Midlands - the new Merseyside

Fans of Charlie Landsborough will be pleased to hear that the man with the inspirational music is embarking on an Irish tour this November, taking in the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe next Friday November 21.

Although he has never played in Ballinasloe before, the Irish Midlands have been something of a second home for the Liverpudlian for many years. Long before ‘Forever Friend’ and ‘What Colour is the Wind?’, long before Charlie hit the big time in Ireland and the UK, he was playing the pubs of Moate with his good friend Tony Allen.

“My love affair with Ireland started many years ago. I used to stay with Tony Allen and play in the pubs in Moate - he invited me over for the first time and I never stopped coming,” he says. “Where I am from in Liverpool is full of Irish people, so Ireland is like a second home to me. People have a very similar attitude to life and don’t take things too seriously. I just felt I had gone to a larger Merseyside.”

So Charlie couldn’t have been happier that when his big break finally came at the age of 53, it came in Ireland. “It was definitely Ireland did the trick for me. I always said if I ever got a break I would love it to be in Ireland. I had a rejection in 1995 after I was meant to come over, and I felt discouraged, but I told myself I wasn’t going to give up and I phoned the Pat Kenny show. They said ‘Charlie, we’ve been trying to get you, can you come over this week?’ I did the show and got a wonderful reaction - the album went in at number two in the Irish charts and the following week it was number one.” The success of the title track ‘What Colour is the Wind?’, inspired by a blind child during Charlie’s teaching career in the 1990s, cemented his place as one of the all-time biggest selling artists in Irish music.

Since then, Charlie has enjoyed success across Ireland and the UK. His albums have topped both pop and country charts and he has won almost every award going on the British country scene. He has recently received word that the Liverpool Echo is to do a biography of him. Touring on both sides of the Irish sea, Charlie has built up a loyal fan base, and he hopes to recognise some familiar faces when he embarks on his week-long Irish tour. “I will definitely know a few faces out there. It’s nice to look down and see old friends,” he says.

Charlie’s five-piece band, who will accompany him on the tour, include an Irish man whose son is a drummer for James Blunt, and who is “a great squeezebox and guitar player”. Charlie’s drummer was with Shirley Bassey for 15 years. “The only duffer on stage musically is usually me,” he laughs.

As well as being blessed with songwriting talent, Charlie enjoys a reputation as a stortyteller, on stage interspersing his songs with anecdotes. “Once upon a time I just played music in pubs, but I was playing some sad songs and I started to tell jokes or stories to break them up. I didn’t realise I was doing it until a man came up to me after a show and said he was disapointed I hadn’t told any stories. Anecdotes add a bit of flavour to what I do.”

Charlie says his concerts are “more up-tempo and light-hearted than people might think”, and admits his music can be hard to categorise. “I write how I feel at the time. Sometimes it’s country, sometimes ballads, occasionally slightly rocky or blues. Playing in pubs, I didn’t do my own music, so it was a mix of old rock n’ roll, Irish, Scottish, and blues. I genuinely love different genres of music, and I’m thankful people like it.”

Having struggled for nearly three decades, during which he worked as a telephone engineer, a postman, a grocery store manager, and a teacher, Charlie is philosophical about his years in music. “I feel sorry for the younger ones, who are flavour of the month and then they disappear. At least there is a bit more longevity for me. My experiences along the way keep me grounded and I have met some fantastic people.

“People have this impression of me gnashing my teeth waiting for success but I was always happy playing the little pubs. I have been inspired by the things people say and I am thankful for it all.”

A cruise around Europe and a trip to Australia are on the cards for Charlie in the coming year or two. “I think half of Ireland will be on this cruise - there are 48 people and the only non-Irish person is me. We’re taking a trip around the sea and I get to go places like Monte Carlo,” says the affable Liverpudlian, whose wife regularly accompanies him as he tours.

“I enjoy life and I like being on the road. I’m not saying my life is one long highlight, but I am happy. People shower me with kindness. The good Lord has been good to me and if he opens more doors I will step in, but I am very happy.”

Charlie Landsborough plays in the Carlton Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe next Friday November 21. For further information contact the hotel reception at (090 ) 96 30400, or log onto www.charlielandsborough.com for full details of his Irish tour.

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