Danny Boy - Q & A with Daniel O'Donnell

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | daniel o'donnell | oct. 2016

Prolific Irish crooner Daniel O'Donnell will be visiting the Weidner Center during his US tour on the 25th and 26th of October. As an artist, he has held an unprecedented record as the first to chart at least one album each year on the British charts since 1988. O'Donnell has made a career of singing and recording albums that include influences from country music, Irish folk and gospel, as well as songs from the 1950s and '60s.

Frankly Green Bay caught the Irishman during a short break between shows, where he fielded our questions via telephone from his hotel room in Minot, N.D.

FGB: Good morning, Mr. O'Donnell! It's wonderful to speak with you about your upcoming show in Green Bay! Are you looking forward to it?

O'Donnell: Oh I am! I always enjoy visiting Green Bay. They do so love the Packers! And often, I'll even get to see a few 'cheese-heads,' too!

FGB: I'm sure that isn't going to change any time soon! Around here, football is everywhere! All the time!

You've had a rather lengthy musical career. Would you share just a bit of your musical background, and perhaps share when music and performing became part of your life?

O'Donnell: I've always had a love for music. In fact, I can't remember not singing. I was singing in concerts at 8 or 9 especially when there were fundraisers, I would sing for them. Then I started singing with my sister Margo in the early '80s. She already had forged a successful career in Ireland and we toured together for two years, but once I started performing on my own, I found that I really enjoyed performing. Then in 1983, I recorded my first single, Johnny McCauley's “My Donegal Shore” and it took off from there.

FGB: Behind every successful singer, is usually an equally successful band. Your band has been working with you for decades. How challenging has it been to maintain this musical relationship and would you share what you feel has contributed to its success?

O'Donnell: We did have a successful run with the band, yes! Nearly 30 years! But we recently disbanded earlier this year, now only three of the original members remain. Most have retired and we now have a lot of new faces and new instruments such as the banjos, a fiddle, and an accordion. I love working with this group. They have such energy.

FGB: As a performer, you are loaded with accolades, including having an album chart every year since 1988, a feat that surpasses the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna. How much interest do you take in this, or is it now a fact for which you've simply become accustomed?

O'Donnell: Well, it's hard to believe that I've actually continued that streak for 29 years! I'm still very amazed by the response to my music and of course, it's always wonderful to be recognized, but truly, my greatest enjoyment comes from the actual live performance of the songs. The recordings and the albums, the PBS specials that we do are a great addition to that, but the live performances and the audiences' responses to that are what I'm most drawn to.

FGB: It's been mentioned that you enjoy performing live and are able to create an atmosphere that's warm and inviting. Can you share how you're able to connect with your audiences on this level and how important is that connectivity for you as a performer?

O'Donnell: I believe it's because I so enjoy what I'm doing. And I feel that when one enjoys their work as I do, that simply comes across to the audience. They can tell when a person has a genuine interest. And I love every single song that I'm performing. There's never a song that I perform that's not a favorite of mine. I need to sing what I love. And the audience recognizes that. I'm so very thankful for them, the fans, as they are the ones who make these shows happen.

FGB: Can you share some of the music that is lined up for Green Bay's show? What can audiences expect?

O'Donnell: Oh, they'll be quite a variety of music. A lot of country, some of the Irish ballads, of course, that's my heritage, like 'Danny Boy' and others. We change it up a bit for each show, with a few surprises in there as well!

FGB: And dancing?

O'Donnell: Oh, there might be some dancing, too! (laughs)

FGB: There are conflicting reports on which albums show Daniel O'Donnell at his finest. From your own perspective, when is Mr. O'Donnell at his finest?

O'Donnell: Well, I love all kinds of music, but I most love the music from the 1950s and '60s. I also love the country sounds, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn, Jean Shepard were all influences early on in my music. I was devastated when I learned that Jean had passed away, she had such an influence on my work. I also love gospel, and of course, the Irish music that I grew up with, so it's a bit of mix, really.

FGB: Lastly, your work has you touring and performing at a prolific level. When do you take time away, and how do you best enjoy your time?

O'Donnell: Earlier this year, I was able to take some time away. My wife, Majella, had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and after having successfully completed her treatments, we then lost her father unexpectedly. We decided we'd take a cruise around the world for four months — just take a break. We got to see a lot of places that'd we'd never been to so it was really nice to be able to enjoy that time together.

FGB: And Majella, she's healthy now?

O'Donnell: Oh thank goodness, yes! Such a blessing, she's completely healthy now!

Daniel O'Donnell performs two shows at Green Bay's Weidner Center for the Performing arts on Tues., Oct. 25 and Wed., Oct. 26. Both shows begin at 7 p.m. For more information visit WeidnerCenter.com. Tickets are $64 and up and available at TicketStarOnline.com.

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