TV stardom sweeps Daniel O'Donnell onto even greater heights

MusicBy Eddie Rowley
Daniel O'Donnell's profile has never been higher
Daniel O'Donnell's profile has never been higher

When Daniel O’Donnell decided to step back from touring, he never imagined that the world of TV would come knocking on his door.

Ireland’s favourite crooner had intended to slip out of the spotlight and relax with his wife Majella, after she fought a very public battle with breast cancer.

The couple were also coming to terms with the devastating loss of their beloved parents; Daniel’s mother Julia and Majella’s dad Tom.

However, then a TV whirlwind came along to sweep both Daniel and Majella back into the spotlight.

The singer left his comfort zone to take on the daunting challenge of Strictly Come Dancing, and the couple  teamed up for their hilarious reality TV show, Daniel & Majella’s B&B Road Trip, which has been a smash hit with UTV Ireland viewers.

Next Saturday, Daniel will be at the INEC box office in Killarney to meet hundreds of fans who are expected to personally snap up tickets for his ‘welcome back’ concerts at the popular Kerry venue in August 2016.

Relaxing at his home in Tenerife this week, Daniel told the Sunday World that he had a concern about the impact on his career when he stopped touring. 

“You have to keep up a profile in showbusiness, and it did cross my mind that I wouldn’t have that when I took the break,” he says.

“As it turned out, I was on TV more than any other time in my life. The offers to do shows like Strictly came in, and I had the time to do them, with Majella’s blessing.”

Looking back on his time in Strictly, Daniel says he still hasn’t figured out why he was crippled with nerves. 

“I don’t think I’m ever going to understand why I was so nervous,” he admits. 

“I should have gone in with the attitude that it doesn’t matter and I should have treated it as a bit of fun, but that’s not in me. No matter what I do, I want it to be the best I can achieve.”

Daniel was the third celebrity to be voted out of the current series of Strictly with his stunning partner, Kristina Rihanoff. 

“Even though it would have been nice to stay on, a good part of me was relieved,” he confides.

“Having said that, on my final night I felt I had controlled the nerves a bit better. I remember saying to Kristina before they announced we were in the dance off, ‘if I’m here next week, I’m going to go mad on that dance floor!’ But we never got the chance.

“Mind you, the next week was going to be an Argentine tango, so who knows what would have happened. I learned a lot about myself on that show. Mainly I realised that when you’re not in control of a situation, it’s a nerve-racking experience. I think that’s why I was so nervous.

“In my own career, if I staged a big rock ‘n’ roll show I didn’t find it daunting or challenging because I was in control of everything. Strictly was a whole different ball game as the choreography was so intricate and so difficult to memorise in a week of rehearsals.”

Daniel says that the best experience he had in Strictly was the new friendships he formed with the other contestants. 

“I hope we will have reunions when it’s all over. 

“They were such a lovely group of people and I can honestly say that there was no bitching or back-biting between any of them. Jeremy Vine has even joined my official fan club. I don’t know what possessed him!”

Meanwhile, UTV Ireland got a massive boost to their ratings with Daniel & Majella’s B&B Road Trip show. It had an average of 230,000 viewers last Monday night.

Viewers have been charmed by the couple’s natural humour as they drive around Ireland meeting equally engaging B&B owners, and taking on challenges like tractor racing!

“Majella does the driving because she’s a nervous passenger,” Daniel reveals. “If I was driving you’d need a second steering wheel and brakes, so I let her off. I’m quite happy to sit back and be chauffeured.”

Daniel insists the couple’s interaction in the car isn’t scripted. 

“I think the show works because it’s very simple and we’re just behaving like we normally do,” he says.

“Nobody directs us in what to do or say. That’s how we normally are; bickering away at each other as you see on the TV. It doesn’t get more heated than that, just maybe more regular,” he laughs.

“I think it’s a funny show, and it shows off the beauty of Ireland and the homeliness of the people that we stayed with. There’s talk of American TV taking it up.”

Daniel, who also presents the Opry an Iúir music show on TG4, is looking forward to returning to touring next August when he makes his comeback in Killarney. 

Before then, Daniel and Majella head off a on world cruise from January till early May, starting in Los Angeles and sailing to Sydney, then soaking up the culture in Singapore, Japan, China, Thailand, India and Dubai.

“It’s the trip of a lifetime and we’ll probably never do anything like it again,” Daniel says.

“This was our goal when Majella was in the middle of her cancer treatment, that I would take time off and we would have an extended holiday when everything was okay.

“There are plenty of people who go through what Majella had to face, and they still have to keep going from day to day. So we appreciate the privileged position we’re in that we can afford to do this amazing trip.”

You can meet Daniel O’Donnell in person when at the INEC, Killarney, next Saturday, when tickets go on sale for his welcome back concerts.