Meet the Cork musician whose latest single was written by Dolly Parton

Meet the Cork musician whose latest single was written by Dolly Parton
Mags McCarthy.

From milking cows on her family farm in Dripsey to performing in some of the most illustrious venues in Nashville and releasing a song written by Dolly Parton, country singer Mags McCarthy has had some pretty incredible life experiences to date. 

Mags, 30, began her musical arts pursuit as a four-year-old studying Irish dancing before expanding her horizons and learning the guitar and fiddle. 

Three years ago, in the hopes of turning her hobby into something more serious, Mags decided to take a career break from teaching in Terence MacSwiney Community College and head stateside to pursue country music. 

"I struck off with two suitcases and a fiddle," she laughed. 

"Music is everything I wanted to do and it was always my dream to go to Nashville. 

"I didn’t want to have any regrets so I decided to just go for it," she said. 

"On the flight over I definitely did think 'what the hell am I doing'? 

"I’m a home bird and it was a tough decision to uproot my life but I needed to give it a shot."

Mags McCarthy with Dolly Parton, 2005.
Mags McCarthy with Dolly Parton, 2005.

Arriving in a new country and not knowing anybody in the industry was a scary prospect for Mags, but the southern hospitality made adjusting to her new life a lot easier. 

"People in the south are so welcoming and friendly. 

"When I arrived in Nashville it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. 

"Everywhere, at any time of the day there’s music playing. It’s amazing to see it."

After that, it was a case of right place right time for Mags who slowly but surely began to build up industry contacts. "I’d meet one musician who’d introduce me to the next musician and it grew from there. 

"I got the opportunity to jam with A Class musicians at the Grand Ole Opry and later played the Wildhorse Saloon.

"I feel so blessed because I do realise that I’m one of thousands over there trying to make it." 

In 2018, Mags got another lucky break when she was invited to perform at the renowned Country Music Association (CMA) festival. 

"The CMA festival is normally only for signed acts but one of the organisers had heard me play and invited me to perform at it. I sat across from her thinking to myself ‘is this woman for real?’ It was amazing."

Following that, Mags went on a radio tour all around the Midwest alongside some fellow country musicians. 

"The first day it was a nine hour drive to get the first radio station. 

"We were travelling in a GMC pickup and I thought we’d never get there," Mags laughed. 

"Some days we’d do three radio stations in one day. I got to see so much more of America though, it was brilliant. "If I had an afternoon free, sometimes I’d call up a living facility and offer to play for the residents. 

"That was so much fun, especially when they’d hear I was from Ireland. They love the Irish over there," she said.

Mags McCarthy with Barack and Michelle Obama.
Mags McCarthy with Barack and Michelle Obama.

Through her dancing and musical pursuits, Mags has met many a famous figure, from some of her musical heroes such as Crystal Gayle to Barack Obama, whom she performed in front of. 

"I was living in LA for a small while in 2010 and I was on a TV show over there. 

"After being on that I got a call from the White House inviting me to perform. It was an amazing experience."

Mags’ latest single, 'Light of a Clear Blue Morning' was written by Dolly Parton. 

The lyrics speak of having hope for the future- a very timely message given the current pandemic. 

"The song’s chorus in part says, 'I can see the light of a clear blue morning, everything’s gonna be all right, it’s gonna be okay'. I’m hoping it will give people hope during this extraordinary time," Mags said. 

Explaining about how the opportunity came about, Mags said she met Dolly 15 years ago, but has been a lifetime fan. 

"I was touring with Rhythm of the Dance back in 2005 and I got the chance to perform with her on stage. 

"That was my first encounter with Dolly Parton. She’s always been an idol of mine. 

"Her creativity and talent is just sublime. 

"With 'Light of a Clear Blue Morning' I reached out to her management team to see if I could cover it and they said yes."

Now home in Dripsey for a short time, Mags is hoping to return to America when the current crisis passes. 

"Home will always be Cork, but I definitely want to return to America to continue to build my following. 

"Once people are enjoying my music, I’ll keep making it," she said. 

And although she is thousands of miles away from her loved ones when she’s in Nashville, Mags carries a piece of her family heritage with her wherever she goes. 

"The fiddle I have belonged to my grandad. It’s 134 years old and has a lot of sentimental value. 

"He passed away when I was two, but I think he’d be delighted to know it’s been to 42 countries with me."

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