Celtic Woman singer says NJPAC show will be a ‘big bag of everything’

Celtic Woman interview

From left, Tara McNeill, Mairead Carlin, Eabha McMahon and Megan Walsh of Celtic Woman.

Celtic Woman’s current tour celebrates the ensemble’s 10th anniversary, so the show it will present at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Wednesday will be, to some extent, a retrospective.

“There are certain songs in there that we could not do the 10th anniversary tour without, so we’ve rediscovered old songs that have made Celtic Woman what it is,” says singer Máiréad Carlin. “So, for example, ‘Danny Boy’ … of course we have to do ‘Danny Boy.’ We have to do ‘You Raise Me Up,’ and ‘Orinoco Flow,’ because those songs have become so well known through Celtic Woman. But then there’s a few new songs in there, too. There’s bagpipers, dancers. It’s a big bag of everything.”

Carlin is actually the newest member, having joined about a year and a half ago. Two other members of the current lineup, singers Méav Ní Mhaolchatha and fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt, were in the original group assembled by producer Sharon Browne and David Downes, a former musical director of “Riverdance.” (Celtic Woman has sometimes been described, in fact, as ” ‘Riverdance’ for the voice”). Also in the current lineup is singer Susan McFadden, who joined in 2012.

Carlin, a native of Derry in Northern Ireland, says that even before she joined, “I loved their music, and was very much aware of what they had achieved. I was brought up on Irish traditional music, so Celtic Woman was kind of the group that we, as a family, looked to, that had gone across the waters and really taken Irish music to a wider audience. Everyone in my home is so proud of that.”

Carlin, 26, was signed to a record deal at 21, and released an album, Songbook, for which she says Celtic Woman music was a “point of reference.”

But even though the album was released by a powerful label, Decca, the company didn’t really get behind it.

“Essentially they said, ‘Look, you’ve made this album but we don’t know how to market it. There’s no market in the U.K. for this kind of music anymore,’ ” Carlin says. “It was a classical crossover album. I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. And I kind of had to go and fend for myself.

“So I had the opportunity of doing the big-time record deal before I joined (Celtic Woman), and I’m so glad that that happened before I joined, because I got it out of my system, and I know now what to expect from the music industry, and it’s made me grow as an artist, and made me realize why I’m doing this. It’s for all the musical reasons and artistic reasons. Not that I was ever in it for the fame, because that’s not the kind of disposition that I have, but it’s kept my feet on the ground and, I think, has made me a more humble person.”

Upon joining Celtic Woman, she had to learn specific harmonies and choreography for the group songs, but had a say in what her solo material would be.

“They know that we’re all different, that we all have different voices, different ranges, different timbres,” she says. “When you watch those reality TV shows, ‘X Factor’ or whatever, they always says, it’s the choice of song that’s the most important thing. One that may fit one person may not fit another person. So they’re very mindful for that, when they choose songs for us, and we do have input into what songs we sing. It’s very much a mutual collaboration, really.”

Joining Celtic Woman doesn’t mean her solo career is over, she says.

“I can do both, really. The whole ethos behind Celtic Woman is that we are individuals, and when we come together, we become Celtic Woman. The quintessential idea of it is the Celtic woman, and we all have different traits. So they encourage us to go out there and become the people, individually, that we want to be. And when we come together, we can bring something of the world back into Celtic Woman.

“So, I do want to do other stuff — not necessarily solo stuff, I kind of got that out of my system. I see myself as a collaborator. And so I’d love to work with, maybe, the Irish band Lúnasa, or something like that, alongside Celtic Woman. But I have no intentions of leaving Celtic Woman.”


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