From Galtymore to cruises to Nashville
The popular Birmingham-based duo Full Circle is Irene McEwan and Thomas Forde. Irene talked to Michael McDonagh about their twenty years performing together on the Irish music circuit, across Europe and in Nashville.
How did you first start and how long have you been going?
“Well I’d been playing music since I was a child and I was in a band and Tom was in a band but Tom’s band disbanded and well, as for my band, you know with bands there are always problems, so it disbanded as well and I thought I’d take rest for a while.
“Then within three weeks I had a phone call from Tom, as he and another fella that was playing with Tom as a duo, wanted to get a girl in. So I joined them but then the other guy had to drop out because of work commitments, so as it was working well Tom and I carried on – and it has been 20 years.
Where were you originally from?
“I am from Northern Ireland, from County Tyrone, and Tom was originally from Mayo but, of course, we are based in Birmingham.”
How did your 2007 Irish World Award help your career?
“It just kicked the whole thing off. We were plodding along doing our own thing playing a lot – but as soon as that happened we went on to do the cruises on the Mediterranean and were then playing abroad in Portugal and Torremolinos, and on the Nile, when we went to Egypt. “It just went so well from then and it was brilliant and is still going on now. I did not do the cruises this year though, as my husband has not been well.”
You have met lots of famous people on your travels what have been the highlights for you?
“Doing the weekend with Daniel O’Donnell was, for me, one of the highlights as it was a great weekend, he is so lovely, and it was such a memorable weekend. He does these special private weekends exclusively for his fan club and this one was at the Mercure Dunkenhalgh Hotel, near Blackburn and it was really special.”
You’ve played in Nashville?
“Yes that was absolutely brilliant. Well we’d gone over on holiday there and there was a band and we got up to sing and then a guy asked us would we come back for a week and we thought ‘Well, that’s not going to happen!’ but he emailed Tom later and that’s how that came about.
“We played in a Honky Tonk called John A’s, which is in the ‘Opryland’ area near where the new Grand Ole Opry venue is located a few miles out of Nashville. All the stars who are playing the new venue drop in to relax and many of them get up on stage for a song, so it was wonderful.
“We have been to Nashville four or five times now and, of course, have been to the Opry many times. I love it there. It just leaves something in your heart. If I had the money I’d go and live there. Nashville is so much in my heart”.
Describe your music?
“Well what we do is Irish Country and we do such a wide variety. I love the old Country and Western stars but when we play the audiences want Irish country, so that’s what we do. We play what the audiences ask for, which is mainly Irish Country but we also play Country Clubs as well”
What are your plans?
“We want to carry on as long as we can. Tom and I get on so well together that when we play a gig we think every night is a success. Every night we do a gig we think ‘Oh God, that was brilliant’. Obviously the Irish clubs are closing down as people are getting older and there isn’t any new people coming in to them to keep them open, and the big ballrooms have all gone. One year Tom and I played The Galtymore twenty-two times in the one-year, which was incredible. It was great playing there with all the big names that came through.
“When Tom and I look back at the places and the times we had, and the adventures we’ve had, it’s been magnificent really, we just want to carry on. We are very happy doing what we do and just want to keep it that way, really.” If it is not broken, don’t mend it.