Country singer Copper Kelly told David Hennessy how he came to be known as that when his real name is Eugene Rowe, how he and his backing singer met on Tinder and how he has been using the free time to work on his second album.
It was back in 2017 that Wexford singer-songwriter Copper Kelly collaborated with lyricist Dympna Walsh who works with Michael English for his first single, Don’t Steal This Moment. The success of his first release inspired him to write his own stuff which led to his positively received debut album, Worthwhile Waste of Time, which came out early last year.
Now the country singer is making the most of the time he has now to record the follow-up collection in Kilkenny with the single Get Gone, which was released in August, already giving a taste of what to expect.
Copper Kelly told The Irish World: “I’m using this opportunity to work on new music. That’s all I can do.
“I have five or six more original songs and I have a few covers I’m going to throw in as well, covers like Tight Fittin’ Jeans by Conway Twitty, It Must be Love by Don Williams and Hank Williams’ Cold, Cold Heart: Real country deep cuts. I go back into the history logs of country and just find great songs. Hopefully my own songs sit well beside them. Fingers crossed.”
The singer is joined by backing singer Heather Turkington from Portadown for the new album and the interview. The musical collaborators met in a somewhat conventional way.
“We met on Tinder,” Heather laughs. “I had just broken up with my boyfriend and my friend brought me down to Kilkenny for a weekend just to have a laugh and I was just, ‘Swipey, swipey, swipe’. And he turned up so went on a date and that was grand and we just kind of figured out, ‘We’re both really into music. We might not actually be romantically involved but we actually work really well together musically’. So it just turned into this relationship and that’s what we’ve kind of gone with since so that’s how it all happened.”
Heather says she only realised how much she had missed singing during lockdown when she returned to it: “I was doing zoom collaborations with Eugene and once I started doing those it was like, ‘I’ve missed this so much. I’ve missed singing with someone’. Life was really weird for a while. Like really weird. I don’t think we realised how weird it was when we were actually in it. When we started doing zoom collaborations, that was a bit of a revelation for me. I don’t think you know how mad you’re going until you stop being as mad.”
Copper adds: “Things become normal, I suppose. I suppose you get used to it and then something changes and you realise, ‘Oh wait, that was weird’. I did live streams but it was weird. I have people chatting to me on instagram and I’m chatting back to them and stuff but I’m in a room on my own singing to a camera and it’s just strange, especially when you finish a song and it’s silence.”
Although his real name is Eugene Rowe, the musician from Hook Head in Wexford felt he had to come up with something else if he was to launch himself as a performer.
He explains where the moniker Copper Kelly came from: “I was in Edinburgh a few years ago with a few mates of mine. I said, ‘Lads, I’m thinking of doing this music craic properly but I don’t want to use my own name. It’s a bit boring so can you think of anything I could use as a stage name or something?’ One of the lads goes, ‘What’s your porn star name? Your first pet and your mother’s maiden name’. ‘So Copper Kelly?’ ‘That’s it!’ There and then, done.
“Copper Kelly has a kick to it,” Heather agrees.
Since his debut album came out last year, Copper Kelly has received airplay around the world and this is especially satisfying as he does his own background work.
“I do all that self promotion. I don’t have a manager or a PR company. I just do it all myself through Facebook like a lot of bands and singers do these days anyway.
“Yeah, I’m pleased with it. It’s gotten out there. I’ve got fans in Germany, America and I think I have a guy in Thailand who like my new one.”
Heather adds: “There was one country that was going mad for Tennessee Whiskey. I think it was Sweden. It got 14,000 views or something. I was like, ‘What is happening?’ That is mad. We’ve randomly got this following in Sweden.”
He also takes care of a lot of the recording himself and Heather says she can see and hear how he is progressing as an artist even since the first album.
He says: “I record everything myself and I mix it and I do all the sound engineering myself. I’m constantly getting better at that. The more I do it, the more I learn. I’m writing new songs as well. Hopefully I’m progressing as a songwriter.”
Copper Kelly explains how he got into music: “I got my first guitar when I was probably about ten but I didn’t really play much. Then I started discovering Metallica, Linkin Park, all this kind of stuff. I listened to Johnny Cash for as long as I can remember.”
Heather had just returned from Australia when the pair first met in 2016 but had always been singing and acting. She is now a full-time dramatherapist: “Any ceilis that were going, I always ended up singing or doing something. People would always, unofficially, be like, ‘Do you want to sing at my wedding?’ I was always doing something. Then I just took it to the next level in Australia when I started doing musicals and that sort of thing.
“Then when I came back I was just like, ‘I need to get into something over here’. Because I had built a community for myself in Australia and then I came home and it was really weird because it was like, ‘I’m home and I don’t have that’. This (Copper Kelly) happened and I’m in another wedding band up north. I sing church stuff. I sing wedding stuff, whatever comes at me. I love it.”
“Best singer I’ve ever worked with. She’s great,” Copper says.
Although Eugene has had different jobs including ‘scaring people’ at Loftus Hall, his goal now is to be able to give up the day job.
“The music is my second job so hopefully someday I can become full-time at it. It’s going to be hard to make any kind of living out of it (after Covid-19) but if I just get enough to get by, I think that’s success. I’m not looking to be Bono or anything.”
Get Gone is out now.
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