Derry Girl | 

Former You’re A Star contestant Mickey Joe Harte ‘made a mistake’ leaving major label

‘The songs are jazzy-swingy for the dances. It’s a nice challenge because you have to put your own stamp on them’

Mickey Joe Harte

Mickey Joe and Simon Casey

Eddie RowleySunday World

WHEN Mickey Joe Harte went into battle in the final of You’re A Star back in 2003, the story goes that the crime rate in Ireland dropped to zero.

More than a million viewers tuned in to the RTE TV music contest that night to see Mickey Joe from Lifford, Co Donegal, and Simon Casey from Ballycumber, Co Offaly, sing their hearts out for the chance to represent Ireland in the Euorvision Song Contest.

In the end, it was Mickey Joe who emerged the winner and went on to finish just outside the Top 10 in that year’s Eurovision singing, We’ve Got The World.

The singer-songwriter went on to land a deal with Sony Music, but eventually left the high-powered record label to pursue his career as an independent artist.

“That was a mistake in hindsight,” Mickey Joe admits today.

“I left Sony too early, to be honest,” he tells Shuffle. “We set up our own label. It was a risk we took at the time when I could have done another album with Sony.

“When you go out on your own and open up your own label you realise the power of Sony, or one of the other majors and having that big machine behind you.

“But at the time we had a big fanbase and we were selling a lot of records, so we felt we could capitalise on it and have more control…all of those things, which was nonsense really because you end up with the same problems.

“The opportunities Sony may have afforded me writing with other people and working with other producers, those doors were closed. If I was advising somebody else in that position today, I know the advice I’d give them (stay with the major label). Hindsight is great.”

However, Harte reveals that while his shows were attracting big crowds and he was earning more money from record sales and merchandise in those times, the cost of running a music career in the big league were also higher.

“People were buying records and T-shirts and coming to the shows,” he says. “The money was bigger and there were corporate gigs, but it was all relative because we were paying out big money for the likes of videos. The expenses were huge. We’ve Got The World cost something like 80 grand to make, now you would make it for five grand and that would be a huge budget today.”

As a singer-songwriter, Mickey Joe wasn’t a huge fan at the time of his Eurovision song, We’ve Got The World, which has since become his calling card and one of the most requested at his live shows.

Overnight, You’re A Star and We’ve Got The World turned him into a pop star – “despite my best efforts,” he laughs.

Mickey Joe learned to embrace the song and says he enjoys performing it these days. “I’m doing a show in UCD (University College Dublin) tomorrow and that song is the one they’ll be looking for,” he points out. “I’m always amazed by that because a lot of them were only born around 2003. So I’m not complaining, a lot of artists would give their right arm for something like that.”

Mickey Joe’s work today includes his regular stint singing vocals on tracks for Germany’s version of Strictly Come Dancing. “The music producer for that show is a friend who likes what I do,” he says.

“The songs are jazzy-swingy for the dances. It’s a nice challenge because you have to put your own stamp on them. It’s lovely, I really enjoy it and it’s another income stream.”

Mickey Joe has just released a new single called Derry Girl, which tells the story of a couple from mixed religions in the North at the height of the Troubles whose love stood the test of time. “Love conquers all is the message,” he adds.

MICKEY Joe Harte’s single, Derry Girl, is now available to download.

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