Dan's the man | 

New music sensation Dan McCabe reveals how he went from pub singer to Aviva star

‘It was the right time for some Irish music to come out and for people to be proud of their country and the hard work we were doing’

Dan McCabe

Eddie RowleySunday World

Meet Ireland’s new music sensation Dan McCabe who has emerged from the pandemic to become one of the biggest attractions in the country.

The 25-year-old folk and ballad singer from Naas, Co. Kildare, has had a phenomenal rise to stardom and is now enjoying the kind of fanmania normally associated with pop stars.

Dan has gone from singing in pubs before the pandemic to performing at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium in front of 52,000 soccer fans.

He even counts Michael D. Higgins among his admirers and has sung The Parting Glass at Áras An Uachtaráin at the President’s request.

It all kicked off for Dan when he started posting videos on YouTube during the pandemic.

“It’s been a whirlwind. It’s quite surreal for me,” Dan tells the Sunday World. “I was a pub singer before the pandemic, and obviously there were no pubs to play in during lockdown,” he says.

“I genuinely didn’t think anyone would want to listen to my videos online, so I was very nervous about putting my recordings up. It was my partner who coaxed me into it.

“My girlfriend kept at me and eventually I went up to the bedroom and recorded a few songs. If anything it was for my own therapeutic release as I was then working as a health care worker.

“The national identity of the country was very strong during the pandemic. Everybody was, ‘we’re all in this together’, and people didn’t really have a whole lot to do other than scrolling on their phones. So I think I got lucky.

“It was the right time for some Irish music to come out and for people to be proud of their country and the hard work we were doing. And the song that made the break for me was Song For Ireland.

“I recorded it in the bedroom and posted it for a bit of craic, and lo and behold RTE asked me to come on to the Sunday Game and sing a song as a tribute to the health care workers and the GAA communities that were helping their communities through the pandemic .

“President Higgins happened to see it and I got a phone call from his office. I thought somebody was pulling my leg. But I was told that the President is a fan and he was wondering if you’d come up and sing a song in Áras An Uachtaráin as a tribute to people who have lost loved ones to Covid.”

When the lockdown lifted and the venues reopened, Dan had to take on professional management to cope with the offers of live performances.

“It all happened so fast and it’s still a lot to process,” he says. “I went from playing in a pub to playing in concerts where there’s hundreds of people coming to see you. There was very little time in between. You could essentially say it was overnight success.

“The biggest concert we did was the INEC in Killarney, but the biggest crowd was when I was lucky enough to play at half-time at the Ireland v Portugal game in Aviva Stadium. That was 52,000 people!

“It was nerve-racking, but I got a great piece of advice off one of my crew members before I sang. He said, ‘Don’t let the nerves steal this moment from you.’ And I carried that message with me. I just took a panoramic view of Aviva Stadium singing The Fields of Athenry in front of 52,000 people and it’s hard to describe the feeling. I’ll be forever grateful to the people who gave me that opportunity.”

The unassuming singer, who has a four-year-old daughter, seems to be taking it all in his stride.

“I don’t get big headed about it, I don’t get carried away,” he says. “I don’t think much of myself. I’m a normal person that just got lucky.”

Dan says that his father is a folk and ballad singer, as was his grandfather before that, so it’s in his blood. “It’s what I’ve been born and raised on and it’s always been a life-long dream for me to be doing what I’m doing now,” he says.

What gives him the greatest satisfaction is that he’s attracting a predominantly young audience. “They’re all ages, but mostly around my own age and there are kids too,” he says. “What genuinely means the world to me is when you see an eight-year-old boy or girl coming to the show and singing every word to every song.”

Dan believes the secret of his appeal is his own love of the songs he’s singing. “I close my eyes and get into the story and I think that’s what clicked with people,” he says. “I really do genuinely get into the songs. I’m very passionate about our country, our history and our folklore and I find it very enjoyable to express myself through the songs. It’s my means of escapism.”

He's currently working on an album that will be released before the end of the year.

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