Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Full Irish Focus Interview and High Kings In Hoogeveen

We recently published the interview Darren did with Pete Maher for Irish Focus. This is the full interview from which the article was taken.

Q: When did you first discover you could sing? 

A: I was singing in church back home in Mooncoin when I was 3 years old. I would go up to the choir with my mam and sing along with all the hymns they were doing. My aunt remembers me trying to sing in church as early as 9 months old!

Q: Who inspired you/mentored you in the early days of your career?

A: There was always music in our house when we were young, and my mam would always have the radio on. I would be singing along to Elvis, Glen Campbell etc etc, and even taping myself sing stuff like "How great Thou Art". That recording is actually still at home. I was 4.

Q: Who do you most admire as a singer and who do you most admire as an instrumentalist?

A: My favorite singer is and always will be Elvis. As far as I am concerned,he had a god given gift of not only being an incredible singer, but also having blistering charisma, and an ability to turn even the most mediocre song into something special. He had the whole package, and I don't think the world will ever see his likes again.

I admire Vince Gill, not only for his amazing vocal ability, but he has to be one the greatest guitarists, and mandolin players ever. Sublime in his approach, and never overplays. he has performed on literally thousands of albums down through the years, and its easy to see and hear why. The man is gifted.

Q: Everyone knows about your early years traveling as the featured vocalist with the Riverdance troupe. But, while you were touring later with the Billy Joel revue, did you expect to return to more traditional Irish music again?

A: Ironically, I was actually listening to a lot of Irish music during the last 6 months of being in "Movin Out" and was silently planning an album of Irish music. I just wasn't sure how to make the transition from singing rock 'n' roll in a Broadway musical to crooning Celtic ballads. So, it was while I was performing corporate dates around the USA with Billy Joel's band that I got the call to tell me that our management wanted me to come home to Ireland, and discuss being in The High Kings. Some things just sort themselves out.

Q: When you signed on with The High Kings, what was it like to return to such a recognized form of music?

A: I guess having listened to Irish music all my life, and learning it from my family, it was easy enough to sing it and feel it. I love singing these songs, they bring me back to a simpler time, while also teaching me to be a better vocalist. I have a tendency to pick some vocally testing tunes, in order to push myself further and learn more about my art.

Q: Three out of four of The High Kings come from rather legendary Irish music families. As someone from the relatively quiet hometown of Mooncoin who has carved out an impressive career of your own, how did you approach partnering with the lads to develop the group's sound?

A: It was never about approaching the lads initially. It actually happened very naturally, given that the first time we sat down in a studio, we just started singing 4 part harmony without any hesitation. It was kinda scary how it happened. I think we all knew there and then that we could do it and bring it to the masses. The thing about The High Kings is, we do songs that have been around for a very long time, but our main objective is to make them sound like they were written today. So far it's been working for us.

Q: You mentioned moving the family back to Ireland with the impending arrival of your second child. While I utterly respect any desire not to shine a light on them, could I share the fact that you're a family man and that you and your wife have decided to raise your family back home in Ireland? I'd like to mention her and your children’s names and ages in the story if possible.

A: Sure no problem, go ahead. My wifes name is Michelle. My kids are Josh, aged 6, Ava, aged 4, and Sophie aged 3.

Q: When The High Kings first came on to the international music scene, many seemed to think it was yet another incarnation of Celtic Thunder. Could you explain how the group has worked to stay true to another form of musical storytelling and how the two audiences, of Celtic Thunder and The High Kings are different as well as similar.

A: I guess people saw us as being similar to Celtic Thunder at the start, as we were unleashed in America at the exact same time, and we were doing the PBS promo tour, which I loved. Our debut album, and DVD were very different to how we sound now. The DVD was a huge deal, with the cream of the industry onboard to make it great, and the songs, produced by David Downes were amazingly orchestrated. We have stayed true to being an Irish group, in that the songs we sing are all Irish. The CT boys have done really well performing songs from all genres of music, including Broadway, standards and pop music. Their’s is a production show, where we are a band and we are all about keeping it real.

I don't know enough about their audience, but I will tell you this..... We have the most loyal, dedicated and loving fans in the world. We had people travel thousands of miles to see us all over the States this summer. We also have made great friends with a few of our fans, and that makes being on the road easier. I value our fans enormously, and I hope they know how much they mean to me, and how grateful I am that they go to such lengths to see us and support us.

Q: Where do you see The High Kings going next in the evolution of the group? Can we expect the introduction of some self-composed songs as well as the standards?

A: We are currently working on some new original material, which hopefully will be included on the next album we release. The plan is to do 50% standards and 50% original. I am hopeful that we come across a killer song soon, which will take us on to the next level and we can tour even further afield. Folk music has become very popular in the last few years since we were launched. There are folk groups popping up all over Ireland, and tipping the hat to us which is nice. Also, Mumford and Sons are having massive success around the globe and have completely redefined the genre. All in all, I think the next few years will be about finding great original songs.

Q: You mentioned you were working on an independent project which may or may not come to fruition. Comment how the chance to work independently as well as part of The High Kings is a part of maintaining your creative energy. Do any of the other lads have solo work accomplished/planned as well?

A: I am constantly writing and demoing new material while on the road, and I plan to do record another solo album down the road. Whether I release it or not is another thing, but I want to get it done and have it for when the time is right. I am gravitating towards acoustic, melodic breezy folk/pop tunes, almost crossover if you like. The process of creativity is very important when you spend so much time on the road touring. You can get very tired of hotel to hotel so writing songs is a welcome escape. I haven't released a solo record in 5 years, due to being so busy with the boys, which for now is my main thing. Before that I released 4 in 7 years! Martin and Brian have solo album also.

Q: Where would you like to see The High Kings five years from now?

A: I would love to see us successful enough to record whenever we feel the need to do it and tour whenever we feel like it. Honestly, original material is the only way forward in my opinion, while maintaining a healthy array of material from all our albums. I would love to see us touring the globe every few years, but not constantly touring. I am missing my wife and kid's too much lately while on tour, and there is no way I will continue that beyond a certain point.

Q: Ten years?

A: Very hard to see that far down the road, but if I'm being totally honest, I would like to be off the road at that point, and doing the odd solo shows/corporate events. I would love to do another Broadway show too. I never close the door on that one, as I have a massive love for that side of the business. I hope I'm as ambitious though, as I am now. If that subsides then I will be doing something else entirely.

Q: There is clearly a different kind of energy feedback from an audience in a concert hall versus an Irish festival. How would you describe this difference?

A: I absolutely love festival dates, outdoor shows. I am very comfortable live in front of huge audiences. It’s an incredible buzz hearing 7 to ten thousand people singing along at a festival or arena show. Hopefully, The high Kings can build on what we've achieved through all the US shows this summer and come back bigger next time.

Q: The High Kings have some incredibly loyal fans. What has been the most impressive example of fan loyalty you have encountered so far?

A: We have the most incredible fan base, who are willing and able to go to the ends of the earth for us if they have to. We have become friends with quite a few of them, and there is one lady in the UK who set up all my online fan sites a few years ago, and does an incredible job. She makes sure that all info relating to me is out there as it happens.

Okay, that should be more than enough for an article.
How about a little Darren Holden Trivia?

Shoe size:


Last CD you purchased:

Wonders of the Younger by Plain White T's.

Favorite film of all time:

Halloween (1978)

Television show you try never to miss, even on the road:

Sons of Anarchy.

Favorite non-alcoholic beverage:

Starbucks Iced coffee.

Your vocal range:


Favorite form of exercise:

Lifting weights and running.

Favorite healthy snack:

OH YEAH protein bars.

Special thanks to Pete Maher of the Irish Focus for allowing us to publish the full interview. 
High Kings in Hoogeveen Holland

The High Kings made their debut in Holland performing at the Irish Music Festival at De Tamboer in Hoogeveen, along with The Killkenny's and Keltic Kats.

“Just wrapped up family movie night. Tonight is was E.T.
Almost finished mopping up all the little tears. Awwwww......
Early start in the morning, heading to the Netherlands with THK.”

“Just landed back in Dublin after a fantastic night in Holland! Brilliant crowd and great friends and groups to share it with including The Kilkennys and Keltic Kats. Happy days!”

Tour Dates

The High Kings Irish Winter Tour dates have now been added to our Tour Dates page with ticket link details.

Click Here for Tour Dates

Thanks for your continued support

Darren and the DH Team

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Midwest Irish Focus Magazine Interview

Darren was interviewed by Pete Maher for the Midwest Irish Focus Magazine while he was at the LaCrosse Irish Festival. The article is in the September edition and Darren has been featured on the cover.

View readable article full size on the press pages of

Unlisted video of Darren singing 'Town I Loved So Well'
at the La Crosse festival

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Catching up with the Kings!

Last weekend was very special for Darren, but we still need to bring you up to date with all the news for Darren and the lads from their final show in the US through to last Saturday in Mullingar!

Message from Darren from latest his Newsletter

Hey everybody.

Can it really be newsletter time again?

Well, there has been so much happening for us while playing festivals all summer in the USA and Germany, that I guess I better keep you all updated.

We have been having a blast playing to thousands of HK fans for the last few months, and indeed if Milwaukee is anything to go by, there will be a few new fan's now too. What a great weekend we had there, and what a great festival. Very professional, and upbeat.

Tomorrow night we play The Budweiser Event Center in Loveland Colorado. This will be our biggest arena show to date in the States and I can't wait to get out there!

We then fly home to Ireland, and on landing, we are being picked up and driven to Killarney for the last of our summer shows at the INEC.

Thankfully a few days off after that, as I am sure we will be exhausted.

Hope you enjoy the newsletter.

'Til next time, be well and stay safe.

Last days in the USA

“Morning all from sunny Colorado. Gearing up for soundcheck at the Budweiser Event Centre, where we are live tonight at 8pm. Heading home tomorrow for a show at the INEC on Saturday night. Them....home to my clan. Ahhh”

“Fantastic night at The Budweiser Event Centre. Very cool audience thats rocked it out all the way with us. The Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra were out of this world! and the young choir that joined us for the second half of the show were great. Homeward bound tomorrow. :)” 

 “About to hit the road for Denver, to fly to Chicago and home.
Best of luck to all my East Coast friends over the coming few days. We'll be thinking of you. God bless.”

Next Stop Killarney via Dublin!! 

“Just landed back on the 'aul sod. About to board a sleeper coach for the drive to Killarney where due to massive demand for tix we will perform in the main room of the INEC tonight at 9.30.
Pretty tired but hoping to catch some zzzzz's on the way.
Big thanks to the USA once again for a marvellous summer!!!”

“Killarney!!! What can I say! Yet again it was a milestone for us in the kingdom. What a homecoming. Nobody parties harder than Kerry! Unreal.”

“I am so thankful to be heading home in the morning to my little family, especially as my beautiful, sweet, hilarious little girl is 4 years old. Happy Birthday Ava!!
Can't wait to see everyone! Good to be home.”

Ireland's Call!!
“This coming Friday night The High Kings will rock 50,000 soccer fans ahead of the crunch Euro 2012 qualifier between Ireland and Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium. I for one, cannot wait!!” 

“Amazing night so far! Crowd really got behind us, and the all round reaction was superb. Saw loads of friends from home in the crowd, great to catch up. Pity about the result, but hey, we are still there with a shout.
Great fun.”

Greville Arms Hotel Mullingar 

“I have to say Mullingar tonight was one of those shows that live long after its over. Over 800 people stuffed into The Greville Arms Hotel and the volume level coming from them was ear splitting. Mad mad night.
We wore the Loughlin Gaels hurling jersey's onstage for the second half and that set the tone for the rest of the night. Mayhem!!” 

The photos in this slide are copyright Therese Dunne.

So there you have it, all up to date with the High Kings news. It had been a weekend of pulling on the football shirts, but the following day of course Darren changed sports to pull on the black and amber shirt of Kilkenny!


Darren 'Harley' Holden

We have just one more set of photos to bring you from Darren's time in America. While he was in Milwaukee, Darren had some photos taken with the bikes in the Harley Davidson Museum.
These photos are courtesy and copyright of Charlie Brock.

That's all for now! Back soon!

Thanks for your continued support

Darren and the DH Team

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Hurling Through Kilkenny!!

It is no secret to anyone who knows Darren , or closely follows his status updates, that after music his next passion is for hurling and his county team Kilkenny!

A few weeks ago, during a break in the US festivals, Darren was able to return to Ireland to see his beloved Kilkenny Cats secure their place in yet another All Ireland Senior Hurling Final at Croke Park. With the festivals done, and a few Irish gigs under his belt, the High Kings calendar allowed him to return to Croke Park on Sunday and watch Kilkenny take on Tipperary, a repeat of last year's final.

There was a lot of pride at stake as last year Tipp had stopped them securing the first ever '5 in a row'. They desperately wanted to take the Liam McCarthy Cup back home to the Marble City where it had lived for the previous four years!

It was quite a weekend for Darren!

“Well, after winning 7 All Ireland's in 10 years, here we are again. Is there one last hurrah left in this amazing team? I hope so. They will need a massive one to put it up to Tipp today, who are great. This KK team owe us nothing. They've gone beyond the call for their county and made us all very proud of where we are from. Win or lose today, there will never be another team like them. Hopefully its the good, hard, flowing match we are all expecting. COME ON THE CATS!!!!!!!!!!”

Without a doubt the greatest team of all time!!!!!!!”

Yes, they had done it, in a fantastic game, it finished
Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 1-16.

Liam was going home!!!

“Greatest of all time! What a team. What a performance! I am a very proud Kilkenny man!!”

“It's a beautiful sunny day outside, and The Super Cats are Champions for the 5th time in 6 years! Unreal. What a feeling! Pure brilliance at Croker yesterday from start to finish, from every player! And what about those 2 goals! Fantastic. Ritchie's has to be goal of the year. Come on The Black and Amber!!”

“On route to The Marble City with Josh, Declan and Kevin to welcome home The Cats!!
Should be a blast!”

“What an amazing homecoming for the brilliant Kilkenny team. Over 30.000 fans showed up for a huge party on the streets of the Marble City and not even the rain could dampen the atmosphere!! Josh loved every minute of it and cheered his head off for all the players.
Great to have Liam home again!!”

“Josh was delighted to read todays Daily Star report on last nights homecoming and see his name mentioned for having been there. Great memory for him.”

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Kilimanjaro Documentary - Darren's Storyboard

The Kilimanjaro documentary got a fantastic reaction when it was aired on RTE 1 in a prime time slot on July 18 2011. It was only broadcast within Ireland and for the benefit of the overseas fans, and those of you who would like to re-live the precious memories, we now bring you Darren's documentary storyboard.

This is the story of
The Climb for Kids

A group of Irish climbers set out to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro and raise one quarter of a million Euros for Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.

First the paperwork needed to be done to allow them in to Africa, that meant attending a medical briefing and having those dreaded shots.

"Great, it wasn't too bad!"

My boy lollipop! He got his reward for being brave!


"We're here!!!"

"The basic thing is to pace yourself. It's not a race, nobody's out to prove anything you know, we're all here for the common goal, we're all here to help each other."

Before they set off on day one, they did some basic stretches to get the blood moving and help them sleep better.

At the Machame Gate, where they were about to start the climb, Darren couldn't resist a little joke.

"It was a wonderful experience, it wasn't that high after all, have fun!!"

There was a lot of nervous laughter on day one, but how were they really feeling?

"Very good, very good so far.
Happy days, beautiful"

"African Vodka"

"Day 1 over"

Darren Holden has performed on some of the worlds biggest stages but Kilimanjaro is certainly a unique venue. 

"As I was going over the Cork and Kerry mountains"
The singing on the mountain was cut with footage of Adam and the High Kings on the Late Late Show the night before Darren set off. They also blended Adam's voice with the live singing on the mountain so that he was 'singing' with them. A touching moment.

"Maybe you love me, but now I'm not so sure"

"That's the wrong words already, see it's way too early for a song"

"In the year of our lord 1806, we set sail from the Coal Quay of Cork
We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks
For the Grand City Hall in New York
'We'd an elegant craft
She was rigged fore and aft
And oh, how the wild winds drove her
She had twenty seven masts
and withstood several blasts
And they called her The Irish Rover"


"Yesterday was tough in places, but you know we made it. Unfortunately Karl abandoned ship but he gave it his all, we are all very very proud of him. But at the same time it's at the back of our minds that maybe this is a lot more tougher than any of us anticipated"

"There was a lot of climbing today, by the time I got to lunch I was in a heap. I just went in to the tent there a minute ago and had like a head rush and I'm like...  But I'd say I'd be OK"

Yippee!! I can't wait, it's gonna be great.
We should just do it now, a quick cuppa and off we go"


"It's not that big!!! Ha ha!!"

Darren hits the Barranco Wall, a day of serious climbing up a rock face without the aid of ropes and picks.

"Without a doubt the most physically and mentally challenging thing I have ever done in my life, bar none, and probably will ever do"

"We're about to set off on the night trek to the actual summit. It's what we all came to do. We are all very disorientated at the moment and don't know if we are coming of going. Having said that, it's an amazing adventure. Just getting out of the tents and seeing the stars, it's almost within touching distance tonight, absolutely amazing. I think the feeling is optimistic, we are going to do this."

After months of training the Climb for Kids team has reached the top of Africa. It has taken just four and a half days of intense physical and mental strength to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, the world's tallest free standing mountain.

 "Out of breath, unbelievable, I am just so happy to see this"

"It's just an unreal feeling. It just seemed like it was so far away and we pulled it off"

"We did it Adam, we did it!!"

The summit, it had taken 10 hours having left the camp in darkness at 1am.

"Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep me away from you"

Yes he was still singing!!

There was just time for a group photo before they started the descent. They were facing another 5 hours of walking, adapting to the thickening air, with their aching joints and muscles.

We made it!

The summit of Kilimanjaro rises up 5895 metres above sea level. There is only half the amount of oxygen that there is at sea level.

"I work out quite a bit, but there was plenty of times yesterday when I really really wanted to give up."

"Toto have a great song called Africa, it was a massive hit in the 80's. Great, great song and it suits everybody down to the ground here."

"As wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what's right
As Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti"

The Climb for Kids team returned to Ireland to a fantastic welcome, very proud at what they had achieved. They learned when they arrived that they had indeed already raised over 250,000 Euros for Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin. Hopefully with 365,000 households confirmed as watching this documentary, that figure would have increased significantly helping the sick kids of Ireland in need of their care.