When did you move to the U.S.?
“I’ve always wanted to live in the U.S. since early childhood. I was a huge country music fan as a child and I went to Nashville, Tennessee the first chance I got. So aged 19, I arrived there and starting to collaborate with different writers and producers. The first producer to take me under his wing was Porter Wagoner. America was all I had imagined and more.
“Upon completing my degree, I decided that New York would be the perfect central point between Ireland and Nashville. I still have a place in Nashville and I travel there at least once a month to write and collaborate.”
Tell us about your latest album Ireland in Song.
“It’s a companion piece to the TV program of the same name that I filmed last year. The program looks at the most famous Irish songs and the stories behind them. We traveled to Ireland and to the birthplace of songs such as ‘Danny Boy,’ ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘The Fields of Athenry’ and researched how and why the songs were written.
“The response was amazing and so many people contacted me for a CD of the songs that I decided to record Ireland in Song, the album. We have been overwhelmed by the reaction. A lot of people hold these songs close to their heart for so many different reasons.”
Tell us about your work with your long-time mentor and friend “Cowboy” Jack Clement, who recently passed away.
“I first met Jack in 2001 at his recording studio in Nashville. I sang for him and he immediately offered me a recording deal. Jack was an amazing, one in a million kind of person and his passing is a huge loss for his family, friends and for the music business.
“Jack produced and wrote songs for artists such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, U2, Charlie Pride and he was the engineer that pushed the record button on the Million Dollar Quartet, when they were rehearsing in Sun Studios.”
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as an aspiring musician?
“Wondering how you are going to pay your bills. The music business has changed so much over the past few years that people no longer buy music as everything is so readily available on the web. So if an artist wants to have time to truly create and write new music they almost have to take a vow of poverty. Otherwise most artists end up working a 9-5 job and doing odd gigs here and there.
“I was fortunate enough to get a record deal with Celtic Collections, the label behind Celtic Woman, right out of college. I was also signed to Morgan the Agency in Ireland and I was able to do a lot of modeling work. But certainly, for most artists the challenge is to bridge the gap between having a lot of time to create music and earning a living.”
What’s your advice to aspiring musicians who are trying to make it in New York?
“Collaborate and collaborate some more. Find as many fellow musicians that you can and make music with them. That's the amazing thing about this city. There are people from all over the world and all walks of life. Most of all, enjoy what you do.”
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”