Glór Tíre

First Published July 2021

LONG LIVE GLÓR TÍRE

Sometimes, just by being around for long enough, what you do can end up being massively taken for granted. Case in point, the hit TG4 show, GLÓR TÍRE. Despite the many complications caused by Covid-19, and the subsequent restrictions and guidelines which needed to be put in place and adhered to, the team behind the show managed to make sure that the 2020 series eventually came to a conclusion late last year. More than just that, though, they also found a way to make sure that the 2021 series went ahead. 


A key-word to pay attention to in everything I’ve just pointed out, is ‘team.’ Because that’s what it takes to make Glór Tíre happen each year. And it’s a team that is in part unseen, but yet, without the talents of all involved, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the on-screen contributions of judges Jo Ní Cheide, Caitriona O’ Sullivan, and John Creedon, as well as presenters Aoife Ní Thuairisg and Séamus Ó Scanláin, and of course, the fabulous house-band. The show is not just about each year’s contestants, it’s bigger than that. 


And yet, if you were to judge things by some of the vile, vicious, attention-seeking, and often desperately ill-informed vitriol that was regularly spewed forth in social media comment sections during the course of this year’s series, you’d assume Glór Tíre and almost all involved with it to be something akin to a TV Taliban, only to be reviled as a gang of clueless chancers. And that description, as colourful as it might be, doesn’t even approach the levels of hyperbole achieved by some of the country music ‘fans’, and indeed, self-appointed commentators of sort who felt the need to grace the world with their opinions. It certainly opened my eyes to some people, and how, and when, and in what manner they seem to like to share their thoughts with the world. All good to know, though. 


Full disclosure, by the way, I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure – of working with EMMA DONOHUE during her successful Glór Tíre campaign under the mentorship of MIKE DENVER this year. Without a doubt, Emma has everything it takes to carve out a career for herself on the Irish country scene. I’m more than certain that her natural talent, a work-ethic that’s simply second-to-none, and a personality that’s every bit as genuinely warm and funny off-stage as it is effortlessly comfortable on-stage, would have ensured this anyway, regardless of how things went for her on the TG4 show this year. I can say that with my hand on my heart. 


Despite working with Emma this year, the last time I actually saw her in person – and probably her mentor Mike as well – would have been at the Keltic Country TV Irish Entertainment Awards at the Tullamore Court Hotel in November of 2019. As far as anything to do with her campaign went, we did everything by phone, email, messenger, you name it. We had little choice, of course, given the complications of the last year and the disruption that Covid has caused in all areas of life. This was my fourth time working with a contestant on the show, and my first time to be involved with a winning act. So I’ve been there before, seeing someone I believed in and wanted to succeed being voted out, or falling just short at the last hurdle. I’ve seen it happen, not understood it, been completely mystified by judges’ decisions, and ended up feeling completely deflated, frustrated, and disappointed. But I’ve never once become abusive about the show or anyone involved in it online, in either a direct or an indirect manner. 


Normally the nights of the ‘live’ shows down at Quays Bar in Galway are bursting with excitement, full to the brim with fans and supporters of the contestants. Despite the nerves, the tension, the inevitable waiting around that comes with television, and sometimes the disappointment, the adrenaline  and the fun of those nights always makes them memorable. That ‘live’ element of Glór Tíre has been a crucial factor in making the show the success it has been for close on two decades now. So it would have been understandable to some degree if the show’s producers had decided that the 2020 series could not finish, nor the 2021 series get underway without a ‘live’ audience being able to attend. But, to the credit of all involved, the power of that evergreen mantra of those who work in the entertainment industry – the show must go on! – was invoked. The 2020 series finally came to a conclusion in November of last year with Offaly’s own Alex Roe – with whom, by the way, I also had the pleasure of working with during his campaign – narrowly missing out on the crown of champion. And following that, also in November of last year, filming got underway for the first episodes of the 2021 edition. 


Now, here’s a point that simply can’t be stressed enough when it comes to Glór Tire. I’ve mentioned it already, but it’s worth repeating. The show is not just about whoever the lucky contestants are each year. Yes, the focus of the show is on the contestants. But the show itself is not just about them. And that’s a distinction that seems to have been lost on a lot of people this year. Without the production crew, the presenters, the judges, the mentors, and of course the band… there is no show. It’s as simple as that. Every year a line-up of new contestants get the opportunity to perform on ‘live’ television, to a national audience, because the Glór Tíre set up is in place. Without each of those elements being in place, the spotlight never lands on any artist. 


This year, everyone involved in the show was asked to accept a certain level of personal responsibility in adhering to the guidelines and regulations necessary for the safety of EVERYONE involved in the show. These guidelines and regulations were not in place just to protect the contestants. Again, they were there to protect the contestants, AND the production crew, AND the presenters, AND the judges, AND the band. And by extension, the family, friends and loved ones of all of those people. Those guidelines and regulations were in place so that the show had a chance to go ahead at all this year. They were in place so that six more new and young country music hopefuls could have a chance that simply does not come their way through any other media outlet in Ireland. 


Everyone knew what was expected and needed from them at the beginning, and everyone agreed to it. 
Now, if you were to base your assessment of how well or otherwise this year’s series of Glór Tíre went from what you might have seen on social media at the time, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, organised by amateurs, and unnecessarily and recklessly cruel to some contestants. And not only that, you’d possibly end up being fully convinced that the show achieved nothing other than bringing country music into disrepute while calling the future of the whole scene into question. 


The problem, of course, is that social media has become the best possible example of how the court of public opinion is so often formed on ignorance, and a few quick lines thoughtlessly thrown out into cyberspace with either no basis in reality or one that can usually be dismissed in well under a minute with a little careful examination. Simply put, a huge amount of the social media reaction to this year’s show was disgraceful nonsense. It served only to betray a lack of knowledge about the music industry in general, and – what’s worse in this case -a lack of any kind of genuine care about the country scene as a whole in particular.

 
Most of that negativity stemmed from the fact that two contestants had to withdraw from the show for breaching the Covid guidelines and regulations that were in place. According to some who felt so compelled to share their wisdom and insight, these guidelines and regulations should not have been enforced at all, and doing so only made a mockery of the show. Gimme a break. Two contestants broke the rules (whether accidentally, unintentionally, or unluckily), and had to withdraw, which was only right. But FOUR contestants did everything that was asked of them, from the beginning of their involvement on the show, to the end.  Now this point has nothing to do with who those contestants were, on one side or the other, because that doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. If, with circumstances such as they were, anyone broke the rules that were in place to protect EVERYONE, then the only right and fair thing to do was to leave the competition. 


However, to go by the reaction of some (and I mean some supporters of those contestants here, not the contestants themselves, let me be very clear about that), you’d swear that when the two withdrawals occurred, there was absolutely no point in continuing on with the show from that point. The show was slammed in various comments as being a sham, rigged, nothing but a money-maker, and having only useless singers left in it anyway. Pardon my language here, but… bullshit, all of it. 


If you think the rules of anything should only apply to whoever you care about, you’re deluded. If you think the best way of showing your support for someone is by throwing out insults in the direction of others, then you’re an asshole. If you seriously think that a show which has been a hugely valuable platform for new artists for so long should suddenly cease to exist just because your favourite contestant had to withdraw as a consequence of their own actions, then you’re a selfish, deluded asshole. 


And it’s not just for new artists that Glór Tíre has done some service, either. Don’t forget that each mentor gets to perform a full-televised show every year as well. That fact should not be forgotten so easily. Long, long before The Late Late Show began trying to paint itself as an altruistic endorser and supporter of Irish country music – which it isn’t – Glór Tíre was there. While Glór Tíre creates a space for new and emerging talent to begin to make a name for themselves and build a career, The Late Late Show has a view of country music that can only be described as willfully and woefully myopic. The future of the Irish country music scene depends far more on Glór Tíre than it does on The Late Late Show, just as much as the country music as it is today, owes far more to Glór Tíre than it does to The Late Late Show. 


Talk of the show being rigged, or a sham, or just a money-maker are each so equally preposterous as to warrant immediate dismissal rather than too much further time. But also, such ridiculous notions should never be just let slide. So…


Everybody knows the format of the show, and how the voting system works at the outset. It’s no secret. And nobody ever has a problem with it until…again…their favourite supposedly falls prey to something as sinister as…the obvious! Contestants who get the least votes run the risk of being in the bottom two, and having their fate then decided by the judges. If a contestant ends up in that position, that’s not the show’s fault, or the judges’ fault, or any of the other contestants’ fault. The system is the same for everyone, from start to finish. Now, I’m not for a minute saying that I’ve always agreed with every decision that the judges have made, because I most definitely have not. There have been occasions, including this year, when I’ve been left somewhat baffled. But, in those situations the judges are doing their job, and doing so as they best see fit. And that’s exactly what they’re there to do. And their opinions should be respected. Opinions will always differ, after all. That’s the nature of everything. 


Perhaps the most sickening – and stupid – comments that kept showing up in one form or another revolved around the aspersions cast on the ability of the singers involved this year. Just think about that for a moment. Everyone who vomited up such ill-thought-through opinions considered themselves to be better judges of talent than the actual mentors on the show, AND the people involved in the production of the show who go through this process every year. Imagine being able to strut through life with that level of blissful arrogance? Must be some feeling. And every time comments such as those were posted, even if they didn’t actually name any of the remaining contestants, imagine how that felt for the singers who remained in the competition. Because the contestants would have seen them and heard about them, don’t think they didn’t. So imagine how that felt. How it felt for their families. Just think about that for a moment or two…


They’d done nothing wrong. They were just doing something they love, chasing a dream in what is a really tough industry to ‘make it’ in anyway. And yet, they were being subjected to such shameless and unnecessary negativity. 


You can take it as fact that the people who were posting such comments did not – not even for a heartbeat – consider the feelings of anyone except themselves on those occasions. They were angry, they wanted to vent, so vent they did, just playing up to the online crowd by contributing their two-pence worth to a sewer of ramblings and ravings that never amounts to more than the manifestation of a ‘mob’ mentality in these situations. If they were in possession of even a shred of self-awareness, and for even half a heartbeat had thought about what they were writing and saying before finally publishing those comments, the sheer embarrassment of relaising that they were acting in such an entitled, childish, and – in some cases – just plain stupid way, would have been enough to make them delete every word as fast as possible. 


But something else that you can take as fact is that those people would never come out with such rubbish if they ever found themselves standing face to face with any of the people involved in Glór Tíre and whom their comments were directed at. Just wouldn’t happen. Cowards tend to become rather shy when they venture out into daylight. 


Being chosen to participate in Glór Tíre this year (as it is any year) was a brilliant achievement for all concerned. It should have led to a host of moments they could look back on proudly for the rest of their lives, regardless of where their careers do or don’t go following the show. And hopefully all six contestants will be able to look back on some moments that will always warm their hearts to remember. Unfortunately, however, everyone’s experience will have been tainted somewhat by some of the nonsense that polluted the comment sections on so many posts about the show.

One of the main reasons that seems to have allowed this to happen, is that a certain number of country ‘fans’ have come to take the existence of Glór Tíre in our lives, as part of the country music calendar, very much for granted. What a mistake, and what fools. 


Glór Tíre has offered so many artists the chance to perform to a national audience for the first time. And the chance to perform on television for the first time. And sometimes, to perform with the backing of a full, professional band for the first time, too. Opportunities like that are priceless in the development of any new or emerging artist’s career. And, as the show always sees some of the more established artists on the Irish country scene mentoring each year’s contestants, you have a coming together of different generations, with some of those who have already been stars forever and some of those who are the stars of today, meeting and sharing their hard-won wisdom and experience with the potential stars of tomorrow. 


THAT is what Glór Tíre makes happen every year. THAT is what Glór Tíre does for Irish country music every year. 


And none of us should be taking it for granted. It deserves better. 


Long live Glór Tíre. 

ENDS

Louise Morrissey

First Published July 2021

“MY MUSIC IS FOR THE FANS”

LOUISE MORRISSEY has long been one of the most loved artists on the Irish country music scene. Respected by her peers, and looked up to by younger and up-and-coming artists, you would need to travel a long road to meet someone who better personifies all that is traditionally regarded as being best about country music.

With a voice that you could listen to from one end of the day to the next, and songs that will have your feet taking on a life of their own, can stop your in your tracks as you’re softly called back to another place and time, or that fill your heart with all the light of love in so many forms, Louise has a place in the hearts of Irish country music fans that she’ll never have to worry about. 


And those fans will be back wearing smiles they can thank Louise for later this week as she releases her brand new single. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a sneak-preview of WE RISE AGAIN (written by Leon Dubinsky),and let me tell you this, folks, it’s a BIG song from Louise. I also had the great pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Louise last weekend, and to get things underway, I asked her how she came to find the song, and why she decided to cut it right now? 


“I was sent the song last year, once the lockdown had happened. A friend of mine – Paul Egan – who I’ve known for a long time and would have given me songs in the past to record and who would have suggested songs for me as well, he sent me this. He thought it was something I might be interested in because of the words and what it was about, and because of the times we’re in and all of that, he said this might be worth a listen. He said I might be able to do my own thing with it, put my own stamp on it. Anyway, I really liked it, the chorus especially. It’s got a very strong chorus. So that’s how it came about. Of course, I had to wait a very long time then before I could get to a recording studio because of lockdown and travel restrictions, ya know. I went up to Peter Maher – where I live in Tipperary, Peter is about an hour away, up in north Tipp, up in Cloughjordan – I knew that Peter would have been the right man for this song and for the production and arrangement it needed.”

We Rise Again became a staple of Canada’s pop scene back in the 90s. Recorded by folk group The Rankin Family, the track featured on their 1993 long-player, North Country, becoming a crossover hit by reaching the Top 20 on pop charts, and the Top 40 in the country equivalent. When Louise and Peter were sitting down to plan their approach to the production of We Rise Again, given that it is such a big, anthemic song, what was going through their minds? 


“Well I sent the song to Peter and said,”Have a listen to this.” Straight away, I said to him that it’s not a country song as such, and that’s what I would be known for, obviously. But I also come from the folk scene and I sing a lot of folk songs but with my own little stamp on them, do them in my own style. So I said [to Peter], look, this song needs a certain kind of production. It’s not going to be something that’s specially done for the dancing scene. Sometimes we record songs especially for dancing, but this was always going to be a concert song. I could hear lovely whistles in it, and pipes, it was that sort of vibe. Peter agreed, and we went along with that. The original recording didn’t have that, but I thought it would give the song that lovely sort of Celtic style. And going back to the chorus of the song, that’s what stood out to me straight away. We’ve all had setbacks in our lives, and we’ve all had things happen to us in our lives. But no matter what happens to you, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and you get going again. You’ll meet some setbacks or knockbacks over and over again, they might keep happening. But no matter what happens, life keeps going on. We rise again all the time. So I just thought with the times we’re in, with the Covid pandemic, and all of the restrictions, how it’s been for everybody right across the world with people not able to see and meet their families and their loved ones – and people who lost their loved ones as well – but still now things are starting to improve, thank God. So we can bounce back, and we will bounce back. We rise again, ya know.” 

The weeks leading up to a new release are always busy and exciting anyway, with so much to get ready and prepare. And the week just gone had been an especially thrilling one for Louise as she had a brand new video shoot on her schedule as well. She has something very special in store for her fans…


“Yes, I saw the final cut the other night and I’m delighted with it. Again, thinking about the song…we’ve done all kinds of videos, some might be in concert, or you might be out in a dance situation…but I wanted to do something a little bit extra-special with this song. I thought it needed a little drama, and it needed the Atlantic ocean, cliffs, lovely scenery like that. So we (with Steve Bloor) went to Achill Island to film it. We went up on Monday night, started bright and early on Tuesday morning. We were out and on the road at half-seven, and we drove all over the island all day. We climbed up rocks and down rocks, down into coves, up hills to try and get to the little spots we wanted to get the best views. It’s the most beautiful, stunning place, and the weather was gorgeous. That kind of scenery was perfect for this song.”

The last year and a half or so has been a tough time for everyone, and especially the music business. So much so, that a lot of artists have almost withdrawn form the public eye, all but vanishing completely, and we’ve barely heard or seen anything from them. Louise, however, did not take that approach, continuing to release new music in that time-period. I asked her why she thought that was so important to do, not just for herself, but for her fans also…


“Yeah, well for my own sake it was to stay sane! [Laughs]. It was great to be doing something. And when you are bringing out a single, as you mentioned, it is a busy time, you have a lot of things to get organised. But for the fans, who’ve been always there for us throughout the years, and even though this awful pandemic came and hit everybody, the fans are still there and listening to the radio, they’re still fans. They’re still there, still supporting us by watching our videos or requesting us on radio all the time. So it’s for them as well, the new music. All my music is for the fans. Because those people are so important to all of us. None of us would have careers without our fans, it’s as simple as that. So I just wanted to do that. And to keep busy myself as well. I will say that I am enjoying the time-off at home, with no big long journeys in the car or anything like that. You don’t miss that [laughs]. But you do miss the people. So it was nice to keep doing something, and I really enjoyed getting back up to the studio a few weeks ago to record that song. And I had a great time in Achill as well, just to be out, and to be somewhere different, outside of Tipperary [laughs]. Much as I love it! [Laughs].” 

Speaking of being on the road, it’s still hard to know when exactly – or even roughly! – ‘live’ music will return in anything close to the form we’ve always known it. But, looking ahead to next year, by which time we WILL hopefully be back to something closer to some kind of normal again, Louise will be hitting the road with Declan Nerney and John Hogan as part of Declan’s nationwide tour, something I was sure Louise is probably looking forward to already. And just out of curiosity, I wondered if Louise could recall when her last proper gig had actually been? 


“The last gig that I did was about two nights before the lockdown in 2020, in Wexford, in the Talbot Hotel. Declan Nerney was on the show the same night, I remember. There were five or six of us doing guest spots on a country show. And we were all there chatting in the Green Room about Covid and how the country might be going into a lockdown. That was the big topic of conversation on the night. And literally two days later, the country went into lockdown. And that was the end of that! The only other gig that I got to do where I got to work with a band – and the Ryan Turner band is the one that I would work with quite a lot over the last twenty years – we got together to do Glór Tíre last November. That was the only show that I got to do, and haven’t got to do anything since. Just one or two little bits, contributions to charity events online where I would have pre-recorded something at home. But that’s it. No ‘live’ shows since. It’s an awfully long time to be not doing your job.” 

So when it comes to finally getting back up on stage again, when Louise hits the road with Decland and John in 2022, I imagine moments like that are going to be very emotional for a lot of people? 


“I think it will. And I’m really looking forward to the tour and looking forward to working with Declan and John. We’ve all known each other a long time, and worked on different shows together over the years. But this is the first time we’re going on an official tour with Declan. We’re going to be doing lovely theatres and concert venues around the country. I’m so looking forward to that, to catching up with the boys, catching up with the band members, catching up with all the fans that are going to come to those shows. It will be lovely just to get doing that again. I was joking at home recently, I said God, will we all be gone too nervous to go back on stage! [laughs]. We’re away from it so long! But I think, with music – like a lot of things – you fall in where you left off. So it’ll probably feel like it was just last week [since our last show]. I think that’s the way it will be.” 

Louise, Declan, and John are all part of the same generation of Irish country music stars. But in her role as a presenter on Tipp Mid-West, Louise gets to hear and see many of the new and younger artists who will become the next generation of country stars. I asked Louise for her thoughts on the talent that’s out there on the country scene right now, and also to tell me about her show, Lunch With Louise…


“Yeah, I love it, I’m there almost a year already, I can’t believe that I’m presenting the show. It’s on every Friday from twelve-to-two on Tipp Mid-West. That was just like a lifeline for me as well, when that opportunity presented itself for me to go in and do a show. Like we spoke about, I was at home, there was nothing happening, we were in lockdown. So it was fantastic to get that opportunity to go in and present a show and play all the Irish country, because most of my show is Irish country. I’d play one of two of the American artists as well, but I end up sticking with the Irish country because of the requests that come in. It took me a little while to settle in and to learn how to use all the controls and work everything so that I could work away on my own, and that’s what I do now. Now I do still press an odd wrong button here and there [laughs], but it’s all part of ‘live’ radio. It keeps you on your toes! But yeah, it’s lovely, and I’m on all the presenters’ mailing lists now so every week there’s new stuff being sent to me from all the new artists. And it’s lovely to get it, ya know, because that was where I was years ago starting out. I think there’s more opportunity for airplay nowadays as well, with all the great radio stations all over the country. We didn’t have as many when lots of us started out. So that’s great. And all the young singers, they’re going in and they’re recording the best of stuff, in with all the best producers and coming out with good stuff, it’s great. They’re starting off the right way. And I know it’s expensive too, it’s very expensive to record. But it’s a tool of the trade, if ya like. It’s just something that you have to do if you want to get out there.” 


Something that I’ve been noticing a lot more recently, and perhaps it’s because I’ve been paying attention to how often it seems to be happening in the music business in general (a BIG shout-out to Linda Coogan Byrne and her Why Not Her? team for their work on this here in Ireland) and in American country music, is how many shows are dominated by male artists. You can see line-ups with five, six, or even seven male performers, and maybe just one female artist in amongst them! Now, as Louise and I both know well, there are SO MANY amazing female artists in Ireland, from brand new to rising stars, and from the already well-established to those who have long been household names. So personally speaking, I just can’t understand how anyone can put together a show with such an unbalanced line-up, look at it, and think to themselves, ‘Yeah, that’s the finest. Job done, nice one!’ I asked Louise for her thoughts on this subject.


“It is something I would have noticed from time to time when you see that somebody puts up a poster for something, or in a newspaper for some upcoming event or show, or festival, whatever it might be. And yeah, very often there’s only one female singer on the show. I don’t know why, to be honest. Because as you already said, there’s some fantastic female artists out there in Ireland. That’s something that I’m very conscious of every week with my radio show, that I play a lot, or as many of the girls as I can fit in, with the boys as well. It’s important. The girls are putting in as much effort as the boys are. If they go in to record, it’s costing them as much as the boys. And if anything, the girls, with style and clothes, and make-up and everything, ya know, it can be costly. But I just don’t know why it is. I suppose, maybe some people would say that the guys will get a big female following straight away so then the husbands or the boyfriends bring them to the shows because they want to see their favourite male singer, ya know. Some people would have the idea that that’s a lot of it. But I honestly don’t know. I mean, I know that I would have a lot of female fans out there as well, and always had. But the scales should be balanced better, there should be more women on the shows, on any show.” 

I point out the importance of young female artists, or girls and women even before they become artists, needing to see other women doing what they too dream of doing, to see and know that it’s possible, and Louise agrees…


“They do. And it’s like any job, you have to learn your trade and get experience. And the only way you can do that is by being on shows. And yet, you do see a lot of situations where there’s only one girl on a show of six or seven artists. I would love to see more girls getting work as well, and for the scales to be more evenly balanced.” 

A lot of artists we’ve spoken to, including Nathan Carter when we spoke with him a few months back, have mentioned how this whole time of Covid has seen them reevaluate how they intend to do things when we make it to the other side. With Nathan, for instance, he shared that he probably won’t be on the road as much, having had a chance to do some other things during this break. I wondered if this time had changed Louise’s perspective on how she plans to enjoy music and life from now on? 


“It has, definitely, without question. Before Covid and lockdown came in, you could see how busy some bands were, and it was like helter-skelter, six nights a week, all through the year. Which was fantastic to see, ya know, people being busy. But I think it’s very important that you make time for yourself, and make time to have a life for yourself outside of your job. You shouldn’t work seven days a week, all year round. Everybody needs to spend time with their husband, their wife, their boyfriend, their girlfriend, their family, their friends, and to be able to do that. And just have a little bit of time to yourself at home, to do the things that you want to do, and have some other hobbies outside of your job. That’s definitely something that has come about for me in the last year and a half. I would have thought back on some of the years when we would have worked so hard, and I’d think God Almighty, how did we do it at all?! I hadn’t time to bless myself, really [laughs]. But please God things will open up, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel now, so when things open up again I’m going to cut back, definitely. I’ll pick what I want to do, and just do so many in a month, that kind of thing, and have a lot more time at home. My husband was sick during the lockdown, he had surgery in January, and I’m glad that I was at home, to be there to look after him when he came home from hospital. It was a tough time for him. And when he was in hospital, I couldn’t get to see him, as was the situation for everybody that had someone in hospital. And how dreadful it was for anyone that lost loved ones during Covid, and couldn’t get to see them, a dreadful situation. But, I still obviously want to do my music, and from now on it’s going to be just concerts. And I’m not going to do long stints away from home anymore, either. I would have done it before where you’d go away on a tour and be gone for maybe three weeks at a time, I’m not doing that anymore. I just love my time at home, but I want to work as well. So there’s going to be a very happy balance.” 


Before we wrapped up, I asked Louise if she had any message for the fans that she hasn’t been able to see in person for so long, but – hopefully – will be seeing again in the not too distant future? 


“I want to say a big thank you to all of them for their continued support throughout the years, and through the lockdown as well, fans have continued to support all the artists by requesting us on the radio, and watching our shows on YouTube and Facebook, on everything. They were fantastic people to come out and support the shows before lockdown as well, and we know we’ll be seeing them again when things open up. And I’m looking forward to seeing them all again and catching up with everybody. Because we’ve missed everybody, we have. And I know they’ve missed all of us too.” 

WE RISE AGAIN, the brand NEW single from LOUISE MORRISSEY, will be available from all digital platforms from July 9th, and to request from radio stations nationwide from July 12th. The video for We Rise Again will premiere on Louise’s official Facebook page on July 17th. Louise will also be performing at the Star Trax music venue’s Drive-In Country Show in Cork on July 25th. In an event hosted by Hot Country TV’s Hugh O’ Brien, Louise will be joined by Olivia Douglas, TR Dallas, and Paddy O’ Brien, all backed by the Glen Flynn Band. See Louise’s Facebook page for full details. 

ENDS

Lee Matthews

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, May 2021

LEE RETURNS WITH NOUGHTIES COUNTRY THROWBACK

Singer/songwriter LEE MATTHEWS has finally made his long-awaited return to the airwaves. The Irish country star has just released his own unique take on a real noughties country throwback, I THINK SHE LIKES ME. 

          The song will be best known to country fans as a track on the One Voice album from American country child star Billy Gilman all the way back in 2000, his debut long-player that reached #2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. In the hands of Lee and his long-time producer Jonathan Owens, however, I Think She Likes Me has been given the kind of make-over that leaves it as an unmistakably Lee Matthews hit. 

          For Matthews, who has a string of chart-topping albums and singles to his name, I Think She Likes Me is his first post-lockdown release, and it’s one he’s been excited about sharing with his fans…

          “I’ve spent the best part of the last eighteen months or so writing new material, and working on some of those songs in the studio as well. Not being able to be on the road for a while really gave me the opportunity to turn my focus on what has probably always been my greatest passion, and that’s writing songs. And even more importantly than that, this last year and more have given me the opportunity to spend more time with my son, Noah. And there’s nothing better for any man’s heart and soul than getting to spend more time with his children, so I’m incredibly grateful for that. But I’m a performer too, and that’s my next big passion after songwriting. And it had just been way too long since I’d shared anything with my fans, that was something I wanted to put right. This song, I Think She Likes Me, is one that might not be so well known to some people, but it’s been one of my favourite American country songs from the 1990s, and I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to take it into the studio someday.”

          Matthews continued, “It’s one of those catchy, upbeat songs that has a way of bringing back all kinds of memories of childhood and first love, and things that have a way of putting a smile on peoples’ faces. And that’s exactly what I wanted to do when it came to putting some new music out there again. I’m very, very lucky to have more than 50,000 listeners each month on Spotify, and that’s growing all the time, thank God. Some of my songs actually have more listeners in the United States even than they do in Ireland or the U.K. But regardless of where people are listening, when it came to giving them something new to listen to, well like I said, something to put smiles on faces, that was the first priority. Jonathan and myself had the craic working on this in the studio, and the feedback so far from fans and radio seems to be that everyone else is enjoying it as much as we did.”

          I Think She Likes Me – written by George Teren and Bob Regan – was backed by the Northern Ireland Arts Council. And while Matthews drew from the well of songs he loves most from other artists and writers on this occasion, fans can look forward to hearing some new and original music from his own songbook very soon…

          “After spending so much time writing and in the studio, I honestly can’t wait to share some of that material with fans. So that’s what’s going to be happening next. The plan is – as it stands at the moment anyway – that my next two singles will probably both be originals. Not sure when we’ll be dropping the first of those just yet, because the reaction to ‘I Think She Likes Me’ has been amazing, so it has a lot of life left to live yet. But there’ll definitely be more new music coming this year, that’s for sure. The wait was long enough, but that wait is over now. Fans can be sure of that, too!”

I THINK SHE LIKES ME, the brand NEW single from LEE MATTHEWS, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms, and to request from radio. 

ENDS

Stephen Travers

First Published June 2021

A GENT AND A GIANT

July 31st will mark the 46th anniversary of one of the darkest nights – in every meaning of that term – in Irish history. The Miami Showband Massacre. Even as a child, when hearing those words mentioned for the first time, without knowing any of the details, without having any context in which to place them, they chilled me to the bone. A showband? But they’re musicians, right? How could musicians become the victims of a massacre? And how could it happen here? In Ireland? It didn’t make any sense to me. 


It doesn’t make any sense now either, of course. Even less so now that I do know so many details, now that I realise the horrible, heartbreaking context. Nor did it make any sense on that summer’s night, not long after 2am almost five decades ago. What doesn’t make sense is HOW such an atrocity could be allowed to happen. How some people could actually sit down and plan for something like that to happen. How some people were prepared to live out the remainder of their own lives forever accompanied by the knowledge of what they had been part of. None of that makes sense. Nor will it ever. And it shouldn’t, because for it to do so, you’d need to have an understanding of evil that could only leave the darkest of imprints upon your soul.

 
However, we can understand WHAT happened on that night because – by the grace of God, surely – there were survivors. While Fran O’ Toole, Brian McCoy, and Tony Geraghty perished in a torrent of unprovoked violence, Des Lea and Tipperary man STEPHEN TRAVERS managed to escape the same fate. Getting to and revealing the truth about what unfolded on the Buskhill Road that night, as he and four of his famed and adored bandmates simply endeavoured to make the journey home from a show at the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge, is something that Stephen has dedicated his life to. 


That work, and the events of the night of July 31st 1975 itself, are stories unto themselves, and they more than warrant any time and attention you can give them. A few years back, when Stephen was getting close to embarking on a nationwide promotional tour in relation to some projects in this regard, I had the pleasure of spending some time in conversation with him ahead of the announcement of those dates. However, as can happen from time to time, unforeseen circumstances lead to that tour being rearranged, and as a result, our chat was never published. 


But now, in honour of Stephen and the work he has done to make sure the truth about that night is known to all, and indeed, as a tribute to his fellow survivor Des Lea, and to his bandmates who never made it home – Fran O’ Toole, Brian McCoy, and Tony Geraghty – we are finally sharing that chat with our OTRT readers. So it is, ladies and gentlemen, our privilege to present this conversation with Stephen, not just an inspirational musician, but an inspirational human-being, and a gentleman of the highest order. 

When we spoke, I began by asking Stephen about how his own interest in music first began to arise and develop? 


“Well, I was born in 1951, so my formative years musically would have been the sixties. And they really only began in 1963 with the Beatles, with that whole musical and fashion explosion that happened. So that hit me right between the eyes when I was twelve years of age. There were an awful lot of young guys picking up guitars, and of course the showbands were there, so all of the stars aligned and came together and I decided to give it a go.” 

I wondered if there happened to be any one particular moment that hit Stephen right between the eyes and made him think, ‘Right, I know what I want to do with my life from here on…’? 


“There was actually. I was in school, and every year that school would put on an operetta. It was the Christian Brothers school in Carrick-on-Suir. They’d put on a show for all the parents. One of the lads in my class, a lad called Jim, his mother was actually a choreographer, and she came up to put us through our paces. I can’t remember what the name of the operetta was. Anyway, her son, Jim, had been learning drums, so she got him to bring along the snare drum. When he started to play it I was fascinated by the fact that a young kid of my own age could do this. And I thought, you know what, I’d like to do it as well because everybody was dancing to his tune as he was playing. I think it was ‘The March of the Toy Soldiers’, or ‘The March of the Tin Soldiers’, something like that. It involved the lads in the play marching around and doing their thing, and I was fascinated by it.” 

Stephen mentioned the fact that so many people were picking up guitars back in the sixties. It happened to be the bass guitar that he reached for himself. I wondered if there was a particular reason for his choice? 


“Yeah, my schoolmates had formed a little group, they had about two years start on me. I had a guitar at home that I never bothered with, but I went to hear them rehearsing and I was fascinated that they were playing The Shadows and the Beatles, and all that kind of stuff. And they said to me, ya know we need a bass player? I didn’t really know what a bass player was, but I found out pretty quickly! [Laughs]. At that time, a bass guitar would have had four strings, so I thought well this will be easy enough! But that’s not the case! Anyway, I started to play bass, and happily it was MY instrument, ya know. It’s the one that, to this day, I love to learn more and more about all the time, even though now I play a five and a seven-string bass. I just love it. And then, of course, Paul McCartney I consider to be the greatest bass player that ever walked the face of the Earth. He was such a cool character. So it was no problem playing bass in a band! If it was good enough for him, then it was good enough for me.”

Stephen joined the Miami Showband when he was about twenty-four, and they were already massive at that stage. Was becoming a member like landing a dream-job, or as a musician, was it just another job, albeit, a pretty cool one all the same? 


“I had served my time in country bands, and what they called big bands, jazz bands. From day one I was very interested in blues and jazz. Of course, the only game in town if you wanted to earn a living was – back in the late sixties – country, when it began to become very big, as it is today. That’s when I went and joined a country band called The Cowboys. One of the lads that had been in the earlier group, Gay Brazel, later went on to become the band leader with Tweed, he was in The Cowboys. And Billy Byrne, my friend. So I learned my chops, learned my trade in bands like The Cowboys and in school, in young beat groups and that. But when you need to earn a living, or buy a new car, or put a deposit on a house, you join a showband. So I set my sights on the one that was going to pay me the most money! I got a call from The Miami Showband in September 1974, to ask me if I’d like to go up and meet them to talk about joining. As it turned out, I didn’t join them. I waited until the end of May 1975, and I took the job then. I quickly realised that these guys were phenomenal musicians. Tony Geraghty on guitar, it was arguable whether he was more influential than Gary Moore when he was playing in his rock days. He had gone and joined a showband because he was getting married, and the usual thing, he wanted to buy a car and a house. Fran O’ Toole, I think everybody knew, was one of the most sensational vocalists as well as being an incredible keyboard player, a great jazz player. So when I joined, it was a bit of a reality check that I was among guys who were every bit as good – if not better! – than myself. This wasn’t just about joining a band to earn a few quid. It was an honour to play with these guys.”

I didn’t want to get into what happened to Stephen and his bandmates in the Miami in July of 1975 without first showing the courtesy and respect of asking if that was something he would be comfortable talking about. I knew it was something he’d been asked to talk about on countless occasions before, and regardless of how much detail any of those conversations might go into, even going back in time to that fateful night to any degree must bring with it memories that none of us will ever be able to comprehend. Displaying the generosity of spirit for which he has always been known, however, Stephen agreed. 


What happened on that July night almost fifty years ago now, changed the course of Irish music history. I don’t think there’s anyone who doubts that. I asked Stephen how he thought Irish music would have developed had that tragic night not come to pass…


“Just referring to what you said there at the beginning of your question, that night didn’t just change Irish music history. In fact, it had very little effect, a temporary effect, on Irish music history. But it changed Irish history [itself]. And the reason being was that it was an attempt by a neighbouring, so-called friendly government, to influence Irish politics. They felt that security was lax on the southern side of the border, so they set up a plan – a brilliant plan, even though it was evil – to make it look as if all innocent Irish people should be suspects. And had they succeeded in doing that, the whole world would have shrugged its shoulders and said let the British deal with the Irish whatever way they want to now, because every one of them is a potential terrorist. So had we been successfully framed as terrorists when they attempted – unbeknownst to us – to put a bomb in our van, nobody would have known about the road-block, and we subsequently would have blown up fifteen minutes down the road, and been accused of being terrorists. So thankfully, Des Lee – or Des McAlea, as his real name is – and I survived to tell what happened, [because] that had the potential to turn Ireland into another Gaza. Our young people, instead of having a friendly nod from Immigration in Australia or wherever, as they do now, had we been successfully framed as terrorists, then like the Palestines today our young Irish people would be called aside at every airport, or searched vigorously or whatever. So that was a massive, massive thing to happen. So it’s wrong to think that it was just something that happened to a band, or a small story. And this was pointed out to me when we were doing the screenplay of the movie by a world renowned director. He said, ‘This is not just a story of a local band, and a local terrorist attack. This is an international crime.'” 

“Apart from that”, Stephen continued, “from the musical aspect of things, it caused a temporary lock-down, a close-down, as George Jones, the musician and broadcaster in the north said [at the time], ‘You look at a ballroom and expect to see tumbleweed.’ As to the development of Irish music, the showbands had had their day. When I joined the Miami, it was called The Miami, it wasn’t actually called The Miami Showband. They had shortened it, they didn’t want to lose the value of the name. But it was more a pop group than anything else. Along with a number of other bands, the Miami was writing its own material. I think the Miami is probably the link between the old and the new. We’re frozen in history for this. Fran would have gone on to be a singer/songwriter in America, because it was planned to take him out to America. I think he would have perhaps written for lots of other people. Because he wasn’t a kid anymore, he was twenty-eight, and that in the pop business – even then – was getting on a bit. So I think he and Des would have concentrated on their writing. Tony Geraghty and I would have formed a jazz/rock group, I think.” 

Stephen had mentioned the screenplay of the movie about his life, upon which pre-production had begun at the time we were speaking. I asked him how that project was progressing, and, on a project like that, how involved does Stephen himself get to be? Or at what point does he have to hand over artistic control of what happens? 


“Well, I was very careful with that. We’ve been doing this now for five years. And that in itself, apparently, isn’t too long when it comes to the making of a movie, I believe. Great films like ‘Lincoln’, and other Oscar winners recently, have taken up to ten, eleven years to make. But we had the screenplay done almost three years ago now. When we met with some directors from Hollywood to talk about it, we became aware that it was much more than just a local event, so we went back to the drawing-board. About last September, we finished that screenplay, and now they’re all very, very happy with it. They’re now in that phase that’s pre pre-production really, because the finance is together now and a lot of other things. So we expect to be full hammer-and-tongs at it within the next two or three months. And hopefully it will be filmed. The actual filming of any movie only takes about six weeks, that’s the short part. It’s all the work that goes on before and after it. With regard to artistic license, that was something I was very careful of. I have a great responsibility to the truth, and for the portrayal of the lads. This is one of the reasons that we asked the producers to do everything in their power to keep this an independent movie. What they call an independent movie, rather than handing it over to a studio. Because once you do that, then you don’t have any control over it. Whereas in an independent movie, and because I was part of the screenwriting team, I have an official credit, which means I can remain on-set and can keep an eye on things and make sure they don’t lose the run of themselves and make it into something that we’ll find either objectionable or embarrassing.” 

I wondered if Stephen still taught bass guitar, as he did for a while?


“I did, I was a bad teacher! I expected people to know what I knew. Whereas a good teacher doesn’t have to be a great player, but is somebody who’s methodical. Having said that, I had some great students. One in particular stands out, which I just recall now as we mention it. John Walsh, the original bass player with Stockton’s Wing. John would have been a star pupil for me. And also I had some very interesting encounters with Aubrey Oaki from the Hugh Masekela band, called Kalahari, that I met in the UK. He would teach me a lot about Africian music. His guitar player, in fact, is the same guy that you see on the Graceland tour with Paul Simon. I would teach him jigs and reels on the bass, would you believe! This was at a time when he was recording with Peter Gabriel, who left Genesis and did the thing with Kate Bush. So Aubrey would leave the studio and we’d meet up and trade licks and all that. So, apart from teaching, there’s still an awful lot to learn about bass guitar for me. As I say, the great master will be there every time I turn on a Beatles number, when I hear the immaculate playing of Paul McCartney. He’s just a man who knows the right note to put in the right place. I have great heroes as well, people like James Jamerson that did all the Motown music, and Joe Osborn that did all of the early American California stuff by the Carpenters. Just beautiful people, beautiful bass players. I’ll teach, but I learn as well. I learn far more than I teach now.” 

Given the journey that Stephen has travelled in his life and music career, I couldn’t possibly have brought our chat to a close without asking him if there was any advice he’d pass on to someone who might be starting out in the music business today. Were there any words of wisdom that had always stood him in good stead? 


“Yeah, play with guys that are better than you. It’s difficult if you join a band and you’re all starting off at the same time. Because you’re only going to progress at the same speed as the slowest person in the band. This is one of the great tragedies that the showbands aren’t around anymore because it was the best apprenticeship that you could possibly get. I remember, for instance, when I joined the Mick Delahunty Junior Orchestra. His father was Mick Delahunty Senior, and he was a very famous band leader. But when Mick Junior started the band, he had the cream of his father’s band when he retired and all of these guys were much, much older than me. I learned more from these fellas than you could if you went to university. These guys were street-wise. They knew every twist and turn that it took to be a professional musician. They were fabulous players, world class. Young fellas should beg, borrow, or steal an opportunity to get into a band with seasoned musicians, or guys who know more than them. And learn from them. The other thing would be to play a pure style. Something like country or blues or reggae, something like that that teaches you what a bass guitar actually does. As opposed to learning gratuitous sort of riffs from rock or pop numbers. To learn the basics is very important. And I suppose finally, learn how to read music, that will definitely stand to ya in good stead.” 

~ The documentary, Remastered: The Miami Showband Massacre, is available on Netflix. 

ENDS

Mark Caplice

First Published June 2021

“FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LOVE”

Part 2

Towards the end of last month, Wicklow singer, songwriter, and producer MARK CAPLICE released his much anticipated single, CATCH A TEAR. In Part 1 of our chat with Mark, we got the lowdown on how Catch A Tear came to be, and why now was the right time to share it with the world, as well as taking a deep-dive into Mark’s songwriting process. This single, however, was far from being Mark’s first foray into the spotlight in the music-world, as the Baltinglass man has also had the honour of seeing his song, Dirty Secret (co-written with Cian Sweeney and Briony O’ Toole) being named Song of the Year in ALL of Russia earlier this year. 


Today, Part 2 of our chat gets underway by sticking to that international theme. It was Eurovision time of the year again when Mark and I spoke, and while Ireland didn’t make it to the Grand Final…again…this year, being in that coveted and once very much taken for granted position is something that Mark does have experience of. Back in 2018, he co-wrote the Irish entry, Together, with its performer Ryan O’ Shaughnessy, and Laura Hughes. Ireland has a great history in Eurovision, but over the last twenty years or so it’s become a subject of division in so many ways. I wondered if, for Mark, being involved was something that was always an ambition, or did the opportunity just happen to come along and prove too good to turn down? 


“Genuinely, it’s something I always wanted. Actually, I remember when I was a kid thinking that surely I’m not allowed to write a song for Eurovision?! That was something far beyond my reach, I couldn’t even contemplate this [laughs]. But the further and further I grew into my career, I stumbled into a few friends who had had similar experiences. They had written a song or two that they had entered. So slowly but surely the belief started to grow [in me]. And honestly, the day that we found out, I just started shouting my head off [laughs]. My housemate was upstairs, and he ran down thinking someone was after dying! Cos’ I was just shouting, like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!’ [laughs]. He was like what’s wrong, what’s wrong, and I told him to read it, and it was the confirmation letter from RTE that our song had been accepted. And I can’t even describe that feeling. So yeah, it was definitely something that I always wanted to do. And the experience itself was just…out…of…this…world! Going from living in a small town in Baltinglass in Wicklow, to a police-escort into stadiums of thousands…it’s a bit of a juxtaposition! Like, holy God, what’s goin’ on here?! [Laughs]. It was a beautiful experience. And funny enough, I’ve had a couple of close encounters since. And I’d love to do it again. It was just so much fun. But I don’t think anything will ever match that first experience when we were sitting on the couch waiting to hear who was going through [to the final]. And we could see before everybody else could because the camera crew had to get into position to be on the country that was going through. I happened to catch the event-controller’s eye as he was coming up with the camera, and he smirked and he looked away from me! And as soon as he did that, I was like, oh my God, it’s us! [Laughs]. Good times!” 

I mentioned to Mark that I’d recently heard about an actual Irish Eurovision winner that didn’t even make it out of Ireland the first time it was submitted for consideration to be our entry, and yet, it went on to win Eurovision a couple of years later…


“That’s a funny one, because ‘Together’ was entered twice, and it was the second highest song – so very close to being picked – the year before. So there ya go. But I LOVE that! I love that as a message and as an absolute life-hack. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t go anywhere! Pitch a tent! And keep knockin’!” 

Outside of the pop field, Mark has also worked with two of the biggest names in Irish country, Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan. Derek, of course, is a natural songwriter, already well-known for his talent in that area, while it’s fair to say that Nathan would write a little less. What was Mark’s experience of working with both men? 


“That’s one of the things I just adore about songwriting, different people have different perspectives, different approaches. It’s funny, Nathan probably wouldn’t be as well-known for writing, but I’ve written a good bit with him and he’s no stranger to it, he’s great. You can’t climb to the position he’s in without songs being your life. Same for Derek. They’re different in a lot of ways, but they’re similar in many too. They’re both really good people to write with, and especially in Ireland and the UK they’ve got great careers. Who knows what the next couple of years have in store for them. I won’t give away any trade secrets [laughs].” 

When writing with artists like Nathan or Derek, where the song is aimed at the Irish country scene, does that make it a very different kind of song than if he was writing with an artist from the pop field, for example? 


“Genres differ. And genres tend to have a certain language, a certain melody. That’s why I adore writing with different genres and different people, you just learn so much about what works in each genre. The dialogue, and where you even place the message of a song. Pop, it can be a little bit more right in your face. I am sad today because the rain is falling down. Country, it can be quite literal as well. That’s why I quite like writing my own stuff as well. You can use metaphors to share the message you’re trying to communicate. Language works differently in each genre. You learn as you go. The more people you write with, the more little tips and tricks you pick up. Then you learn about different structures, and how you can create dissonance even with a structure. Depending on your story, there’s different ways to tell it to make sure the listener feels what you’re trying to tell them.” 

We’d done a lot of talking about Mark as a songwriter, but we couldn’t overlook the question of how exactly he became one. When did he know that he wanted to be a songwriter? 


“I was in a band for six or seven years and we did a lot of collaborating [within the band]. There were two main co-writers in the band, we’d write the core of the song, and bring it to the band, and we’d all work on it. It was a very collaborative experience. That’s when I was nudged into the slightly more commercial side of it. As a band, we were discussing what we wanted to do, and world takeover was the plan [laughs], all this kinda stuff! As it happened, we signed a deal, went to America, recorded an album, everything was looking amazing. Then, a couple of things happened here and there, probably a miscommunication, and there was a bit of legal argy-bargy. It ended up that the album couldn’t get released, and it’s now in limbo forever. It won’t see the light of day. When that finished, I was very nearly going to give up music. And as odd as this will sound, I was sitting in my grandparents living-room, and I was thinking to myself, right…if I died and went to heaven, what would God say to me? I walked up to God, and I said to God, howya God [laughs], I did music for a while, then I became a marketeer. And his response was, ‘Ya big eejit! I gave you perfect pitch!’ And that’s really rare, and super-handy when you’re writing songs! [Laughs]. So, because I have this super-unique thing that lots of people don’t have, his response to me was, ‘Ya big eejit, I gave you perfect pitch and ya wasted it!’ [Laughs].”

That conversation”, explained Mark, “as silly as it may sound – a hypothetical conversation with God – was the kick in the backside I needed to jump back into music. So I said ok, now that I’m certain I’m 100% invested, I’m going to make a living from music, and that’s that. So I started thinking about what avenues were there, and what I wanted to be. I was a little bit wounded by the band experience, so I didn’t want to jump back into being in a band. But I knew I could write songs. So I started writing songs with people. There’s a friend of mine, Josh Gray, who had left Louis Walsh’s band, Hometown, and he was kind of in a small bit of limbo as well. So we started writing together, and he has grown exponentially from it, it’s been amazing to see. Some of the songs we wrote together kicked him back into the spotlight, and since then he’s signed a publishing deal as well. Things are going really well for him. He’s on the slightly poppier side of things, which was a new experience for me, but I really enjoyed it.”

Mark continued, “When I was in a band, there’d be this country song writing itself in my head, and I’d be wondering, what do I do with this?! Then I could have a more rocky song, or a folky song, because I definitely come from a more folk background, I’d be into Glen Hansard, Elbow, Bruce Springsteen, and Fleetwood Mac, and Jackson Browne, where the stories are really at the core of the music. In pop, it’s more about how it sounds, rather than what it’s saying. And that’s a huge, huge thing for a songwriter. Especially me, coming from guitar-land! [Laughs]. Never going anywhere without a guitar, and wanting to tell stories. It was such a different experience, having to push myself out of my comfort-zone. But it was really interesting to see, and to learn about, and ultimately, it’s helped me to grow a lot as a songwriter.” 

To finish up our chat, I had three quick-fire questions to put to Mark. The first one was what would be the proudest moment of his career so far? 


“I find it hard to overlook that Eurovision moment when we were sitting on the couch, waiting to hear if we’d made it through. Nine countries had already been called out. I knew how crazy it was at home. When I was chatting to my parents, they were saying it was like Italia ’90, everybody was going crazy. And I just knew, as soon as our names were called, that this was such a win for absolutely everyone involved. Our families, our friends, our country. Just getting us back in the Final again. That was a beautiful, beautiful experience.” 

And his biggest disappointment? 


“Oh wow! [Laughs]. Biggest disappointment? Probably…let me just think. There’s two in my mind. One, is when my first band broke up. Because we were brothers, and we were all fighting for the one cause, but it just wasn’t working. And it wasn’t helping our mental health either. So it was literally for the best that we walked away. But crazily enough, as one of the most difficult experiences of my life, I think it was also the most forming. It really, really taught me a lot about who I am. It made me self-reflect. I feel I grew as a human, massively, from that experience. Yes, it was the biggest disappointment, and a tough experience, but…that could very easily have been my best experience either.” 

And finally, what’s the greatest lesson Mark has ever learned as a writer, and also about the music business in general? 


“As a writer? For me, I always feel the best songs are songs that will resonate with people. You’re supposed to feel music. Music is a feeling. Not a building, ya know. For me, music is pure magic. And for me, the real music comes when you’re in a discussion with somebody, or you’re in a room alone with a guitar or a piano, and you’re diving deeper and deeper into a thought…I feel as though the songs that will resonate most, will come from a real place. For the music business, I think it’s just super-important to know what you enjoy, but equally – if not more important – to know what you don’t enjoy, what you’re not mad about. If there was a way of explaining it all, it’s stay true to yourself. Figure out what you love. Figure out what you don’t love. And stay closer to the former.” 


CATCH A TEAR, the brand NEW single from MARK CAPLICE, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

ENDS