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Keeping it fresh, key for Tommy

Tommy Fleming tells Jessica Quinn he tries to give audiences what they want, but just a bit different each time.

WITH a career spanning 30 years Tommy Fleming, often described as “The Voice of Ireland”, will be returning to the glór stage this April for an evening of songs and stories.
It is an exciting time for the Sligo man who is currently in the middle of a nationwide tour while his new album ‘All These Years’ is riding high in the Irish charts.
As Covid-19 restrictions lift Tommy is looking forward to stepping out on the glór stage next month having performed at the Ennis venue to half capacity back in January.
“It’s always a brilliant one being on stage in glór. It’s been an unusual year and the way the lockdowns went, we kind of had to just push things out and we’ve ended up with two nights in glór, which in brilliant.
“In January I was on stage at 5.30pm with half the audience. The restrictions lifted on the Friday and we were in Ennis on the Saturday, and at that stage we couldn’t do the 50% extra because there were a few things against us.
“It was our first show back in two years and it was amazing to have our first proper show with an audience, but it was kind of bittersweet.
“The sweet was that it was fantastic to be back, but the bitter was we could only get 50% in. But it’s all been lifted now, thank God.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming gig on April 22 he says, “We are 20 years playing glór, more actually. It’s always a full house and it’s always brilliant support in Clare. It will be great to be going back to it full. I didn’t realise what a difference the 50% makes, people are a bit more inhibited.
“The tour has been a huge success for us and as the restrictions lifted and confidence started to regrow, we sold out the Cork Opera House, the Opera House in Wexford. We’re doing full houses in really big venues which is brilliant. And there isn’t a moment I don’t stand on those stages and think how lucky I am.”
The tour sees Tommy look back on his 30-year career, delving into tracks and memories from the past along with more recent recordings.
“When it came to preparing for this tour I said we need to start looking at songs I haven’t done in a long time.
“We started looking back from 1991 all the way up to today, it’s a look back on some of the sounds that I haven’t touched in years. I had to go back and learn them because I haven’t played them in so long,” he smiles.
He will also be playing some songs from his new album on which he has collaborated with well-known names such as Elaine Paige, Mirusia Louwerse and Diarmuid McGee.
“I’m really enjoying it this time because it is almost like a swan-song in that I have been off the road for so long. Coming back is really amazing but I know that I’m not going to be doing this forever.”
Though he says swan-song, he assures fans that retirement is a few years off yet.
“I had looked at it a few years ago, maybe bowing out for a while at 51 which is this coming May.
“But considering we have had two years of doing nothing, that’s not going to happen now. My plan is looking at retirement in maybe three years time.”
This latest recording is Tommy’s seventh studio album and speaking of its success, he says, “I’m overwhelmed to see “All These Years” coming back into the charts again this week.
“It’s been in and out of the charts since its release back in October 2021, and it’s thrilling for me to hear of it being so well received and many fans buying it after coming to my shows.
“It’s the ultimate compliment when people support my albums and music. I never take it for granted.
“We’ve been top 20 and 25 for the last seven weeks which is brilliant and we were number one in the independents chart. It’s holding its own against some really big names.”
Like many others Tommy had to adjust to a new way of working because of Covid-19, including working on his new album remotely. He tells us the music helped him through the pandemic.
“I was really lucky in a sense, because when we finished the tour in 2020 it was March 2 and our lockdown started on the twelfth.
“The first one didn’t really affect me to be honest, it was kind of a break and it was a novelty. I did as everyone did, gardening, painting, learning new skills.
“I kept myself completely busy, it was the only thing I could do.
“I started working on the new album in February 2021, and with restrictions again I couldn’t get into the studio so I had to do it remotely.
“My producer would send down the tracks to me, I would make notes, sing on them, record in the house and send it back to him. It wasn’t until the summer of last year that we actually all got into a studio.
“It was a huge change, a seismic change. It was very lonely because I was so used to travelling and being in a studio. Then all of that stopped, that was gone.
“However, I was blessed because of where I live, right on the beach in Enniscrone so I had all of that on my doorstep. We were the lucky ones in that sense.
“The music really kind of brought a light into a dark area because it kind of kept me occupied.”
With three decades in the music industry, what does Tommy believe has been the key to his long success?
“I don’t have a secret, but I never kind of do the same thing twice. Even when I am performing a song, I never sing it the same. I always have an eye on other stuff, different sounds, different materials, all that kind of thing.
“So I keep it fresh as much as I can, and I don’t wander too far off what the fans expect from me either.
“ I keep it fresh but I still give them what they want – I hope.”
Throughout his career he has enjoyed many highlights including performing at the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall.
He has also toured with the Elaine Paige and Kenny Rogers and recorded duets with Vince Gill, Christy Hennessy, Phil Coulter, Lucie Silvas, Cara Dillon, Eleanor Shanley, De Dannan and Mark Vincent to name but a few.
But is there anyone he would love to work with in the future?
“Chances are slim, but I would love an opportunity to work with Barbara Streisand. When we were doing the American tour and I was in Los Angeles she was doing her duets album and was getting others to sing with her on the album. We put out a feeler for that and there was a consideration but we never heard back. But still, never say never”.
He concludes, “I’m really looking forward to performing back in Clare and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone for the support they have shown me over the years which is still there.”

Tommy Fleming 30th anniversary tour comes to glór on April 22, see www.glor.ie for more.


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