With all that you have accomplished, do you find it harder to challenge yourself?
And that is the challenge. In your more cynical, less energetic days, you ask yourself, why bother? It doesn’t get easier. It gets harder. The last thing you need is a new CD release.
The good news is that everyone can make a record. The bad news is that everyone is making a record. I don’t want to add to the noise.
I’ve lived in studios making music for 50 years. There is so much that is processed and not produced. All of the artillery at the disposal of record producers and engineer -- you buy ProTools and suddenly you’re a producer – it’s out there but its not all that is out there.
You have to believe that there are still people that want to hear good musicians and good melodies. That’s why I carry on.
Yet you just had this rush of success recently with Celtic Thunder. You don’t carry on for the thrill of winning over big audiences?
It is certainly fun. Look, there was that Bay City Rollers era of my career when I had an eye to the pop charts, chasing your tail. That’s not sustainable.
I always had a parallel existence. I would do a pop star piece to pay the bills, then produce Planxty on the side because it really fed me creatively. That is the way it has always been for me.
I know you were close to George Donaldson of Celtic Thunder (he tragically passed suddenly at 46). You posted a touching musical interlude to him called “Lament for George” online and as a bonus to the digital album. What was the reaction from his family?
I was shocked and horrified by his death. He was one of the few if not the only one that stayed in touch after my Celtic Thunder removal.
There was a groundedness to him. He was building buses for 20 years. He knew how special this shot was to him. The only reason he came to the auditions was he just wanted to have a look at me because he was singing my songs since he was a boy.
It was a major shock. I didn’t join the chorus of Celtic Thunder tributes. Sharon Browne (the producer) called for a quote but I wanted to do something personal to me and that’s how the song came about. George’s wife Carolyn loved it. She thought it was a beautiful tribute.
I loved the work you did on Andy Cooney’s new CD Bright New Day. How was that for you?
His talents are amazing, as is his hustling ability (laughs). He is a voracious worker, working 50 nights a week -- that’s the kind of guy he is.
Half of that album we did 20 years ago and he stayed in touch, and last year he came on strong for me to finish it. It was unfinished business for both of us.
He guested with me on a couple of gigs here in Belfast, which was great because Irish audiences don’t know him as well. I will return the favor and sit in on his Carnegie Hall gigs later this year. He is obviously very charming, great stage presence, a real professional.
Any plans to tour the U.S. behind your album?
There’s nothing locked down now but I’m sure it will be part of the plan. Now that I’m doing the one-man thing, it is easier to orchestrate a tour.
I remember bringing 20 people over to America. How crazy! The onus is not Americans to discover Phil Coulter; the onus is on me to set up shop and get known by the Americans.
We played church halls and every tumbleweed town. But it paid off.
You are a record producer, mentor and performer. What would you call yourself?
On my tax forms I call myself songwriter. That is actually what I am.
(Echoes of Home is available on Shanachie Records and online. For more visit www.philcoulter.com)