Damian McGinty, talented singer and actor, and star of Glee, The Glee Project, and Celtic Thunder, is headed to Australia, joining his old group as a Special Guest for his first tour Down Under! I caught up with him earlier this week for a quick Q&A to chat about the upcoming tour, his career, and his views on life.
Pam Stucky: The first time you were scheduled to be in Australia was March 2011, but you didn’t make it. Just to clarify for the people, what happened? The excuse given was that you had to study harder, but what was the reality?
Damian McGinty: Yes. The word at the time was that I had to study harder. But really what was happening was I was shooting a show called The Glee Project, which I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with. Obviously we had signed a lot of contracts and everything had to be a secret, as we shot the show in advance of it being aired. It was being aired in June, and we shot it in January, February, March, April, for like 12 or 13 weeks, over a three-month process. So, yeah, I was scheduled to go to Australia with Celtic Thunder, and sadly it ended up being a scheduling conflict, so I had to unfortunately pull out of that. I was in Los Angeles filming, but the producers of Celtic Thunder had to tell the world the reason I’d gone missing was because I was not doing well in school, and had to study more and do exams. Which actually wasn’t true. So I’ll just put that out, clear that up, five years later. I actually did pass all my exams.
PS: And now, finally, you’re headed to Australia and you’re excited!
DMcG: Yeah, absolutely! I’ve always wanted to go. It’s always been on my young bucket list. But I always promised myself I wouldn’t go there until work took me there. Finally, at the ripe old age of 23, it has.
PS: This is your first tour in Australia, but your ninth tour overall. You’ve already traveled more than a quarter of a million miles over the course of your career, meeting thousands of people. Traveling the world and meeting so many people of all walks of life, all backgrounds, all political leanings, you’ve already had the opportunity to talk to far more people than most of us ever will. What has meeting and spending time with such a wide variety of people taught you about humans and humanity?
DMcG: Being fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel so much at such a young age, I have been fortunate to meet a lot of people, and I’ve been very fortunate to have heard a lot of people’s stories. Whether it be a sad one, or whether it be an encouraging one, or whether it be a challenging one or a traumatizing one or a happy one, you know, you hear stories from all walks of life. I actually think that really helped me in my growing up process, hearing other people’s experiences, and seeing first-hand through other people the sorts of scenarios that the world and life can offer up, conjure up, the different challenges and the different rewards and the different routes that are all possible in life. Meeting so many different people from so many different places with so many stories sort of helped me grow up, in a weird way. It made me thankful for meeting all those people; it made me thankful for the life I have, for the friends and family I have. It gave me a bit of wisdom, I guess, and a better understanding of life itself, which is such a complicated, precious thing. It’s always nice, as well, traveling and hearing the good things, but it’s encouraging hearing the bad things and seeing people get through those bad things, and seeing them reach the other side. Hearing them say that maybe the reason they did that is because of my music or Celtic Thunder’s music or whatever, hearing those stories is encouraging to me.
It’s very obvious that I’m now doing this as a career. This is my life, this is my career. Therefore, I make a living out of it. But primarily the reason I’ve always wanted to tour and always wanted to sing and always wanted to sell records is to really reach out to people, and connect to people. Because I think outside of the obvious need to make money to live day-to-day and function in the real world, I think outside of that, primarily life is all about connecting with different people, and hearing stories, and trying to encourage people, and all that good stuff. That makes all the miles worth it. If it is a quarter of a million miles, that is a lot of miles. I think before this year ends I add about another 50,000 to that! So I can’t wait.
PS: This question overlaps with your answer on that last one, but I’ll ask anyway: What do you hope people get out of attending one of your performances? What impact do you hope you have on a person’s day?
DMcG: Yeah, pretty much, what I just touched on. Attending a performance, first of all, I hope they have a good time. I hope it gives them an experience they won’t forget, that takes them away from the day-to-day routine. I think that’s why we all go to see concerts. That’s why I go see concerts. I go see concerts because I love the artist, because I want two or three hours of just bliss of something I really love and appreciate. For people coming to our show, in Australia or in North America, that’s what you always want to offer up. You want to offer an experience–vocally, yes, but also visually, a performance that they’re not going to forget. Something that touches people, and something that encourages people. And that gives them a good time.
PS: On the flip side of that: What do you get out of performing? What does it bring to your life? How does who you are impact how you perform?
DMcG: I think one thing that I’ve always done–and this was not on purpose or planned, ever–I think something I’ve always brought to my own performances specifically is a relatability. When I’m performing, I’m very much myself. A lot of people perform and become this different thing. Look at Lady Gaga: she’s very clearly different in real life than what she is on stage. I sort of pride myself on the fact that I love putting on a performance, and yes, of course, the performer is technically different than the person. But there are huge elements of my performance that are just genuine, that are just me, as a person. I try to be relatable, and I try to be myself as much as I can, and hope that people can relate to that. It’s sort of interesting, because I think without really knowing it, that is what helped me win The Glee Project, that aspect of my performance.
PS: Being yourself.
DMcG: Being myself. Yeah. A lot of people talk about it. In the day and the world we live in, it’s easy to get persuaded, or it’s easy to get swayed by things that are going on, whether it be technology, or whether it be things we’re watching on television, or whether it be movies, whatever. It’s easy to let your character sway toward that a little bit. I personally believe trying to be yourself is the most important thing. Understanding that everybody is different, being yourself is a great thing. That’s what I try to bring into a performance. I try to let them know Damian a little bit more, even though I’m up on stage and I am still performing, but I try to let them in a little bit, and tell them stories, and make it as relatable as possible.
PS: You were 14 when Celtic Thunder filmed its first show at The Helix in Dublin in August 2007; 15 when the show first hit the air in the US on PBS in February 2008; and you turned 16 just before your first tour in the fall of 2008. If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself? What would you tell yourself about what was to come in the next eight years and beyond?
DMcG: First of all, I certainly wouldn’t change anything. That’s for sure. I would tell the 14-year-old me that “Your voice is going to change as soon as you record ‘Puppy Love.'” I would probably give myself a heads-up on that, because that happened quite suddenly. I would try to tell myself a little earlier that I would have to be very, very focused at a very young age, and be very disciplined throughout my career. Because this career, a musician’s career, a performer’s career, is very different from a 9-to-5 career. In a 9-to-5, you know what you’re going to do, and you go in every day, and obviously you’ve got a job to do. But in my career, there are times when I’m working for seven months, then there’s times where I’ll have three months where it’s a little less busy, but I still have to keep myself disciplined. I still have to try to create things. I still have to try to keep building a brand, which is obviously the long-term target of my career, to build a really strong Damian McGinty brand.
I sort of knew back then, anyway, but I would tell myself that it is going to take a lot of hard work and take a lot of discipline. I guess what my dad always told me is that there are going to be things that come your way in life, particularly when you’re in this business, the music business, and you’re living in LA, and just remember that no matter what, you have a choice. I don’t need to go back and tell myself that because my dad instilled that in me, and that’s something I’ll never forget. And it’s really stood to me. Because, yeah, you face different challenges, within LA, within life in general. Everyone does. Any challenge I’ve ever faced, whether it be positive, negative, difficult, easy, it’s always been in my head: “You always have a choice.” So I always try to make a good choice.
PS: I happen to know you’re a pretty wise soul. At your ripe old age of 23, what have you come to believe about life and living in the world? What matters? How should we live?
DMcG: I can only speak from personal experience, my own side of things. The thing I would say, I think the most obvious thing, is the people. You can meet a lot of people, but really you go through life and you have this core group of people who are very important to you, who you have a connection with, and you can’t … it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of nurturing and growing within any relationship. And I think that connection with certain people is really what it’s all about. We can all try to be successful, and we can all try to do as good as we can, whether it be building brands, whether it be getting a promotion, whether it be getting a raise, we can all do that. Meanwhile, when it’s all said and done, that’s not really that relevant in the bigger picture.
I think traveling a lot, as well, I guess I’m sort of fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate because it makes me realize a lot more about the people I miss back home, and about how great they are, and how difficult it is being away from them, and how fortunate I am to have them. I guess I’m unfortunate because of the same reasons. Because I amaway from them, and I do miss them. But life is not always daffodils and roses. It can be challenging. You always face the unexpected, and your situation is maybe never what you’d like it painted to be. If it was up to me, I’d love to live back home, and see my family and my parents every single day, and see my best friends that I grew up with, I would love to see them every day, and still do what I love. But sometimes, you know, that’s not possible, and you need to make sacrifices. That’s just life.
[At this point our call was dropped so we re-connected and continued.]
DMcG: It’s about relationships, and about connection with different people. Obviously different people are going to think different things, but that’s what I think, and that’s what I’ve learned so far. That’s certainly what is most important to me outside of business and all that stuff.
PS: You’ve been posting some teasers about a big project you’ve got going on right now. Anything you can announce just yet?
DMcG: There’s going to be news on it very soon. It’s something I’m excited about. It’s something that is actually leading to a bigger project, which is going to be next year, and I know that is doubly weird and secretive. But yeah, there is going to be an announcement very soon. It’s about a themed record that will be released in the near future. Take from that what you want.
[To be sure to stay up to date with Damian’s work, sign up for his newsletter and follow him on social media. See links at the end of this article.]
PS: We will definitely stay tuned. What’s next, after Australia?
DMcG: We’re mastering and finishing the record we’re working on, and then I’m going to have a lot of touring in the autumn, and I’m working on a bigger project for 2017. There’s a lot going on right now, but it’s exciting. There’s going to be a lot of news coming out in the near future, in the next few months. Despite all the touring in the last few years and being really busy and performing–we just had a new Celtic Thunder number-one record, which is great–I’ve really been behind the scenes trying to create a lot, and trying to get a lot of work done for the future. And now those efforts are bearing fruit and I’m excited about that. Yeah, people are going to see results of a lot of hard work, very soon. I really hope they like it.
PS: Anything else you want to add?
DMcG: I can’t wait to get to Australia. It’s going to be great. I’m going home for a few days tomorrow, and then I fly to Sydney next week, so I’m excited. It’s going to be a great time.
PS: How long is that flight to Sydney?
DMcG: Way too long. Dublin to Sydney is like eight hours to Dubai, then like 14 hours to Sydney or something like that. Something that is not pleasant, and I am honestly not that thrilled about it, but you know, sometimes to get to great things you have to go through challenging times. Being on an airplane for 22 hours fits in that category.
PS: I hope it goes well. I know you’ll have a fantastic tour. Thanks so much for your time, Damian!
DMcG: Thanks, Pam!
See Damian’s new cover of the Bee Gees hit “How Deep is Your Love” below or at this link!
Also published at my Huffington Post blog.
Check out Pam’s books!
- The Universes Inside the Lighthouse—YA sci-fi adventure / first in the Balky Point Adventures
- The Wishing Rock series—women’s fiction / wit, wisdom, and recipes
- The Pam on the Map series—travelogues / wit and wanderlust