On the same day that Derry unveils its long-awaited Culture programme, a young Derry songbird called Mairead will proudly fly the flag for her hometown as she graces the stage of London’s world-famous Albert Hall next week alongside US singer Don McLean.
Mairead - better known in her hometown as Mairead Carlin - is the latest signing to legendary music label Decca Records, who famously turned down The Beatles back in the early 1960s!
Hailing originally from the Culmore area, the 23 year-old folk newcomer is supporting ‘American Pie’ singer McLean on the UK leg of his worldwide tour in anticipation of her own debut album.
Mairead’s debut album ‘Songbook’ will be a culmination of beautiful, popular folk songs showcasing her distinctive voice with sensitive interpretations of classic melodies by some of the great songwriters, including Don McLean.
“I guess some of the songs I’ve chosen are old-time songs in a way, but to me they’re not,” says Mairead, in her melodious Derry accent.
“These songs are timeless. For me, a song has to have a beautiful melody and I have to feel I can come at it with my own interpretation from my own angle.”
On the album, such pedigree pieces as Don McLean’s And I Love You So and Ralph McTell’s Streets Of London nestle alongside songs made famous by Elvis Presley, Mario Lanza and electropopsters Yazoo, but each has been sprinkled with Mairead’s magic touch. Her objective was to pick songs that she found meaningful and emotional, and to communicate their spirit as powerfully and directly as possible to her listeners.
“It’s funny,” says Mairead, “but I’m obsessed with anything vintage. I love vintage clothes and trying them on to try to find the story within them and see how they fit. That’s how I feel about these songs - I like to try them on and see how they fit.”
Mairead’s love of music stretches back to her earliest childhood. Her family were steeped in music, and she learned a huge variety of songs during their fireside singing sessions.
“Derry, my hometown, is a very cultured and very musical place, and wherever you turn there’s always music,” she explains.
Producer and fellow Derry native Frank Gallagher’s role in the Mairead story is significant, since it was he who first saw how she might realise her huge musical potential. “She was born to sing,” Frank says, “and I knew I wanted to find a singer who does what Mairead does, which is to communicate honestly.”
Gallagher has accumulated a wealth of experience as musician, producer and arranger, having worked with artists like Charlotte Church, Shirley Bassey, Paul Brady and Mary Chapin Carpenter. It seems clear, listening to Mairead’s debut album, that she’s quite a natural too.
Hear her when she opens for Don McLean at Derry’s Millennium Forum on November 3. Failing that, her highly anticipated debut album, Songbook, is due for release early next year on Decca Records.