Nathan Carter has had a singular career which started at the All-Irelands aged 12, now he's selling arena's in Ireland quicker than Michael Buble and touring the world. Cahir O'Doherty talks to the former choir boy (who once sang for the Pope in Rome) about the glittering road ahead. 

Nathan Carter is Ireland's biggest country star, easily out-selling even One Direction and Michael Buble in Ireland and charting number one singles with crossover pop appeal. Currently, he's on his "Born for the Road" tour in Europe and the U.S., and his final date will be a sold-out show at the London Palladium in May. 

Not many paths to global stardom have their start in Buncrana, Co. Donegal, so let's take a moment to recognize just how singular Nathan Carter’s path has actually been.  The 28-year-old singer, born in Liverpool to Irish parents was playing the accordion at the age of four and winning All-Ireland competitions for traditional singing by the age of 12.

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Child stars can be the worst stars, but Carter hasn't a trace of the diva about him. Working in the Irish and country music genre he's about as forthright as they come, speaking with a gentle Scouser accent that would endear him to anyone.

'Heart Of The Home' - Cherish The Ladies with Nathan Carter

Celebrating their 34th year, Irish group Cherish the Ladies bring their "Heart of the Home" tour to the US this St Patrick's Day. More details here: http://bit.ly/2JdDKT5

Publiée par IrishCentral.com sur Jeudi 14 mars 2019

But before you think that he sounds as wholesome as Daniel O'Donnell, whose crown he may well be chasing, consider that Carter (and his grandmother) recently got thrown out of a hotel in Scotland for partying too loudly after hours.  Clearly, he knows how to have a good time too.

Carter's Irish family hails from Newry in Co. Down, and they kept faith with the musical traditions of home after their move to Liverpool. He learned the accordion as a boy and he later made many trips to Ireland to compete in the fleadh cheoils with growing success.

Soon after that, he became a member of the famous Liverpool Ceili Band, playing accordion and piano, and giving solo performances in Liverpool and Ireland.

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But it was Buncrana, of all places, where Carter started on the journey to fame and fortune. On a trip to Donegal in 2009, he was appearing in concert in the Plaza Ballroom in town, where the handsome young singer was seen by the songwriter John Farry, who guided him toward professional talent representation.

Soon Carter was recording number one singles like “Where I Wanna Be” and “Beautiful Life,” and becoming a household name. This month he's on his Born for the Road tour, which will see him play U.S. dates as well as appear on PBS here.

“We've just released tour dates here that are coming up in May,” he tells the Irish Voice. “And they kick off in Dallas, Los Angles, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston. We did an extensive tour in November and this is just a follow up to that, to be honest.

“We're playing some venues that we've never played before as well. We've also got shows on the slate for PBS. One show was filmed in the 3Arena in Dublin. We edited it just for the PBS audience.”

Nathan Carter.

Nathan Carter.

Capturing an American audience represents a significant challenge, and Carter knows it.

“Of course, you know this is America. This is a whole new level of coverage and sort of exposure for me. For me it's like starting off again essentially,” he says.

“I wouldn't be that well known over here. So for me, it's a big challenge to try and get my name out there and to get the music played. It's near impossible to try and get radio play in the States. But PBS reaches a lot of people in a lot of homes that might not have heard of me before.”

There's clearly a lot of interest in Irish performers and music here, Carter adds.  Performers like Celtic Women, Celtic Thunder, and Daniel O'Donnell have presented sold out concerts, and all have been on the PBS network.

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“For me, it's kind of probably the main way of trying to get my name out there, and that seems to be working so far,” Carter says.

“In November we toured here and though not all of it sold out by any means, there was a lot of good houses on the road a lot of people signed up for the show.”

How Irish was his upbringing in Liverpool I ask him? A lot of people from Liverpool often say that they feel like a breed apart in the context of England, with deep historical links to Ireland.

“Yeah, I mean I spent most of my childhood traveling over and back, and I was surrounded by Irish music all of my life. I tried Irish dancing but I had to give that up quickly because I was useless,” Carter confesses.

“I learned to play and sing instead and yeah, I mean I think Liverpool was known as the capital of Ireland. At one stage in the sixties and seventies, it was full of Irish people all the time.”

Perhaps the most Irish moment of his career to date was singing REM's classic “Everybody Hurts” with a deaf children's choir to Pope Francis in Croke Park in August 2018.

“It was amazing when I got the call asking if I would like to sing for Pope Francis,” he says. “I just said that it would be a massive honor and of course I would do it.

“As well as the tens of thousands in the stadium, it went out worldwide on TV. It was great fun, but before I went on I was so nervous I was actually shaking. And I didn’t get a chance to meet the Pope but I did get to meet Andrea Bocelli, who I’m a big fan of. It’s definitely the biggest gig I’ve ever done and I’m very proud to have been involved.”

Carter likes to link Irish traditional music to country and western, and that must be interesting to explore the ways they crossover. Does he have any American influences?

“Yeah, I've always listened to country music from Garth Brooks to the Dixie Chicks to Johnny Cash. I was surrounded by that stuff going up and I think a lot of people in Ireland would have been the same as well.  There are a lot of country music lovers around Ireland,” he says.

“But I mean, I think country music and bluegrass are also very much linked together. According to the band, it's all very much the same, the same type of music.”

St. Patrick's Day in March is just basically the whole month these days. It's like a big month-long Irish festival across America. Is that why Carter is promoting his forthcoming tour here now? 

“Oh definitely. We'll be doing a lot of promotion around that to sell tickets on the back of St. Patrick's Day and I'm coming to New York just to do a promo over the next couple of days,” he says.

“We are definitely just trying to spread the word and let people know that the U.S. tickets are now on sale.”

For all of Carter's U.S. tour dates (with special guest Chloe Agnew of Celtic Woman), fans can check out his social media links including Facebook and his own website at nathancartermusic.com

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Nathan Carter.