When 13-year-old Dungiven singer/songwriter Cahir McLaughlin finished his set at Derry’s Millennium Forum last February the crowd were on their feet, demanding more; and it’s easy to see why.
The talented teen - who has written and recorded a four-track EP ‘Secret Hopes’ currently available on iTunes - is a seriously talented young artist.
Relaxed, at home in his kitchen, Cahir needed no persuasion to give the ‘Journal’ a taste of his talent, as it’s obvious the instantly likeable young lad would sing anywhere.
After playing his own song, ‘Shake My Hand’, and a version of the Coldplay hit, ‘Fix You’, I was really impressed by him. His voice is amazing; clear but with a touch of raw huskiness and a quirky little twist that appears just often enough to make you want more.
It was Cahir’s mum, Maria, or ‘the mamager’ as she’s known, who got the ball rolling when it came to Cahir’s EP. After a chance conversation, Maria contacted locally-based American producer Tre Sheppard. They spoke, and after meeting, the EP was recorded.
“It feels amazing to have done it,” says Cahir. “I don’t know too many 13-year-olds who’ve made an EP. Most are playing XBox, and I don’t want to sound big-nheaded when I say that.”
Cahir’s musical tastes include Coldplay, who he’s “obsessed” with, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Foo Fighters. His songs are full of heavy guitar riffs, such as ‘Little Bird’, with catchy lyrics and pop/rock tunes. So what do his friends and school mates think?
“They know I sing and play the guitar and they’re cool about it. That’s just how they know me,” he says.
After winning a talent contest at his school, Loreto College in Coleraine, Cahir says he couldn’t believe it when a fan made themselves known to him.
“I came off the stage and there was a girl who asked for my autograph. I laughed and turned away because I couldn’t believe it, but then I looked back and she was still standing there. And she had a pen and a piece of paper and everything!”
Cahir says the inspiration for writing songs and tunes usually comes when he’s tired.
“It’s hard to explain, but I just fiddle about on the guitar and I’ll play for a while and I think of a wee riff and then I’ll think, ‘can I sing to this?’, and then it just sort of happens,” he says, explaining the song he is most proud of on the EP is ‘Grandfather’, a rousing and powerful tune written about his grandad, the late Ron McLaughlin.
Neither Cahir or his parents, Maria and Marty, want to go down the ‘X Factor’ route, although he admits his dream would be to record at Abbey Road and play Madison Square Garden. For now, Cahir would love to gain experience playing the local music scene. Already, he has played in Derry several times, and is due to play in the City of Culture again this year. After seeing Derry’s ‘Soak’ play at the Stendhal Festival in Limavady last year, Cahir applied to Festival, and hopes to make it onto the schedule this summer.
“I can’t imagine being in an office when I get older. I just want to sing and perform in front of people,” says Cahir. “I hope I make it and, if I do, I hope I’m the kind of artist that people respect.”
Maria added: “Cahir has a God-given talent and we hope it develops the way it should and, wherever he ends up, that it’s where he wants to be and not where others want him to be,” she added.
Follow Cahir on Twitter @CahirMcLMusic