CATHERINE CHRONICLES - ROSTREVOR TO LOUISIANA
“Don't let me forget/ your hand in mine, the firefly drives/ the time I fell asleep and you carried me inside/ kissed my head and said goodnight/ when we were sparks, just the start/ our naive hearts had never felt that kinda fire/ that you and I were playing with.” - Don't Let Me Forget - Catherine McGrath-Forest Glen Whitehead-Adam Hambrick.
It was a case of déjà vu for Irish singer-songwriter Catherine McGrath - she was discovered as a teenager by Sir Elton John who also nurtured another Catherine as a teen.
Novocastrian Catherine Britt was just 20 when she recorded a duet with Sir Elton on Where We Both Say Goodbye - a top 40 single.
But McGrath's duet on debut album Talk of This Town was with another former child prodigy - Louisiana singing actor Hunter Hayes.
Catherine, just 21, promoted that duet Don't Let Me Forget and her album on her September Australian tour with another Novocastrian Morgan Evans.
McGrath, raised on traditional music in tiny Northern Ireland fishing village Rostrevor, was ideal duet partner for Hayes, now 28, whom she met at a Country 2 Country festival in England.
Octogenarian singing actor and movie director Robert Duvall, now 87, gave Hayes his first guitar at the age of six when he cast him in 1997 film The Apostle with Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Joe Shaver, Farrah Fawcett, Miranda Richardson and the late June Carter Cash.
A year later he performed for former U.S. President Bill Clinton at a White House lawn party so he was a natural actor in the video for the McGrath-Hayes single.
“So we actually shot it over in Nashville which was really cool,” revealed McGrath whose hometown inspired C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, and was a backdrop for several episodes of Game of Thrones.
“We filmed it in an old abandoned house which had no electricity, no heating, half falling down and no sunshine so all the lights in the video were set up through a generator. It was crazy. It was so much fun. I sent him the song that I had written as a solo thing but we decided to do it as a duet. He was the first person I thought of as a duet partner so he sang and played guitar on it. I was so excited about that. The whole process was fun, we got to hang out on set and perform the song for the first time together. I hadn't seen him in person since before we recorded it because we recorded it separately so it was nice to be able to do it together then. I loved that.”
Hayes acting inspired McGrath - he was a child star in movies Figure It Out, My Dog Skip and Charley's War and appeared in 2016 movie Bella and the Bulldogs.
The multi-instrumentalist is proficient on 30 instruments, has released three albums, five indie discs, a live EP and played guitar on Listen To The Music featuring Oklahoma star Blake Shelton on the Doobie Brothers tribute disc Southbound .
McGrath was just 18 when she wrote with expatriate Australian Phil Barton - frequent collaborator with Kirsty Lee Akers - and Liz Rose on her song Cinderella on the first of her eight trips to Nashville.
“It was a special moment for me as I went there on holidays and didn't expect to get a song out of it,” Catherine recalled.
“Phil is so nice, he was one of the first people to message me when he heard I was coming to Australia.”
TALK OF THIS TOWN
“Tough growing up/ when they shoot you down/ but I knew someday someway/ it was all about just getting out/ then I turned eighteen/ said I'm gonna sing /packed my bags and they laughed/ said you'll never be anything/ well, talk of the town/ that's what I am now.” - Talk Of This Town - Catherine McGrath-Rachel Furner-Steve Robson-Jeffrey Steele.
It began in rural fishing village Rostrevor where she performed as a child at her parents' Fiddler's Green festival - with musicians from North America and Germany.
“There's mountains on one side and sea on the other,” McGrath explained.
“Every single person there knows each other. For me growing up there in my teen years and never having left and moving away from there and meeting new people I had never had that growing up there. The good thing about growing up there was everyone had this passion for music. They would gather in the pubs seven nights a week sing songs together and play whatever instruments they had. I didn't realise until I left my hometown how special it was and how much it influenced my music and love of music. My dad wrote songs and also ran the folk festival each year. It's only a small festival but there's music in every single pub. People come from Germany and America and all these places. It was the highlight of the year for all these people who love music. It was really nice to grow up around that and have people who loved music so much around you. I don't know if I would have ended up in the same place without that. It was very special. I would really love to come back. Hope to meet with people after the shows and come back if they like me.”
DODGING BULLETS IN BELFAST
“But if I dodged a bullet / why am I still hurting? / I know you're a lost cause/ so why am I still searching? / if I made a getaway why do I still feel the pain?/ You still haunt me, you still have me and you shouldn't/ if I dodged a bullet.” - Dodged A Bullet - Catherine McGrath-Iain Archer.
“I would love to write with Morgan over in Nashville,” McGrath revealed.
“I opened for Kelsea at her first ever headline show in London. I hadn't met Morgan at the time but she was so nice. She came offstage and put her arms around me. I'm really excited that Morgan asked me out on this tour. I love watching him live. He's amazing, he's so much fun.”
WARM REPRISE AFTER COLD PLAY
“It was a Coldplay concert on a Thursday night/ you had a spare ticket/ cause your girlfriend cheated and broke your heart/ and you took it hard/ I knew that it was far too soon to call it a date/ but you took my hand and I swear something changed/ cause I felt the spark/ but she still had your heart.” - Wild - Catherine McGrath-Steve Robson- Lindy Robbins-Jeffrey Steele.
She turned a Coldplay concert chill into a warm reprise in her vitriolic tune Wild.
“I wrote that the day after the Coldplay concert,” revealed McGrath who filmed her video around iconic Nashville landmarks like Printers Alley.
“It's about a guy who I liked but who still wasn't over his ex. He took me to a Coldplay concert that he was meant to go to with his ex and half the time he was holding my hand, the other half he was texting her. Every time we were together he was only ever halfway there and the day after the concert I went into the studio and ended up writing about the whole thing. It's really honest and I think that's what I love most about it.”
The song source may have been painful but not filming the video.
“We got to film it in Nashville, which was the coolest part of it for me, because I love it there,” McGrath said.
“It was strange, because I'd never done a music video like that, one that involves acting, but in the end we were just running around and driving around Nashville. I was having so much fun and absolutely loved it.' I was so much fun filming in Nashville.”
McGrath wants to return to Australia on a longer tour that would enable her to film videos with our wildlife and locales.
“I would love to do a video in Australia,” Catherine revealed.
“That would be a good reason to come back. There's so many talented people here. It's somewhere I've always wanted to go and probably the furthest I can get from home. I'm glad I can witness all this. I'm hoping to see some koalas and kangaroos at some point.”
Well, there's Tamworth, CMC Rocks Queensland and Rostrevor's sibling fishing village Port Fairy on Victoria's Shipwreck Coast .
And, of course, she has Sir Elton as her co-manager.
“He played my song on his radio show he does on Apple Music. I heard him talking about me and I thought it must be a different Catherine McGrath. We face timed each other, he talked about his song-writing and couldn't believe it was my first album. It was great to have someone like that supporting me before my album even came out. It was an incredible confidence builder for me. Now his company Rocket Management and my company are doing a joint venture.”
Talk Of This Town was released by Warner Music on July 27.