Entertainment

Daniel O'Donnell looks forward to visiting Canada again

Daniel O’Donnell’s welcome-to-the-prairies moment came a few years ago when he got out of the bus on a hot day and asked the driver “Is it far to the beach?” The driver said “14 hours one way and 20 the other.”

“I felt so stupid. I should have known,” says O’Donnell. “We live so close to the sea at home. In Ireland, you’re never more than an hour and a half from the beach — if that — no matter where you live.”

He’s been on a wave regardless. The Irish singer of folk tunes and classic country has sold more than 10 million albums in a career that goes back to the mid-1980s — long enough that his long string of awards has evolved from singer of the year to lifetime achievement. His breakthrough in North America came via PBS, leading to numerous specials and more album sales. O’Donnell talks about his early struggles and love of entertaining with Cam Fuller.

Q: What was your first impression of Canada?

A: The people were very friendly, they were very welcoming. We always enjoyed that and now we’re looking forward to it again.

Q: You had to work hard in the early days to get noticed; what kept you going, and did you think of giving up?

A: I loved the music. I did and still do. By the end of 1985, I was thinking maybe I needed to do something else to survive financially. I suppose that was the crunch period, do I continue or do I stop? But the record company could see maybe the reaction that I couldn’t see and early ’86 everything seemed to click into place. It really was like switching on a light. It’s incredible how things can turn around in the music business.

Q: Early in your career, you exhausted yourself and had to take time off. What did you learn from that experience?

A: It showed up on my voice, really. I just felt I wasn’t able to sing so good. It was really just doing too much, there was nothing wrong with my voice, I had no nodules, thank God. I had to re-evaluate things and I realized I just couldn’t do everything for everybody. I’ve been pretty good since that. I try to tailor what I do. I learned a good lesson.

Q: What do you think of some of the records that you’ve set, like being the only UK artist to have charted at least one new album every year since 1988.

A: I didn’t start out to set or break records. I recorded albums every year. I have a good following in the UK and Ireland — whenever we release an album they’re just out there buying them. It’s amazing, I suppose. I imagine in my lifetime it probably won’t be done again. But that’s mainly because people don’t record as much. I always recorded year after year, sometimes two a year.

Q: Your Back Home Again album has 32 songs on it. Why did you do that?

A: We recorded a live show for PBS last August in Dublin. Why not just put it all out, why divide it up? There’s a DVD and a CD together. I suppose I like to give people value. I always do a show that lasts, including a break, three hours or maybe more than three.

Q: The kind of country music you sing is vastly different from the country music you hear today, which is all about dirt roads and pickup trucks and getting drunk. What do you think of the direction country music has gone?

A: I suppose there’s room for everything. I prefer, myself, to sing the more traditional country and that’s what I love, that’s what I grew up with. But you know, there’s a place for everything. The younger people, I suppose, like the more progressive sound and there’s nothing wrong with that, too.

Q: What goes into a good live performance, do you think?

A: I suppose it’s a combination of things. Obviously, the music is huge and I’m always surrounded by good musicians, which plays a big part. But I think the interaction with the audience is very important. I enjoy the banter with people and I enjoy people as well, I enjoy meeting people. So I suppose it’s a combination of everything.

 

Daniel O’Donnell

Saturday, Sept. 16

SaskTel Centre

Tickets $64-$84.50

Box office: ticketmaster.ca, 306.938.7800

 

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