Friday, June 6, 2014

The Grascals and more

Hi Everyone


Just thought i would put ipen to ipaper and throw together a blog.  It is early on Friday morning after sleeping 12 hours. I am not operating on 100% but I am actually grand after 30 hours of travel from Australia. So used to fairly sleepless night. I am at home in Ames, which feels a bit strange as the past few months have been a series of hotel stays. Nothing like waking up, or in my case staying awake all night, in your own bed.

Last week I was in Nashville and seeing that others have posted about it online, I thought I would let you all know that there is a plan for a new tour in October, separate to my holiday tour. You will know now about my obsession with American roots music and it's connection to where I come from. When I was a kid my musical training was classical however once I got home, I would hear 2 things; Irish and Country music. I was raised on Verdi, Massenet, Handel, Elvis, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. I know. What a combo! My mother loved country music and sang it. I grew up knowing the lyrics to every Tammy Wynette song because they played constantly in our house.

Now, thanks to fate and some manipulation, my management being based in Nashville, at last I am reconnected to my roots. It is the reason why I love the town. I feel at home down there. It is so funny that a classically trained Irish tenor can call Nashville his soul mate but it is how i feel. I makes me relive my childhood, it connects me to my parents and oddly enough, the people i meet there remind me of home. I feel loved and supported there.

I love that I get to hear my heroes sing in bars on a Monday night. I love that everyone has stronger accents than I do. I love that they fry a lot. I love to watch kids with dreams arrive in town. I love that I can hear the best musicians in the world on every corner.

Last week, I brought my lovely friend Susan on a musical date. We hung out in The Gulch and headed over to The Station Inn, home of bluegrass, a spit and sawdust joint where Bill Monroe still echoes through the room as the bands playing there, warm up.

I was there to hear The Grascals, legends in the Bluegrass world. A group of six coming together on stage bringing comradery, laughter, gorgeous harmonies, beautiful songs and mad skills. I sat there nervously as I knew we had a connection even though we hadn't yet met. They knew I was in the room and I guess, didn't even know what I looked like. That's the way introductions happen in music. Their 2 sets were stunning. Traditional, concrete, big, gorgeous and more than anything, FUN.

Why was I there? Well, you see I have had a plan for a long time to put together what I do and what they do. I have always wanted to combine that sweet bluegrass sound of strings and harmonies with how i sing and what I bring to the table, to create a new type of sound. We already have a connection historically. The father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe, always said that his music had an element of Irish / Scottish folk songs. I can hear it in every piece that the band performed that night. I think the combination could be profound. I don't want it to be Celtic or Bluegrass but something new, something lush, something beautiful.

I met the band, we laughed and chatted. We connected. It is a no brainer. We have decided we want to get out there on the road together and perform for you.  Now this is not going to be easy. Both of us are kind of busy so our schedules are pretty locked up. We are looking at some dates in October and trying to make that work. As soon as something is figured out we will let you know where we are coming. I may even show up at one or two of The Grascals summer dates, for a song or two.

The band have a wealth they carry with them. Dolly Parton picked them as her Bluegrass band and they toured with her for several years. They have recorded with legends of the business like Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley and a parade of others. They have IBMA Entertainer of the Year Awards and several Grammy® nominations.




I am not sure how this will pan out but i know I needed to do something like this. You know I love a project. This will be the most fulfilling project I've had...ever.  It is full circle. It will bring me home.

I headed to Melbourne, Australia this past week. Just down for some meetings. My company, WEXFORDHOUSE works with other artists and I am exploring working with someone from down there. I also had some fun. I've been to Australia before but never to Melbourne. Lovely town. It was a lovely week and worth the really long flight, there and back. So nice to be home again though.

Just wrote a new song with Steve Skinner for a musical revue that Eoin Colfer has written to stage back in Ireland. It came out great, i think. Eoin seems very happy. I like to write for other singers. It makes it more objective. It becomes something that can be edited, reworked, made better. Look out for new October solo dates in San Francisco and a new set of December dates for my Christmas show have been posted.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Celtic Thunder Cruise

Well, I am home after quite the wonderful week of cruising, boozing and absolutely no snoozing. I am completely and utterly exhausted. The week was a roller coaster of good times, touching moments, learning experiences and most of all, laughter.


I had no expectations on boarding the ship that brought us out to the Caribbean. Arriving in Miami to find a gorgeous suite in the Intercontinental waiting for me, I realised that Entertainment Cruise Professionals meant business. I was vaguely familiar with Carnival Cruises but really was not expecting too much from them. What I found on boarding surprised and delighted me.


The boat was dated, for sure but i was really surprised at how much i liked it. My very spacious suite with the lovely veranda was like something 1972 had brought as a gift complete with plastic couch which i am guessing is in case I had an incontinence issue. Still, i found the bed comfortable, the cabin very spacious with all mod cons. In fact, I grew to love the comfort and solace it gave me as I soon found out, no matter what time
of day you left that cocoon, you entered a mad and crazy kingdom, the land of the thunderhead!!!!!!!

Being honest, i was worried whether you thunderheads would enjoy my music as it is different from the guys. I know some of you have seen my as competition, in the past when it couldn't be further from the truth. We are all friends and we have nothing but regard for each other's success. Anyways, it worked it out and I felt nothing but the love from the minute i started singing.

A LOT of you asked me on board, if I would perform with Thunder or indeed eventually become a member of the show. That will simply not happen. While I admire the guy's talent and Sharon's skill as a manager, it is not for me. I like being a solo artist and I get to make my own decisions, follow my own path.

Back to the boat......My senses were overwhelmed walking around that boat on the first day. We had a deadline for rehearsal as we were on stage for 2 shows on that very first night. however, even the walk from my room to the theater was full with hellos, hugs, picture taking and general loveliness from fans.

The theater, was spectacular for the audience I thought. Full of color and great for access to the artist. I was amazed at the size of it, given we were on a boat. After a rather panicked rehearsal we got on with our first show. Frankly, we killed. I, despite the rather frenetic tech rehearsal and lack of prep time never sang better.  The band and dancers were on fire and we just enjoyed both performances from start to finish.



It was a treat for us to do stuff we have never sang before. I really enjoyed singing I Cant Make You Love Me and Tomorrow's Child.  We had a lot more new material ready but ran out of time as we had to get in 2 shows in one night. The reaction was immediate. The first audience lapped it up and we could not have been happier. 





Our second show, I figured would be another step up but i think the long day of boarding and waiting for pic with Celtic Thunder took it's toll on the punters. I could tell everyone was tired. I still knew though that you all had a wonderful time and we had found some new fans.


So, at the end of day one, we were done....and we had barely left port. I think the band and I were genuinely dissappointed that we didn't get to perform more but that is reality of cruise entertainment. There is only so much time.



The rest of my week involved filling my days with the gym to ward off the evils of the great food in the buffet. I have to say the food and service was spectacular. I loved dinner every night and the midnight pizza after a few beers was so welcome. The staff however, I thought were second to none. Amazing friendly service that I have rarely witnessed before.

My favorite thing was hanging out with my lovely band. They are just awesome to work with but we never get to just hang out.

Jamaica was a bit dodgy and not my cuppa tea at all. but I loved getting to spend the day in Cayman, especially given that we had lunchtime drinks in the rather gorgeous Ritz Carlton.

I loved the wine tasting on the last day as I got to have longer conversations with people and we got to talk about my favorite thing in the world, VINO!!!!!

Lastly I showed up for a Meet n Greet and autograph signing for an hour. It lasted 2 hours as so many showed up. I was thrilled getting to do photos, sign your cds and posters and just chat with fans who I've only met online. I still can't quite grasp what my music means to people so hearing stories of how my songs help people is so encouraging. Everyone was taken aback that I wanted to meet and talk to everyone. Why wouldn't I? You are the people who gave me this incredible life.

Thanks so much for all the incredible gifts you brought. I will be drinking Starbucks non stop!!!!!



My body was in complete shutdown after it all. I am a bit of a light weight so I was not able for the pace. I crawled off the boat and boarded the flight home for a few days before the madness of the Christmas dates begin.

Overall I would say that the whole experience was just wonderful. I got to hang out with friends, make new ones, perform for fans who have been so loyal to me and celebrate everything that music has brought to my life.

I hope to do another cruise as soon as possible. LOVED IT.

So now I am getting ready for some Christmas dates. Really looking forward to them. There is an extra date in Saint Louis area on December 8. You could go to the matinee of the lads ABC show and head over to my show that features other great Broadway artists. Details to follow.

Cerritos Center, Los Angeles Dec 06
St. Louis, Dec 08 Details TBA.
Foxwoods, CT Dec 10
SFSC Avon Park, FL Dec 16
Lakeland Center, FL Dec 17
Festival Hall, Greensboro, GA Dec 18

For all the new fans asking about my recordings, here are some links

http://wbarecords.net/artists/michael-londra/

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Not-Taken-Michael-Londra/dp/B005JJ0GRY

For all info go to www.michaellondra.com

and one last thing PLEASE LIKE my official facebook page for new music and dates............
You are probably already friends with me but this page will give you the music you want to hear.

https://www.facebook.com/MichaelLondraOfficial


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nashville

Hey from Nashville

Just down in Nashville, my favorite place outside of Ireland for some meetings. Really I find excuses to come down for a few days. 

I've really very little to share with everyone. I am looking out across the Nashville skyline thinking how much my life has changed in the past year since arriving in this town. I feel so at home here, like I belong.  It is so nice to feel that crisp air. The first days of autumn that promises cold morning runs on the frosty road, sitting by the fire in the evening and the occasional slice of pumpkin pie, which if you know me at all, is what makes me happy.

I know you are wondering what I am up to, but honestly I have been pretty chilled lately. None of my friends can quite believe that I am not my usual hit the ground running self. I enjoyed a very lazy summer. I guess I was resting on my laurels after the Emmy® nominations. I've always thought of myself as a chaser, knocking down challenge after challenge with not many rewards. I just liked the fight. But when you get a commendation from your peers that tells you that you have reached a standard worthy of some acclaim, it is unnerving. You no longer are that person chasing a goal. You have achieved a goal. People said to me "ah, you won't be happy with a nomination, you will chase a win next time. This is simply not true in my case. It completely blew me away and changed my perceptions. It made me realise I am not running up the hill any more. I reached the top of the hil so now I am perfectly happy to lay out the lawn chair, open a Cab/Zin blend and chill the hell out.


So, where am I with plans. I know this makes you happy. I am doing some dates in the US through the winter and some European dates in 2014. I am singing in a few new projects for other artists. Check out Jewel's new Christmas album. I am producing a one man show for another singer which I am thrilled about. We starts rehearsals for that in October and will announce it soon enough. I like being behind the scenes and creating projects for others. I am also working on bringing someone over from Ireland to perform for you.....someone you know!!!

It won't be long for the Celtic Thunder Cruise. I am EXCITED!!! I get to hang out on a boat with my friends, perform a few times and maybe even relax....what?  The show I am putting together will be fun and unusual. New songs you wont have heard before plus old songs you know and love. I am all about the singing so you guys better be ready to sing. Now you will have heard I am doing another non singing event on board. I have no idea why you people just assumed it was a wine tasting. Really I have no idea why you would think that is what is happening. It's not like one of my best friend's Jean Clancy, general manager of Celtic Thunder and wine bar owner is on board or anything. It's not like we both are obsessed with wine and she is an expert or anything. Anyway, I cannot confirm or deny we are doing a wine tasting event on board.

By now you will have heard about the event on November 01, the eve of the sailing, in FADO, Miami. I will be there for sure and will sing a song or two, just to get you all in the mood for a week of festivities.


Fado, Miami
Theater on board the Victory



                                                                                                                                                                
 
So I am off into my management's office. By the way, my manager is Robert Williams. He and his team in the office are brilliant, hard working and funny as hell. We laugh all day when we work together. It isn't work at all to us. Check them out; http://wbaentertainment.com/

FYI The new High Kings album is almost out here in the US.  I am a big fan and I love the sound of this albu,. I know you will enjoy it. Check it out Friends for Life


Confirmed Dates (more to follow)

Nov 02 Celtic Thunder Cruise
Dec 06 Cerritos Center, Los Angeles
Dec 10 Foxwoods, CT
Dec 16 Avon Park, FL
Dec 17 Lakeland Center, FL
Dec 18 Greensboro, GA
Mar 04 Green Valley, AZ
Mar 07 Jupiter, FL
Mar 13 Fort Pierce, FL
Mar 14 Orange Park, FL
Mar 15 Skokie, IL
Mar 17 Cedar Rapids, IA


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Final Deal 24 hour sale

Final Deal $25 Autographed CELT + Danny Boy - Songs of Ireland

24 hour SALE

24 hour sale AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF CELT PLUS DANIEL FURLONG ALBUM VOICE OF AN ANGEL $25

Thursday, June 27, 2013

JFK

Hello from Wexford

Well that was quite the week. I am sitting at home in my parents house, enjoying some peace and quiet after the a stellar but exhausting week of travel and performances. Looking back, it is all a bit of a blur. I can't quite slow at all down yet but luckily I have the photos and film to keep the memories forever.

It started with a quiet celebration as I never really acknowledged the 2 Emmy® Nominations. We didn't win but I didn't give a hoot. I feel like I have reached a standard that I have wanted to reach my whole life. I dont get the statue but for the rest of my days I will be known as Emmy® nominated singer, Michael Londra. How amazing is that!!!!  My friends and I had some champagne and talked about the road getting there. It was the start of a special 7 days.

Anthony Kearns and I with the Irish color party
I headed out on the road a week ago. First stop was Washington D.C. I had a hugely early morning as the ceremony at the grave of President Kennedy was at 10.30am and I needed to sound like my voice was somewhat awake. We all arrived with plenty of time to spare. The forecast was mixed but luckily I was wary and got a brolly to take with me. As soon as we arrived, the heavens opened so I opened up the Dupont Circle Hotel umbrella and breathed a sigh of relief. The rain subsided but was followed by 100% humidity which for some reason I managed to keep at bay during the ceremony. More about that in a while.

Carrying the Emigrant Flame


The whole service was dignified, calm, prayerful and quite perfect. The lighting of the torch being transported to Ireland was involved but meticulously organised by the Irish team from New Ross. I sang the Irish National Anthem. Let me say that while I am totally comfortable singing this piece, I was overwhelmed by the formality, by my business attire, by the Kennedys and the heat / humidity really did a number on me. I am not built for it. I didn't do a great job but for some reason, it didn't seem to matter. I was so proud to be from Wexford and to be there to honor a Wexford man who has a column in world history. Another Wexford man Anthony Kearns followed with the US anthem. Anthony is on of the Irish Tenors. His voice is thunderous, classical and at it's core, Irish. He sang beautifully. We make a great team.

Once the service was over we all returned to the Irish Ambassador's residence for a quiet celebration and some songs. I sang How Are Things in Glocca Morra as it was one of JFK's favorites. I followed it with an acapella version of Song for John. The whole party joined me in a rendition of The Boys of Wexford. Once we finished that, I could relax so I enjoyed a quiet pint of Guinness with friends.


Up the next morning at 5am to get a flight to New York and on to Ireland. I was truly exhausted at this point. I had no sleep at all really and once i landed I knew I had to face the mammoth weekend of festivities. I landed in Dublin, a wreck of a man but once I got home, it dissappeared. I was ready for anything the few days would throw at me.

On Friday night there was a celebration dinner which was a glimpse of the following day's festivities. I got to hear Judy Collins sing some of her greatest songs. We were introduced for the first time then. Time stood still when I stared into her azure blue eyes. I never say anything like them. Hypnotic. I told her how much I loved her song "In the Twilight" which seemed to catch her unawares. She started crying which in turn set me off. We had a magic few moments talking about how special the song was.



I got home early so I would be ready for the big concert on Saturday. I drove up with my sister Majella who shared the day with me along with my parents and manager visiting from Nashville. I warmed up and gradually the VIPS arrived. I however met noone before the show. Judy went on first. All I can say was that she was stunning. Her tone is clear as a ringing bell as she hit notes in the stratosphere.

I was up next. I walked onstage looking out at the ominous clouds which I thought were about to unload on us all. The rain stayed away as it turned out. I looked to the first row and Caroline waved at me as I waited for the TV crew getting ready. I waved back as if to say "Hey, Caroline - What Up?"



Beside her Jean Kennedy Smith gave me a regal nod. Class Act! Then....I looked directly behind them to the second row. There among the Kennedy clan was my mother, father, sister, manager and wife. How that happened I don't know to this day but they managed somehow to be placed in the middle of the one of the most powerful families in the world. Later I saw just how close when all my sister's photos had the back of Caroline's head blocking her. Every TV shot featured my father or sister.....or my mother leaning over to wave to family back in Wexford town. HILARIOUS!

Mam (chanelling Jackie O) and Dad arrive with VIPS


I sang Danny Boy with my lovely pianist Eithne. A singer knows when they have done a good job. I knew it couldn't have been more perfect so when we finished, I was delighted. On to Song for John which I was a bit nervous about. It turned out to be perfect. I ran off to meet Caroline and Jean for real whoch couldn't have been sweeter. I also got to chat to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend who I am a huge fan of. She was gushing me with praise which was a little awkward for me but a thrill.

I walked side-stage. Judy Collins walked up to me. She placed her delicate hands around my face and whispered at me " your voice is golden. When are recording my song? It is perfect for you". My heart stopped. It was the most magical moment ever.  I then got to walk back on stage with her and sing Amazing Grace with a legend.

My family with An Taoiseach (primeminister of Ireland) Enda Kenny
 I was on a high for the rest of the day but I couldn't celebrate as I had more events the following day. Once I finished those however I sneaked out of the formalities on my own and waalked up to my local pub Simon's Place. The pub was fairly empty. I sat up at the bar and had the most satisfying pint of stout ever. It was the perfect half hour sitting there recalling one of the most times of my entire life.

So now I am spending a week at home with my family in Wexford. I need the rest to be honest. I head to London next week as the lovely people at Shapiro Bernstein are sending me over to write with some brilliant writers including Bruce Wooley who has written so many hits from Video Killed the Radio Star to Slave to the Rhythm, Chris Elliot who wrote Moulin Rouge soundtrack and arranged Adele's last album. I also get to write with Matteo Saghese who wrote Magia Sara which I recorded a few years ago. I hope he didn't think my Italian sucked...which it did.

I head back to the US then to get ready for my big concert on Boston Common on July 19. Have I mentioned it is free and they are expecting 25,000.............. so be early!!!

When I left for America, JFK was front and center in my mind. He represented the American Dream to me. I have gotten to live that dream. This week I was able to thank him, honor him, sing for him.


It was perfect.

ML xo





Sunday, May 5, 2013

Quite the week......


Well i thought i would write about the week that was. It was just incredible really.

It started last weekend with a concert in Rancho Cucamonga, CA in the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center. I love that venue and we had a full house of Celtic music fans who tore down the house at the end of the night. I sang a few new songs and hammed it up a bit as, well, I was just in that kind of mood. We headed out for a few beers after. It was nice to have former Celtic Legends dancer Megan Kirk with us for the night. The performance went down well i think and I know we will be back. There is a plan already to be back in the Inland Empire before the end of the year.

I have been working on a writing project and needed a few days to focus on that so I stayed on in LA to sit by my friends pool and catch some sunshine while absorbing some vitamin D. It did me the world of good. One evening I headed to a new restaurant called Chi Spacca. It involved meat, lots of it. I enjoyed it but i overdosed on carnivore delights and red wine before heading next door to my favorite restaurant Osteria Mozza for desert so i had to starve myself for a few days after.



On Wednesday night i had a work meeting and was heading home when i checked my email to find an email from Travis Fox, my dynamic co producer on my pbs special, Beyond Celtic. The email stated that the show had earned 2 Emmy® nominations in the Direction and Special Television Event categories. I took it in and promptly went to bed as I had an early start to fly to Nashville. So, off to bed I go and got up at 5am to head to the airport. In the cab, the penny dropped and I realised that I was Emmy® nominated. I laughed out loud and and then went quiet. I was trying to absorb the feeling. Take it in.

I arrived in Nashville, numb from exhaustion and elation at the same time. At this point I was receiving calls and emails from across the world with congratulations and tears. I was alone in my hotel and really didn't get to talk about it out loud.

I spent all day on Thursday in the studio recording a song for the JFK50 event. Here is a clip. Don't mind the terrible sound.
You will hear the song and the great news is that we have decided to make a single of it. Details will unfold in the coming few weeks. I completely love the song. Written with my great pal Marcus Hummon the song is very personal to me so I cannot wait to share it.

From the studio I headed to a beautiful mansion in Nashville for a GRAMMY® fundraiser. I got to hang out with the incredible Darius Rucker that night. We bonded over our experiences of coming to Nashville as outsiders from other genres of music. He performed that night for a small group of people and sang all of his hits in an acoustic set that was nothing short of brilliant.



I met loads of people that night but for some reason didn't share my news with anyone. I think, looking back that I was taking the news in and absorbing it all. It was a fun night for sure despite my exhaustion but I could not rest. I had a big day of planning with my manager Robert Williams the next morning. So in to the offices I went the next morning and he flipped when I walked in and congratulated me. It was then and only then I realised the achievements of the week and I FINALLY realised that this was a landmark in my life. A time to sit back and look at where I had brought my life to. We laughed and cheered but then got on with matters at hand.

The next month involves 2 big events to plan for. I've been asked to sing in Arlington, VA on May 29 in an event to honor President John F. Kennedy at his graveside. At the ceremony a torch will be lit from the eternal flame at that site and that torch will be taken to Ireland where a permanent Emigrant Flame will be lit in New Ross, Wexford during the JFK50 celebrations on June 22. I will perform for Caroline Kennedy, Maria Shriver and many other of the Kennedy clan that day with legendary singer Judy Collins, Michael Flatley and Colm Toibin. It will be a huge celebration of the Kennedy legacy and that bond with my home county.

Sooooo that was my week. I am at home now and am knackered but i've much to do so I can't rest on me laurels. 

Father, Son and Holy Ghost
It's trembling Joy and fearful Hope
It's the dream of a people, returned
for John is coming home........