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Becoming Somebody

Gary Quinn told David Hennessy about how his new single was inspired by Garth Brooks, the time he got to meet the man and what it feels like to be part of a brand new and exciting country music scene in the UK.

Gary Quinn is a six-time British CMA Awards winner. Originally from Omagh but now based in Greater Manchester, Gary’s forthcoming single Nobody Somebody takes inspiration from teh king of country himself Garth Brooks, someone who has always been a hero of his.

Gary told The Irish World: “The idea came from watching Garth Brooks thing on YouTube. Garth does a a thing onstage that once he finishes his last song he’ll give his guitar to somebody in the audience. He gave it to this young kid and the kid was obviously crying that he gets the guitar and he’s saying thank you but Garth is repeating back to him, ‘No, thank you for making this nobody feel like somebody’.

“That’s the sentiment of the song. It’s a love song. I think people will appreciate that. You can walk through life but you only find out who you are once you’re spending life with somebody, they complete you and they give you who you are.

“That’s how you feel: Two pieces coming together. You can feel like a nobody wandering around the world until you meet that somebody. Then you are somebody yourself.”

Nobody Somebody is co-written with Kyle Schlienger who wrote Brett Young’s hit In Case You Didn’t Know and John Gurney who was NSAI Song Contest Winner in 2018.

“It’s a little move into country pop but lyrically it still fits with what I usually like to write. I’m excited to hear what people say about this one because I’ve had more of an input with the production as well. The producer and I worked closely together and he was very good at taking on board anything I had suggested. I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction to this one.”

Gary loved country music from a young age with Garth Brooks and Kris Kristofferson particular heroes of his. However, knowing country was not as cool as it is now, Gary kept his musical interests to himself at the time.

“I remember seeing Garth Brooks singing The Red Strokes. The biggest song that spoke to me at that time was Don’t Close Your Eyes. Whenever Garth Brooks came on the scene in Ireland I was just like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I wanna do’. I seen him in 97, 98 when he was in the Kings Hall in Belfast.

“In my friendship circle everyone was listening to the top 40 but I was listening to Garth Brooks. I kept that one under wraps and just played my football.”

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Gary has been lucky enough to meet his hero on one of his many trips to Nashville.

“I’ve been very lucky. About ten years ago we were invited out to do a few shows in Nashville and they invited us to a luncheon where they were inducting people into the Hall of Fame but they didn’t announce who it was going to be until that morning when you arrived.

“And of course we arrive and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood turned up which was phenomenal.
“We got to meet him briefly. Lovely guy. Talked very highly of Ireland and how much he would have loved to have got back.”

Gary remembers that Garth took a moment to get someone else to take a picture so that the photographer could get into one photograph herself.

Garth Brooks.

“That story epitomises Garth. We’re all there adoring him but he is thinking, ‘How can I make this a better experience for them?’ He puts that effort into his shows as well.

“Everyone in Nashville is so welcoming. They’re very supportive and very helpful. The best way of describing Nashville is like a town even though it’s a city.

“It seems like a town where everybody knows one another and they do want to help each other out because they’re there for a common goal.

“They’ve moved there to write better, produce better, release better. They’ll open the door for you but they’ll not push you through it. It’s up to you once you’re there to make the best use of that welcome.

“Also if you step out of line, you’re reprimanded. Country encompasses good morals, helping each other out and it’s a big country family.”

Gary has toured with Phil Vassar and William Michael Morgan, opened numerous CMA Songwriters Series in the UK and shared the stage with acts such as Kristian Bush, Mo Pitney and Sarah Darling.

As a songwriter, Quinn has collaborated with Grand Ole Opry member and Grammy winner Steve Wariner as well as Brett James, Trent Tomlinson, Jenn Bostic and J.P Williams.

Are these moments some of the highlights from his already impressive career? “Without a doubt. Each and every time you get to share a stage with somebody who has had the success that you’re chasing it’s a good leveller. It gives you that ambition to, once you’ve achieved one dream, go after the next one. It’s always been good to get up onstage and share that moment with people you admire.”

He has also performed on several occasions at the renowned Bluebird Café in Nashville which is known for attracting all the best country singer-songwriters.

“That was the songwriter hub really and over the years it has become synonymous with singer-songwriter circles that people can come in and pay to watch.

Gary has toured with country star Phil Vassar.

“It’s always sold out. It’s just the nostalgia and the history of the whole building. To be there ten years ago and watch a show and go back two years ago and actually play was amazing. I played there with William Michael Morgan and Mo Pitney, two guys I hugely admire. I love their writing so to be a part of that and sing with them and chat with them was just amazing.”

Gary pays tribute to Charley Pride who recently passed due to Covid.

“It was really sad news to hear, likewise John Prine, Joe Diffie passing away as well. Covid’s been a really cruel mistress to the country world losing legends like that.

“The likes of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Charley Pride, Waylon Jennings. They were all trailblazers in their own right and in their own way breaking down barriers that have made the path a lot easier for those that have followed. I fully respect and am full of admiration for the work and legacy that they’ve left behind that allows artists like myself to go and play.”

A founder of Buckle N Boots festival as well as a performer, Gary has missed being able to perform live due to the pandemic.

“It’s one of those things you don’t know how much you will miss it until it’s gone. You can nearly think it’s a bit choresome if you’re forever having to do these things but actually they have been missed.

“What has been sorely missed has been the social element, meeting up with friends from all over the country that you probably only see at your own gigs or gigs you’re putting on. That’s what I’ve missed the most.

“You get to do the odd live stream, you still get a little bit of interaction but nowhere near what you would get when you’ve out on the road playing your songs to people and hearing them sing back to you. It’s been sorely missed and I can’t wait to get back out there again.”

The Irish World has featured acts like Kezia Gill and more recently the Tyrone singer-songwriter Máiréad who, along with Gary, are part of an exciting new country scene in the UK.

“We helped break Kezia. We gave her a slot at Buckle N Boots festival a couple of years ago and she’s blown up since which is great. Kezia’s a good friend of mine now and we’ve toured over in Australia together and we’ve done a few things in Nashville. I’ve known Mairead for a little while now and see she’s doing some great things now too.

“I think there’s a UK country scene totally separated and different from the Irish country scene which would probably be more prominent and lucrative but there’s a lot more collaboration here in the UK between artists and songwriters.

“You’ve got two, three really well established 24/7 country music stations. There’s a lot more platforms for the UK artist to self-release whereas perhaps ten years ago that wasn’t evident.

“It’s been great to be a part of this new movement. It’s an exciting time.”

Gary has been a winner of multiple British Country Music Awards.

Gary collaborated with the Swedish singer Sophie Hanson, who had an international hit with So Long, for the festive number O Holy Night just before Christmas. How did this international collaboration come about? “With Buckle N Boots we often book spin-off events so we decided to bring some European acts over. Sophie was in that. We hit it off as much as anything, always kept in touch and from then we just decided to get together and do something.

“I wanted to do something for Christmas. We tried out O Holy Night and it just sounded so great that we wanted to put it out as a release. It all just fell into place very last minute to be honest.”

Speaking just before Christmas, Gary was hoping to make it home for the festivities at the time of the interview but not sure if this would happen.

“I don’t know. It’s something I’d like to do. We’re obviously on tenterhooks here with the guidelines.
“We’ve got the flights booked so the intention is to get home, myself and the two children, but we just have to follow guidelines and see what the advice is going to be and take it carefully.

“I love Omagh. I’ve always loved home. It’s always been home even though I’ve been in Manchester the last ten or twelve years. I’ve not seen everyone in so long. It will just be great to get back and see everybody at Christmas you know.”

Manchester became Gary’s base when he first came her as a student and met the women who would become his wife.

“I studied at Manchester University. I studied for three years and met my ex-wife there. We were together for ten years and in that time we were moving between Omagh and where I’m based now in Greater Manchester.

“It was love that made me stay here first and foremost. I’ve been separated from my ex-wife for five years but I’ve remained in Greater Manchester because I’ve two children. I’m just here for them really but it’s a a good base musically as well.”

Gary will be following Nobody Somebody with two more singles in the following months rather than concerning himself with putting together an album.

“The way people listen to music has vastly changed even in the short time that I’ve been doing music, the last ten years. Where you used to focus on one or two singles prior to an album release or an EP release what you would do now is focus on single releases and once you’ve got enough singles released then you’ve got your album.

“The way people are listening to their music on their phones or on YouTube or different platforms like Spotify and iTunes a lot of music would get lost if you were putting it out in a bigger package so I’m going to do three singles. One in January, one in February, one in March.

“I’m really excited about that.”

Nobody Somebody by Gary Quinn is out on 8 January.

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