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Flying the flag

Chantelle Padden from Mayo told David Hennessy she is looking to represent Ireland on ITV’s The Voice as the reality show’s only Irish contestant this year, how she almost gave up on music and what it was like to sing at the legendary Galtymore at the age of just 12.

“That’s it, no pressure,” 24-year-old Chantelle Padden laughs when reminded by The Irish World she is the only Irish representation on this year’s The Voice.

“I’m really hoping that people watching at home in the UK and Ireland like what they see, they get behind me. I am the only Irish person and I’m hoping to fly the flag for Ireland and of course for all the Irish community in the UK. It’s a lot of pressure but I’m going to try and show them what the Irish can do. I’m trying my best.”

Chantelle has been staying with an aunt in Bedford. No stranger to England, she has also spent time in Cambridge.
“I’ve grown up with this dream for such a long time. Hopefully this show can make it a reality for me. It only takes one person to see potential in me.

“You look at the likes of Sir Tom Jones who I’m getting to sing in front of. He worked on a building site for years and then one day got that bit of luck. It just takes that bit of luck and hopefully The Voice will be that for me.”
Viewers will get to see Chantelle’s blind audition in the weeks to come when hopefully at least one of the four judges will turn in appreciation.

“They’re all so different. They all bring something different to the show. You have Sir Tom who has just had such longevity in his career, something I would dream of having. Then you’ve got Anne-Marie who is so current and always in the charts. Then you’ve got Will.I.Am who has worked with everyone in the business as a producer and is just so popular in his own right. Then Olly Murs, he’s been though this process of a TV show and what he brings to the panel is just amazing.

“It’s a very difficult decision for me, who I would go for because I know I could learn something from each of them and I know they’ve all got their own stories and advice to give. It’s a very difficult and daunting decision.”

Chantelle hopes to do well in the show, building a profile so she can then start releasing her own original music.

“You don’t know what could come from this. Hopefully because I’m the only country and the only Irish, that will stand to me and people want to support me and get behind me because it’s not too often you see anyone like me on this show.

“I want people who are not country fans to watch me and become fans. That’s what I would love.

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“I can’t say what song I’m doing but it’s a risk. It’s going to be exciting when people see what song I’ve chosen because it’s not predictable at all and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it done on a show like this. I’m looking forward to seeing people’s feedback online. Not everyone is going to like it but that’s life.

“You have to be different. I’ve learned that the hard way . Unfortunately, I left Ireland because I was too different but hopefully the fact that I’m bringing my style on the Voice UK I’ll gain the respect and love from country fans and music fans that aren’t country fans.

“Country is slowly but surely becoming more mainstream. That’s what I’m going to show on The Voice. I’m going to try and show them that, ‘Yeah, I’m country but I could be mainstream too’.

“Hopefully everything I’ve learned over the years will stand to me.”

The ITV show won’t be Chantelle’s first experience of a music reality show as she took part in TG4’s Glór Tíre in 2018. After getting eliminated from the show, Chantelle would very nearly give up on her dream.

“It was an amazing opportunity. I really, really wanted to break into the Irish country scene. I thought I was going to keep going down that avenue.

Chantelle sings with Daniel O’Donnell

“After Glór Tíre, it actually made me realise that I wasn’t Irish country and unfortunately I was trying to fit into this scene that I didn’t really fit into. That did come into play when I was performing on the show.

“After Glór Tíre I thought, ‘Right, there’s no way I’m going to make a name for myself in the Irish country scene because I’m not really Irish country.”

Chantelle decided to leave her home in Binghamstown near Belmullet and start again in the UK. However, it would seem that the dream was not yet ready to give up on her.

“I gave up on music. Well, I intended on giving up music. I was moving to England, it was my going away part and I remember I got up and sang a song.

“After I flew to the UK the song I sang started going viral.

“The whole time I was going for a job in Boot’s. I thought, ‘Right, I need to make money to pay bills’. I moved over to Cambridge where my boyfriend was working at the time.

“I remember my first day working at Boot’s, I was so depressed. I was like, ‘Oh God, what am I doing?’ Music was where my heart was but my head was telling me to get a job. It was 11 o’clock on my first day and I remember I went off for my break and whatever clicked in my head I just went, ‘I’m not going back. It’s not for me. I wasn’t built for 9 to 5’.

“I was born to sing. I’ve been singing since for as long as I can remember. It’s the only job I’ve ever had thanks to my grandad who took me gigging with him from the age of seven. It’s all I’ve ever known.

“That night I remember looking at my phone and I had so many notifications. I realised the song I sang at my going away party was going viral and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is a sign if I have ever seen one’.

“It was that evening then that Nathan Carter sent me a message and he was asking me would I go on tour with him. And in the meantime I was giving up music because I thought nothing was going to happen for me. A lot happened. There was someone up there that didn’t want me to give up.”

Chantelle had success as a singer with her grandad Tony Cawley.

“I used to gig around with my grandad. We gigged around England and Ireland. I have some cut outs from when I was actually featured in The Irish World. It’s really cool to get to do this.”

Chantelle has also been releasing music since childhood and was not even a teenager when she got to star in her own show at Cricklewood’s The Galtymore and took Margo’s record as the youngest singer to perform there.

“It was crazy. I was 12. It was an amazing and surreal moment for me. It was a massive opportunity. It does mean a lot.

Chantelle performed at the Galtymore at the age of 12.

“Oh God, I remember it so well. I remember walking into the Galtymore and they were treating me like a little celeb guest. It was so surreal. I had often heard people talking about the Galtymore on Cricklewood Broadway and how all the biggest bands like Joe Dolan, even Martina McBride, played there. Just so many famous people that I looked up to growing up had played on that stage.

“It was held in such regard by all the Irish people. I remember when I was headlining the show there and it was crazy because it was ‘Mayo’s youngest singing star performs in the Galtymore’.

“Oh God, it was crazy looking back on it. I remember walking up that narrow stairway to get up to the stage. The stage was huge. You were literally looking down on the crowd and everyone just looked so small. My two knees were knocking going on the stage. I was like, ‘Oh my God, is this really happening?’

“I was so excited and nervous because of course there were thousands of people there. I got to perform with an incredible band and the place was rocking. I can look back on moments like that that I’ve been lucky to have from such a young age. That’s why I keep going through all the knocks and all the setbacks. Looking back on memories like that is my driving force.”

Chantelle was still only a child when she saw the ‘nasty’ side of the business.

“I’ve seen a lot of sides to the music industry from a very young age. One of the first times I got to perform on a big stage I actually had a microphone pulled out of my hand by someone who was very successful in the Irish scene at the time.

“I was booked to do a slot at a festival here in Mayo. I was only 11. It was the first time I had seen the nasty side to the music industry.

“When I went up with my list of songs first of all it was, ‘Oh sorry, we don’t know any of those songs’. And then I was like, ‘Oh right, okay. What songs do you know? And I’ll see if I know them’.

“I had been booked to do a slot and the band had been made aware I was coming. It was just a case of a band not wanting a singer up because they didn’t want the limelight taken off them.

“My parents were with me and they were just gobsmacked that a grown adult, who is already successful with their own band, could treat an aspiring child like that.

“I’ve had a couple of moments along the way where I’ve been like, ‘I’m not going to be like that’. I don’t think you need to step on anyone else to maintain whatever title you want or however successful you need to be.”
The teenage years were difficult for Chantelle and when she was told her image wasn’t right after putting on some weight she took it badly.

“There was another time when I was at an awkward stage where I wasn’t a child anymore, I wasn’t an adult yet. I had put on a bit of weight. I approached a studio in Ireland and they basically said, ‘Your image isn’t right’. I understand now where they were coming from but at the time it was a hard blow to take for a 14-year-old girl.

“That was probably a turning point for me. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to prove them wrong’. I started working on my fitness and I started losing weight. I had big chubby cheeks when I was 14,” she says laughing.

“After Glór Tíre actually, that same studio contacted me wanting to work with me and I said, ‘Sorry, I’m actually signed up in England now’. It’s awful but I did have one of those moments where I was like, ‘No, you didn’t see potential in me then. You’re not getting me now’. It was actually a great feeling. I felt proud of how far I had come. It wasn’t being a spoilt brat or anything like that. It was just nice to have that feeling, ‘They’re contacting me now’.

The Voice is on ITV on Saturdays.

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