Inner View: Boy to Man, Damian McGinty Shines as Solo Star
By John O’Brien, Jr.
Fourteen years ago, fourteen-year-old Damian McGinty snared hearts the world over when he appeared for the first time with Celtic Thunder on their world tour. He is again touring with the wildly popular group, but his solo career is reaching new heights as well, with the release of “Those Were the Days”, a seven track first launch of some of Damian’s finest work, all original songs, written with purpose and passion, during COVID.
How are things going for you with COVID, before and after now?
I feel that it has been challenging for every artist. As every artist will attest to, I think I’ve been very lucky in the sense that I’ve been able to spend a lot of time creating new music, that’s been really nice.
No way I would have been able to create the amount of music that I created in the last year and a half. I had a lot of time to focus on that, and then releasing music. and then also with my group, we’ve been doing some documentary type stuff for our fans as well, which is really interesting. I never really thought I’d get into that, but it’s been a nice like change from touring. I am definitely ready to get back to the road.
Is Celtic Thunder home to you, now that you are touring with them again?
It definitely feels like a base in the music industry for me and I mean that in the best possible sense. You go back there, and it is people that seem to grow up; it’s people that grew up with me, people who gave me my first gig.
There is such a family vibe there because that’s what we are. It’s always nice to go back; it’s not to be comfortable. I don’t necessarily think comfort is healthy in this industry, but it’s the closest thing to comfort that you could get in the music industry. I’m very fortunate to have that.
There a mentorship involved there?
Not so much now, but when I first started there was, mentorship from several different angles on that point, fourteen years ago. The musical director was one of the main mentors, he’s a fellow Derryman as well, Derry City, in Northern Ireland. And then Paul Byrom, who was one of the principles at the start. He was also a mentor to me in the sense that he had already done a lot of professional gigs, so he was the only one of the five of us at the time with professional experience. He definitely helped nurture me; we became best buddies. We still are very, very good friends.
It’s become a well-oiled machine and we’re very much part of that; we very much drive it with ideas and creatively. So, it’s definitely a different chapter, but for the better. I’ve enjoyed all the chapters but it’s a journey that has had many memories for me, so I’m very lucky.
The worldwide phenomena still applies for Celtic Thunder?
It isn’t over; it definitely had heights that we didn’t think was possible. At the start we were very fresh, so they cannot jump off the scene; then the Today Show; playing at the White House; Radio City two nights in a row; all this stuff happened within the first twelve months, so that’s like going from zero to 1,000 [mph].
At this point now, we’ve sold several million albums; the world has taken to it and us very well; we’re very lucky to be able to say that; it’s a very, very difficult industry. We’re very lucky to still be around as well and still have a very loyal fanbase. It’s a long time together, to keep the creative juices going.
I think I what helps is the lineup hasn’t changed in a while; we basically had a three-year break. In 2019 I was getting married. In 2020 we were supposed to be touring the world, but COVID happened, so it’s almost been three years since we have been on the road, which is quite a long time. We’re looking forward to getting back at it whenever we can.
You’ve got a new CD, called Those Were the Days; seven tracks, all original songs. Tell me about that – is a tour coming or do you wait and see what’s going to happen?
When I figured out that COVID was going to be a longer-term thing then initially everybody was thinking, I was able to be proactive and change my eighteen-month plan into releasing a song every month this year.
So, I started creating a lot over last summer in preparation for that plan. I call it an EP; I know it is technically an album, a lot of people have let me know that. I know that it is technically an album, with seven songs, but I feel like I’m cheating the system, and the number one reason I’m not releasing this to be an album; I am simply putting seven songs on this because the album comes early next year.
I’ve written more music than I thought I would. Seven songs particularly feel like a nice family of songs that fit really well together; they have a similar theme going through them that reads a certain narrative.
I’m really proud of it. I think and hope that some of the work on it is some of my best yet. It came out June 25th.
Why seven songs? I read an article where it said seven songs a year is a perfect representation of where an artist stands. I find that very interesting.
In terms of a tour, I’m actually having those conversations today. Maybe is the answer. It depends on a couple of moving variables. I think that it is looking more possible that the fall could happen, in terms of live gigs. I’m seeing a lot of artists release shows for the fall; I think it’s possible, so I’m quietly keeping it in the back of my mind.
As a musical performer, your songs to me are a little bit about living and sharing the dream? In your mind, are you achieving the American Dream?
Really good question. I don’t know if I necessarily to my core believe in this idea of a dream. I don’t think that when you hit a certain point, you’re, “I’ve achieved my dream. I’m so happy.” I’ve learned at every step, my dream is longevity; to be able to do this for a very, very long time; If I could call this a career for a lifetime, I think that is the dream for me.
The dream is ever-moving, ever growing. I think I have lived what I would say is the American dream, I think I have lived a bit of it.
I’ll be honest, I do love this country. I love the people here, and I’ve had such a fantastic experience in California this last ten years. Whatever the definition of the American Dream is, moving from a small town in Northern Ireland to being on a show in Hollywood and living in the Hollywood Hills; you know all these things that have happened in my life, that probably qualifies as an American Dream somewhere.
Whether it be in these songs or the way you interact/engage with your fans – you want to make the world a better place?
I think so. I think I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I’m really not this shiny, glitzy performer. I am like your next-door neighbor; in that I would come in and talk to you and have a beer. I love that idea and I love being … I don’t know if people person is the way to say it, but I am just a really standard guy that loves to create music and loves performing.
If we’re having this same conversation, say three years from now, what would have happen for you to feel it was a great success?
That’s a good question. You know, I sometimes internally struggle with that, because I’ve had this career that has put me into a place where I don’t really know what short-term success looks like for me anymore. I struggle with that sometimes, in terms of … let’s say the release does ten million streams; let’s say a record is [achieved]. You will always be thinking … well right, next? 20 million streams?
There is always something else to go to and there’s always other levels to get to. I think I would be really contented; this is what I strive for, to continue to grow, but also continue to get better and be fit for whatever is thrown my way – so if there is a hard season that’s coming my way, I’m ready to fight that; I’ve got the tools and the mentality and the work ethic to deal with that.
I just want my music to organically grow. I don’t know if I’m going to sell out 6,000 seat theaters or 70,000 thousand theatres or maybe it’s a 500-seater. Either way, as long as I organically continue to grow, people enjoy the music and feel like the music helps them and they can relate to it, and I get to keep doing this, I would call that a lot of success.
When you say that you want to grow and develop your skills, what does that mean?
That means honing my craft to the point where I am consistently getting better; to the point when I have an idea that falls onto my table, that I am good enough at that point in time to be holding that idea and be able to put that idea into a song when I’m inspired in that moment.
My best songs are whenever I have a really good idea in that moment. I’m able to actively hone it into something.
Your skills as a vocalist, how do you improve that?
Vocal exercises are important. I think warming up is important. A lot of a lot of people don’t realize a man’s voice is consistently changing until he’s in his early 30’s. When my voice broke, the difference from age fourteen was astronomical, because at fourteen, singing Donny Osmond’s [songs], I can’t sing those anymore.
Even since I was fifteen, to where I am at twenty-eight, the change hasn’t been astronomical in the sense of tone and in the sense of octaves I can sing in, but it is changed in the sense of what it’s capable of doing. I think it’s always growing and always evolving. It’s important to look after [your voice], to not take it for granted. Then it’s about finding the right songs.
When I am on the road, there are some songs I have written; I cannot wait to sing this at a live concert, because I know this is going to be really fantastic. And then there are other songs I have written that I sang that didn’t quite feel were vocally correct; it’s not really an on the road type of song. So, everything comes into play.
I’m in the process of learning and figuring out what I put in the next record, what it needs more often, what works on the road and what word vocalization. You don’t start out to write a song.
You mentioned you just got hit with an idea. Is that what usually happens, or can you just down, say OK, right now I will sit down, I’m going to write a song?
Sometimes you can do both. Sometimes you just have to show up. Some days I have not felt inspired at all but now I’ve written the really good song. Other days I’ve hit that end of the road. It really is always different.
I actually get some really good inspiration and ideas when I’m flying on planes, which is really quite random, but I started to appreciate that. I never used to be a great flyer. I did really enjoy it growing up, but I’ve done it so much; it is such an integral part of my job, but I plan, to enjoy the break in the air.
What happens next?
Wherever COVID takes us, wherever the tour takes us. I’ve got a special two-part concert that’s going to be an online for the EP release, so that is a big event. And then I am hoping to get on the road in the fall. That is as far as we can plan ahead. I think next year will be fully back to normal.
I’m also going to be consistently continuing to release a song a month starting in August through Christmas, and then the full record is going to be next.
To read more from our interview with Damian, see www.iIrish.us