Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Nathan Carter on looking for love and the shock at outselling One Direction

Country star Nathan Carter talks to Stephanie Bell about moving to Northern Ireland, family and fame

On the move: Nathan Carter now lives in Enniskillen
Driven man: country music star Nathan Carter
Driven man: country music star Nathan Carter

Hearts will be racing with the news that country music pin-up Nathan Carter in not only single but on the lookout for love. The sensational young singer and teenage heart-throb may appear to be wedded to his career but he isn't ruling out finding someone special to share his life with.

Credited with making country music cool for a whole new generation of young fans, the 23-year-old is surprisingly bashful as he confesses: "I don't know if anyone would put up with me as I never seem to get a day off and am constantly on the road.

"I'm always looking, though."

In the past year the clean cut, handsome young star has enjoyed unprecedented success selling out top venues across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

His music has such a rapidly growing fan base in Ireland that in the past six months his last two albums have outsold One Direction and Michael Buble for the top spot in the Irish album charts.

He has over 80,000 followers on Facebook and girls love him so much that he has had knickers thrown at him on stage.

This month he signed with a new international record label which will guarantee even more fame in the year ahead, stretching well beyond these shores to Europe and America.

But while his star just keeps rising, his feet are still firmly on the ground and he is taking nothing for granted.

"It has been a gradual process for me," he says.

"I look at shows like the X Factor and think it must be very hard for the winners who are propelled into the limelight overnight.

"For me, I started at 16 playing in pubs and clubs to no one and then with the band at 19 gradually built it up and it's only in the last couple of years that we have done a lot better.

"I remember a night when there was no one in the audience and that helps you to appreciate what you have."

It's the career he has worked hard forand dreamed of since he was a young child immersed in Irish music as he grew up in Liverpool.

Now living in Enniskillen, Nathan was born in Liverpool. His grandparents are from Warrenpoint and his nan, Ann McCoy, was one of a family of 10 who he says were all musical.

He was only four when he learned to play the accordion and a few years later had become a head chorister in the Liverpool boys' choir, touring the world, and singing for Pope John Paul II in Rome.

His summers were spent in Ireland where he competed in Fleadh Ceoils, picking up All-Ireland medals for solo singing and in accordion when he was 12.

A multi-talented musician, Nathan became a member of the Liverpool Ceili Band, playing piano accordion and piano, and by the age of 16 was playing solo gigs around Liverpool and London with an occasional show in Ireland.

He says his parents Noreen, a carer, and Ian, a builder, are not musical, but all three of their children are talented and Nathan believes they have inherited it from their Northern Irish grandparents.

Younger sister Ciara (17) sings, while Nathan's brother Jake (15) plays guitar and fiddle and also sings.

Nathan says: "I've been singing since the age of three. There is a video of me singing Are You Lonesome Tonight which my grandad taught me. It was his favourite song.

"Mum and dad aren't musical but my nan and her nine brothers and sisters all played instruments and sang.

"Whenever the family is together there is dancing and music."

It was while on a trip to Donegal in April 2009 that Nathan met songwriter John Farry who became his manager and songwriter and helped him put together a seven-piece band which has been on the road ever since.

An 18-tonne tour bus emblazoned with his image is now avidly followed by loyal fans across the country, with adoring teenage girls abandoning nightclubs to follow their idol.

That he has made a music genre associated with older people cool for today's youth is something which he modestly refuses to take credit for.

"You have just got to look at Garth Brooks selling out five nights in Croke Park to see how popular country music is," he says.

"I suppose for a long time country music was associated with older people and older people were singing it, especially in Ireland.

"But younger singers like Taylor Swift and the Dixie Chicks naturally have a younger fan base and as a result more young people are listening to it and watching it on TV."

The past year has been the biggest yet for the young star who sold out the Waterfront in Belfast for two nights, playing to more than 3,800 people.

It was the same in Londonderry, where he packed out the Millennium Forum, and in Kildare, where again he sold out a venue which holds 2,500 for three nights.

When he took his band on tour in the UK he was surprised to discover that his fan base is not just in Ireland.

"We toured Scotland and England and seven out of eight of the concerts were sold out and that's just incredible for me as I haven't really performed there before," he says.

Nathan has recorded five albums and two DVDs which have sold like hot cakes.

His single Wagon Wheel, taken from the album of the same name, has had over a million hits on YouTube.

The Wagon Wheel Live Show has just soared to the number one spot in the Irish charts – the second of Nathan's albums to hit the top spot in six months.

Last August Where I Wanna Be beat One Direction and Michael Buble to shoot to the top of the Irish album charts.

It was the first time a country act had reached the coveted spot since Garth Brooks managed it more than six years ago.

Evidently Nathan is still a little stunned by the achievement: "It doesn't really make sense to me, to be honest," he says.

"Pharrell Williams' new album Happy came out at the same time and it's kind of surreal that I managed to beat that. For One Direction to be sitting at number three and Michael Buble at number five and me at number one is just incredible. I'm very shocked, delighted and baffled."

He is excited to have signed a new record deal with Decca which has the potential to propel him into the international spotlight.

The deal will mean worldwide releases for his next five albums and he is looking forward to going into the studio later this year to record.

"I hope to bring a couple of singles out in the UK and Europe and a new album in the next six months.

"I'm really looking forward to it, especially Europe where there is a massive Celtic and country music scene.

"To tour there would be amazing. I've been very lucky in my career in Ireland and it's going well, but you always need to expand your horizons and look at new opportunities and hopefully that's what Decca will bring."

Meanwhile, his schedule for the rest of this year is already packed, with an open-air performance at the North West 200, a tour of Scotland, festivals in Killarney and Dalriada, and a trip to Nashville and Chicago.

Nathan says: "I did Dalriada in Glenarm last year and it was great. It is one of the biggest festivals in the north with between 3,500 and 4,000 people attending, which is incredible. It's one of the best and I'm really looking forward to that again.

"I'm doing two festivals in Chicago and I'm looking forward to going to Nashville as I haven't been there before. I hope to play there and do some recording.

"Our latest single The Boat to Liverpool has just gone on YouTube and it's a version I recorded with Charlie Landsborough and Ricky Tomlinson doing a bit of a session at the end with me.

"It's a busy time and I feel very lucky."

His full schedule means his life is taken up entirely with work, but he wouldn't have it any other way: "I don't really get a day off but I don't mind. It's all part of the business and it has to be done.

"If I do get time to myself I love to go to the cinema and catch up on the latest films. I also have a boat and love to sail and water ski but I don't get to do it very often.

"It's one of the reasons why I moved to Enniskillen because I wanted to be beside the water and also be close to my manager John.

"I think I got my boat out five times the whole of last year. I've made some good friends in Enniskillen and I love the town, I just don't get to spend much time there. I only have five days off the whole of the month of May. I'm all over the place."

His parents are frequent visitors to Northern Ireland and usually catch up with Nathan wherever he is on tour.

He said they are both proud and still a little amazed by his success: "I don't really get home to Liverpool but my parents come over to visit every couple of months."

While on the cusp of a career that is hurtling towards international stardom, Nathan remains grounded and, refreshingly, there isn't the slightest hint of an ego.

Instead, for Nathan, a wise head on young shoulders, it is all about longevity. He adds: "I just want a long career and to continue doing what I am doing now, touring and releasing new music and to keep doing that for as long as I can. "

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