Pride of Derry: Mairead Carlin
By David Hennessy
Supporting Don McLean on his UK tour, Derry singing sensation Mairead Carlin spoke of her delight at performing at The Royal Albert Hall on Thursday October 25 but then she sang with a beautiful and powerful voice that was every bit a match for the prestigious venue. Singing songs from her debut album, Songbook that is due for release next year, Mairead was always interacting with the crowd and explaining what songs meant to her and also displayed her talent of playing the accordion. The instrument is the subject of a competition with suggestions for a name invited to be sent to Mairead’s facebook page with the winner getting “a very special prize”.
Introducing the song Scarlet Ribbons, Mairead explains how it was a song sang by workers in the shirt factory in Derry in bygone years and she displays a similar connection with all performed in her set as she makes each song her own despite the fact some have been taken on by many performers before her.
It was her fellow Derry native Frank Gallagher, the music producer who has worked with Charlotte Church, Shirley Bassey and Paul Brady among others who discovered the talents of the 23 year old when she was studying for a degree at Trinity College of Music in London: “I can’t really describe how lucky I am. Every day is a new experience and I had no idea I would end up here. I couldn’t have imagined it when I was watching Don McLean two years ago. I know it sounds cheesy but it really is a dream come true. I’m very aware of that so keeping my feet on the ground.”
When she met the near-legendary singer of American Pie backstage at one of his concerts, Don was so impressed with her rendition of his And I Love You So that he invited her to join him on his latest tour. However, she explains she won’t be singing this number on this current tour: “I see it as his song and I wouldn’t want to sing it in front of his audience. I leave that one to him. It’s absolutely amazing. I’m having so much fun. It’s a huge learning curve, learning from the best: Don McLean.”
Also included on her debut are new interpretations of songs made famous by Elvis Presley and Ralph McTell: “We’re trying to do something old fashioned in a very fresh way. The reaction from the audience has been really, really positive and quite emotional actually. A lot of people have cried. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but I think it’s in a good way,” the rising star laughs.
Last year saw Mairead reworking The Fields of Athenry on the World in Union album that also featured Katherine Jenkins, Brian Kennedy and Russell Watson: “These people are incredible and of course, it was a pinch yourself moment to see your name on an album like that. It was definitely a good experience and good preparation for the making of the album. It’s a song mostly sung by men so to undertake that was a bit of a challenge.”
Although the album release was tied in the rugby world cup, there was no trip to New Zealand for Mairead and she confesses to not being much of a rugby fan: “No, it didn’t, unfortunately. I wish. I’m ashamed to say that was my very first rugby game but I enjoyed seeing all the men in their shorts. I’ll definitely go back though.”
For the full interview buy this week’s Irish World