Nigel Connell is used to performing in the shadow of Daniel O’Donnell, Nathan Carter and others. He tells Fiona O’Brien why he now wants to be a star and household name just like them.
Following an extremely successful stint on The Voice of Ireland last year, Nigel Connell is bracing himself for a new career in front of the microphone. After three decades of earning his crust as a drummer the Meath native is now ready to show the world his voice.
He toured with Daniel O’Donnell as a singer and drummer for six years, as well as working with the likes of Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan. No surprise really that he sees this as his time, seeing as he came third in the RTE talent show in 2016, and had the backing of none other than Una Foden, nee Healy, niece of Declan Nerney and one fifth of girl group The Saturdays.
“It was daunting too. As a professional musician it would have been like getting egg in my face had the chairs not turned around, but thankfully they did. People could have been like ‘oh I thought he was making a living off of this, he can’t be that good!’
“I chose Una because of her knowledge of the industry, and she’s still helping me now. She’s publicised my new single on her social media and everything, which is great. I thought it might have opened a few more doors, but what was great was how it opened me up to a completely different genre of people fanbase-wise too.”
Nigel sang U2’s Desire for his audition, which is a bit further away from what his own music is like. He appeared as the lead on primetime American TV last year too, called Irish The Musical, which has further garnered him with fans who have heard him now sing anything from rock to classical to country.
“The new single is more of a crossover to maybe Andrea Bocelli or Josh Groban, whereas people know me for rock on The Voice. It has opened the door to people thinking ‘oh wow, he can sing Whitesnake, but he can also do Bring Him Home from Les Mis’ so it has opened the doors for my live shows.
“And I think in this day and age those audition shows are great for people to become more open to songs that they would not necessarily have grown up with. It’s like a pick and mix of genres and because everyone goes online for their music now you get a big crossover.
“Obviously it’s not great when you are trying to make money back from your songs, but the only way that bands do that now is through touring. Even U2, they tour constantly to make money. And at least the internet helps in gaining more fans in order for them to be aware and come to your shows.
“I want people to come and listen to the songs that they would have grown up with no matter what genre it is, as long as it is a good song. Music is so available now so people can get into you in different ways. I used to sing that Les Mis song on stage with Daniel O’Donnell and managed to do that at the Royal Albert Hall which is great, but then I also sing in a Pearl Jam tribute band and have performed with them in the O2 Academy in Islington.”
But now Nigel wants to make it in his own right, and says he has about eight singles ready in the pipeline which will lead to an album and further touring. Daniel O’Donnell offered him the chance to return touring with him, but Nigel knew that now was the time to make it in his own right.
“I suppose with my songwriting too, I just felt that now was the best time for me. I don’t think I was ready back then, in terms of either my voice or my songs but now I want to make that move.
“My parents had their own band so I used to play at weddings with them when I was 13. And then I joined another band when I was 15 which brought me to England for the first time. I got to play the Galtymore, the Hibernian in Fulham, some really terrific venues and I was just a teenager. It was an amazing experience.
“I had this three-week tour with a really successful band, and there was a lot expected of me as this kind of child protege because my uncle and brother had made it as drummers before me.
“And later on Daniel O’Donnell was the biggest thing on the block, everyone in Ireland knew him as a household name, I suppose the same way Nathan Carter is now, and to be offered the job with the two of them later on in my career was like getting signed for Manchester United!
“It meant I got to travel the world with him as a drummer and a singer. I’ve always made a living from music and I don’t know what I would have done career-wise if that wasn’t the case.
“And I’d like to thank my mum and dad for that. Their experience and knowledge of that genre was second to none so I didn’t really have much to learn when I got these jobs.
“But after six years it started not to be a challenge for me anymore, I knew nearly every one of the songs under the sun! It was a bit repetitive so that’s why I decided not to go back out on the road, and that I wanted to do something else, which has led me to this.“
• Dreamer is available for download now. Visit Nigel Connell Music on Facebook for more information.