'I’m not going to give this up. I know in my heart that I was born to do this. I’m not as good at anything else like I am at doing this'
Country newcomers' dreams shattered by Covid lockdown
Irish country music newcomers Claudia Buckley and Clodagh Lawlor have been devastated by the effect of Covid-19.
The coronavirus shut down Ireland's live entertainment scene in March, just as Claudia (22) and Clodagh (25) were both set to reap the rewards of their hard work over the last couple of years.
While the major stars have also suffered due to their livelihoods being wiped out overnight, it's been particularly scary for the newcomers trying to build their fan base and reputations.
"I try not to dwell on the negative side of it too much because you'll only depress yourself. There's literally no point," Claudia told the Sunday World from her home in Athenry, Co Galway.
"People have said to me, 'My heart goes out to you because there's not many girls in your industry in Ireland any more and this had to happen when things started to go well for you.'
"I've only been doing this for less than two years. This is going to affect me, but it's going to affect all of us and I'm just going to roll with the punches."
Claudia, who has just released a new single, Feelin' Single Seein' Double, goes on: "I'm not going to give this up. I know in my heart that I was born to do this. I'm not as good at anything else like I am at this. This is tough for a lot of people my age, but we should remember that it's not the end of the world."
A daughter of Irish country music big-gun Jimmy Buckley Claudia says her father has been very supportive.
"My dad keeps making the point that, if you look back in history, things like this have happened through the years and people have got through it. So we shouldn't lose hope or lose faith."
However, Claudia reveals that her dad has also struggled to cope with the impact of Covid-19. "At the start of this he was quite upset," she tells me. "It was his first time in 25 years that he's been off the road. But I feel like I'm helping him because we sit down together and sing and he'll say, 'Thank God we're still able to do this. Whatever about the gigs, we'll never lose our talent. We'll always have our voices. That will always be there when things are right again.'
"I was watching a repeat of Opry le Daniel on TG4 the other night when I performed on it with my dad, and I thought, 'Will we ever get to do this again?' But I know we will."
Rising star Clodagh Lawlor also shot to fame two years ago when she performed on the Late Late Show, duetting with Nathan Carter after winning their search for a country star contest.
Clodagh was quickly snapped up for guest spots at several major country music events, including the popular Farmers' Bash with a line-up that included Hollywood actor and singer Kiefer Sutherland.
Fired up by the support she quickly enjoyed, Clodagh was all set to launch her new band with a headline show at the local parish hall in her native Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare, in March.
It was set to be the first time in decades that the hall would play host to music and dancing. Back in the '60s and '70s all the major showbands and country stars, from Joe Dolan to Big Tom, packed the venue.
"I had over 300 tickets sold and it was going to help fund my album and all that," Clodagh tells me. "It was going to be great all round for everyone, not just me. It was bringing life to the village. Local businesses were going to do well with accommodation." Then came the lockdown, and Clodagh's dream was shattered.
"Hopefully when life gets back on track again I might be able to do it," she says.
How is she surviving? "I started busking again this week on the streets of Limerick," Clodagh reveals. "That's what I did years ago, before I was in the eyes of anyone. I used to busk on the streets of Limerick and Galway.
"I felt I had nothing to lose by going back out on the streets busking and keeping my name out there, keeping the Clodagh Lawlor country vibe alive by getting new people listening to me every day.
"Now every day I have to keep my head up believing that it's going to be OK. My motto is, never to give up because if I do then I'm the loser."
Clodagh has released a new single, Make It Sweet. "It's an upbeat, positive song that says life is short so make it as sweet as you can," she adds.