Country music singer Jamie Donnelly told David Hennessy about her latest single, appearing on TG4’s Glór Tíre and her dream of performing in the West End.
Jamie Donnelly from Strabane is enjoying a very busy time. She has been awarded Best Female Newcomer at the Hot Country TV awards as well as taking Rising Female Artist of the Year at the Northern Ireland Country Music Awards.
Jamie came to prominence on the most recent series of TG4’s country singing competition, Glór Tíre. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she also graduated from Queens University with a music degree just last year.
Jamie recently released her most recent single Daddy Lessons, a song which has been sung by some very big names prior to Jamie taking it on.
Jamie told The Irish World: “Initially when I heard the song, I heard the collaboration of Beyoncé and the Dixie chicks and I just loved the vibe of it. Usually when I listen to a song I just listen out for the music and if it’s something I vibe to, I want to learn it straight away.
“Upon further reflection, looking at the lyrics of this song, it’s about someone’s father advising them what to do and learning from them, and my dad has played such a huge role in my life and career, I can really resonate with that idea so it felt right to record this song.”
London is at the heart of it so it makes sense to be here. One of my dreams is to be in the West End, so I’m really pushing for it
Daddy Lessons comes from Jamie’s album This One’s for the Girls. As the title suggests, the album is a love letter to the women of country music that have shaped her passion for it. “After I recorded my first studio album, The Country In Me, I started to reflect on all the different kinds of music I listened to growing up and all the artists who inspired me to pursue music today.
“I wanted to choose songs from the women in the industry who have shaped it for artists like myself coming through and wanted to pay tribute to all their hard work and success. It’s a 13-track album filled with household favourites such as Dolly Parton’s Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That and Tammy Wynette’s Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad to name a few. I’m really happy with how it turned out. This album holds a special place in my heart.”
You say these women inspired you to pursue music, when did you know it was what you wanted to sing? Have you always known that it was what you wanted to do?
“I haven’t always.. when I was young, my first love was dance. I used to cartwheel around the house flat out, that’s how I got from my bedroom to the kitchen! But I was offered to sing solo one time in a school show and from that moment, my mum said, ‘She can sing’ and it just started from there. I went for every solo going, auditioned for choirs and took part in any productions/concerts I could and just knew from a young age I loved performing.”
What inspired you to go for Glór Tíre?
“I’ve always been a huge fan of the show, and when the opportunity came up, I couldn’t pass it up. I’m good friends with David James who was my mentor on the show, and when he asked me, I thought it would be a really fun experience to share with a friend. Also the show is hugely respected across the country and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get my name out there and gain support further afield.
“It was that next level experience working with hair and makeup teams, television cameras and a top quality band, it was so fun! A highlight for me was just meeting the rest of contestants and getting to watch their talent also, it was such a joy. I wish everyone well and was delighted to see my fellow team member Sean (Fahy) claim the crown.”
And you have even joined David James onstage since, haven’t you?
“I’ve worked with David on concerts since. He got me to perform at Margo’s sell out gig in the Mount Errigal, Co. Donegal which was amazing. Margo is class and always has great advice to give.
“Our most recent gig was Dergfest Festival in Castlederg and it was an unreal night.”
You have been honoured with both the award for Best Female Newcomer at the Hot Country TV awards and Rising Female Artist of the Year at the Northern Ireland Country Music Awards. What was it like to be honoured with those?
“Winning those awards were amazing. It’s such a nice feeling knowing that your work is appreciated and it’s lovely to be recognised for it. It truly is an honour. Especially with so much talent in Ireland, it’s crazy to receive any kind of award.”
Jamie was also nominated for the Best Female Newcomer by Keltic Country Radio although the award went to Sinead Heaney.
“Likewise with the Keltic awards, being nominated is such a lovely thought that I’m doing something right! Aishling, Sinead and Lynn Campbell are all amazing artists in their own right and it was equally lovely to see them nominated for their work.”
Another of your fellow nominees there was last year’s Glór Tíre winner Aishling Rafferty who has also been featured in The Irish World. Aren’t you two good friends?
“Aishling and I first met when we did a gig over in Scotland with Hot Country. She is such a great girl and is definitely one of my best friends in the business. I admire her talent and will continue to support her forever, she’s honestly such a class girl and I’m delighted to call her a friend.”
Musical theatre is a passion of yours, isn’t it? I see you have been performing in Legally Blonde, what has that been like?
“Musical theatre is one of my biggest passions in life, it has always been since I was a little girl.. I’ve taken part in loads of productions growing up although I’ve never played lead before. When I got asked to do Legally Blonde – it’s my favourite musical ever – I was overjoyed. It’s very complex however equally fun and I couldn’t wait to play Elle.
“It has definitely been one of my fondest memories which I’ll always cherish. I hope to do more musical theatre in the future and hopefully at a professional level.”
Tell us about that because you’ve recently graduated from music at Queens in Belfast but you once thought of doing musical theatre in London, isn’t that right?
“I graduated from Queens University last summer with a honours degree in Music, and throughout my course I did performance modules and the genre of music I practiced was musical theatre, which I loved as I enjoy acting as much as singing. It was really fun.
“I would love to get into musical theatre more and I’m currently floating between London and Ireland to try both genres. It’s been really fun.”
So you’ve been spending time over in London?
“I’m living with a friend over in East London so I can do auditions for musical theatre. London is at the heart of it so it makes sense to be here. One of my dreams is to be in the West End, so I’m really pushing for it.”
I wanted to choose songs from the women in the industry who have shaped it for artists like myself coming through and wanted to pay tribute to all their hard work and success
I see from Facebook you have done some work with the Friends Together Choir. Can you tell us a bit about what they do?
“Friends Together Choir are a group of people who are part of the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) Adult Learning Disability Service. Members include adults with a learning disability, their carers and staff from across the whole Western Trust area. Singing as part of a choir has proven to help adults with a learning disability to increase their confidence and learn a new skill whilst having fun. It was a really great gig to be there and support them.”
Finally, I understand you have a family connection to Whistlin’ Donkeys? Does that mean you have a musical family?
“My closely related family aren’t musical – meaning my mother and father (although they love music) aren’t practical in it. The main singer in the Whistlin’ Donkeys Fergal McAloon is a third cousin of mine so he’s probably the closest relation involved with music. I actually got to do support for them when I was 10 in their hometown of Dromore which was pretty cool. They’re lovely lads and it’s amazing to see how well they’re doing.”