Daniel O’Donnell MBE, an Irish singer, television presenter and philanthropist, chats with Kevin Cooper about appearing on Top of the Pops, having blonde highlights, the 2022 release of his latest album I Wish You Well and next year’s tour of the UK.

Daniel O’Donnell, MBE is an Irish singer, television presenter and philanthropist. After rising to public attention in 1983, he has since become a household name in Ireland and Britain; he has also had considerable success in Australia.

In 2012, he became the first artist to have a different album in the British charts every year for 25 consecutive years. This record has been extended and as of 2021, O’Donnell has had an album in the Official Albums Chart each year for the last 33 years.

Known for his close relationship with his fan base, and his charismatic and engaging stage presence, O’Donnell’s music has been described as a mix of country and Irish folk, and he has sold over ten million records to date.

Whilst promoting the release of his latest album, Daniel O’Donnell took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Daniel, good afternoon. How are you today?

I’m very well Kevin, thank you for asking and just how are you?

All is good thank you, and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all, it’s always a pleasure whenever you and I get to chat a while.

You and I last spoke in November 2020.

Oh God, is that the last time. Well we were certainly in a different place back then.

That’s right; we weren’t in a very good place at that time, were we?

I know, but fingers crossed, we are making progress, all be it very slowly, in an effort to get things back to some sort of normality.

Yes, we are, and I have to ask you just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Good, thank God, all good; I have no complaints whatsoever. Everything is fine.

Well, I am going to ask you for your help now as we are going to talk about your latest album, I Wish You Well. What does that bring your total number of albums released to?

(Laughter) oh God, please don’t ask me how many albums it is (laughter). Well, I have recorded and released an album every year since 1984 and some years there were two. If this one goes into the charts I think that it will be thirty-four years of at some point each year having an album in the charts. But remember, that is only if this one goes into the charts. It really has been great so far, thank God.

By my calculations you are even beating your good friend Sir Cliff (Richard) (laughter).

(Laughter) well, to be honest, I don’t think that Cliff has recorded as many albums every year. He has most probably recorded more albums than I have but he hasn’t done it every year. Cliff often says to me, “there’s not many people know that you have had an album in the charts every year” every time that we speak to one another.

Right, now on to the business in hand. I have been playing I Wish You Well for a couple of weeks now and I have to say that I love it.

Have you actually managed to get to hear some of the tracks?

I have, yes. I always stipulate that if Management and PR want me to do an interview regarding a new album release, then I always insist that I get to hear the album prior to the interview, otherwise what is the point trying to talk about something that I haven’t heard?

Good man, I know exactly what you mean. Well I have to say that this album is different in respect that there are a lot of songwriters that have written over the years that I have recorded songs by and I just sent a message to them all saying that I was going to record an album and would they like to send over some songs that they had already written or would they like to write something new for the album. So, a lot of them came back and I found myself with ten songs that would not be that well known outside of Ireland and a good few have actually been written for me specifically for the album. The others have only ever been recorded by the writers.

Are you happy with the album?

I am, yes, I am very happy with it. I have just recorded a TV show for America, and I must have performed ten of the songs from the album, on the TV show and I think that’s the secret. Sometimes I have recorded songs that I don’t think that I have ever performed live in a show but any one of these I think that I would be happy to put into a show.

Did you encounter any problems getting the vinyl version of the album pressed?

No, no problems at all I am pleased to say. In fact, everything went like clockwork.

You released the album recently. What has been the reaction so far?

So far, so good. The reaction that we are getting from the fans is that they love the album. I have to say that it is always nice to hear that people appreciate what it is that you are doing, and I have to say that I have always had a great and loyal fan base. It is those loyal fans that keep me going; they are the reason why I get out of bed in the morning. They really are magnificent. Having said all of that you have to remember that all I do is sing the songs (laughter). I don’t dictate what style of music to put on it; in fact I don’t dictate anything about it, simply because everybody else knows exactly what they are doing. The greatest gift that I can give to them is the liberty to do what they know how to do (laughter). I think that is the secret to any success that I may have had over the years. I think that you should know what you can do and know what others can do better.

I have to tell you that I currently have three go to tracks, which are, the title track I Wish You Well, Always There and Under A Spell Of Loving You. I personally feel that those three tracks are fantastic.

I Wish You Well was written by Patsy Cavanagh, Under A Spell Of Loving You was written by Fergal Flaherty and Always There was written by Brendan Graham and Rolf Loevland, who as you no doubt know are the duo who wrote You Raise Me Up.

I know that you have said that you would be happy to sing any of the new songs live, but do you have a favourite?

To be totally honest with you, I really do love I Wish You Well, I really do love it. The two tracks that I chose to perform on the tour to say, “this is a new album coming out” were I Wish You Well and Under A Spell Of Loving You. I performed both of them on the tour of Canada and The States. I have to say that I love I Wish You Well. I don’t know exactly what it is about it but I loved it the very first time that I heard it. I first heard it on one of Patsy’s albums and I said to Patsy, “do you mind if I take that for the next album” and there was no problem at all. Patsy really is a lovely man. He has recently sent over a few more for consideration and there is one that I think I am going to record.

After the horrendous couple of years that we have all had to endure, how did it feel to be back out on the road once again?

It was lovely, it really was. For us to be back out on the road touring the UK last October when things finally got a bit better, it really did feel great. Having said that, some of the audiences were still a little down as they were afraid to come out and see a show. Even so, for those who were out at a show, boy, did they have a great time and did we have a great time. When we were recently over there in the States, you could see the audience just being more comfortable once again. We were playing a few shows in Canada too and I suppose that the difference between the States and Canada is that every province in every state is almost like a country.

For example, Ireland had the government telling us one thing, you in England had your government telling you another, so as you are aware it was the government who were guiding people so that is how we behaved. We noticed that from province to province, state to state in America. The ones that were open had more people out and about than the ones that weren’t open, had less people out. But it really was great; the audiences were super and we will be touring the UK once again in May. I am really looking forward to that and hopefully everything will be back to normal then.

Do you still enjoy touring?

Yes, I do, I really do enjoy the touring. At this stage now that I am at, I could stop at anytime that I wanted. I could just say, “that’s enough now, I have travelled enough, and I have toured enough”, so really, I chose to do less touring but still try to get close enough to everybody who has given me the career as is able to get to the shows.

Putting you on the spot, writing, recording, and touring, which do you prefer, and which order would you put them in?

That’s easy, touring, recording, and writing (laughter). I have to be totally honest with you and say that I’m not really a writer. I have written a few songs, but I really do have to be coerced into writing (laughter). Whenever I sit with a few of my friends, and I write with them then that is no bother. I have written a few songs on my own but I am not one of these writers who jots down things on every bit of paper that they see. That is a real songwriter.

From previous conversations that you and I have had, I know that you are always on the go, so with that in mind, have your thoughts moved on to a new album as yet?

(Laughter) you know me far too well. Last year, we got so many songs given to us that I have pretty much, if I record another six songs, I will have next year’s album finished. Some of these people gave me two songs, so I put one on this album and one on the next.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Oh Lord, I suppose that what I enjoy the most is having the opportunity to perform live shows. I really do love the live concerts. Highlights that spring to mind are that I never thought that I would ever be on Top Of The Pops and I never thought that I would be on This Is Your Life (laughter). I never thought that I would stand on the stage at the Royal Albert Hall, The London Palladium, Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, The SSE Arena in Belfast, all of these places that you just heard about. I never thought that I would ever do all of that, but I have. I feel very fortunate and blessed that people have given me the opportunity to do just that.

On one of the shows on the last tour I stood at the side of the stage looking out at the people coming into the theatre for the show, and I went back to my dressing room to see Trina who has been with me and singing on the records since 1987 and touring for the last twenty years with me, and I said, “Trina, isn’t it amazing that we are so far from home, and all of these people know about us, and are willing to come here; isn’t it unbelievable” and we both agreed that it was totally unbelievable.

You mentioned Top Of The Pops. How was your first appearance on the show?

I enjoyed it immensely. What you have to remember is that I am of that generation who used to watch the show religiously. To me, and many others, Top Of The Pops was like a Sunday service on a Thursday. We all watched it. Religiously we all watched Top Of The Pops so for me to be on it, it was simply amazing. I used to watch Suzi Quatro on the show and a coincidental thing was that when I was doing the live recordings during lockdown, one evening Suzi Quatro wrote on my Facebook page, and I just couldn’t believe it. I have to say that I still haven’t actually contacted her because I’m simply not good at that kind of thing. It feels great that Suzi Quatro was watching me because we watched her way back singing Devil Gate Drive and all of her other tremendous songs back in the 70’s. It was such a thrill for me.

Here we are speaking about your thirty-fourth album and the fact that you have been in the music business for some forty-two years now, I have to ask you, do you have you a picture of Dorian Gray hidden away somewhere because you don’t look a day older?

(Laughter) wasn’t Dorian Gray the fella who never wanted to age (laughter). So, in answer to your question, no, there is no portrait of Dorian Gray anywhere within my house (laughter). Whenever you see me on the front of an album cover you have to remember that I am well made up and I have most probably been airbrushed. I’m lucky in the fact that I have aged relatively well, and it is only now that my hair is starting to go grey. My mother died when she was almost ninety-five and she had good skin so I suppose that I have got those genes, and for that I feel really lucky. Only once did the hairdresser try out highlights on my hair; that was years ago, and it hasn’t happened again since (laughter).

So, there is no danger of us all seeing a blonde Daniel O’Donnell?

God no (laughter).

On that note Daniel, let me once again that you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been delightful as always.

Not at all Kevin, once again it has been great for me to get to talk to you. Be sure to come along and say hello when we get to Birmingham. Bye for now.