Patrick Feeney was born to sing and from the age of four he wanted to be on stage with his father who played in a local band.
“While I can’t remember it, I’m told by others, that at the age of four I would make attempts to get up on stage any time that we went to see my dad playing with his band. In venues where I did get to crawl up on the stage I would climb on my dad’s knees and attempt to play the drums,” says Patrick.
His phenomenal success, especially over the past few years, is summed up in three words from the title of Patrick’s first album, back in 2003 – that title says it’s all… Thanks to You.
Its 15 years since the then teenager released that debut album, and while he has recorded countless songs since, he still lives by the motto that it’s thanks to you, the fans, that he is such a success today.
It was the man that later launched another young singer, Nathan Carter, songwriter John Farry, who also launched Patrick when he wrote the title song for his first album. Since then both Patrick and Nathan have diversified into many musical genres while at all times their separate careers have enjoyed continuous upward curves.
Patrick’s work with his dance band, plus his concert career as one third of the sensationally successful Three Amigos, the others being Jimmy Buckley and Robert Mizzell, has resulted in sold-out shows and many national and international TV appearances.
Growing up near Gurteen, Co. Sligo Patrick says that Country music was always on the local radio in the family home at that time. It was during the late 80s and 90s when the songs of Daniel O’Donnell and others were huge on local radio. Patrick went on to play and sing in his early teens with his dad as a duo while studying sales and marketing at third level college. “My dad influenced me a lot into the Country style of music. But as I come from an area that is rich in Traditional Irish music, Sligo, famous for the great Trad musician Michael Coleman, I was influenced by Irish songs and tunes too.”
After his college years Patrick was also successful in an interview to become a member of the Gárdai. But instead of joining the boys in blue it was a phone call which came out of the blue that resulted in him following a career as a singer.
“I got a call from Kevin McCooey who managed Big Tom and several others. He said that as Country singer Johnny Loughrey had passed away would I be interested in fronting Johnny’s band. I auditioned for the job and was accepted. So I rang the Garda Training College in Templemore and told them that it was the music scene, rather than the law, that had captured me for a career,” says Patrick with a laugh.
At 19 he started out on a Country music career in 2002 but while Patrick can, and does, sing anything from hits by his idols such as Bruce Springsteen or Ed Sheerin to Glen Campbell or Marty Robbins his interest in Irish music may have been the catalyst for him modernising Folk songs from the past. Those include the hilarious ‘Courtin’ in the Kitchen’, first popularised internationally by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem or a song written by the late great balladeer Sean McCarthy, who also penned Shanagolden, the humorous story of ‘Red Haired Mary’.
“Everyone has their own particular niche when performing on stage and I discovered that those songs, and others, brought out the humorous side in me.
“Indeed ‘Red Haired Mary’ was the song that really put me on the road to success in a big way. When we went to film the promotional video for it the initial idea was that it would be in a serious style. But instead we ended up acting the mickey and making it a totally humorous production. That was one of the reasons for its success and it also convinced me that I could let myself go in a fun way on stage too.”
Regarding the diversity of songs that Patrick sings on stage, on TV and on record he says he hopes that he has found the formula that the fans want.
“The best advice I ever received, early in my career, was ‘never try and educate your audience when you’re on stage’. It took me a while to find my niche and discover what songs suit me best – but more importantly what songs suit the audiences best. Thankfully there is a broad spectrum of songs that my voice can handle. I’ve always been a fan of Bruce Springsteen and his song ‘Old Dan Tucker’ proved popular for me while his ‘American Land’ was the type of song that we could put a Country and Traditional feel to by including fiddle and accordion,” says Patrick.
Among his Country influences are Glen Campbell and Marty Robbins to name but two.
“When it comes to authentic American Country music the songs of Marty Robbins have always inspired me and Glen Campbell has also been one of my biggest influences in Country music.” Another highlight of Patrick’s career was getting to sing on the same stage as the great Charley Pride.
On the Traditional Irish music side of his show Patrick cites his visit to Ellis Island a few years ago as giving him a more profound understanding of the impact of emigration on almost every Irish family. That trip helped Patrick perform ‘Isle of Hope’ with greater passion and enables him to paint very realistic sound pictures about emigration every time he sings the song.
“My personal observations from visiting Ellis Island enabled me to introduce the song in a more enlightened way too. The story can resonate with so many people as probably all of us have relations that passed through Ellis Island at some stage.”
Songwriting is something that Patrick dabbled in a bit during the early stages of his career by co-writing such songs as Gurteen My Home Town, The Glens of Home and Culfadda, the latter about his native village, but he is honest in saying that writing songs is not his forté.
“I tried my hand at it but I just don’t feel that I have the love for songwriting that I have for singing. I feel that it is a special talent that you are either blessed with or not. Thankfully I was blessed with a talent for singing and I’ll leave the composing to others who can do it better while I’ll concentrate on what I’m best at which is delivering a song.”
While Patrick Feeney’s own career continues to have an upwards trajectory so also does the success of The Three Amigos. They first hit the Irish music scene like a sheet of lightening a few years ago and they haven’t stopped shining since. Their live shows are a mix of Country classics, a smattering of Rock ‘n’ Roll some Irish ballads, such as Boulavogue sung by Patrick, which always gets a standing ovation. Their live concerts also include some topical and side-splitting comedy sketches.
“The Three Amigos just brought our three careers to a whole new level. It works like magic when we go on stage as our voices blend while our personalities also work well together. Collectively and individually it has opened doors for us especially on all the major national TV shows. We must have appeared on The Late Late Show at least ten times at this stage as well as appearing on many other programmes including being the subjects of a Nationwide special on RTE TV1. We performed at Dublin Castle for last year’s Christmas Carols TV special with the RTE Symphony Orchestra which was a brilliant experience”.
The big news for the future on the recording front is that Patrick is due to release his first themed album later this year. Once again it is the reaction of his fans that has made him decide the theme of the next album will be Gospel songs.
“I’ve always wanted to record a Gospel album at some stage and I know that spiritual songs fit very well into Country music. In particular, during the past year and a half, two such songs have convinced me to go ahead with the Gospel album. The first was ‘I Believe’ written by Jimmy Fortune of The Statler Brothers who is a singer that I really admire. When I released it as a single it was a slow burner at first but as time went on it gained more and more momentum and during the 2016 tour with the Three Amigos everyone wanted to hear it. Then RTE rang me to see if I would perform it on the Late Late Show which got a huge reaction. That encouraged me to record some other Gospel songs including The Holy City which was recorded in Ireland years ago by showband star Brendan Bowyer. I also started to perform it on the most recent tour with The Three Amigos and it got standing ovations every night. This made up my mind to release it as a single and it will be a track on the Gospel album due for release in the autumn.”