For the last three years Ailish Mc Bride, 18, has combined her studies as a veterinary nurse with a music career.
She has released two albums and several singles, including the hit Golden Ring with Ciaran Rosney. Another single, Scania 164, got over a million views on YouTube.
She has had her own show on Keep it Country TV for over two years and was also a semi-finalist on this year’s Glór Tíre on Irish television’s Irish-language channel TG4.
IW: You came to the attention of a lot of people when you were on Glór Tíre.
“What can I say? I was on the show and Ciaran Rosney was my mentor and I got to the semi-finals.
“There were six contestants all together and I had a great time and loved every minute of it, but John Rafferty from Belfast won.”
IW: How did you start?
“When I was in primary school, a school play, I was about 11. We all had auditioned to sing The Master’s Hand and I was chosen.
“It was originally a poem, but the teacher made an arrangement to it and that is what I sang.
“When I did, the whole place just went silent. My mum and dad were so surprised as they had never really heard me singing like that before. There was a DVD made of the play and we sent it over to my grandparents in Cumbria, and my grandfather on my mum’s side of the family, Clem Mossop, was listening and he just said, ‘We need to get her into a recording studio’.
“He took me into my first recording studio, and I recorded my first album but unfortunately my he passed away before he could hear the finished product. He wasn’t a musician, but he always loved Irish Country Music.
“I did not really want to sing after his death but a couple of years later I joined Donegal Youth Choir, a more classical style of music. It really built up my stage confidence, singing with a group, and I realised Irish country music was what I wanted to do so when I started recording again that is what I did.
“I just like country music – every song tells a story and I just like telling the stories. I’m 18 now, and I’m not really into all the r ‘n b stuff my friends like.
“My parents would always be listening to the likes of Louise Morrissey, Shania Twain, Dolly Parton or Philomena Begley, all of their CDs were always playing in our house.
“Whenever we went to visit my grandparents in England, they would always have those songs on, and my granddad was big into Keep It Country TV so it was always on.
“He used to say to me, ‘Oh one day you will be on there’. Now I host Ailish’s Country Mix on it.
“I have two albums out and a lot of singles and a good few videos. I think I have eight or nine videos on YouTube at this stage. A video for a single I released, Scania 164, has now had over one million views on YouTube.”
IW: Is it harder now for a young person to make it now than it used to be when the big record companies, like the ones I used to work for, would sign new singers?
“Definitely it is harder, and it is harder for young women as well. I think it has always been harder for the women, but even more so now. Everything costs money so with no record company you have to do it all yourself – and that gets expensive.”
IW: Are still training to be a veterinary nurse so you have that career as a back up?
“At the minute I’m juggling the singing and the college. I have one year left at college in Letterkenny and I am going to finish it. It is only half an hour from my home, so that makes it easy enough to get there, but it is always a bit of a rush.
“I am hoping when I finish college, I can focus more on my music career solely, and see what happens.
“The plan would be to try to get a record deal then but that will not be easy.”
IW: Who were your influences and to whom do you like to listen?
“Louise Morrissey, Lorrie Morgan, Tanya Tucker and, of course, Philomena – a mixture of American and Irish Country. Cliona Hagan would be a favourite of mine, and Derek Ryan, he is a great songwriter as well.”
IW: Is your set mainly new material or do you do a lot of the older classics?
“I do a lot of the old well-known classic country songs, I am not really into the more modern pop country, but I do some new songs as well.”
IW: Where do you stand in the debate about Nathan Carter and the dancehalls – did he bring the crowds back and is country finally ‘cool’ for young Irish people?
“I definitely think the likes of Nathan has helped it big time. I know you get some young people who just don’t like Irish country and that is alright – but a lot of the time it is young people up there jiving at the dances.
“It is not as if they go to drink, or anything, they just go dancing. A lot of young people do that and now the festivals are cool. We have a lot of Country Music festivals now, which are really popular, and it is all young people.
“I would love to play in London as I have family there and I have family in Cumbria as well.
“I hear in London all the big dancehalls have gone, which is a terrible shame.”