Tuesday 21 May 2019

Star who outsells 1D here 
is set to take on the world

Joanna Kiernan talks to the country music icon who causes enthusiastic mums to throw their knickers at him

Nathan Carter and Joanna Kiernan
Nathan Carter and Joanna Kiernan
The weather couldn't dampen the spirits of the Nathan Carter fans who enjoyed his concert at this year`s Moynalty Steam Threshing festival

Joanna Kiernan

Before his number one hit version of the country song 'Wagon Wheel' was released in 2012, few outside hardcore country music circles had heard of Nathan Carter. But since then, the 24-year-old country music singer's star power has risen at a meteoric pace.

"I left school at 16. I had started gigging around [his native] Liverpool before that in nursing homes and stuff and just playing the piano and the accordion and I really loved it," he explains as we sit backstage before his headline concert at the Moynalty Steam Threshing festival.

This is just one of the many local country festivals Nathan has performed at over the last few years. Nathan started small and is steadily working his way up.

"I started gigging professionally around pubs and clubs, around England in the Irish Centres and the Irish pubs and stuff. I couldn't drive so my Nan used to drive me about," he says.

Nathan was brought up in Liverpool but his mother hails from Co Down so he spent a lot of time in Ireland when he was growing up.

Nathan moved to Ireland five years ago to pursue his country music dream under the guidance of his mentor and manager, songwriter John Farry.

"John persuaded me to put a band on the road and we started gigging around Ireland and we literally haven't stopped since," Nathan says. "We've gradually seen the crowds getting bigger and bigger and younger as well. The fan base is very big here in Ireland."

One of the most surprising things about a Nathan Carter gig is the sheer diversity within the crowd.

The weather is terrible for the 39th Moynalty Steam Threshing festival, the heavens open that morning and the torrents continue throughout the day; yet die-hard fans, desperate for a glimpse at the handsome Mr Carter, persevere with umbrellas, waterproof ponchos and wellies galore.

Men, women and children, of all ages flock to watch him perform. Nathan is not only hot on the heels of the likes of 'wee Daniel' with a host of avid older fans, he is also giving the boys in One Direction a run for their money, with thousands of tweens eagerly awaiting his arrival on stage.

"There are a lot of younger people getting into it," Nathan says. "I suppose the big tipping point was when we released 'Wagon Wheel'. That really changed things in a big way; it was being played in nightclubs and that introduced me to a different age group."

Nathan and his band are a veritable powerhouse of industry; they are old-fashioned, hard working, heavy slogging road musicians, the likes of which we have become unaccustomed to in this TV talent show era.

Backstage in Moynalty consists of a drafty marquee, set up with a Burco boiler for tea and coffee to keep warm and a long table filled with biscuits - including Wagon Wheels.

Nathan's stage outfit hangs in a suit bag from one of the poles, blowing gently in the breeze as the rain outside thunders against the side of the tent.

"It's not the glamorous life people think it is sometimes, but I wouldn't change it," he says.

It's not hard to see the appeal of Nathan Carter, his charisma, stage presence and seamless singing voice are matched only by his Hollywood looks and impeccable manners. But he isn't boring, like your average, pre-packaged teenaged girl's pin-up.

There is a glint in Nathan Carter's eye, a cheeky playful personality. There is something special about him, which makes Nathan equally at home taking selfies backstage with excited kids who've sneaked in, as he is later picking up some of their overly enthusiastic mothers' knickers - which are thrown onto the stage - and flinging them at his guitarist. Nathan Carter is making country cool again.

"It was definitely considered very uncool for a long time and now there are still probably a lot of people, who think it's very uncool," he says.

"But there are a lot of young ones into it, so that's changed things in a big way.

"We are very lucky that the last two albums went to No 1 in the charts here. We outsold the likes of One Direction, which is just crazy."

Nathan was due to support Garth Brooks during his ill-fated five-night stint at Croke Park in July.

"Ah Jesus, it was so disappointing," he admits. "It was very sad and a lot of people were devastated, but to be honest, it was an unbelievably big thing for me to be even asked to do support. I'm never going to forget that," he says, with a smile.

"And you never know, he could come back next year and play in Belfast or somewhere else!"

Whatever your musical taste, it is difficult not to enjoy a Nathan Carter concert. His enthusiasm is infectious and his talent effortless.

As Nathan's two-hour set goes on, the rain abates, the sun comes out, and there is even a rainbow over the hill. Suddenly, this big muddy field in Meath is pulsating with happy nodding heads- as well as a large number of women and girls beside themselves at the sight of their idol. The security staff are even dancing beneath the stage.

There is a significant amount of Nathan-mania to be found, with some women present, who follow the star so keenly that Nathan and his team now know them by name.

Nathan has his feet on the ground, despite the increasing numbers of fans, who idolise him. One hyperventilating teen attempts to explain his appeal when she gushes about "his beautiful arms... and just everything about him".

"I try not to think of it because it plays with your head a bit," Nathan tells me, becoming slightly shy for the first time.

"I just feel that people are there to have a good time. My mum and dad come over with my brothers and sisters and they see young ones at the front of the stage and they're going mad and my family are like 'What are they at? It's just Nathan up there!' So I just remember that, I'm just the same as anyone out there."

Ciara Devlin (29) from Co Down has been following Nathan for the last three years with her friends Pauline and Anne McCoy. "He is so dead on," Ciara says.

"This is our second gig this week and the 30th gig this year. He'll be away in the UK the whole of September, so we are going to all the gigs we can now. We will miss him."

Four months ago Nathan signed a worldwide record deal with Decca Records, the legendary company which represents artists such as Sting, Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart and Paul Simon, to name but a few.

He will be releasing his first single in the UK in September followed by a two-week tour. In March next year Nathan and his band plan to tour Australia.

"We are trying to spread the wings a bit, whilst not leaving Ireland behind," Nathan says.

"I just want to keep gigging and keep doing what I'm doing, because I feel very privileged to be able to do it."

Irish Independent

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