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George Hutton – In Conversation with RCC SOUNDS

George Hutton is becoming his own artist.

Having had a successful career singing with various ensembles over the past decade, George Hutton is now stepping into the limelight as an artist in his own right.

The affable Derry City native has not let this year’s worldwide coronavirus pandemic hold him back from establishing himself as a solo act.

“In many ways this was going to be a big year for me, in terms of stepping out as a solo act. I was set to do a sold out 40-date Ireland and UK tour of concerts with Phil (Coulter) and I should have been on the road now, right through until the middle of January. That was a big blow.”

George had also garnered a lot of interest from various management companies and agencies, which all came to an abrupt halt, he said. But thankfully a number of performance opportunities arose throughout the early months of lockdown.

He said: “I was supposed to be singing at the BBC Proms in the Park (Northern Ireland) this year, which usually has a crowd of ten, twenty thousand people, but that got cancelled. Thankfully the BBC changed the format and I was able to record a special arrangement of Summertime by Belfast composer and arranger Paul Campbell with the Ulster Orchestra which was amazing.”

George was also invited by Hot Press Magazine to participate in the ‘Rave On, Van Morrison’ Performance Series, paying tribute to the world famous Belfast singer on his 75th birthday.

I was so honoured to be asked by Hot Press to record Born to Sing. It was really special and a great chance to show that I can also sing songs in other genres, like this blues song.”

Just before the most recent lockdown, George also got the chance to team up with fellow Derryman, Phil Coulter, for three socially-distanced gigs, Up close and Personal with Phil Coulter, at Ratoath Venue Theatre.

“It was such a strange experience, but it was so nice to perform live again and the concert was streamed to a worldwide audience and people tuned in from as far as North America and Australia,” he said.

Recording with well-known pianist, John McCullough.

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While the pandemic hasn’t halted his musical career completely, George said the game has definitely changed and the bar has shifted.

“It’s impossible to go and do live gigs for now, so I have been focusing more on releasing original records and producing high quality content, which is something I hadn’t thought of much until this year.”

George has spent a decade touring with successful acts such as Anúna and performing to sold out audience across the USA on The Five Irish Tenors and Songs for Ireland tours with Columbia Artists, and experience he ‘wouldn’t change for the world’.

“But I started to realise, the way I want to portray myself as an artist was being diluted by being heavily involved with other groups. I knew I would have to step out of my comfort zone to release songs that have my stamp on it, as terrifying as that is.”

George has released two albums to-date which mainly favourite covers of old folk songs which he is glad he got out of his system before the focussing on original material.

His latest and second original single, The Light, was released earlier this month and premiered with Fiachna Ó Braonáin (Read his In Conversation with RCC SOUNDS interview here) on RTÉ Radio 1’s Late Date.

“Sometimes when I’m asked, I can’t pin-point what I do. I suppose you could call it contemporary folk music, or alternative folk music, but I am still working on trying to find a contemporary sounds within the realm of folk music.

“I have been very fortunate to have mentors like Phil (Coulter) and [Derry singer/songwriter and producer] Paul Casey to guide me through this and encourage me to step away from other groups and become my own artist.”

As well as Casey, George said he is very lucky to work with highly-regarded musicians on his material, including pianist John McCullough (Sinéad O’Connor, The Waterboys, Van Morrison), drummer Liam Bradley (Van Morrison, Paul Brady, The Blue Nile, Foy Vance) and Donegal’s own Damien McGeehan on fiddle (Fidil, Daniel O’Donnell, Derek Ryan, Christie Hennessy).

“I am back in that writing mode and back in the studio working on another song which is almost finished and I’m hoping to release in the next month, called Goodbye My Friend, while the music video to The Light will hopefully be out next week and is set all around Donegal.”

George said he is going to continue writing and releasing original material which he is not touring, and is very hopeful about the future.

“It has been so hard being away from people we love, which The Light is essentially about. That song started out as a love song, but then The Light became a symbol of love, missing and longing to be with someone. For me, and hopefully for others, it has now become a symbol of hope.

“I do think we will get through this and there are better times around the corner. So I am just going to continue releasing new material with no expectations and look forward to the time we can perform to a live audience again.”

RCC SOUNDS 031 – CURATED BY GEORGE HUTTON

A proud Derry man, George has taken the opportunity to shine a light on some of the fantastic talent that is coming out of his hometown, amongst some other new favourites, beginning with PORTS and their most recent single, Reading in the Dark.

“It’s an amazing song and I’ve been a fan of theirs (PORTS) since they were called Little Bear and it’s crazy to think that at one point, Hozier was supporting them, he said.

Moving on, George has selected a song from PORTS pianist, Conor Mason’s solo album (On the Surface) called Let it Bloom.

Third on the list is another Derry artist ROE with her song A Quiet Place, another fantastic contemporary/alternative artist from the city, George said.

“Next on the list, I had to get Fiachna (Ó Braonáin) in and it’s called Ghosts from his solo album, Bougainvillea. I love the line ‘Good thing I’m not a child, but a man!’”

Next up is Belfast singer Matt McGinn with his song Annie (Many Moons Ago). “He just released this and it’s a beautiful song, it’s sad, but uplifting at the same time.”

Another Derry artist to feature, Reevah (a.k.a Aoife Boyle) grew up on the same street as George. “She is doing very well and the song I chose is called Weight of the World.”

Derry artist Reevah grew up on the same street as George.

George discovered the next artist featured in his playlist, Clare Sands, on the Late Date with Fiachna and has featured her song, Let’s Take The Time, featuring spoken word by Cork writer and documentarian, Cónal Creedon.

“I’ve been a fan of Emma Langford’s and there’s a song called Sowing Acorns which is amazing and then the next one, there’s a new song called Loud by the Dublin artist Ava (Éabha McMahon).

“This next artist has only release two songs to-date, but I think he is going to be huge, called Papa Rua and the stunning song is called Lorna’s Song.”

Of course George couldn’t leave out one of his mentors, Paul Casey, who features with a song recently playlist by RTÉ Radio 1 called, St Jeannet.

“Another Derry man who has release a number of fantastic songs, in similar style to Niall Horan or Harry Styles, is Jordan O’Keefe. The song I chose is called Honest.”

Featuring some more Irish artists, George has listed Irish/Sierra Leonean Loah (Unveiled), Malaki (Fair Play) and Sinéad McConville (Doorstep) and Derry group Amberlight with Nothing Lasts Forever.

Another artist to feature who is seen as a ‘bit of a legend’ on Derry’s vibrant music scene is Paddy Nash. “Paddy released a song called Hearth and Harbourage. Its such a beautiful song about family and telling us not to worry.”

Bringing his RCC SOUNDS playlist to a close, George chose Forever by Dublin singer Lucy Blue, rising star David Keenan who ‘wears his heart on his sleeve’ with Two Kids and finally, another Derry man, Elma Orkestra with Drive.

LISTEN TO RCC SOUNDS 031 – CURATED BY GEORGE HUTTON – HERE

FOLLOW GEORGE HUTTON ON SOCIAL MEDIA: FACEBOOK, TWITTER & INSTAGRAM

The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny is proudly funded by Donegal County Council and Arts Council Ireland.

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