Country music star Nathan Carter is on a national tour across the UK from February 24 after two years of uncertainty in the music industry. Here he talks to irish post about confinements, his return to the stage and his admiration for Garth Brooks.
When you reach the stage in a music career where you perform 150 shows a year, it’s no wonder the pandemic has brought on a sense of loss.
For Ireland’s hottest country singer, Nathan Carter, who is gearing up for a UK tour beginning in February, it was no different.
“A lot of my guys would have been with me full time and that’s how they made their money, whether they were musicians, soundmen or lighting people,” Nathan said. “They all just had to go get new jobs.”
His violin player Niall set up a coffee van in Newry, while his drummer started selling building materials. Others have worked as delivery drivers at DPD and delivery companies.
“It hasn’t been an easy task for any musician or anyone involved in live music.”
For Carter, the closures have brought months of calm that have led him to undertake various activities for which he previously had no time.
He spent this period at his home in Fermanagh, which he had just moved into towards the end of 2019.
“I built a man cave in the house and it kept me busy for a few months!” he said. “I was also trying to exercise because the lockdown really hit me after about six months. I didn’t really know what I was doing on my own because it was so different being on the road all the time.
“There’s quite a bit of land with the house so I was busy tending to that. For once I was there to cut grass and hedges, which I’m never there to normally do. I bought a small tractor. I consider myself a farmer, but maybe an apprentice farmer, that’s how I would describe it.”
Having moved to Ireland aged 18, he says the pandemic has forced him to take a break after twelve years of hard work.
“I look at the music industry a little differently now,” he explains. “I realize now how unstable it can be. You plan ahead maybe 30 or 40 shows, and income and salaries and what will pay for the truck, website, PR or other.
“And then in a day of announcements, it was all gone. It taught me to appreciate it, and maybe not take it as seriously as I do and enjoy it a little more.”
While he resumed other activities during the pandemic, the music never really left him with the release of his twelfth studio album ‘Little Old Town’, which went to number one in Ireland when released in November 2021 .
He calls it his “containment project” which required a new way to create an album.
“On previous albums we would have brought four or five musicians into the studio to record, but for this one we ended up sending audio files around the world and people were performing their own tracks and sending them back,” said Nathan.
“My voice went to Nashville to a drummer, then a bassist, then a violin player in Co Down and then he would send it to the next person and it was all mixed in the studio. It was a totally different way of do it, and probably not as enjoyable either because you bounce off each other when you do it in person, but we were thrilled to have #1 in Ireland.
Nathan and his band recently returned to the stage to perform two nights on Belfast’s seafront, and he thinks the crowds are eager to get back to live entertainment.
“If we are to believe what we have witnessed over the past week, people and the public are dying to get out and have fun.
“To be able to sing and be in a room again with so many people – there’s nothing like it. I had so many tickets to see artists and they were all cancelled; Queen and Adam Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Lionel Ritchie, Elton John. I love going to all of that, so I’m in the same boat and looking to get out there and enjoy live music on a bigger scale again.”
The UK tour sees him play at the London Palladium on February 26, a venue he has performed in four times before.
“The Palladium is just the pinnacle of UK stages,” he said. “It never gets old. It’s mental when you go back on stage and see all the people who have played on the walls: the Rolling Stones, Queen, Elton John to the Beatles and Adele just recorded a show there Playing there is not taken lightly.
“I never really dreamed when I was playing in Seamus Moore’s pub in London when I was younger that I would one day be at the Palladium!”
Once the UK tour is over, Nathan and the band are hoping the Irish summer dates will fill up quickly.
“Fortunately, since the restrictions were lifted a few days ago, the office phone hasn’t stopped ringing. People are planning festivals again and trying to get funding to get them off the ground, so hopefully we will be busy in the summer again.”
He won’t be the only country star hoping for a positive reaction from the Irish public, with none other than Garth Brooks playing five nights at Croke Park in September.
Carter had been booked to support the legendary singer for two of his scheduled five nights at Croke Park in 2014 before the plug was pulled on all dates.
Will he join Brooks on stage this time around?
“I haven’t heard of supporting him!” he’s laughing.
“I do know one thing though; between me, the band and my family, I bought 40 tickets for Saturday night so we’re all going to see it no matter what this time around.
“I’ve never seen him in concert and I’ve been listening to him since I was a kid, watching a VHS of him singing into his main mic. Can’t wait to see him.”
Having a country music world champion is important for the genre, says Nathan.
“It’s good to see the country is still huge, as demonstrated by Garth. His selling power is incredible.
“We’re lucky in Ireland that country is considered one of the most popular genres, and I’m not sure if that’s the case in England.
“You tune into any local or regional radio station in Ireland any night and there will be a country music show. It’s still in young children and is passed down from generation to generation.”
Tickets for Nathan Carter’s UK Tour are available from ticketline.co.uk or theater ticket offices.