By Ryanne Gallagher Johnson
Celtic Thunder has turned ten!
The internationally acclaimed group is celebrating its first decade anniversary with the release of a new album, Celtic Thunder X, this spring, and a 75-city tour in the fall.
While members have come and gone over the years, the band’s current five-man lineup consists of Neil Byrne, Emmet Cahill, Ryan Kelly, Damian McGinty, and Michael O’Dwyer. “Over the years, the lineup has changed,” explains long-running member McGinty, who joined as the group’s youngest contributor in 2007, at the age of fourteen. “There’s been people that have come in and out, people who do a year here and there. But this current five have been together for (around) two years, and we get on great. The chemistry is brilliant. We support each other in our solo endeavors. It’s the easiest it’s ever been, which is great.”
The most recent album, which will be out March 2nd, is a completely new production, with 26 new songs that were recorded last October. “It’s back to basics for us, what we sort of did ten years ago. It’s quite theatrical. We open up with a new song, called “Songs of Light”, which is really dramatic, really theater based and quite powerful. Then as the show goes on, in true Celtic Thunder style, we get a lot of Irish classics in there, and some international hits as well. I really think people are going to like it. It feels to me like our first show, which I think, personally, was our best show, so I’m excited about that.”
When not touring or recording together, each member is busy with his own life and solo work, and the downtime between now and their tour in the fall is well-deserved. “Last year, our Celtic Thunder schedule was very busy, because we were creating a bunch of new material, which always takes up a lot of time. This year, we have a little more (down) time. Apart from releasing (the new album) in March, we just have the tour in the fall, so we kind of have a clean slate. We all have a lot of other things going on before then,” says McGinty, who will have his own solo tour in the States this April and May.
“It’s certainly not as glamorous (as it seems). There’s definitely this perception outside of the entertainment industry. I don’t blame them… before I began all of this, I used to think the same,” he continues. “All the average person ever sees is the final product off television or in the movies or on the radio... They don’t see the process, what goes behind making that, and all the late nights, all the hours, all the flights, all the travel… those elements, too, sort of bring us down to earth. It’s actually not easy, it is quite difficult. But the good thing about it is that I love it, it’s what I love to do. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’d rather be busy than looking for work, so I feel very fortunate to be so busy.”
Although four of the members have their home bases in Ireland, McGinty himself resides in L.A.. “When we’re not doing Celtic, they’ve got their own things going on, but I think it’s fair to say that most of us spend at least more than half of our year in the States. I spend ten or eleven months here. This is where our home has been for the last ten or eleven years. We love working here, it’s where our fan base is… it’s great.”
As fellow Thunder member Neil Byrne says, "10 years on and it’s getting even more exciting! Our latest production ‘X’ is the brand new Celtic Thunder show that is already critically acclaimed. As a performer it is the most exhilarating and entertaining show I’ve ever been a part of.
Tour dates and locations for the new tour have yet to be announced, but if your city has a healthy Celtic Thunder fan base, you can almost guarantee that they’ll be performing in your area. “We’ll get around as much as we can in a three or four month period… we get out there as much as possible. (But) where we’ve played before, and where our fan bases are, we go back there a lot.”
For more information, including new album details and tour stops and dates when they’re announced, you can visit the band’s website at celticthunder.com.
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By Ryanne Gallagher Johnson