“We’re absolutely thrilled to be coming back to the States! We absolutely love coming over to see you guys and you’re always so lovely to us and always give us such a warm lovely reception,” says Mairead Carlin of the phenomena that is Celtic Woman.
Launchinga U.S tour in support of their recently released “Ancient Land” CD, an 18 track masterpiece which takes you from traditional Irish and Gaelic roots to newer sounds along with some original works; this Grammy nominated/multi-platinum selling group continues to wow audiences every stop along their way.
“I guess the idea behind this album was to go back to our roots and really delve into that treasure trove of Irish history and find songs that people have not heard in quite a while,” stated Mairead (Pronounced MA-Raid). Songs like “Mna Na hEireann” which is a traditional Irish song which means, “Women Of Ireland,” which we thought was very apt for us considering we are women of Ireland ourselves (laughs). Our fans have been asking us for quite a while to give them new music as well so we really wanted to do that with this album. We reached out to some fabulous Irish writers from all across Ireland and we have some new original music on there which we are really thrilled by and one of our own girls, `Eabha McMahon has a song on there; it’s a really exciting time to be part of Celtic Woman and we’re really proud of this album.”
Carlin has been with the group for a bit more than six years and her involvement came as she attempted to craft her own music career; a path begun by her love of folk music.
“I loved Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny and Eddi Reader.” she said as she recounted her influences. “I was signed when I was 21 to Decca Records and one of the samples that I used as a reference point was Celtic Woman. I remember having a meeting with the managing director of the label and he said, “You know, you’d be a perfect fit in Celtic Woman” and I remember saying out loud, “That’ll be the day” and I never thought in a million years that I’d be here. It just makes you realize that the world is a small place and anything can happen.They (the styles of music) kind of go hand in hand because we’re very honest performers in Celtic Woman so I’m basically myself when on stage but the music that I love to sing is folk music which is what I get to sing in the show.”
With an album like “Ancient Land” which has such depth, reflection and great production involved, one may wonder how the group chooses their material and who has the final say; according to Mairead it’s a total team effort.
“We’re very lucky in the sense that we have such an amazing team around us that really listens to us as artists and people; sometimes I say that they know us better than we know ourselves when it comes to our voices because sometimes we think of songs that may really not be for us and they say well gee it really doesn’t fit,” she said with a giggle.”There’s a big pot and we throw in ideas, there’s constant e-mails saying I love this song or I’d love to sing this song at some point and then our producers will come back and say; have you thought about this song? I think it really fits you. So it’s a very open kind of way of choosing the songs and it makes it very organic for all of us. I think for all of us as artists all really need to feel connected to a song and to the music; if we don’t feel what we’re singing about then it’s very difficult to sing something like that. We’re really encouraged to give our opinions and throw in ideas. I remember sitting down at the piano with our music director who had a big list of songs, things he had put together as options for me and he started playing this melody on the piano. I didn’t know the melody but I was completely drawn to it and I said; what was that? I need to know what that song is! It was a song called “Cranky Down” and I’m from Northern Ireland and “Cranky Down” is in Northern Ireland so I immediately said I have to sing that song; so it’s nice to sit around and really talk about things.”
Celtic Woman has been built on a changing core of performers, vocalists and stage productions but with every addition or subtraction the unit remains cohesive and unabashedly excited. Some may feel that this affects the group but Carlin says that is not the case and with the recent addition of vocalist Megan Walsh her point is well proven.
“No, we are very open about the fact that Celtic Woman has always had a fluency in their members. The group has been going for 14 years, I don’t know if I can name many bands that have been together for that length of time. People have wanted to move on and do their own thing and our lovely Susan McFadden left just before Megan joined to have a gorgeous little baby so we found ourselves in the position to find someone new. So we put out the feelers and we came across the wonderful Megan Walsh who was studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London and she’s an absolute dream and so talented; we’re very lucky to have her.”
“Ancient Land” is also available on DVD and Blu-ray where you’ll hear songs from the disc performed in front of the historic Johnstown Castle located in County Wexford, Ireland. Full of all the wonderful pageantry that make their shows spectacular and with a backdrop of this magnitude; how did Carlin feel about performing on such a grand stage?
“Oh my goodness yes,” she gushed when asked if it was exciting. “I grew up watching and being a huge fan of Celtic Woman and they are known for those spectacular castle specials and I never thought in a million years that I’d get to be a part of one. So when we were told that we were doing it again I was completely overwhelmed and I remember walking into the grounds of the castle and just bursting into tears because it was very special and not everyone gets to be involved in something like that; I guess it’s something we will remember for the rest of our lives.”
February 28 sees the start of another tour in Nashville, TN and the U.S portion winds up in May with a show at Red Rocks in Colorado. There is a one off performance in Canada as well but two particular ones of interest are a March 24 appearance at theNJPAC in Newark, NJ and one in Philadelphia, PA at the Academy of Music. There is very little time off which is surprising given the fact that the ladies were just here in the U.S a short time ago but their enthusiasm for America and these two venues doesn’t wane.
“A couple of months ago we finished our symphony tour; we did a tour all across the States in December with a different symphony orchestra every night performing Christmas music. It was really fun; it was a special thing to get to perform with a different symphony orchestra every night and that’s something that you can only ever dream about and we absolutely cherished every single moment of that.”
“Honestly? These venues are two of my favorite venues in the world; I have family in New Jersey and they always come to the New Jersey concerts so I love doing that gig and Philadelphia is one of my favorite places in the entire world and I love that venue so they are going to be two great nights for us. I would say that it’s a great experience and it takes you on a journey through Ireland. That’s what we really wanted from this album and from this show, was to take people on a journey, the ups and downs and everything in between. We have a full stage production, beautiful gowns as people would expect, drummers, percussion, bag pipers, dancers and lots of old music as well as new music.”
What started as a supposed onetime event has turned into a fabulous representation of history, tradition, culture and music; all brought to life by the beauty of Ireland. Mairead sees no slowdown in sight for the band and embraces the thought of continuing their journey.
“As far as I’m concerned, Celtic Woman is just growing and growing and moving forward. I’ve been in the group for six years and it’s amazing to see the progression within the music industry. All around us the industry is changing and the amazing thing for us is to see people still coming to our shows and still wanting to hear our music. So for as long as people want to come and hear us perform we are more than happy to do that; we feel very lucky to do what we do. Yes I’m an artist as a person but I feel as much of my identity in Celtic Woman as I do in my own stuff; I’m so proud to be a part of Celtic Woman and want to do it for as long as they will have me.”
To discover more about Celtic Woman and/or purchase tickets to the NJPAC or Academy of Music shows, please visit www.celticwoman.com.