Cliona Hagan told David Hennessy how much she appreciates the efforts of the NHS in this pandemic, why she wrote a special song of thanks to her mother and how country music brings people of all ages together.
The Tyrone country music star Cliona Hagan told The Irish World how appreciative she is for the doctors and nurses who are working so hard during these times.
Cliona told The Irish World: “There’s people out there and they’re putting their lives at risk. Hats off to all the NHS workers, all the key workers, all the medical teams putting their lives at risk for us.
“Thanks to the key workers. We all really appreciate them.”
Cliona joined a host of Irish musicians to support fundraising efforts with a new tribute version of Song To Heal A Broken Land by The Adventures. The tribute is dedicated to thanking the NHS.
Country star Derek Ryan, Brian Kennedy and Duke Special were among those who also took part.
Like many artists, Cliona has been performing to her fans online, staying connected with fans while real life gigs are out of the question.
“What I’m trying to do is just play my little part, to just sing a few songs, keep connected with everyone. I know social media has got its bad points but during this time, it’s really good that we can stay connected and still keep isolated.
“Funnily enough I never actually had used Instagram or Facebook live. I am a little bit behind with technology. Technology and me don’t really like each other that much,” she laughs.
“It was a really good time for me to learn and it was really great. I just wanted to see how everybody was coping.
“It’s very very strange times we’re living in. I think what we all have to do is just keep our positivity, our spirits up.
“I’m always trying new things. I tried to bake last week and it was absolutely disastrous. My mother said it was the worst pavlova she’s ever tasted in her life. it was awful. I don’t know what I did but the whole fridge stank at the end. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong but my baking skills wouldn’t be the best now.”
Earlier this year Cliona released her first self-written song called Thank You Mother. Cliona tells us it had long been an ambition to write her own music: “I always remember looking at people and thinking, ‘Wow, what must it be like to not only write your own song but also perform it?’ I always had the utmost respect for people who did that so this year I set myself a goalbto write a song.
“The very first few weeks of january I sat down and started writing this song. I thought to myself, ‘What do I actually want to write about?’
“My mum and I would be very good friends and I thought, ‘Right, what can I actually say to my mother?’ And these three words kept coming up: Thank You Mother.
“It’s just wonderful to get to perform your own song but funnily enough the first time I actually got to perform Thank You Mother was during the lockdown.
“I was actually very nervous singing that song because honestly you just wonder, ‘What are people going to think?’ But at the end of the day it is a beautiful song and I’m very proud that it’s the first song I’ve ever written. It got a great reaction.”
And what did the most important person, Cliona’s mother, think of the song? “I never actually told her I was writing a song so when she heard it, she goes, ‘Is this for me?’ I said, ‘What do you think?
“There was a big smile on her face and it was lovely to see.”
However, Cliona’s mother Claire did point out it could sound a little bit like she has passed away due to the song’s reflective nature and being written largely in the past tense.
“It was so funny. She was like, ‘Cliona, why does it sound like I’m no longer with us?’ And I was like, ‘Oh no, I didn’t mean to write it like that’.”
Cliona could have had a less glamorous but more stable career in music as she used to teach music to secondary school students in Edinburgh. She had been offered a good job back at home when it was her mother advised her to follow her dream.
“Even though I did really enjoy teaching, I just really missed performing. I remember I sat down with Mum one evening and I was just really confused, I needed a bit of advice.
“I explained to her that I was thinking of giving it a shot and I said, ‘But I’ve got this post and I’ve obviously still got bills to pay’. It was quite a bit of weight to walk away from a secure job into the unknown. She said, ‘Just go for it because if you don’t, the regret will always be there in the back of your mind and you’ll wonder, what if?’
“I took that advice and I never looked back.”
Although country music has often been ridiculed or painted as a genre for older people, performers like Cliona and Nathan Carter are changing the image it has.
Cliona says it is inclusive and for all ages: “I think country music has always been perceived as being for a certain age group but I think with the younger ones coming through and sharing their music it has changed the whole look of country music.
“It definitely is not just for one age group. It actually really is for the whole family which I think really separates country music from any other genres of music out there.
“I think it’s such a lovely thing. You’re not just going to a disco where you have to be 18+. It’s great that if you want to all go out country dancing, nobody feels ‘I’m too old to be here’ or ‘I’m too young to be here’.
“There’s no stigma regards age so what i see is a family affair, multi-generational. It really does bring everybody together.”
Cliona revealed that she was actually writing a song on the day when The Irish World rang so we are going to hear more music written by her.
“I’m not just focusing on having an album because then that would just rush the whole process. I’m just going to be writing and putting out singles that I really do love, that I will look back and be proud of. I’m trying to really grow as an artist.
“I don’t want to feel pressurised into putting something out just for the sake of putting it out but there is definitely new music coming.”
Song to Heal a Broken Land fundraiser single is available to download now.
Thank You Mother is also available for download.
For more information, go to Cliona’s website here.