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Keeping music in the family: Legend Susan McCann glad to see love of country music passed on to next generation

Legend Susan McCann glad to see love of country music passed on to next generation

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Susan McCann and her grand-daughter Sinead Heaney

Susan McCann and her grand-daughter Sinead Heaney

Susan McCann and her grand-daughter Sinead Heaney

Susan McCann is the first lady of Irish country music - and her granddaughter Sinead Heaney could be set to follow in her famous footsteps.

The 70-year-old country star often shares the stage with the talented teenager but there is no pressure on the youngster to emulate her grandmother's global success.

Ahead of Susan's fan weekend in the Carrickdale Hotel at Ravensdale outside Newry beginning on Friday, she has vowed to continue singing for as long as she can.

Growing up close to Newry in the border village of Forkhill, the fan weekend gives the veteran singer an opportunity to thank fans for supporting her four-decade-long career which has seen her perform worldwide, including Carnegie Hall in New York and the Grand Ole Opry.

Having husband Dennis and many of her grandchildren performing at the event is the icing on the cake for Susan.

"Dennis will be on the accordion and my grandchildren will be playing the harp - they love it," she said.

Granddaughter Sinead has inherited Susan's singing genes. "Sinead is 15 in July - she's like my shadow. Everytime I look around she's behind me.

"She's very knowledgeable about country music and listens to a lot of different artists.

"Sinead is a fabulous singer, she's a great country singer and I just hope she goes on to pursue a recording career because it would be a waste if she didn't."

And, of course, granny Susan is delighted the love of country music has been passed on. "There is no better music than a good country song. Country music is great party music, good dance music."

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Susan McCann  and her grand-daughter Sinead Heaney

Susan McCann and her grand-daughter Sinead Heaney

While Sinead joined Susan on her recent String of Diamonds show, her education comes first. "I have the grandchildren at the weekend, but I'm very aware of Sinead's schooling. I don't want her to miss out on that."

The pair have become a recognisable singing duo from stage and screen. "We sing together and we did The Late Late Show together. She loves it, she really does and it's great for me too."

While Susan would love to see Sinead and her other grandchildren go further with their singing careers, she knows it's their decision. "They have the singing talent but I don't push them to do it, they're loving it but I wouldn't make them do it. But if they want to do it who better to do it with than their granny."

And, just like when she was discovered as a 16-year-old singing prodigy, Susan is cautious about Sinead being in the business in her teens. "To be honest I wouldn't want her out on the road doing this stuff herself - not at her age. She needs to get her exams and get her A-levels. Then it's up to her what she wants to do afterwards when she's old enough to decide."

Susan is relishing the grandmother-granddaughter bonding time. "It's just nice for her to be with her granny and grandad and she's very helpful. She carries my cases for me," she jokes.

Sinead will sing on stage at the fan weekend, a tradition which Susan began three years ago to mark her 40th anniversary in the business.

"It's an opportunity for my school friends and neighbours to come out," she added. "There will be people there who came to see me when I was 16."

Susan has left behind the years of touring but still performs a full-two-and-a-half hour show. "I love singing but I don't like travelling. I don't do as much as I used to do."

And her popularity never seems to wane with her String of Diamonds album, which was released 25 years ago, still selling.

The seminal recording got a pop makeover in recent years and she was surprised when it was snapped up by fans.

Now her shows feature the latest tech with archive footage playing out behind her on stage alongside family snaps and videos covering the past four decades of her life.

And she has never forgotten her roots with the fan weekend featuring an homage to Susan's original Ceili band, featuring herself and husband Dennis as the only surviving members or the line-up.

They will be joined by the grandchildren of all the original members. "I met Dennis in the Ceili band. It's where I started singing when I was 16. It's for all the people from the area who would remember it in its heyday."

Susan agrees there has been a renaissance in the popularity of country music thanks to singers such as Nathan Carter and Cliona Hagan (left).

"I don't know if country music will ever be as big as it was when we started, but it's doing okay. Cliona Hagan has come a long way and she's up there with the best of them and doing well for herself. I would like to see a few more girls on the scene."

She believes music is an important community tie. "Country music brings everybody together. There's no divide in country music."

And Susan has no plans to hang up her mic yet. "I hope and pray that my health continues. I will be 71 in February. I'm singing great at the moment, but the day that I go out and find it difficult to sing then I will stop. I'll step down with dignity.

"I would hate to have to stop singing, I love singing and am very happy with what I do now."

Having a house full of family and friends over for dinner is Susan's idea of fun now - along with a glass of red wine - although she does have a new album titled The Older I Get due out next month. "That's how I live my life now and I love it," she smiles.

  • The String of Diamonds weekend will take place from Friday, January 24 to Sunday, January 26 at the Carrickdale Hotel, Dundalk. For tickets, visit www.susanmccann.com or www.carrickdale.com.
  • Susan is also expected to make an appearance at the Northern Ireland Country Music Awards at the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown on Monday, February 3. Tickets cost £25 per person with discounts for couples and groups. Visit www.eventbrite.co.uk.
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