Rockin' Rowley: A new queen of country in the making
The Irish country music scene is dominated by male stars, thanks to the support they enjoy from female fans. Ask girl singers and they'll tell you that it's a tough battle for them to build a following and eke out a sustainable living.
However, two glamorous, talented and ambitious entertainers are bucking the trend as they strike a blow for girl power.
Lisa McHugh, the Glasgow-born singer of Irish descent, has earned the title of new young queen of country.
Now she has been joined on the scene by 26-year-old Cliona Hagan, who won the newcomer of the year gong at the recent RTE Irish Country Music Awards. She first shot to fame when she reached the final of The All Ireland Talent Show on RTE TV in 2009 after being mentored by Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana.
"Dana is such a lady and she gave me so much great advice at the time," Cliona says. "It was amazing how fate brought us together.
"When I was in my first year in secondary school I sang 'All Kinds Of Everything' in my school play. I never imagined that I'd end up working with Dana."
Cliona is a classically trained singer and music teacher, but she insists that country is her first love. The young Tyrone woman says: "Whether it was American or Irish country, I loved it, with my favourites being the Dixie Chicks and Garth Brooks… and of course the great Irish country singers like Daniel O'Donnell, Philomena Begley and Susan McCann.
"I was thrilled at the RTE country awards show when Daniel O'Donnell came over and told me how wonderful a singer he thought I was. That made my night."