Exclusive interview: Nathan Carter

He’s not doing too badly for a country boy, Nathan Carter.

The 25-year-old’s most recent release, Beautiful Life, outsold One Direction and kept Happy hitmaker Pharrell Williams off the top spot in the Irish charts.

The album was certified four-times platinum and elevated Carter to ‘heart-throb’ status in Ireland, where frequent comparisons are made between he and Canadian crooner Michael Bublé.

Now, every time he steps out to play live, thousands of screaming girls turn up – some of whom even have tattoos of the Liverpool-born singer, who admits he’s far from comfortable with his sex-symbol status.

nathan2Speaking ahead of his visit to Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall tomorrow night (April 2), Carter says he’s flattered by the attention he receives, and loves to meet his fans – but he’s only in the entertainment business for the music.

“The fans are amazing, and I really love it when they say hello after gigs, but honestly, I’ll never get used to being called a heart-throb or whatever. It’s really surreal to be honest. I didn’t get into this business to be famous – only for the music.

“Obviously, it’s very flattering – but I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with it,” he adds. “I get embarrassed if people call me a heart-throb.”

Carter got into music at a very young age. He started playing the accordion at the tender age of four and a few years later he was touring the world with the Liverpool Boys Choir, for whom he was a head chorister. He even sang for the Pope in Rome.

The love for country music, however, comes from his family.

“They’re big country fans,” he says. “I was also involved in traditional music growing up – sort of Irish folk music. I played the accordion and stuff as well, so my show now features a lot of country music, plus traditional, and some folk thrown in too.

““When I began seven years ago, it was a much more mature audience coming to the shows. I’ve seen it change from the older generation coming to my gigs to a lot of younger people. A lot of younger people are getting into country music now. All the family are coming along, and it generally makes for a great atmosphere at the shows.

“I try to appeal to everyone, though – it’s not targeted at any age group,” he adds.

Playing big venues like the Queen’s Hall must feel like a million miles away from his humble beginnings – often playing to just one man and his dog. Not that he’s ungrateful for those years he spent earning his stripes.

“Oh, without a doubt it’s a million miles away,” laughs Carter. “Most of the nights I was playing in the pubs I was playing to three fellas at the bar – so to actually have people sitting and listening, paying to come to the shows… it’s incredible.

nathan2“It makes it all worthwhile and I’m such a lucky guy to be able to do it. I tour extensively – I think we have 170 gigs this year – so I don’t tend to have many days off, but I love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Scotland has always been good to Carter. He played some of his earliest gigs here, and he can’t wait to return this weekend. “I love playing in Scotland, I really do. This is our first gig in Edinburgh, and I’m delighted to be coming to such a prestigious theatre. It’s my first time there, and I hear it’s a fantastic place.”

In the Capital, fans will hear some new material from Carter’s forthcoming release, Staying Up All Night, which is out at the end of April.

“I made the album in a studio in Donegal,” he says. “We had six musicians and nine of the tracks are co-written by myself – so there’s a lot of brand new music on the album. There’s a few covers on there as well… old country songs we’ve redone.

“It’s probably the album that I’m looking most forward to releasing – hopefully the people will like it.”

His dream, he says, is to have the album make the Top 20 in the UK. “If I could manage that, it would be amazing. I’m working very hard in the UK market with gigs and with the record company, so If I could get a Top 20 album it would be a dream come true.

“I’ve been lucky the last three albums have gone to number one in Ireland, which was a massive surprise each time.”

Country music, it’s fair to say, has not been the most fashionable of genres for some time now.

Carter, however, reckons that’s slowly starting to change. “Especially in Ireland, I’ve noticed that country is being played a lot more on mainstream radio, and I have noticed that in the UK as well,” he says. “The likes of BBC Radio 2 are now getting behind country music in a big way, and a lot of the BBC regional stations are playing it a lot more, which is great to see.

“It gives me a helping hand, because the genre is probably not considered as ‘hillbilly’ as it was before.”

Nathan Carter, Queen’s Hall, Clerk Street, Saturday 4 April, doors 7.30pm, £25, 0131-668 2019

Words: Gary Flockhart