The Country Music Star who’s a Fanboy at Heart
by Gill Sherry
According to his own website, Nathan Carter is ‘Ireland’s No.1 Entertainer’. Which is why I’m a little taken aback by his Liverpudlian accent.
“I grew up in Liverpool,” he confirms. “I was born there and lived there for 18 years. I consider myself a Scouser… it’s hard to shake off.”
Nathan moved to Ireland 14 years ago to pursue a singing career that has seen him record 13 studio albums, perform in front of sell-out crowds, and become a household name, not just in the UK and Ireland but also in the United States. So how did it all start?
“I was like, four years old,” he begins, “and there’s videos of me singing Elvis songs on the kitchen worktop. My grandad always sang and he taught me a load of old country songs when I was a kid. I left school at 16 to go and gig in pubs and clubs.”
Fast forward to age 33 and he’s still trying to process the speed and scale of his success.
“I didn’t really get into music to become famous, I just wanted to sing and play music. The whole fame thing has come as a bit of a surprise.”
Having watched his televised gig at Dublin’s 3Arena, I can vouch for his popularity, the adoration on the faces of his fans not dissimilar to that seen at other big-name concerts.
“I suppose I’d be the same if I saw Rod Stewart or Tom Jones,” he confesses. “I’d be fanboying over them! It’s a weird one, it’s not what I got into the game for but it’s part and parcel of it, I suppose.”
Nathan’s chosen genre is, however, a little different from that of the aforementioned artists, the combination of country and Irish music again inspired by his grandad.
“He played all the country records when I was a kid and I loved them… Johnny cash, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, all that stuff. But I grew up surrounded by Irish Music so the folk element was always huge in our house as well. I play the accordion as well so… it was kind of a mixture between country and folk, it’s blended the two genres really.”
Nathan is probably best known for his cover of ‘Wagon Wheel’, a song co-written by Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show which was originally recorded in 2003. I ask Nathan if he was surprised by the success of the song when he released his own version in 2012.
“Totally! We released it and it did pretty well on radio and then we released it again six months later and it took off again. I did appearances on different TV shows in Ireland and the UK and Germany. It’s one of those songs that just connected with young and old. For some reason kids would pick it up really easily and just be singing it in no time and… right up to grannies and grandads they all just seemed to like it.”
Indeed they did. So much so that his album of the same name reached the top three in the Irish Album Chart. The single was named Ireland’s All-Time Favourite Song at the RTÉ Irish Country Music Awards where Nathan also won Live Act of the Year.
“It’s been a good 14 years,” he admits modestly. “The career’s gone good so far, I can’t complain.”
At the time of our conversation, Nathan is about to embark on a UK and Ireland tour which includes dates at Ayr’s Gaiety Theatre, Kilmarnock’s Grand Hall, and Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall. And he’s not long returned from the USA where he’s also attracting quite a following.
“We started touring there the last three or four years and the crowds are getting bigger. We’re hoping to do more in the future for sure in the US.”
In the meantime, he’s keen to promote his new single, ‘Dance with Everybody’.
“I was sent that by a friend of mine who’s a priest called Fr Brian D’Arcy. He’d heard it on a CD that he’d been sent by a Canadian band and he’d said, ‘I think this would really suit you’. So I recorded it and then went to find out who the publishers were for it and who had written it. Funny enough, the guy who’d wrote it was the guy who wrote part of ‘Wagon Wheel’. It was one of those weird moments where it was like, this is really strange.”
Nathan does, however, also write his own songs. Two or three songs on every one of his albums have been penned by him and he also sings a lot of his own songs during his live shows, as well as playing the accordion, guitar and piano on stage most nights.
“I love the gigs,” he tells me, “but I hate the travelling to be honest. The travelling’s a bit of pain. I think I worked out last year I’d done about 30 flights in the year. I don’t want to see another airport to be honest. But I love the gigs, especially when there’s a good crowd.”
He’s equally happy in the studio. Not surprising when you realise he’s released an album a year since 2010.
“I’ve been recording over the past three months and I’ve got about five or six songs down at the minute. I enjoy the studio stuff… it’s interesting coming up with new material, working on new sounds and stuff.
But yeah, one every year, to keep the thing fresh and have new music to sell at all the shows.”
What is surprising is that Nathan also found time to write a book. His autobiography, Born for the Road: My Story So Far, was published in 2018.
“It was kind of weird releasing an autobiography at 27,” he laughs, “but Penguin had asked would I do it and I kind of just said yeah. They said, ‘you’re not too young because Ronan Keating had one out when he was 23.’ So I was like, yeah, go on then, I’ll do it.”
And he wouldn’t dismiss the idea of writing a second.
“I probably would write another one. I’d forgotten a lot of stuff that had happened through the years so it was kind of refreshing to soul search, you know, when you look back at stuff.”
He’s certainly had plenty to look back at, including one very memorable performance in Dublin.
“I sang for the Pope in Croke Park, the stadium at Dublin, a few years back. I was on after Andrea Bocelli. It was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments. That was definitely up there as one of the best highlights so far.”
And if wishes come true, he may have another ‘pinch me’ moment to look forward to.
“I’d love to do something with Ed Sheeran. I think he loves folk music and he loves Irish music as well, and obviously he’s just one of the biggest stars on the planet so… I have met him, I’ve got a picture with him at his gig in Dublin a few years ago, but I’d love to do a collaboration with him, it would be amazing.”
Wouldn’t it just?
For tickets to see Nathan at Ayr (6th October), Kilmarnock (8th October) or Glasgow (24th November), visit