Irish country music is a massive, ever-growing industry that continues to sell out venues across the country. America is yet to discover the very best of it.
Turn on any local radio station in Ireland or tune into the TV of a weekday evening and while you’ll find many of the mainstream songs and artists you’d find on any most popular download chart worldwide but you may also come across the gem that is Irish country music.
A massive industry that has growing followers, young and old, across the country, the singers and artists of Irish country music get their spotlight on TG4, sometimes on RTÉ, and on country music shows but are often overlooked by those (I’m looking at you, Dublin) who fail to recognize the popularity of the genre.
As if we learned nothing from the Garth Brooks debacle when the country went crazy over the American country singer, there are often attempts to downplay just how influential the Irish country music scene is and just how large a following its biggest singers and artists draw in. Yet through the rise and fall of many eras, such as the big bands or the showbands in Ireland, country music has remained, continuing to rise up new talent and continuing as a firm favorite among rural, farming communities.
To get you started on your Irish country music exploration, here are some of our favorite Irish country music songs, singers and artists (and where to find them on Youtube):
The queen of Irish country music, who has been wowing crowds for decades!
Begley has appeared on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and has recorded at Porter Wagoner’s studios. She is a favorite at London’s Wembley Country Music Festivals and regularly tours the UK, both in her own right and as a support act to American performers.
Despite her popularity as the Queen of Irish Country, Begley has no pretensions to stardom, happily living on the family farm with her husband and three children.
Often regarded as Ireland’s leading country singer, Carter had his own TV show on RTÉ recently in which he sang much himself while bringing on some of his own favorite acts. Hosting a whole Nathan Carter weekend in the INEC in Killarney this May 2018, the 27-year-old also fills large venues such as the 3Arena in Dublin and Perth Concert Hall in Australia.
While he has a pretty great back catalog, it was really his cover of country classic “Wagon Wheel” that catapulted him to stardom.
Born in Scotland to Irish parents, 29-year-old Lisa has also had her own TV show “On the Road with Lisa” and won "Outstanding Achievement on the World Stage" at the Irish Country Music Awards in 2012 when she appeared on the Grand Ole Opry.
Having released six albums already, she grew up on country music and moved to Ireland aged 22 to pursue her dreams. She sprung to fame on the TV show Glór Tíre and has won “Female Vocalist of the Year” an amazing five times running.
Voted “No. 1 Entertainer of the Year” in 2016 and “No. 1 Album of the Year” for “Cut Loose” at the Irish Country Music Awards, Mike Denver is already a stalwart of the Irish country music scene despite only playing his very first gig in 2003.
Known as the “Galway Boy,” Denver warns that you should rock up to one of his gigs with your dancing shoes on as he’s been declared the “best band for dancing with a 2.5-hour high energy show.”
A native of Drumlish in Co. Longford, Nerney’s big break came with his autobiographical song "The Marquee in Drumlish," having started off age 16 in a local band, "The Hi-Lows."
Each year he heads up the massively successful “Hooley in the Sun,” which sees Irish country music fans jet off to Spain for a week to enjoy some of their favorite entertainers while getting a bit of color and having a dip in the pool.
Marty Mone - “Hit the Diff”
I only truly realized last summer how specific to living in an Irish rural community “Hit the Diff” is when my brother asked for it to be played at a wedding in Spain. Imagine the bemused look on a Spanish DJ’s face when the above sent a crowd just as wild as Justin Bieber’s summer hit “Despacito.”
Irish country life with its tractors, trucks, and lorries in all its magnificent glory.
Ruaile Buaile - “Maniac 2000”
Speaking of tunes that confuse audiences outside of Ireland, Mark McCabe’s “Maniac 2000” is definitely one of those songs that were only a hit within Ireland but that didn’t stop Midlands group Ruaile Buaile becoming a viral hit in the summer of 2017 with their own country/traditional take. It’s racked up over one million views on its video shot on St. Patrick’s Day weekend at The Irish Village Dubai and you can see just how much the expats love it.
Four-piece group Ruaile Buaile often supports Nathan Carter and can even be seen in one of his music videos but have clocked up a big following in their own right as well.
While he spent a stint in pop music as a member of Irish boy band D-side, he later moved on to life as a solo singer and songwriter when he struck gold with his song “God’s Plan” in 2010, a song he penned in a bolt of creativity in his London bedsit in less than half an hour.
Paddy O’Brien - “Heaven Won’t Be Heaven”
“Heaven Won't Be Heaven” was a massive hit for this Irish country music singer from Co. Waterford. The above video has almost half a million views and is by far one of his most popular songs, released in 2010.
Over the past year, we’ve taken great pleasure in charting the rise of Owen Mac, the wildly talented youngster from Co. Derry who is dazzling crowds around Ireland and winning himself plenty of fans in the US also.
Taking after his singing dad, Owen Mac got his big break when he was asked on stage to perform “God’s Plan” (by Derek Ryan, above) at a BBC event in Northern Ireland. Since then he’s recorded videos and his very own first album and seems to be taking all of his newfound fame in his stride.
“I've always heard country music all around the house,” Owen told IrishCentral, “and I've always heard Dad singing in different spots around the local area and so I suppose I just sort of wanted to do it myself and it's been going great for me so far, thank God.”
Special mention: Daniel O’Donnell
Of course, no list would be complete without “Wee Daniel.” We’re sure many of you have already heard of the Co. Donegal native, a much-loved country star who has been a household name throughout Ireland and the UK since 1983.
He has sold over 10 million albums to date and is known as something of a cultural icon in Ireland with an extremely loyal fanbase. In fact, O'Donnell recently accomplished something not managed by any other artist – he became the first artist to have a record in the UK charts for 30 consecutive years.
Who is your favorite Irish country music singer or act? Let us know about them in the comments section, below.