Friday 18 January 2019

Chris Doran

Chris Doran, 28, is a singer and songwriter from Waterford. He won 'You're a Star' in 2004

On a normal day, if I'm at home, I'd be up at 8.30am. Home is Waterford city. I live with my mum at the moment. I'm about to move into my own house in Dunmore East. No, I don't have blaas [bread rolls] for breakfast. Everyone talks about blaas and we're the only county that does them. I don't have breakfast because I'm usually heading off to the gym and I train on an empty stomach.

I've been doing kickboxing since I was three years old and I won eight All Ireland titles for kickboxing. When I was a kid, my brother was doing it and so was my sister, and my mum more or less put me in there too. I've been fighting for years but when the music started kicking in, I concentrated more on that and left the fighting. I train about four or five mornings a week. I do kickboxing and weightlifting. It's the one thing that keeps me sane. It keeps my mind off things and takes the pressures off everything because when you're at home and when you're in the studio, you're constantly thinking songs, music and the career. The gym is a great stress reliever.

When I finish training, I come home, have a bite to eat and then I get changed. After that, I might meet some friends in town, or I might even start working on some new material. I write everything. In the last few years since You're a Star, I've been away doing a lot of writing and working with producers in America. I've a new single out called Hey Girl. Universal is distributing it for me.

You're a Star was a great experience for me. It was a launching pad for my career. It was my mother who put my name forward for it. Up until then, I'd been playing in pubs, doing the local circuit around Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford. I did that since I was 17. Music is in my family. I come from a settled Traveller background and I'm proud of it. My dad was killed in a car accident when I was only 12 months old, but he was a great musician. He played the accordion and he would play anything. I was the only one in the family who took it on, but I've been playing keyboard and piano since I was six. I took grades in the piano. After that, I was in a one-piece band, playing the keyboards myself and singing. It went from there.

I took a break from it for a few years when I went to work with my brothers in the building trade in the UK, but when I came back in 2000, I hooked up with John Coker, a great keyboard player. We'd do shows and great crowds would turn up for us in Tramore. We were doing middle-of-the-road stuff from Lionel Richie right through to The Drifters.

As a result of You're a Star, I did the Eurovision. On that show I had 10 weeks of exposure and the viewing figures were huge. You can't buy that kind of exposure. Also, I learnt a lot from it. Linda Martin was very good to me, advising me on what to do and giving me tips on singing, like what parts of the song to sing softly. And Louis was great. The first time I entered You're a Star, I lost by a few votes, but Louis said to come back the next year. He picked me as his wild card in 2004, and I went on to win it. The hard part of it is the cameras, especially if you're not used to them. But I don't get nervous on stage -- the bigger the crowd, the better. After You're a Star, I went on tour and there were some great concerts, the likes of Cork Opera House. You can imagine the crowds around the country. They were fantastic gigs with great crowds and that was all on the back of You're a Star.

I gained a lot of experience with touring, but I found that the Irish market was small and I wanted to give the States a shot. So I did. That's why I haven't been doing anything much here for the past year and a half. I think if you want to make a name for yourself, you've got to go and do it abroad. I've been to LA lots of times, writing and recording. It's a great city and there's a huge market out there. A couple of guys out there heard some of my tracks from my album, Right Here, and they were interested in working with me. Then, when you're out there it is all about contacts; you meet one person, then another. I've been very fortunate to work with some great producers such as Jae Staxx, who has produced for Will Smith, and Ellis Miah, who has just finished working on Seal's new album.

Before I went to America, I was writing songs from start to finish -- the music and the lyrics -- but the way they work it over there is different. They have lots of tracks. You listen to them, pick some you like and then you go off and write the lyrics to go with them. That's what I've been doing. My sound is pop and R & B. A lot of artists don't write their own stuff, but I do. It gives you more control. You can put your own feel to the song. When your song is being played across Europe you get artists' royalties and writers' royalties too. Last year, I was eligible for this tax-free thing in Ireland. I don't call myself an outstanding writer, but I know I'm capable of writing good songs. It's good to mix with other writers too.

A lot of my trips to the States were paid for out of my own pocket. You go out and book a hotel and meet the guys. You stay there for two or three weeks at a time and then you come back. It's very hard when you haven't got a major label behind you. In the States, there are lots of guys who are willing to sign you, but you've got to be very careful about what you're signing into. It's a cut-throat business but you gain experience and learn how to deal with it. There are a lot of crooks out there but you just have to keep plugging away. I stayed at it full time and only now, thank God, things are starting to turn for me. I've always been positive. There's no such thing as a weekend -- as in time off -- but I've always been motivated. I push myself. After coming this far, it'd be a waste to stop now.

I haven't been gigging for the past while because I've been busy recording. Now that the single is out, I'll be doing gigs again. For me, being on stage with a live band is one of the greatest feelings ever. It's great to see that people are coming to support you. I still receive a lot of fan mail and I try to reply to as much of it as I can.

After I come off stage, I meet and greet with anyone who's been at the concert. Even though I'm shattered after a concert, it's hard to go asleep with all the adrenalin.

Chris Doran's single, 'Hey Girl', is out now. The final of 'You're a Star' is tonight

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