By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)
Born to Irish parents in Massachusetts, Deirdre Reilly has gained an enormous and loyal following in both American country music and the Irish-American community across the country.
She has released seven studio albums, and after a brief hiatus from touring, she is back on the circuit and returning to Alexandria, where she will play an intimate concert at Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub.
In the lead-up to her appearance — where former Ireland’s Own owner Pat Troy will act as master of ceremonies — she took some time to discuss her career, her influences and her love for the Port City.
Note: this interview has been edited for length.
Alexandria Times: You’ve described yourself in the past as being “Made in Ireland but born in the USA.” How does that background influence your music?
Deirdre Reilly: Yes, my mother and father were both born in Ireland — my mother is a Cork woman and my father was from Mayo, and I was born in Massachusetts. My father was a great singer, he passed away sadly last March and he was a great influence on my musical career.
He never did it professionally, but he would always take his turn at a sing-song or a party or whatever and both my mother and father loved country music. It’s so popular in Ireland, and still is to this day.
You tour Ireland a great deal. Is it a country you feel a strong connection to?
Absolutely, it’s like my second home. Especially because when I’m over in Ireland, I get to sing country music, that’s the market I’m more known for in Ireland. There’s country music going seven nights a week over there, it’s amazing. I love being there because the appreciation that the people have and the support they have for country music is good for your heart.
You started performing at 17 — what was that like as a youngster, having to strike out on your own and how important has it been in shaping you as an artist?
Very important. When you’re young, you’re fearless. I don’t know how that happens but I remember starting to sing at 4 and 5 years old. My stepfather, Leo Doherty, had a show band so I grew up dying to get up on stage and sing.
He used to let me get up when I was maybe 10 or 12. I just knew that as soon as I was able to get my driving license, I was going to get a car and buy gear and I was going to go out on the road. I’m very thankful for the opportunity that I was given through Leo to get up there and start performing, because the minute I started doing it and then I started getting paid for it, wow.
I don’t have any regrets because I’ve been very blessed and have met so many great producers and songwriters and people. To watch the reaction of people when you sing a song and it either makes them smile, sometimes it might make them cry, I love to see how songs and how music affects people.
Is this your first time in Alexandria?
I’ve been in Alexandria many times before, with Pat Troy at Ireland’s Own. I took a break for the last three years, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of touring because of watching over my dad and making sure he’s okay. When he passed in March, I took my time and sorted out my head and knew that my father would want me to keep doing what it is I’ve been doing all my life. I’m getting back on track.
This is really exciting for me, I get to see all my old friends who I haven’t seen in years, and I know all the people who are coming, I probably will know them all one-on-one, so I’m really looking forward to this reunion, it’s going to be awesome.
What appeals to you about coming to Alexandria? What is it that keeps you coming back as well as the personal connection?
The appreciation for the music. I’m very lucky that people who come to see me, they know that they’re probably going to get 50 percent Irish music and 50 percent country and maybe a song or two that I wrote myself, so I try to make it a little bit well-rounded. The loyalty of the people too, they don’t forget you.
I moved to Nashville and was down there for 25 years, and in the interim, I’d do these tours and make my way to Alexandria and in the last three years I haven’t been there, and I can’t believe that the immediate response, that people have supported me and didn’t forget me. It’s a beautiful town, I’ve liked to spend some time in it over the years, and I’ve loved walking around all the shops. There’s a great feeling amongst the people in Alexandria, it’s wonderful.
What should people who are coming to your show expect from the show you put on?
It’ll probably be Irish songs, country songs, songs I wrote myself, a few stories in the middle. I know Pat Troy is always a treat because he’s got a lot to say. They’ve been calling it an “Intimate Evening” with me, and that’s what it’s going to be. It’s going to be about 100 people in a room, and I’m going to get to do what I love to do and share my music with these people that have become my friends over the years.
“An Intimate Evening with Deirdre Reilly” at Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub at 713 King St., February 16, 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets are limited, and cost $20. They can be reserved by calling 703-646-5702 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.