Keith Harkin is best known as a member of the contemporary pop band Celtic Thunder. With that group, he has toured the world for at least six months a year for the past five-plus years since their debut effort was released.
It is now Harkin’s turn to shine as a solo artist. A native of Derry, Northern Ireland, the charismatic vocalist shows a slightly different side of his musical self with the release of his self-titled debut record. A collection of original material, alongside carefully selected covers of songs by Tom Waits, Van Morrison, George Harrison and Don Henley, Harkin is set to perform in the intimate confines of The Tide & Boar Gastropub in Downtown Moncton on Thursday evening.
Harkin tells The Times & Transcript that he relishes the opportunity to play in smaller venues like The Tide & Boar. While he is obviously grateful for the success that has greeted Celtic Thunder’s career, along with that success come larger audiences needing larger venues to accommodate their show.
“These shows that we are playing are definitely more intimate but I love playing them,” Keith says. “They are acoustic based and feature only me and one other guy performing, so naturally there is a lot of story-telling involved throughout the show. I am a music-lover first and foremost and actually grew up playing in bars, so playing these small venue gigs is second nature to me.”
Keith says that his parents had him singing from the age of four. Growing up in Derry, Keith mentions his city was one that was engrossed in music. He says that it would be more of a rarity to have someone in Derry not be musically inclined.
“You had to be good to get on stage in Derry and so I played all I could in the bars and clubs.”
Harkin would further refine his writing skills, composing and recording songs for Dha Theanga, an Irish program on the BBC in which he also performed in a lead role. Auditioning for Celtic Thunder at the age of 20, Keith saw the opportunity of joining the group as an eventual means to getting his own music heard.
“I joined Celtic Thunder as a solo artist, to have some fun but also to get my own music out there. This record has been six or seven years in the making. Given the success of Celtic Thunder, it has been a little tough to get the time to work with the band as well as work on my solo stuff. It is my job however, being on the road and spending months on tour. I want to be as successful as I can be and that isn’t going to happen if I am sitting at home.”
Keith was one of the first artists to be signed to Verve Records in the United States by label chairman David Foster. The Grammy-Award winning Foster also serves as the executive producer on Harkin’s album. Being given the musical seal of approval by Foster is not something that Harkin takes lightly.
“The man has so many gold and platinum awards hanging on the walls of his house. His success has just been amazing and seemingly endless.”
To bring his vision to life, Harkin went into the studio with Jochem van der Saag, the producer considered to be Foster’s right-hand man. The duo set out to make an intimate acoustic-based record that reflected Keith’s musical origins and ultimately, they succeeded.
With more than 14,500 miles travelled since the end of February, Keith is looking forward to returning to Metro Moncton. While some artists plan their touring schedules around family commitments or choose to work a rotation of so many weeks on the road followed by stints of time at home, Keith chooses to fully immerse himself in promoting his music. He simply wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Organizing hotels, wages and merchandise sales takes a lot of time and effort but I am not afraid to do that legwork myself. I have never been afraid of hard work and so it feels good to have that reward at the end of the day,” Keith says.
“Part of the promotion of my career involves spending a lot of time interacting with fans on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. I am very much an artistic kind of person and so building those relationships with my fans is another kind of release for me.”
Fans interested in staying current with Keith Harkin or wishing to drop him a line to say hello can follow the vocalist on Twitter at twitter.com/keithharkin.
Article published in the May 13, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript