When he’s not playing sell-out gigs, country singing star Nathan Carter enjoys taking his speedboat out on the lakes near his Enniskillen home... but he still takes his turn driving the tour bus. Una Brankin reports.
Not many musical acts these days can say they’ve outsold Simon Cowell’s biggest cash-cow, One Direction. You would have to be dead — and be Michael Jackson or Kurt Cobain — to come anywhere close.
Nathan Kane Tyrone Carter has done it twice — but only in Ireland, he hastens to add.
“Yeah, I was lucky enough to beat them to number one for a week in Ireland, but if I’d outsold them in general I’d be in a very different position now,” he says. “They can afford to take an extended break; I can’t. There’s no sign of me letting up.”
Liverpool-born Nathan wouldn’t have to tour his cowboy boot off if he had written his monster hit, Wagon Wheel. Instead, the huge royalties go to Bob Dylan and co-writer Darius Rucker, who came up with the catchy tune 42 years ago. Still, Carter’s slick arrangement of the song has taken the country music scene by storm and made him a star. His fifth album, Where I Wanna Be, recently hit number one in the Irish music charts and a new Live in Concert DVD is set to be a big hit this Christmas.
Meanwhile, next Saturday the Enniskillen-based musician plays the brand new Lanyon Hall in Cookstown, a state-of-the art venue which he’ll officially launch with Grammy-winning DJ, Paul Van Dyk. Expect lots of screaming and flying knickers.
“Tequila makes their clothes fall off,” deadpans the recipient. “Thankfully clean, so far. I’m lucky enough I haven’t had anyone too crazy but some are very, very dedicated fans. There’s been a fad for tattoos recently — of my face. One fan has a tattoo of me on her arm, another two have me inked on their legs, and one in Scotland on her back. I don’t know how good they are, but I could tell it was me. I don’t have any tattoos, though, they don’t appeal to me. You’d wonder about the likes of David Beckham when he gets to 60, with all that ink?”
Despite his legions of admirers, Nathan remains footloose and fancy-free, protesting that he has no time for romance and doesn’t know how anyone could put up with him, due to all the time he spends working. He may have an S Class Merc, but he still takes his turn driving his tour bus to gigs.
But he has no hesitation when it comes to naming his ideal woman. And while his choice might be someone very pretty, it’s also someone as talented as he is.
“Carrie Underwood is a 10 out of 10 — there’s no-one I’d rather meet,” he declares in his odd Scouse-meets-Irish brogue. “I’d love to do a duet with her. She’s coming to Dublin in March, but I’ll be away on tour — it’s such a pity.”
He’ll have to engineer a collaboration with her when he’s back in Nashville, I tell him. He recently teamed up the Scots-Irish country singer Lisa McHugh for the duet, You Can’t Make Old Friends, originally recorded by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers. Interestingly, Lisa has moved from Glasgow to live in Fermanagh.
So, any spark there?
“Nah, we’re just good friends. She’s really good fun, but I’m still single and still looking — as they say.”
Any prospective Mrs Carters would have to earn the seal of approval from Nathan’s greatest confidante, his maternal granny Anne McCoy, who moved from her native Warrenpoint to Liverpool in 1975. Anne’s ties to home and her family, the Wards, remained close and her musical grandson was back and forth to festivals, from Kildare to Tyrone, throughout his childhood.
A talented guitar and piano player, Nathan began accordion lessons at four and became a head chorister in the Liverpool boys choir, touring the world and singing for the Pope. He won All Ireland medals for solo singing, and accordion, at just 12 years of age, but fared less well as Irish dancing: “I tried it for 10 minutes — the teacher told me to stick to music. I’d no patience for it anyway.”
In his teens, he joined the Liverpool Ceili band, playing piano accordion and piano. His star quality shone out, and soon he was playing solo gigs around Liverpool and London, and occasional shows in Ireland.
The turning point in his career came at a gig in Buncrana, Donegal in April 2009, where Nathan met the local songwriter John Farry. Hugely impressed with Nathan’s performance, Farry made Nathan’s dream of performing with his own band became a reality, within months.
Since then he has played to audiences the length and breadth of the province, from a couple of hundred in the Millbrook Lodge in Ballynahinch, to 2000 in the Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.
Now, as well as Cookstown, Nathan has two nights in Dublin’s Vicar Street coming up, a UK tour and a recording stint in Australia. In between times, he has been signing copies of his new Live At the Marquis in Cork album and DVD in record stores.
With one of Madonna’s better albums — Ray Of Light — on sale at The Pound Shop for their asking price, he agrees the days of CDs are numbered.
“I signed for two hours in Cork at Golden Discs — it’s the only one left there; there’s HMV. It’s a shame. I love to get a CD and see the list of who’s playing on it, in which studio and so on.
“I like to see the art work and have a physical product in my hand. And I’d love to do vinyl at some point; it’s coming back.”
He has also been “mad busy” recording his own Christmas TV show, with guests including Mary Black, the Dubliners and English pop/country duo, The Shires, and is hoping RTE will commission a series. When he does get time off, he likes to watch movies — “Brooklyn was very good” — and take his speed boat out on to the Enniskillen lakes.
“I’ve only been out on the boat four times this year — I’ve been so busy and the weather’s been miserable,” he complains mildly. “I’m really looking forward to having six days off at Christmas in Liverpool with mum and dad. We always have a very traditional Christmas, eating and drinking — although I do try to stay away from over-indulging. And I can’t wait to play at this new Lanyon. I haven’t played in Tyrone for quite a while and it’s my first time in Cookstown for over a year. The venue holds up to 1,400 and there are hardly any tickets left. It’s great for Cookstown and for live bands to have such a venue.”
Stage presence: Nathan Carter and (left) his close friend, country singer Lisa McHugh
Country charm: Nathan continues to be hugely popular in Ireland
Star to launch new live venue
Northern Ireland's newest live venue will open its doors to the public for the first time next week with performances from country music star Nathan Carter and Grammy-winning international DJ Paul van Dyk.
Lanyon Hall in Cookstown - named after the prominent 19th century architect Charles Lanyon - is a state-of-the-art multi-purpose live arena, inspired by venues in New York and Nashville. Its grand opening weekend will take place tomorrow and Saturday.
The launch of the Molesworth Street venue, formerly the site of one of the province's best-loved nightclubs, Clubland, kicks-off with a bang tomorrow night with a live DJ set from Germany's Paul van Dyk. One of the first true superstar DJs, the musician and record producer has twice been named the world's number one DJ and continues to pack out venues all over the world with his electronic performances.
Then on Saturday, December 12, Ireland's biggest country star Nathan Carter rides into town with his band to take to the Lanyon Hall stage.
Lanyon Hall is the latest venture from leisure group 1 Oak Leisure Ireland, Ltd, and will provide a significant boost to the local economy, with an initial investment of £1m and the creation of 25 full and part-time jobs.
Owner Patrick Scullion says: "There is nothing quite like live entertainment and I think the mid-Ulster region has been crying out for a top quality live arena for a long time now."
Other acts lined up to appear at Lanyon Hall in the near future include the ever-popular Bagatelle on Saturday, December 19, the reformed Bay City Rollers, currently enjoying a huge revival, and crowd favourites Smokie in 2016.
In addition to being a multi-genre music venue, the design of Lanyon Hall will also lend itself to a range of other live events with plans to bring some of the top comedians to the venue, as well as indoor sports such as boxing and darts.
With the capacity ranging from 400 to 1,400 depending on the nature of the event, Lanyon Hall will be equipped with the latest in sound and lighting technology with special attention paid to acoustics.