Interview by Bryony Jewell
Catherine McGrath is undoubtably one of country’s brightest rising stars. Having already done her share of opening slots for some big names – The Shires, Una Healy, and currently Dan+Shay – it’s no exaggeration to say Catherine has earned her reputation as the next big thing in country music.
Having released two EP’s (One in 2016 and Starting From Now in 2017) as well as a number of singles since her big move from Northern Ireland to London two years ago, Catherine hasn’t lost her Irish charm or magical touch for writing songs with relatable stories.
As well as being a talented songwriter, 20-year-old Catherine has an on camera personality which shines through on her YouTube channel. There you can expect to find covers of pop songs like Dua Lipa’s New Rules, the official videos to her own tracks and vlog’s from her recent trip to Nashville where she got to attend the CMA awards.
If this year hasn’t been busy enough, Catherine’s got lots to look forward to in 2018. Expected to release an album early next year and having her own headline London show in March – which sold out in one day – Catherine’s fan base only seems to be growing.
We got to have a quick sit down with Catherine before her first performance on the Dan+Shay tour at KOKO in London and saw how genuine, charming and talented she really is:
Hi Catherine! So, you’re currently opening for the Dan+Shay tour. How are you feeling for the show tonight?
I’m so excited and I’m glad the night starts in London, it’s always a good crowd. I’ve played in London a few times before, like on The Shires tour and the Picture This tour at Shepherds Bush, but tonight’s looking like it’ll be a great night.
People have been queueing outside from at least 1 o-clock! Now that’s a bit of dedication. I love it!
Yes, there’s definitely some country music fans in town tonight! What can they expect to hear from your set?
We’re playing one unreleased song and then my new single which just came out ‘Thought It Was Gonna Be Me’ and then a bunch of, well they’re not really classics, but they feel classic to me -because I wrote them like two years ago, but yeah a good mix of everything.
Ha, I’m sure most of us would agree they’re classics seeing how much we play them! Where are you most excited to play on this tour?
I’m excited to play Dublin and Belfast – my family will be at those shows and it’ll be exciting to be home and I’ve always wanted to play Vicar Street in Dublin.
I’ve seen so many people play it, like Ed Sheeran, it’s always been a life goal to play Vicar Street.
Next year is already looking like it’s going to be a big one for country music and I hear you’ve got an album coming out? What can we expect from it and did you collaborate with anyone?
Yes, the album will be coming out early next year hopefully and it’s gonna have some songs that I’ve already released but different versions of them and some unreleased versions as well.
There’ll be some full versions of acoustic songs and maybe some acoustic songs as well. We’re still figuring out the track list but I’m excited I hope everyone’s going to love it.
All the songs are written by me, but I did a lot of writing with Jimmy Robbins in Nashville and with Steve Robson in the UK.
We wrote Thought It Was Gonna Be Me , Talk of This Town and my song Wild. So yeah, there’s a lot of the same writers on the album and I co-wrote all of the songs.
Do you have a favourite?
I feel like it changes all the time! But Wild is probably one of my favourite songs that I’ve written and every time I play it live it gets a great reaction and people are pretty excited about it.
“The pre-sale sold out today and I was like OMG people are coming to see me by choice!”
We can’t wait to hear it! Also, you’re headlining your own show on March 5th at Camden Assembly and the pre-sale sold out in a day! How does that make you feel?
Yes, it’s amazing! The pre-sale sold out today and I was like OMG people are coming to see me by choice!
Because I’ve done so many support slots it’s cool people are actually wanting to see just me.
Life really seems to be non-stop for you at the moment. I see you’ve just got back from Nashville and got to go to the CMA’s while you were visiting. How was that?
I got to go to the CMA’s for the first time and saw all my favourites Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Kelsea Ballerini, just being surrounded by music that I love which was so cool.
Even walking down Broadway there is music coming out of every single bar and everyone is a songwriter – all the uber drivers and everything!
What do you think makes Nashville such a magical place?
Oh I don’t know! The way people are so nice? The way there is so much good music coming out of it – oh, and the burgers! They’re always good.
There’s just something about Nashville, I feel happy walking round. It feels like home. I have been there five times now so maybe that’s why.
Is it different writing in Nashville compared to writing in England?
Yeah, it’s definitely always quicker in Nashville. Just In Case, I wrote that song in 45 mins in Nashville and sometimes in the UK you’re writing a song for 2 days and you stay over and go back.
It kind of depends on who you’re writing with or how you’re feeling that day, but I love writing in Nashville – just because it’s Nashville and they’re all so good!
I didn’t do any writing this time but a lot of my songs have been written in Nashville.
“When I lived in Ireland I used to wait months for someone to come over to the UK and now it seems like there’s someone every single month. It’s like ‘ahhh everyone’s here!’”
Obviously country music is growing in the UK now, and there is such a fan base, but how did you get into it?
I heard Taylor Swift’s song Love Story in school one day, bought her album and listened to all her interviews where she was talking about Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
So I listened to them and Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood and it just kind of spiralled and that was pretty much it. I haven’t stopped listening to it since.
When I lived in Ireland I used to wait months for someone to come over to the UK and now it seems like there’s someone every single month. It’s like ‘ahhh everyone’s here!’
If someone is coming over from the US I’ve got to be there. Lots of people are coming over – and we’ve got to keep them coming back!
I think people drag their friends along as well and their friends give it a chance and they realise it’s not what they thought and are like ‘oh this is country music, I do like this’.
Yes, I’ve definitely seen some friends dragged along to country gigs that have ended up loving it. Why do you think country is growing in popularity over here?
Spotify and streaming services make country music more accessible, because when I was 12, I only found it on YouTube because i heard about it through Taylor Swift interviews and it wasn’t something that was there for people to hear easily.
As well as that there’s this thing people have about country music where they kind of pre-judge it and think it’s all about trucks and banjos and whenever you actually listen there’s so much more to it than just trucks, there’s actual real stories.
And then there’s things like Country 2 Country festival now, which is my favourite time ever. If you love country music you’ll probably know about it but C2C you’ve gotta go.
I don’t know if I’ll get to play but I’m definitely going to be there.
You can listen to Catherine McGrath’s EP on Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, SoundCloud and Youtube.