The ‘level’ Tommy Fleming

Tommy Fleming.
Tommy Fleming.

Tommy Fleming will bring his live show, backed by The Irish Concert Orchestra as well as his own band, to the Millennium Forum on January 28th but for a Derry man he might not be singing at all.

Tommy openly admits his strong feelings for Derry: “I love doing Derry,” he said adding: “I insisted the show come to Derry. I wasn’t going to play Belfast and not Derry when I’ve been playing there 15 years.”

This is despite the fact Derry will be one of the smallest venues visited on the ten date tour.

In fact the Sligo native admits it was a Derry man who helped him go from singing in Sligo pubs to headlining the likes of Carnegie Hall.

“I met Phil Coulter in 1992 when I was singing in a Westport pub with a folk band. Phil took me on a national tour with him and then on a tour of America, before I knew it I was playing Carnegie Hall. I was a 21 year-old kid really who went from pubs in the West of Ireland to Carnegie Hall. It was amazing.

“I remember the first time I played there it was December 1st 1993. I was physically sick back stage. Those nerves never go away either,” said the affable singer.

“Phil was great to and for me, he definitely helped me jump a few steps on the way up the ladder and I’d love to work with him again.”

Tommy admits that even after 11 albums he still suffers from those nerves when going into the rehearsal room.

“I am rehearsing in two hours and even now I’m thinking and worried about the opening night in Belfast.”

It is a large production, with 35 musicians on stage and a promise of a two hour long set not to mention the audio visual elements of the show.

“I wanted to give value for money, I want people to come in and be overwhelmed by the show and forget everything outside the door.”

Despite his nerves Tommy can’t wait to be back on stage: “It is a bit hectic,” he laughed.

“At times it seems as if everything is up in the air. Though that is good, I haven’t done this in years.”

Dependable team

At times like these, a strong, dependable backroom team is “essential.” Tommy has that in David Haye his tour manager of 18 years and David Brophy his conductor for ten. Then there is his wife and manager Tina.

“It is very much a cottage industry we run to be honest. We handle the recording, distribution and tour management. Tina is great, we sit down at night and discuss what we went through and her answer to every suggestion is, ‘Let’s see what the budget is like.’

The new show is promoting Tommy’s latest release, the live album ‘Going Back.’ The nostalgic revisiting of some of Tommy’s favourite songs entered the album charts at Number 4, achieving the Number 1 position in the Indie Charts. The DVD reached Number 2.

“I thought, let’s go back and do the old Irish music; perhaps I had grown a little weary of singing when I was touring America.

“When I recorded ‘Going Back’ with an orchestra I knew I couldn’t tour it with an eight piece band. That would be shortchanging the fans, it would be cheating and there are too many people out there doing that at the moment.”

Due to the fact that an orchestra is involved Tommy said: “It took a bit of debate to settle on the set list. We’ve only two numbers to decide on now.

“It’s not like we can chop and change from night to night when there is a whole orchestra behind me, I can’t expect the band to simply fall in behind me,” he laughed.

“Obviously I’m promoting ‘Going Back’ so I had to get lots of that in there but I want to get in lots of old numbers also.

“I haven’t performed Danny Boy in a long time. In fact I only ever perform it when I’m out of the country and I’m loving playing that with an orchestra. There is a lot of memories on the album and set list and it is just fun to sing them.”

Considering his national and international success, Tommy has avoided the “celebrity lifestyle of Dublin” preferring to remain at his Sligo home.

“No I’m not into that celebrity party nonsense at all. Water finds its own level and I’ve found mine in Sligo. If I’m not touring or recording I like to surf or meet friends and I like gardening, as much as you can do in this country,” he laughed.

Tommy and Co’ play The Millennum Forum, Derry on Friday 28 January 2011.