shoulders right now, let’s actually go ahead and move Tourism to the Department of Transport seeing it become the Department of Transport and Tourism. As mentioned earlier, have the Department of Rural and Community Development become the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Gaeltacht. Now, Catherine Martin is left with just Arts, Culture, Sports, and Media in her charge. But, we’re not done here yet…


By making the Department of Finance become the Department of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, we freed up a department. This can now become the new Department of Sports and Media, taking two more briefs away from Minister Martin. A possible step further even, make it the Department of Sports, Media, and Communication, leaving us with a Department of Environment and Climate as well, because that’s a portfolio that will certainly need as much time as possible devoted to the growing challenges it will continue to face in the years to come. 


And we’re not done even at that, because there’s one more move which would also make sense in two ways. If we take Heritage from the current Department of Housing and Local Government and Heritage, and move it to what Catherine Martin still has on her desk, we end up with a Department of Housing andLocal Government (and as with a Department of Environment and Climate, a Department of Housing and Local Government will have more than enough on its plate!), while Minister Martin heads up our Department of Arts, Culture, and Heritage. 

To my mind, this paints a much more balanced overall picture. But crucially for the music and ‘live’ events sectors, Minister Martin would, right from the get-go, have been in a significantly better position to champion these sectors. There’s just no question about that. Her workload and areas of responsibility would have been literally cut in half. The time and energy that she’s had to put into dealing with the tourism, Gaeltacht, sports, and media briefs since taking office could all have been devoted to her efforts on behalf of the music and ‘live’ events sector, as part of her Arts, Culture, and Heritage brief. There’s no way in the world that this wouldn’t have made some difference to things, and perhaps even enough for these sectors to – at last – be looking beyond Covid. 


So why would any government in its right mind even attempt to wedge six portfolios – each one so important in its own right, let me stress that again – into the department of one single minister? 
Well, it has to be said that the answer looks simple enough at this stage. For those of us who work in the music and ‘live’ events sectors, the problem isn’t just that this government has been acting like it doesn’t care right now. It’s that now, at last, maybe it’s becoming clearer to see that they never really cared at all. 
This government has already sanctioned the return to Croke Park of 40,000 fans for the All-Ireland hurling final. At the time of writing, public transport is set to return to full capacity next week (from Monday, August 30th), and schools are also due to reopen, if they haven’t already done so. But the music and ‘live’ events sectors? Still waiting on a ‘road-map.’ 


Just to be clear as well, very few who work in or are involved in the music or ‘live’ events sectors have any problem at all with the return of crowds to Croke Park or any other sporting occasions in large numbers, if it can happen safely. No problem at all. More luck to all involved. The point is, the exact same thing could already have been happening – in some shape or form – for concerts, festivals, and theatre too, as well as smaller ‘live’ music occasions. And the fault for that not being so, for this delay, and the embarrassing absence of clear communication on all of this, lies, ultimately, with the government. Not with Nphet as some would like us to believe. Throughout this whole pandemic, Nphet have been doing their job, which is just to advise the government. The final call rests with the government. 


And that’s who thought it was a good idea to ask one minister to take on the portfolios of the arts, culture, tourism, the Gaeltacht, sports, and the media in the first place. Those same decision makers are why the music and ‘live’ events sectors are still waiting on a ‘road-map’ instead of being well down the road to some kind of normality again. 

~ This week’s column can also be enjoyed in full at the official OTRT website, www.ontherighttrax.com 

ENDS