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Entertainer of a high order

Voted Entertainer of the Year in Ireland three times over Daniel O'Donnell will grace the Sri Lankan stage for his fans later this month.

One of the well-known singers Daniel O'Donnell according to records has sold over 10 million albums. It is said that it is his live shows that helped him to be a household name in Ireland, the UK and elsewhere. His songs categorised as Country, Easy Listening, Gospel and traditional Irish folk music have also mesmerised music lovers in Sri Lanka who have enjoyed his singing style first when aired over the radio.


Daniel O'Donnell

So a live performance will be a must-see act for the Sri Lankans.

More often than not a musician's journey to achieve the high life in the industry is no easy task. So it was for Daniel O'Donnell. "When I was travelling the highways and byways of Ireland and the UK in an old transit van as I struggled to become established I never dreamt that one day I would sing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville", said Daniel during an interview with Montage.

What followed thereafter were performances on the BBC's legendary charts show Top of the Pops, New York's Carnegie Hall, London's Royal Albert Hall and The Sydney Opera House.

On February 25 Sri Lankan fans will have the opportunity to experience his charismatic and down-to-earth stage presence and expressive tenor voice which categorises him as an "entertainer of the highest order". Along with Mary Duff he is bound to reach out to his audience - young and old.

Excerpts from an interview with Stephen SPAZ Schnee after the release of 'From the Heartland' in 2013.

Amazing

SPAZ: I've watched the DVD and it is amazing to believe that you've been doing this for 30 years.

DANIEL O'Donell: Well I've enjoyed it immensely and I've been very fortunate.

SPAZ: 'From the Heartland' getting played on PBS television how are you feeling about how this special has been received and sort of the reaction to it?

DANIEL: Well very good. We've really had a very positive reaction to it and I think as we've gone throughout the years, we've managed to have a very good relationship with PBS and our audience.

SPAZ: Do you feel particularly close to any of the songs because I felt like there seemed to be a real connection with songs such as 'When You Were Sweet Sixteen' and I felt the performance of 'Moon River' was really emotional especially coming right after the death of Andy Williams?

DANIEL: We were in Iowa where Andy was born. You know over the past number of years I got the opportunity to meet Andy a few times and we always went to his show because we do shows in Branson, Missouri every year. At that point in time we were going to be moving to his theatre this year in Branson.

Before he passed away we had a fairly good idea that we were going to be move to his theatre. It just seemed like the right thing to do on that show, you know, just to honour him in some way. Although I don't know him very well, I always enjoyed his performances and enjoyed meeting him anytime I got the opportunity. Of course songs such as 'When You Were Sweet Sixteen' - I sing a lot of different types of songs, but the ballads, I suppose are very much that I grew up with, you know the story songs, so it's very comfortable for me to sing songs like this.

Length

SPAZ: Most of the band members has been with you for at least 20 years. Now that's probably twice the length of time that most rock bands actually are in existence. What do you owe the longevity to?

DANIEL: We've been together for a long time. Four of us have been together for 27 years, since 1986 and then the others have been over 20 years. We've enjoyed a great deal of success and we had a combined goal, even though I was the leader of the band or the lead singer, they were very supportive of me and that was a great thing.

We respected one another through the years in everything that we have done. We have a good band, you know, as people as well as musically, so I just think we were very fortunate, I use that word a lot - very, very blessed to do something that we enjoy so much and to have been able to stay together for so long.

SPAZ: You met Mary Duft about 25 years ago. How did that come about?

DANIEL: Prior to my concerts in Ireland there's a great culture of dances and at that time a lot of places we performed at were dance halls and shows where people danced. When we started looking at other concert situations in 1987 we put together our first tour of the United Kingdom.


Mary Duft

My manager Sean, we talked about and we said we need somebody to open the show. He had met Mary at a talent competition where he was a judge, she had won the competition and he said she was a great singer. She came to one of our shows and prior to the show she sang, and she was and is a great singer. We did the tour together and she's a big part of it.

SPAZ: There's one song 'Rivers of Babylon' it's derived from a Biblical psalm but it became a huge reggae hit and then even a bigger hit for Boney M. What gave you the idea to bring it back to its Gospel roots?

Gospel music

DANIEL: I enjoy Gospel music myself and like a lot of singers, my first singing was done in church and the Gospel music I do is very much the country sort of gospel. I've recorded a couple of albums of Country Gospel. The most recent one was Peace in the Valley. I like the sound of the gospel and it is a great song very emotive too.

SPAZ: How much preparation goes into one of your shows?

DANIEL: We rehearse quite a bit to put the show together. One thing that I think is important in the connection with the audience. They are an important part of what we're doing. That is one thing I've been really pleased about throughout my career. I've been able to meet people, interact with people both from the stage and off the stage and it's made what I'm doing of greater value than it could ever be in monetary terms.

SPAZ: You are one of the most prolific artistes out there. Have you thought about slowing down or do you just love doing this too much?

DANIEL: I do love doing it although these past few years I've had quite a bit of time off, more than I've ever had in my 30 years, and I've enjoyed that immensely too. I don't see myself stopping, I don't see myself cutting down drastically, but I'm not going to do maybe quite as much as I did in the past. I like a little bit of time at home as well.

SPAZ: At this point in your career, do you love performing live or recording more?

DANIEL: Performing live is much more enjoyable. I don't mind recording. I have to say it's great to go into a studio and create something new, even if it's an old song that you enjoy.

SPAZ: Now 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of when you made your first recording. Do you have any celebration plans this year or are you going to do it next year?

DANIEL: We did have a show on TV in Ireland celebrating the 30 years of recording. Then we start touring this year and we will certainly revisit a lot of the old songs.

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