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Nathan Carter: My gran drove me to gigs when I was 15 and, at 78, she still comes on the road with us

 

Established star: Nathan Carter is one of the biggest names in local country music
Established star: Nathan Carter is one of the biggest names in local country music
Rachel Dean

By Rachel Dean

In this week's interview Rachel Dean talks to popular country singer Nathan Carter (29), who is from Liverpool but now lives in Enniskillen.

Q. Tell us about your childhood.

A. I am the eldest of three children. I have a brother called Jake and a sister called Kiara. My mum, Noreen, worked for the city council in Liverpool, where I was born. My dad, Ian, is a joiner and builder by trade.

I was never one for football or any other sports - I've been into music since I was about four years old.

Growing up, I got an accordion and used to play in a ceilidh band. I entered all the Fleadh Cheoil Irish music competitions from a very early age.

I was in the choir in primary school and again in secondary school. We did a lot touring around the world and sang for Pope John Paul II in Rome when I was only 11. It was such a big experience and one I still remember well to this day.

Music was my first love - it was the only thing I really cared about in school and it's led me to where I am today.

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I've always known I wanted to be in a band, singing or playing music. I've been lucky enough to make it my career.

When I left school at 17, I was gigging in a lot of pubs and clubs around the north-west of England. I worked a little bit on building sites for about a year, on and off, with my dad, which I completely hated - it just wasn't for me.

Thankfully, I got busier with gigs and didn't have to work in building anymore. I could concentrate on the music full-time.

Rocking Stormont: Nathan before performing at Parliament Buildings as part of BBC Music Day in 2016
Rocking Stormont: Nathan before performing at Parliament Buildings as part of BBC Music Day in 2016

My parents were very supportive. My mum always said, "If you can do something you really like doing on a daily basis, then you should definitely do it, no matter what".

Q. What are you most proud of?

A. I have been very lucky with my album sales. Last week the Official Irish Charts named me as the soloist with the most number one albums this decade, next to Bruce Springsteen and One Direction.

I've had four number one albums. I think that's a big achievement and it's something I'm very proud of.

Q. The one regret you wish you could amend?

A. Not taking time to enjoy myself in my teenage years. I was so busy doing gigs and studying that I kind of feel like nowadays I'm catching up on the years I didn't get to party and go mad. I'm definitely making up for it now, but unfortunately the hangovers are worse when you get into your late twenties.

Nathan with mum Noreen on holiday
Nathan with mum Noreen on holiday

Q. Do you have any phobias?

A. I cannot stand rats. I freak out if I see a rat or somebody mentions them. I remember watching a film when I was a kid and it involved a lot of rats. I can't remember the name of it, but I would hate to see it now anyway.

Q. The temptation you cannot resist?

A. I'm a chocoholic. I find it hard to walk by chocolate bars in shops. I love Lindt chocolate - it would have to be my favourite.

Q. Your number one prized possession?

A. I've got a grand piano in the house and I absolutely love it. I love getting home from being on tour and sitting down to play. It's a great way to relax and switch off from everything else. I've written a good few songs on it over the last couple of years.

Nathan with his grandparents (his mum’s parents), John and Ann McCoy
Nathan with his grandparents (his mum’s parents), John and Ann McCoy

Since I was a kid I've always wanted a grand piano. I did a bit of research on which one I particularly liked. I found one in a warehouse in Monaghan and went down to test it out. I brought it back up to my house in Enniskillen, which was a complete nightmare because the living room is on the second floor. The lads had a hard time trying to bring this piano, that weighed half a tonne, up the stairs.

Q. The book that's most impacted your life?

A. I read Tom Jones' autobiography, Over the Top and Back. I always liked Tom Jones, but I didn't know very much about him. When I read about his life story, it opened my eyes to a lot of things about the music business. He had ups and downs in his career, which everyone has had. For me, career longevity is key, and he's had 55 years in the music business - I have a massive amount of respect for him.

Q. If you had the power or authority, what would you do?

A. I would enable children to get into music more. It may be a small thing compared to more important topics like world peace, but I think music is a good thing to get involved in for any child.

They should at least have the opportunity to learn an instrument. Depending on the financial state of the school, generally, they can't afford to give away free instruments.

Nathan playing an accordion as a young boy
Nathan playing an accordion as a young boy
Nathan as a choirboy

I agree there are more important things to spend the money on, but if there was an endless amount of money I believe kids should be able to pick up any instrument they want and learn it.

Q. What makes your blood boil every time without fail?

A. I'm a pretty impatient driver. If the lights turn green and the car in front remains still, I can get a bit impatient - sometimes I'll beep to make them move. When I'm travelling somewhere, I'm normally late and in a rush, so slow drivers really annoy me.

Q. Who has most influenced you in life?

A. I would have to say my grandmother, Ann. She's always been a businesswoman - she has never stopped working and she's now 78 years old. She still comes on the road with us and sells my merchandise for me and goes to the shows. She drove me to all my gigs when I was 15 and 16 because I couldn't drive. She's been a big influence and a real hard worker and I've probably taken a lot of her traits on board.

Q. Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive, and why?

A. My first choice would be Elvis Presley because he was the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

I would invite Carrie Underwood because I think she's stunningly good-looking and a great singer as well.

Thirdly, I'd ask Frank Sinatra to come along because he was a legend in his own time.

I'd like to ask them all about their different experiences in the music industry.

Q. The best piece of advice you ever received?

A. To not care what other people think, especially those who don't actually care about you anyway. Social media can be pretty tough on people in the spotlight, but I've learned through the years that the negative comments are one in one hundred. To forget about negatives and concentrate on the positives is probably the best thing I've learned.

Q. The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?

A. I love water-skiing and wakeboarding. That's why I live near the loch in Enniskillen. I've got a boat, so I try to go as much as possible in the summer months, whenever we have good weather. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance this year because there has been no sun at all.

Q. The poem that touches your heart?

A. I'm not into poetry at all, to be honest. I've always been more into songs and lyrics. American Pie by Don McLean is favourite song. It's eight and a half minutes long, but I think the lyrics are so deep and meaningful. You can take a lot from them. There's lots of discussion around what the lyrics really mean. If I could have written any song, it would have been American Pie - I absolutely love it.

Q. The happiest moment of your life?

A. I sang last year at Croke Park in front of 60,000 people for Pope Francis when he visited Ireland. That was a huge moment in my career and I was so happy during and afterwards. It was amazing - it was the biggest live audience I've ever sung to and it went really well.

Q. And the saddest moment of your life?

A. When my grandparents, John and Amana (my dad's parents), passed away. They died within a couple of years of each other.

Q. The one event that made a difference in your life?

A. I moved to Ireland when I was 18 and it changed everything. I ended up staying here and that's how I got into my career and set up the band.

I moved to Donegal on my own for a few gigs and just ended up staying. My parents were pretty shocked and worried at the start because I was so young and on my own, but when things started going well, they were very proud and happy.

Q. What's the ambition that keeps driving you onwards?

A. Success and financial gain. I'm always striving to live a better life and to move on in the music industry. Breaking new territory is key as well - we're doing a lot of stuff in America nowadays and we have a tour in Germany planned for later this year.

Q. What's the philosophy you live by?

A. Life's too short, so make the most of it.

Q. How do you want to be remembered?

A. As a kind and good-hearted person. Yeah, it would be great to be recognised for my singing, but mainly just to be remembered as a nice person and a good human being would be enough.

Nathan Carter and fellow country music star Cliona Hagan headline the second annual Shoreline Music Festival at Enniskillen Castle Museums this summer. The pair will perform at the three-day event, which runs from August 9 to 11. Tickets cost £25 and VIP tickets are £35. Visit eventbrite.co.uk/e/shorelinemusic-festival-enniskillentickets-53836467323. Nathan will also be playing in the Botanic Gardens, Belfast this Friday. Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.ie or tel: 0844 277 4455

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