When Burnfoot teenager Keelan Arbuckle released his first album in March, he could never have foreseen the “crazy” few months that lay ahead.
While there was already huge buzz around the 15-year-old in the country music scene, the young star told the ‘Journal’ how the last seven months have exceeded all his expectations.
Just weeks after the launch of album number one, called ‘That’s Important To Me,’ Keelan’s music videos were racking up thousands of views on Youtube.
This was followed a short time later by two number ones in the iTunes country music charts and appearances on country music TV shows and radio stations across the country.
He has also shared the stage with stars such as John McNicholl, Nathan Carter and Mike Denver, performing in front of thousands of people not just across Ireland but also in England.
This Friday, Keelan - the son of May and John Arbuckle - will release his second album called ‘Country Music and Me’ with a big launch night in the Halfway House in Tooban.
Stars such as Louise Morrissey, Hugo Duncan, Seamus Moore and Keltic Storm will travel to Burnfoot to support him on the night.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ this week, the Crana College student admits it has been a “mad but brilliant” few months.
He said: “I really didn’t think when I released the first album that it was going to be like this. It’s funny how everything has gone by so quickly. When I started out, I never, ever thought I’d be on TV shows like the Phil Mack Show, the Malachy Cush and Susan McCann Show, Keltic Country or Ireland West TV, but it has been a great experience.”
Keelan’s facebook page has been flooded with messages of support from as far away as America and Australia and he recently had to set up his own group page, which already has almost 1,000 members.
One of the most exciting developments for Keelan in recent weeks, alongside the new album, was the news that internationally-renowned songwriter Don Mescall has composed a song just for him.
Don Mescall’s songs have sold over 10 million records worldwide and have been recorded by artists such as Rascall Flatts, The Backstreet Boys, Boyzone, Frances Black and American Idol’s Clay Aiken.
He recently heard Keelan perform at an event and approached him to tell him he had composed the perfect song for him. Keelan will travel to London next week to record it.
“I cannot wait. I’m so excited,” he said.
“Don Mescall has composed songs for some of the best and to think he has one for me is just amazing. It opens a whole new world for me.”
The trip to London next week is just one of a number of engagements Keelan has in his packed diary coming up to Christmas and beyond.
He discloses that while he’ll continue to perform and record, his school work will become priority up to his Junior Certificate next year.
He adds that his teachers at Crana College are “really supportive” and allow him to get well ahead with his schoolwork. Keelan also keeps up to date with his homework by bringing it with him while he is on the road.
Despite his rise to fame in what is now his Junior Cert year, Keelan says he doesn’t feel under pressure, due in part to the support he has been receiving from his family and manager Steve Bloor but also because he feels that performing is what he was born to do.
He said: “I feel like this is what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m fulfilling that now. Most of the older country music stars have told me to stay on in my education, which is what I intend to do. You can keep following your dreams but it’s something to fall back on and nowadays, your education is really important.”
Keelan said the “best part” of his new career is being on stage and performing to fans, something he doesn’t feel nervous about.
He said that as soon as he stands on stage, he feels that his late grandfather, John Arbuckle is standing at his shoulder.
John Arbuckle was himself an accomplished musician and Keelan says he instilled in him a love of music.
Keelan is “proud” to now be releasing his second album, which has 12 new tracks including ‘I Saw God Today,’ ‘That Summer’ and ‘Ho Hey.’
They were all chosen by Keelan himself and are some of his favourites to perform.
Also included on the album are ‘Amarillo By Morning’ and ‘Wanted’ which both went straight to number one on the iTunes country music charts in Ireland earlier this year.
“That was just amazing and I never expected it,” says Keelan.
“I went in ahead of Taylor Swift. It was brilliant.”
Modest Keelan is keen to credit his manager Steve Bloor, who recognised his talent after seeing him on facebook.
“If it wasn’t for Steve I wouldn’t be here,” he says.
“I’m lucky that I’ve had a lot of support, from Steve, my friends and family, people I’ve worked with such as Clive Culbertson of No Sweat Studios and Ivan Scott of Medusa Photography, as well as my fans. I’d like to thank them all.”
Keelan adds he finds it “brilliant” to be able to listen to his own album and is “really looking forward” to the launch on Friday night, with special guests also including Shane Owens, Joe Moore, Kathy Kane, Darren Kieran and Mikeala Bonner.
Doors open at 8pm with DJ Stephen Doherty on stage until 9pm when the rest of the show begins.
Country music star Declan Nerney has sponsored a prize of a night away to one of his country music weekends in Galway and there will also be light refreshments on the night. All are welcome and tickets are 10 euro available from local outlets or on the door at the night. You can also download Keelan’s new album at www.irishmusic.co.uk.