Country music superstar Nathan Carter told David Hennessy how he could never have foreseen the phenomenal success he has gone onto when he was receiving an Irish World Award many years ago and about giving something back.
Nathan Carter is one of the biggest names in Irish country music.
Born in Liverpool with Irish heritage, he won an Irish World award early on in his career.
Since then he has gone on to relocate to Ireland and earn legions of fans with his hits like Wagon Wheel.
It is also no coincidence that Nathan’s success has coincided with the image of country music as a genre getting a makeover.
Once considered out of date and out of touch, singers like Nathan, Lisa McHugh and Derek Ryan have made it trendy again.
Having just released his 13th studio album, The Morning After, late last year Nathan is now touring the UK and will conclude the tour with a date at the London Palladium on 19 March.
Nathan has performed at Croke Park for the Pope, had Hollywood A listers ‘rocking out’ to his sets and headlined some of the biggest festivals across the UK and Ireland but he could never have foreseen it all when he was playing the pubs and clubs and getting his Irish World award in his early days.
Nathan told The Irish World: “I’m really proud of the album and delighted to be doing some of the songs from it on this new tour.”
While Nathan’s previous two albums contained a poignant tribute to his friend and mentor Nicky James in the song Wings to Fly and an ode to his great-grandmother in the song Winnie O’Neill, Nathan’s latest comes without anything so heavy.
“This album was more of a fun album, I didn’t do as many ballads or anything like that.
“We’re actually starting the show at the minute with The Morning After and it’s going down really, really well and I guess it is more of a fun album.
“It’s not very nostalgic or anything like that or heavy with ballads and I’m glad that people seem to be enjoying the songs that we are doing on the live show seem to be going down very well at the minute.
“We’re delighted to be back after the couple of years of Covid.
“We’re very excited, we’ve got some major gigs coming up now over the next two months.
“This is our fifth time going back to the Palladium and we were lucky enough it sold out last time and we’re hoping that this time might be the same, but we’re doing the Birmingham Symphony Hall as well for the first time which is an amazing venue and that’s on actually St Patrick’s night so that’s going to be a special one as well this time around.
“It’s extra special when you get to play those iconic venues.”
A recent show of Nathan’s saw him return to Liverpool to perform at the Liverpool Philharmonic.
Do you often get back to Liverpool? “No, I don’t get back that often to be honest, the last six months have been crazy. It’s been busier than I’ve ever been.
“I was meant to try and slow down a bit do a bit less,” he laughs.
“But after the Covid thing we just went 100 mph at it again doing gigs and releasing a new album and promotion so it’s been crazy.
“But when I get back to Liverpool, it’s great. My sister and my mum and dad are still in Liverpool and so is my nan and grandad, but my nan’s on tour with us most of the time still.
“She’s still on tour selling merch and last to bed most nights and just having a ball.
“She’s definitely 17 in her head but she’s going to be 83 next month.”
His latest album includes two special duets, one with Ceol, a band Nathan partly established.
“I had just seen so many young lads in their late teens/ twenties and girls as well playing in pubs and just thought, ‘Know what? I’ve got a little bit of a platform here that I could put a band on and try and give a bit back, I suppose.
“I’ve been helped out by the likes of Daniel O’Donnell for years bringing me on shows and trying to help me build an audience and it’s nice to give back.
“We held auditions, we got four lads together who are all talented singers and brilliant musicians.
“They’ve done the Late Late Show, they did the Rose of Tralee festival last year, we’re just bringing them on and helping them any way we can.
“They come on tour now and they’re actually going to be playing with me at the Palladium which they’re absolutely buzzing about.”
Nathan himself was learning the accordion from a young age and , something of a ‘Fleadh baby’, he would still be only ten when he won the All Ireland title for traditional singing.
He says he saw something of himself in the lads in Ceol.
“I played in most venues around Ireland and the UK, clubs and pubs and bars and dance halls, marquees, tents, you name it.
“The lads are all doing their own gigs as well on the side but when they come together, they’ve got a really big sound for four lads and the folk music scene at the minute is really vibrant with young bands like The Whistlin’ Donkeys, The Tumbling Paddies and the young generation are really getting into folk music.
“I think Ceol are hitting it at the right time and hopefully they’ll go on to bigger and better things and it’s going to be a pleasure to watch them progress.”
Someone else Nathan has performed a lot with and is supporting him on his current tour is Claudia Buckley.
Daughter of well known Jimmy Buckley, Claudia has long been making a name for herself on the country scene.
She also features on Nathan’s latest album.
“Claudia’s been amazing to work with, she’s one of the best country singers that I think I’ve ever heard come out of Ireland.”
Someone else Nathan has worked with recently is Philomena Begley as ‘The Queen of Country’ guested on the video for The Morning After.
“Philomena’s been around for so many years and has so much advice and all the younger generation in the country look up to her with so much respect. Anyone who’s been in the business for 60 years and is still going, absolutely the longevity is amazing.
“That’s why when I asked her to be in that video and she jumped at it straight away, I was like, ‘This is going to be great’.
“To work with someone like that was just really cool and great fun.”
The video had a comedy element to it. Obviously the song is about regretting the events of a previous night and the video shows a messy Nathan being thrown out of a venue and thrown into a cab Philomena’s driving. The visual punch line at the end shows that from there Nathan and Philomena ended up in bed together.
She was a great sport, wasn’t she? “She was, yeah.
“But she’s up for anything.
“She’s like my nan, she’s 17/ 18 in her head.
“She’s great fun to be out with and she’ll still sit around at the end of the gig and chat to everyone, have a couple of drinks and enjoy herself which is great to see after so many years being on the road.”
It was 13 years in January that Nathan has been on the road with his band. Could he have foreseen all the hits he would have and stages he would play when he was starting out? “No, definitely not.
“I still remember Paddy Cowan giving me the award when I was 17 in the Galtymore.
“I never dreamt then that I would be playing at the London Palladium, that’s for sure, or the Birmingham Symphony Hall with my own band.
“It’s been an amazing journey to go from starting out in the pubs and clubs around London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and travelling around with a keyboard to getting to play these amazing places.
“You don’t appreciate it until you step back and in Covid, I definitely stood back. It’s been amazing.”
What was it like the pandemic kicked in, calling a halt to all shows? “We were on the road so we ended up cancelling 100 gigs between the two years which was just mental especially when it’s your livelihood.
“The lads in the band are all full-time musicians so I kind of felt a lot of guilt that these lads are now stuck with no work, it wasn’t an easy time definitely. It was just tough and the minute you do get back to it, you kind of appreciate it a lot more.
“We’ve noticed that with the crowd as well, everyone seems to be really enjoying the gigs a lot more.
“I think the fact that you can go out and enjoy yourself again makes it all worthwhile.”
The Irish World was at Tir Chonaill Gaels GAA Club in September when the crowds packed in to see Nathan Carter headline the most recent London Irish Vintage Day. That was certainly a crowd that was enjoying it all the more for coming out the other side.
“That was a great festival. Yeah, a really good day.
“The crowd were brilliant. There was a really good atmosphere and great to see families, young kids right up to grannies and grandads, just out enjoying the music and the day that was in it, and the weather was great as well which always helps.
“We’ve got a good couple of them festivals actually this year again.
“We’re playing Páirc fest in Birmingham and one of my favourites Craic by the Creek.”
Nathan headlined a line-up that also included Imelda May, Finbar Furey, Sharon Shannon, Damien Dempsey, Hothouse Flowers and Beoga at last year’s inaugural Páirc.
“It was amazing. I got to watch Finbar Furey, one of his last gigs because I don’t think he’s going to be touring as much anymore. He was kind of saying on that night it was the last time he might be in Birmingham doing a festival like that so to watch him onstage after so many years in the business was amazing.
“For the Irish in the UK, those festivals are really important to try and keep everyone still involved with the music and the heritage, culture. I was delighted to be part of that. I know this year’s going to be bigger and better than ever, they have an amazing line up once again so I think those festivals need all the push and help they can get to try and bring the Irish in the UK together.”
Nathan also played the very first Craic by the Creek in 2021 and will return this year.
When it comes to highlights of your career, is it something like singing for the Pope in front of 60,000 people in Croke Park that is hard to beat? “Yeah, singing for the Pope in Croke Park was absolutely amazing and a ‘pinch me’ moment.
“Andrea Boccelli was on after me and Riverdance closed the show and Daniel was on.
“To be amongst that sort of line up for a lad from Liverpool is just ridiculous and something that I never really take for granted at all.
“And then to play the likes of the 3 Arena twice and sell it out in Dublin and the SSE In Belfast, just gigs that I never really when I was standing in the Liffey Pub in Renshaw Street in Liverpool- Every Sunday I used to play there- I just never really thought I would be playing an arena which was a dream come true.
“And then we had the TV show on RTE and I got to perform duets with the likes of Billy Ocean, Mel C from the Spice Girls, the lads from Westlife, folk singers like Finbar Furey, Mary Black and Sharon Shannon, the list was mad of people I sang and played music with on my own TV show.
“It was stuff that came around that I never really planned or thought would happen but it ended up happening.
“Yeah, there have been quite a few standout moments along the way and hopefully there’s still many more to come maybe they’ll come around again.”
A great moment for Nathan that came around more recently was when the Hollywood actor Bill Murray was in the crowd for his show.
“We did a couple of gigs down in Adare Manor for the Golf Pro- Am and Westlife and Bill was in the crowd.
“We did two shows down there and he was at the front of the stage the whole time so he was really into the gig.
“I mean he was at the front of the stage the whole night rocking out and dancing and jumping.
“He became- I don’t know if you would call him a fan, but he was definitely well impressed with us which was kind of mad to see having seen this man on films for the last 20, 30 years.
“To see him at the front of the stage dancing away to us was pretty cool.”
Nathan has always been keen to support the nurses and others who do their bit on the front line.
An ambassador of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, Nathan has often been raising money for them as it is a hospice that is very close to the heart of Nathan and his family.
“We’ve raised thousands and thousands of pounds which is great to give back.
“I was always brought up that if you make a bit of money, you can’t just spend it all on yourself, you’ve got to give back and you’ve got to help people whenever they need help and I was brought up in Alder Hey, so was my brother Jake and Ciara.
“We all had issues with our ears and ear drums and had to have operations as kids so to raise money for them and to give back after they were so good to our family was something I’m proud of.
“Hopefully continue to do so in the next year or two, we’re going to do some more stuff with them up ahead.
“My mum and dad basically called Alder Hey Children’s Hospital their second home throughout my childhood and Jake and Ciara’s.
“We were always in getting something done. It’s kind of hereditary, we’ve all got holes in our ear drums so there was a lot of time we spent in that particular hospital growing up.”
Well isn’t it a good job for you- and your fans- that they did take such good care of you? “Wouldn’t be able to perform without that now to be fair.
“We still sell stuff at the gigs and we’ve got a charity box there for them all the time at every gig for Alder Hey and we’re constantly trying to raise money and give it back.”
Nathan Carter is currently touring the UK and Ireland.
He plays Hotel Kilkenny on 4 March, TLT Theatre in Drogheda on 5 March, Floral Pavilion on 10 March, Derngate Theatre on 11 March, Waterside Theatre on 12 March, Regent Centre in Christchurch on Thursday 16 March, Birmingham Symphony Hall on Friday 17 March and the London Palladium on Sunday 19 March.
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COMPETITION! COMPETITION! COMPETITION! COMPETITION! COMPETITION! COMPETITION! COMPETITION!
Win two tickets to see Nathan Carter at the London Palladium.
The Irish World has a pair of tickets to see Nathan at the London Palladium on Sunday 19 March.
For your chance to win, answer this question.
- What’s the title of Nathan’s latest album.
Send your answer, along with name, address, phone number, email address to [email protected]. Make the subject of your email Nathan Carter Comp.
Closing date: 12 March