Watch: Cork woman's new single is taking the US country music charts by storm

She’s performed at The White House, met her idol Dolly Parton, and now has a new single out. CHRIS DUNNE meets up with country music singer, Mags McCarthy from Dripsey in County Cork
Watch: Cork woman's new single is taking the US country music charts by storm
Mags McCarthy from Dripsey in County Cork has released a new single, Dolly Parton's 'Light of a Clear Blue Morning'.

MILKING cows and making music might seem like an unusual combination, but woman, Mags McCarthy, makes a good job of both occupations.

“I am definitely a home bird,” says Mags, aged 30, who has many strings to her bow. Not only is she a multi-instrumentalist, music teacher, vocalist, and a dancer — she’s also well able to swing tractor tyres onto a silage pit!

“I love working on the farm at home and milking the cows; it is part of who I am,” says Mags, whose latest single, a cover of Dolly Parton’s Light of a Clear Blue Morning, is racing up the charts, Stateside.

“Meeting Dolly in Nashville was like a dream come true,” says Mags, who was very sporty as well as very musical growing up.

“Dolly is a real-life hero in my eyes.”

Mags headed to Nashville to follow a country music singing career.
Mags headed to Nashville to follow a country music singing career.

Mags took off for pastures new in 2017 when she left Cork on a jet plane bound for Nashville.

“I said good luck to the cows and calves,” says Mags, laughing.

“I remember boarding the plane and thinking, ‘what the hell am I doing!’”

She said goodbye and good luck to the green green grass of home to pursue a country music singing career.

“I got two suitcases and a fiddle and off I went on a jet airliner. I saved all my money and took off.

“I arrived in Nashville not knowing anyone in the music industry. I made friends and one thing led to another.

“I played venues in Nashville, and all over the Mid-west on a radio tour.” says Mags.

Mags McCarthy in milking parlour at home in Dripsey - she says when she goes back home, she chips in on the farming duties.
Mags McCarthy in milking parlour at home in Dripsey - she says when she goes back home, she chips in on the farming duties.

It was a much vaster territory than the Dripsey farm in Cork.

“The first day, it was a nine hour drive to get to the radio station.”

Nashville, the home of country music that welcomes new voices, was Mags’s new home.

“Southern people are so friendly in the States,” says Mags. “They love the Irish.”

“Life is for living and I felt compelled to follow my dream of becoming a singer and musician.”

Mags with Dolly Parton.
Mags with Dolly Parton.

Mags’s dreams came true.

“I met Dolly Parton in Dollywood. She introduced me to her management team. I got the chance to play with A- class musicians at the Grand Ole Opry and later I played the Wildhorse Saloon.”

Mags scaled new heights.

“I feel so blessed,” she says.

“Thousands of people try to make it in the States. I am just one of them. Getting the opportunity to perform at the renowned Country Music Association Festival was amazing,” says Mags.

“One of the organisers heard me play and she invited me along. It was amazing.”

Mags performed at The White House for President Barrack Obama.
Mags performed at The White House for President Barrack Obama.

The Cork woman not only played on stage with her idol, Dolly Parton, but was also invited to perform for President Obama in the White House on St Patrick’s Day.

“I’ll never forget those once in-a-life-time experiences,” says Mags, who, despite being accustomed to mixing with the great and the good, keeps her feet on the ground when she’s not touring the States or on a world tour with Rhythm of the Dance.

“Years ago when I was touring with Rhythm of the Dance dance show, where I performed a fiddle number combined with dance, I could play in front of an audience of 20,000 people,” says Mags. I’d come home after performing and the guys at home would be more interested in me driving tractors and helping out on the farm! There was no rest; it was straight to work the next day.”

Who else is down on the farm?

“I have three brothers and one sister,” says Mags.

For the past few years, Mags, who has toured in Europe and Asia, has been based in the Tennessee capital. In between gigs she returns to Cork.

“I was kept busy looking after cattle and milking cows during the pandemic!” says Mags, who has been playing music since the age of six. She was a natural performer.

“My interest in performing began at age four,” says Mags.

“I started Irish dancing classes. Soon after I got into playing music.”

Was music in the family?

“Neither of my parents play music,” says Mags.

The musical genes skipped a generation.

“My grandad, Michael McCarthy, played the fiddle,” says Mags.

“I never got to meet him. I was two when he passed away. But I always think that he’s looking down on me.”

She carries a part of him with her on her travels.

“I actually play his fiddle, which is over 134 years old,” says Mags.

“Grandad would be delighted to know that his fiddle has been to 42 countries with me.”

Mags, a country girl proud of her roots shot part of the video for Light of a Clear Blue Morning at home on the farm in Dripsey.

Mags McCarthy says her new song is perfect for the Covid era, as it offers people hope.
Mags McCarthy says her new song is perfect for the Covid era, as it offers people hope.

“I’m very proud of my roots,” says Mags.

“This was a chance to show off some of my identity. Part of the video is shot on my cousin’s farm near the sea.”

The McCarthy farms are portrayed in a wonderful light, the green pastures with contented animals grazing lazily under dappled trees shows off the beauty of rural Ireland.

“I love the cows and I love the calves,” says Mags.

“I put them in the video and it’s just amazing. The scenery around Cork and the coast is spectacular especially on a fine day. Shooting the video at home in Cork, and not over in Nashville, has made me even more proud.”

The song carries a message of hope and reassurance. It is apt for these times.

Having a promising music career is dicey in these times.

“It is a challenging industry the best of times,” says Mags.

“Performing all the time and being on the road all the time is not easy.”

But she loves it.

“I sure do!” she says.

Mags plans to return to the USA after the pandemic, and having returned to UCC to complete her Masters in music and a , she can teach music.

“You really need a job when you don’t have a secure wage in the music industry,” says Mags.

“I teach a lot to international students.”

Has she any notion of putting down some roots of her own?

“Nobody has pinned me down yet!” say Mags, laughing.

They’d be hard pushed to catch Mags, a jet-setter destined for fame and fortune.

“I don’t have time for romance,” she says coyly.

But she sings about it all the time.

“Yes, I do,” say Mags.

“I love country music with great lyrics and ballads with real meaning.”

She’ll make hay while the sun shines.

“As long as people love my music, I’ll keep making it,” says Mags.

And she loves the green, green grass of home.

“I’ll always come back to Ireland. Home will always be home.”

Light of a Clear Blue Sky recorded by Mags McCarthy is currently at number 37 in the US country charts.

More in this section

Sponsored Content