Walking on air | 

Nathan Carter 'fell back in love' with music while filling in for Hugo on Radio Ulster

But the singing legend has assured fans his heart belongs on the stage

Nathan in the Radio Ulster studio

Roisin Gorman

Nathan Carter’s new radio career made him fall in love with music again.

But the singing legend has assured fans his heart belongs on the stage.

The Wagon Wheel star sat in recently for Hugo Duncan on his afternoon Radio Ulster slot, which led to a six-part series on country music themes.

He spent hours trawling through country classics from Billie Jo Spears to Brad Paisley on themes like family and dancing and discovered one topic was more popular than anything else.

“We could have done the whole six programmes on drinking songs. There were endless amounts of songs about drinking, like ‘the dog died, we went drinking.’

Hugo Duncan

“Between me and the producer Jackie Neill we came up with the different themes like heartache and divorce, and had such good fun listening to all the tracks.

“I wouldn’t have been listening to a lot of music recently and after doing this I fell back in love with it.”

Nathan’s recent stint on Hugo’s show was the first time he’d presented on radio and he admits it was slightly terrifying.

He relaxed when the show’s fans immediately warmed to their guest host.

“I didn’t do any real training and it was sink or swim. I was very nervous doing it at the start because I’d never done any radio presenting before.

“Hugo has been doing this for 20 years and he has his loyal fans and I hoped they would still send requests in even though he wasn’t there.

“Then we got so many requests and the line-up was really busy, so I really enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I’d have time to do it again when I’m back gigging.”

The new series gave the 31-year-old a chance to reminisce about his own career with listeners. He tried to keep the chat to a minimum and concentrate on the tracks, but Nathan also shared a few fond memories.

“I featured some of the acts I got to work with through the years. Billie Jo Spears asked me to stand in at the last minute on her Ladies of Country tour. She was a legend. She would be smoking all day and walking around with her little whiskey flask and still went on and did a great show.

“Philomena Begley was on that tour too. I was only 19 and I was like the grandchild.

“I’ve mentioned Daniel O’Donnell in the series too because myself and a lot of other country singers around Ireland have been taken under his wing. He has been good to a lot of us.

“I was over in America doing my first tour there a few years ago and I met him in Missouri when he was there for six weeks. He brought me on to his show every day to plug my show.

“There is a reason Daniel has been around for so long in this business,” says Nathan.

The singer, who has been at the forefront of the country revival in Ireland for the last decade, says standing in for Hugo and making the new radio series underlined for him that big broadcasters aren’t reflecting the public’s passion for the genre.

“Radio Ulster is the only broadcaster that still has a country show every day. RTE doesn’t have one, which is mental considering the popularity of the music.

“I have seen it since I started off.

“In dance halls then you’d have maybe 300 people, and now I can sell out the SSE Arena twice. It just shows you the love of music is there, and people are always looking for something new to go and watch.”

Nathan, who’s now based in Fermanagh, has family roots in Newry and a background in Irish traditional music. He started gigging in his home town of Liverpool at the age of 15 and moved to

Ireland three years later. His cover of country song Wagon Wheel was an overnight sensation and led to two RTE TV series, nine studio albums and four live albums.

He’s just released a DVD of Live from the Ceili House, a gig which he livestreamed in March which has had fans clamouring for a copy.

The singer spent lockdown writing new material for an album which is due for release later this year, and he can’t wait to get back to live gigs to share some of his old favourites with fans.

He’s hoping that grandmother Ann (81) will soon be back on the tour bus as she’s a legend on the road.

Ann drove him to gigs when he was 15 and too young to drive, and she’s been part of the band ever since.

“She was still selling the merchandise at the gigs up until last year. She had been living on the tour bus with me and ten lads and the support act, which wasn’t the easiest, and she’d be the last one to bed most nights.

“We keep her young.

“I can’t wait to get back meeting people and doing what I do best, because it’s the only thing I can do,” says Nathan.

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