Cathy hits wuthering musical heights
A new album of romantic love songs from Cathy Maguire is set to capture ears and hearts, writes Andrea Smith
She's written an album full of hauntingly romantic love songs, but beautiful Dundalk singer Cathy Maguire says she never wants to go down "the angst-y, angry or getting even" path in her music. Which makes you presume that she must never have had her heart broken.
"Oh I have," she laughs. "Too many times! I just don't ever want to go into that 'I hate him' zone, because I'd much prefer to get a gorgeous song out of it. I'm someone who aspires to be in a beautiful, loving relationship. It's like the title track of my album, Portrait, which is about a couple who stay together forever. I have a fascination with that type of idealism."
As a small child, Cathy was always singing, and played the leads in school productions of Snow White and Cinderella. Many people will remember her as a child star, as she made her first album when she was 12, selling it locally from door to door for £5.
It came about because there used to be recording booths in the Ilac Centre in Dublin, where you could get a tape of your voice recorded to a song's backing track for seven pounds.
Cathy recorded a couple of her favourite songs there, and loved the end result so much that she persuaded her parents to advance her the money to record an album of her favourite songs in a professional studio.
"I kept telling them that it would be a big hit," she says, slightly embarrassed now at her youthful confidence. "I was very brass-necked and determined to be a singer."
She was right, because the album sold amazingly well around the estates of Dundalk, and the reaction was hugely positive. So many people rang the Gerry Ryan Show about the 12-year-old girl, that she was invited on to the show.
"I thought Gerry Ryan was gorgeous, and was thrilled when he kissed me on the cheek," she laughs.
Cathy became known throughout Ireland as a result of appearing on the show, and extensive TV, radio and touring was to follow. And lest anyone presume that Cathy was a spoilt child, she actually came from a very humble, working-class background.
"Being born into a council housing estate was a challenge," she says, adding that she went to the same school as the Corrs. "I had to go out and grab opportunities, because nothing came my way automatically. My parents Thomas and Kathleen gave me confidence, and they supported me in everything I did."
After school, Cathy went to college and gained an honours music degree. Rather than becoming the big singing star of her childhood dreams, what she really wanted to do then was work on the craft of writing great songs. While visiting friends one summer in New York, she decided to take a Greyhound bus to Nashville. The first person she met was a preacher who introduced her to a friend of his, the legendary producer Cowboy Jack Clement, who has produced for Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, Jerry Lee Lewis and U2.
"Hanging out in Jack's studio was priceless in my development as a singer," she says, adding that she couldn't have had a better musical apprenticeship. "I got to do amazing stuff, such as sitting in the studio with Johnny Cash on the day he was recording the final song of what was to become his last album."
Cathy has been visiting Nashville on and off for the past six years. She supported herself by working as a waitress, beauty therapist and nail technician, and by playing her music in bars on the Broadway strip in Nashville town. She loves being surrounded by music there, and says she was very fortunate to collaborate with amazing songwriters.
The album came about when she met Dave Kavanagh from Celtic Collections, who formerly managed Clannad and is behind the success of Celtic Woman. He heard her perform and sent her into the recording studio to record her sublime new album, Portrait. With gorgeous melodies and beautiful vocals, it contains some of Cathy's own songs and classics from artists who have inspired her.
Cathy is extremely pretty and has experience in the modelling world, because she was signed to an agency, unbelievably in the plus-size category. She was a size 14 then, and although she is a stone lighter now, she says she loves curves and hates the pressure on women to be thin.
"Image is important because musicians need to look interesting on stage," she admits. "I don't understand where it has come from though that a woman has to be a size zero to look good. People can't see you when your music is playing on the radio. If I write a song that touches somebody and catches their ears and their hearts, that's what's really important to me."
Cathy Maguire's Portrait is out now. For details, see www.cathymaguire.ie