|Pictured at this year’s St. Patrick’s lunch on Capitol Hill are |
House Speaker John Boehner, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Kearns,
President Obama and Kearns’ accompanist Patrick Healy. (Photo: Kirsten Fedewa & Assoc. L.L.C. )
Tenor Anthony Kearns has just released his highly-anticipated solo album, With a Song in My Heart.
Many will know Kearns as an original member of the Irish Tenors, one of the top three highest grossing acts on PBS to date with an unprecedented string of best-selling CDs, many of which have gone gold, platinum and double platinum.
The new CD is part of a branching out as a solo artist which started with the special Kearns did last year as a guest on the PBS special "America’s Veterans: A Musical Tribute for Veteran’s Day" with the U.S. Air Force Band.
Unlike Congress, Kearns has demonstrated the ability to work both sides of the aisle in Washington, having played benefits for both the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes at the Democratic National Committee last October, and then with the Republican-based Capitol Hill Club for the same Coalition this past Memorial Day. He performed for President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and other political dignitaries at the 2013 Friends of Ireland lunch at the U.S. Capitol, where he received a standing ovation.
Kearns is also making tracks in the international horse racing scene. In 2011 he performed during the special military tribute at the 137th Preakness, and this summer he performed for the Saratoga WarHorse Foundation at a gala in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York.
Kearns also remains busy with the lads in Irish Tenors, shoe-horning their annual Christmas tour in between his solo tour gigs.
His CD has music of many genres, with 13 tracks including the title song from Rodgers and Hart’s musical, “Spring Is Here” and other standards such as “La Donne e Mobile,” “Ave Maria,” “Granada,“ “Salut Demeure Chaste et Pure,” an aria from the opera, "Faust" (which Kearns has starred in); the American folk favorite, “Shenandoah,” Broadway tunes and a few Irish tunes such as “Boolavogue” and of course, “Danny Boy."
In many ways, "With a Song in My Heart" is a musical diary of sorts, touching on the music from the opera productions Kearns has been a part of throughout the years as well as the songs from his career that have defined him. I spoke with him about the new album and balancing his solo work with the Tenors. Here’s how it went.
So, what does it feel like to be coming out with your first solo album after all these years?
I’m going since 1993, so 20 years on it's time for my first solo album. Lots of stuff going on, from web design to record design. These are songs that have accompanied me on the journey of my life. It’s very hard to narrow down a song list. People say, ‘Oh, you could have sung this or that.’ An eye-opener.
You take these things for granted. All you have to do is show up on a photo shoot, show up and do the song and you’re done. Now, I am doing every detail, from ASCAP to bar coding to licensing agreements. It’s certainly an education.
What can people expect from an Anthony Kearns album and tour?
If people are coming to a concert of mine I cover the gamut, from popular opera to Neapolitan to Irish music. I even throw in “Donkey Serenade” for good measure!
How did you pick the songs?
Each one has a personal meaning to me. “Boolavogue” is a personal song. It has a personal significance because it is an anthem of Co. Wexford. I won the talent competition singing “Danny Boy,” so that was important to me.
There is a glut of Irish and Celtic tenors out there, along with big touring shows. If you met someone in a record shop with a bunch of those CDs in your hand, what would you tell the record buyer about your album?
I’m the handsome one in the middle, I can give it to you for half price! (laughs)
You are a notorious perfectionist. Were you happy with how your CD turned out?
You always want to do a retake and you’ll never be 100 percent happy because you’re such a perfectionist. Always room for improvement but that said, I am very proud of it and I think it’s a good representation on what I am about as an artist.
Are you sick of playing “Danny Boy”? How do you approach a song you’ve sung so many times and breathe new life into it?
I think “Danny Boy” has been kind to me. It never let me down. I have sung it at every event. It’s a good card to have in my pocket. I think it’s a signature song.
I always have high standards. I am obsessed with singing and singing well and improving on it. Never settle for second best.
How was it working solo versus a group dynamic?
You share the burden with the group with a lot of minds coming to the table. That’s always good. But it’s also good not to be waiting on others to make decisions. I like being in control of my own business and artistry.
Are you still touring with them?
I join the lads in Carolina for a Christmas tour. We’ve been working together since 1998 and have been touring every year. I don’t think people realize it, especially in Ireland. We don’t perform much back home. There are plenty of shows out there now — Celtic Tenors, Celtic Thunder, Celtic Woman. Plenty of big shows that sometimes we get lost.
How has the solo tour been?
The beauty about this solo tour is that people are coming to see you. There’s only one CD at the table, it stands alone, and it’s mine. Thankfully, we’re off to a good start. I have four days off before I join the Tenors.
For more information visit www.anthonykearnstenor.com
Here’s a video of Kearns performing “Granada,” one of the songs on the new CD: