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

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