Thursday 8 December 2016

Nathan Carter: Two women have tattoos of my face on their chest

Nathan Carter (25) is a hugely popular country singer who appeals to all ages. Although he was born in Liverpool, he was steeped in Irish culture, as his grandmother came from Co Down. He now lives in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

Ciara Dwyer

Published 22/02/2016 | 02:30

Singer Nathan Carter
Singer Nathan Carter

I live by myself in Enniskillen. I normally get up at 9.30am. Bedtime can often be 4am. I turn on the TV and have a bit of breakfast - two apples and porridge. I stopped drinking tea a few years ago, so now I just have hot water. I've lived in Enniskillen for about three years now. I find it very central, plus I love the water. I've got a boat here, not that I get out on it much.

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I get my stuff packed, and then I go out for lunch. I never cook. When I was asked to do The Restaurant on TV3, I told them that. They said that sometimes the worse you are, the better. A couple of lads who are in my band also live in town. We meet up, and then we're normally on the road for 1pm. Four of us head off in my car. There is always a bit of banter in the car. All the musical instruments are in an articulated truck.

Every weekend, I'm away for two or three nights. I'm in the UK for the whole of March, and then, for April and May, I'll be in France and Germany for a couple of weeks, and then it's back to Ireland. Most of the time I'm very excited to get on the road. I don't see it as a job. It's very much a passion. I love performing. I love meeting the fans, so I look forward to my day and the gig that night. I'm very lucky that I can do it.

The music started when I was four years old and asked for an accordion for Christmas. I was taken to the Liverpool Irish Centre, and I used to see the singer Brendan Shine. There was always country music around the house, from Johnny Cash to Dolly Parton, to Irish country singers like Philomena Begley and Big Tom. My nan's family is from Warrenpoint, Co Down. She was on her way to America, but when she got off the boat in Liverpool, she was robbed of her possessions and she had to stay there.

My Irish heritage is very important to me, and it almost seems that you're more Irish when you're not living in Ireland, but of Irish descent. My nan is one of 10, so there were parties every month. There would always be a sing-song, and I was brought up around that kind of atmosphere. We spent every summer in Ireland. I joined the Liverpool Ceili band and competed in the Fleadh Cheoil in Ireland for 12 years.

I left school at 16 because I just wanted to gig. I worked on building sites with my dad - he has his own small building business - and then I'd have two gigs at the weekend. I was useless at being a builder and I spent most of my time looking to buy equipment online. I moved to Donegal when I was 19 and set up the band. For the first three years, I lost an awful lot of money. Some nights, there were only 25 people in the audience, but they were the ones paying the wages, so we'd give them a good show. I knew that it would get better. I had faith in myself. We worked very hard. We built a fan base and it just grew and grew. It became younger, too.

I'm always worrying about the business side of things. I own everything from the articulated truck, to the PA sound system, to the lights. I pay 15 lads on the road, so I need to know that everything is running right, as well as the performance side of things. I have a manager, but I'm pretty involved.

On the night of a gig, we have a sound-check at 5pm, then dinner is at 6pm. I'll usually have a steak with vegetables. I don't exercise, but I'm careful about what I eat. Sometimes I might have a meet-and-greet before a gig. They can be anything from children to grannies and grandads. There are about seven hard-core fans with tattoos of my name and face. Two women have tattoos of my face on their chest, which I find a bit surreal. I've seen them online, and a couple of them have showed them to me at gigs. I'm baffled. When you're in the spotlight, people put you on this pedestal. They have an image in their mind of this person and I struggle to get my head around it, because it's just me. I'm no different to everyone else and I'm not special, that's for sure. I get stopped by fans in the most random places - in the toilets, in the bank while I'm waiting to cash a cheque, and once I was sitting in the doctor's surgery when someone asked for a selfie. I always have to be obliging, because if you don't, you're the biggest arsehole.

After the first few minutes on stage, the nerves go and I start enjoying myself. I welcome the audience and sing the songs that they hopefully want to hear. I sing a song called Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off, and now the fans have a bit of a tradition that knickers or a bra get thrown up on stage. I think they bring them in their pocket, and thankfully they are clean. I normally get embarrassed and throw them at the lads on stage. I meet the fans after a gig. That could take an hour or two. Occasionally women slip me their numbers, which is a big compliment, but sometimes you're wondering if they are after Nathan or this man on stage. I've texted a couple of them, but that's been it.

There's generally no time for romance, but that's not to say that I'm not looking for it. The right girl can be anywhere. But social media would be on my mind as well. Although it can be great for publicity, there can be a sad side to it too. If you want to keep a relationship quiet, it's almost impossible. Even if I go out for a drink in a bar, I can't get drunk, because the cameras would be out straight away, and the next day, you're all over social media. Videos and pictures can be uploaded within seconds.

If we're staying near the place, we'll go back to the accommodation for a couple of drinks, but a lot of the time, we're on the road for another hotel. There is always stuff running through my head. I might be in a panic, setting alarms for the next day and thinking about the tour ahead. I get into bed in my boxers, turn on the TV and that sends me to sleep. I dream about everything, but generally I don't remember it the next day.

Nathan Carter will be appearing on TV3's 'The Restaurant' this Wednesday, 9pm. See nathancartermusic.com

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