Daniel O’Donnell talks to Michael McDonagh about being a serial UK chart success despite not getting any UK radio airplay and tells us about THAT song for Pope Francis in Croke Park
O’Donnell turned 57 on 12 December and was in London to appear on TV shows to promote his new album. It is the 31st consecutive year that he has had an album in the British Album Charts.
No other recording artist can claim to come anywhere near this astonishing and understated accomplishment.
Many so-called name stars would be lucky to get one or maybe two albums on the chart over the whole of their careers, so it is a testament to the enduring popularity and the loyalty of his fans that Daniel achieves chart success every year.
The Irish World: Well, Daniel, another birthday?
“Thank God it is another birthday. It would be worse if we died before it.”
IW: Just when was that first album of yours, From The Heart, that made the charts?
“It was 1988, so this album means I’ve charted every year for 31 years and nobody else has come close to that – but I suppose maybe it is because nobody has recorded the way I have. I wonder what would happen if I got played on the radio (Laughter).”
IW: Tell us about this latest album.
“There are two albums, a collection of songs and a bonus CD of some favourite songs that I have done before. Walkin’ In The Moonlight is my first album of new songs for two years. The title track is an original from Pat McClean, The Plains of Kildare is an original by P J Murrihy and Sean O’Farrell wrote Waltz Through A Lifetime With Me.
“PJ Murrihy wrote I‘m Grateful, Who’s Going to Miss Me When I’m Gone which Loretta Lynn had on one of her albums but it is still relatively new.
“The Best Part Of The Day is by The Outlaws, that’s very popular. Old Friends Are Best was written by Billy Morrissey and has not been recorded by too many people.
“The Dark Island is an old Scottish Song, Your Health Is Your Wealth is another recent song by a Northern Ireland guy and There’s A Blue Moon Over My World was one I did on a live album but had never recorded in a studio before.
“There are a lot of Irish writers and some new songs.
“Then, of course, there are the bonus tracks that are classics like You Raise Me Up.
“We have been very busy and I still love being with the audience and the fans. I am just back from America, we were in Branson for a month then we did a big festival in Niagara Falls in St Catherine’s. Crystal Gale was on one night and Nathan Carter was on the Tuesday night. It was nice to see Nathan spreading his wings and being over in America.
“He was in Branson for a wee while too and I think he managed fine and he came back with us. I think it is important that he extends his market.”
IW: When I started with you back in the ‘80s it was tough although with Wogan at the BBC we did manage to get some airplay – but now none of you can get airplay so it must be difficult for new artists to break.
“It is harder. It is a lot more difficult now because there is no one media outlet. If you were on Television 25 years ago everybody saw you. When I went on the Wogan TV show or Top of The Pops everybody saw me.
“But now it is different and more difficult, they don’t have those TV shows any more and the ones that are there, like Graham Norton, only go with the big pop acts.
“Hopefully something will come that will open things up, but we also miss the local radio shows. They are a big loss as there were a lot of them until just a few years ago and they just disappeared.”
IW: What are you up to next year?
“In February we go to Australia then in April we are here with four shows then we are in America and Canada. When I come home I record the Oprey Le Daniel shows (for TG4) in June then we tour Ireland in August for 12 shows then back to Dakota and America in September.
“We will come back here to the UK in October for a longer tour which they are putting together now, The last time we were we did the Palladium again, which was nice, but I also like the Albert Hall. I don’t know yet where it will be.”
IW: You have also been busy with your TV show with Majella.
“We did the road trip in America from Chicago to Minot in North Dakota and it was really good fun. It was very condensed, we were very busy.”
IW: What have been the biggest moments since last time we spoke?
“The biggest was to be given the opportunity to sing for the Pope when he made his visit to Ireland and that was a lovely honour. I actually enjoyed singing before the mass even though the Pope was not there at that time.
“I enjoyed it better than the concert as I was able to sing hymns. I was a bit at odds with song that I sang for the Pope, (The Bellamy Brothers’ Let Your Love Flow) – it was chosen by the people that were putting on the event who chose all the music.
“I was at odds about it but nevertheless it was a great privilege and it was amazing to stand there and look down to the Pope.
“I had never met him before – and I did not get to meet him that time either – but it was just lovely and memorable to be there and part of it.
“Another big moment this year is that we had another grandchild in January. Majella’s daughter Siobhan had a baby boy, which was amazing. Another wee grandchild and we were so pleased. That’s the best thing that happened in the year.:
IW: Where are you spending Christmas?
“We will be in Donegal as the house is all finished now and we are looking forward to that, as we have not been in Donegal for Christmas for three years. So, Please God, we will keep it all going and we try our best.”