By Michael McDonagh
Manchester’s Marian Waldron is part of a new generation of Country and Irish singers.
Her family roots are in Ballyhaunis and Lahardane in Mayo, and in Stockport.
She had been working in broadcasting and a familiar voice on local radio in and around Manchester for many years but it was only after a move to New York that she decided to sing full time.
She moved back to Manchester to record her first album and now has a TV series on Spotlight (formerly Keep It Country TV) and her second album is out this month.
I asked her how she came to sing professionally:
“I came into it professionally late but have always been involved in music.
“I had been singing with various bands and a lot of people had suggested that I make an album on my own but for a while I steered away from it, as I did not have the confidence.
“I went on holiday to the Great Wall of China and had time to reflect and I thought if I don’t make this album now, I am never going to do it.
“I had been thinking about it and had wanted to do it for many years. I’d been living in New York 25 years ago and singing in bands over there, singing Irish country until I came back to live in the UK.
“I had been in a covers band and a blues band and was lead singer in these bands and I did guest singing with Irish bands, so I had always wanted to do it.”
You and I were both born in Manchester – albeit many, many years apart – to Irish families, are your Irish roots important to you?
“Oh yes massively so.
“I grew up in Manchester, well Stockport really, and both my parents were from Mayo. We did the car trip back to Mayo every year all our lives and we listened to Irish and country music all the time.
“I remember when I was aged four, we used to play Rhinestone Cowboy when we came back from Mass on a Sunday and there was always music in the house, so all our family had that musical influence.
“There was the ballad-y stuff, I have always had a leaning towards ballads and love singing them, and my grandparents would do that very old traditional Irish singing and you would have that mixing with the Rosary every night, that was on my dad’s side.
“On my mother’s side it would be a bit more fun-loving and the accordion would always come out and there was always a singsong and I was always asked to get up and sing.
“The first time I sang in public I was 11 and I sang Foster & Allen’s The Blacksmith.
“There was a lot of music around and we would listen to Larry Cunningham, Brendan Shine, Foster and Allen, Margo and all those classic artistes from that era.
“Of course, when we were teenagers, we were only allowed to go to the Irish clubs where they had the Irish dances when country and Irish music was played.
“All our friends were, like, Irish Catholic kids, that was our circle, going to clubs like the 32 Club in Ardwick Green, or The Chorlton Club, and St Brendan’s and the Cheetham Hill Irish Club, the old one. There was St Edward’s or St Kentigern’s Irish Club in Wilbraham Road, that is still there.
“They would have Trad nights and Country nights and that was our circle, all of us kids of the same age, we all learned to dance, and all learned to jive, and grew up to love the country music scene.”
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Mags McGagh in Manchester spoke to rising Irish country star David Kiernan, from Ballinamuck, when he recently visited the self-styled ‘capital of the North’.
Where did you get your love of country music?
“As a youngster I spent a lot of time with my grandparents who were massive country music fans. It was always on in their house. My mum Geraldine was also a big American country music fan, so I was surrounded by it.
How did this lead to you performing?
“I loved to sing, and I attended the Evolution Stage School in Longford from the age of 14. Very quickly I was given lead singing roles in their productions. I also had music lessons with Paul Hennessy one of the original Celtic Tenors.”
How did this lead on to you establishing yourself as a country singer?
“I was at the Ballinamuck Fair Day in 2015 and I approached Mick Flavin and asked if I could join him on stage to sing. Over the months that followed Mick invited me as his guest at several events, including a concert at the Backstage Theatre with himself and the late, great Noel Cassidy, also a Ballinamuck native. I was thrilled to be appearing on the same stage as them. Mick also arranged for me to appear on the Frank Kilbride TV show. I did an interview with Frank and sang three songs. I was so grateful to have this opportunity and exposure.”
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