Northern Ireland news

Belfast singer John Rafferty bringing town to country on Glór Tíre talent show

West Belfast man John Rafferty, left, with Irish country music star Johnny Brady, from Randalstown
Mairead Holland

A country singer born and bred in Belfast is rallying fans for the finals of a TV talent contest.

John Rafferty, from the Whiterock area of the city, is the only northern contestant in the latest series of TG4 show Glór Tíre (Country Voice).

The 41-year-old is scheduled to perform on Tuesday February 19 when he will duet with country music star Johnny Brady, singing the classic Willie Nelson song 'Seven Spanish Angels' .

Johnny, from Randalstown in Co Antrim, and who is related to the late Big Tom McBride, is mentoring John on the show.

"It's a great platform," said John. "The guys like Johnny we perform with are well-established artists who tour all over the world."

John, who is married to Martine and is stepdad to five children and step-grandad to four-year-old Thomas, grew up with music in his blood.

His late dad Gerry was a singer and huge Elvis fan and as a young lad John toured local venues with him.

He began singing himself when he was 17, making his name as a Garth Brooks impersonator.

John combined music with various day jobs including as retail assistant as well as house husband until deciding to devote himself to his music full-time three years ago.

He also spent several seasons as a 'red coat' in Butlin's Mosney which he describes as a great introduction to performing and live audiences.

"There's no better feeling than seeing people dancing and enjoying themselves," he said.

John has already made an initial appearance on Glór Tíre, along with the other five finalists, when he treated the judges to a rendition of Borrowed Angel by American singer Mel Street.

"I feel it went well," he said. "One of the judges said they had never had a finalist from Belfast before. You have to send in a video when you are applying for the show and Johnny Brady chose mine."

Previous winners include Tyrone singers Lauren McCrory and Liam Kelly.

The west Belfast man has already produced two albums in the past three years, one of which - The Comfort of Her Wings - went to number one in the Irish country charts.

He was also a contestant on BBC programme The Voice UK, performing for Tom Jones and Kylie Minogue, and sang for Simon Cowell on Britain's Got Talent.

John and his army of local fans have organised a bus to Galway on March 5 for the first live elimination show.

After two further elimination nights, the final three singers will battle it out on March 26, when the voting is completely down to the public.

Said John: "You never know how it's going to go when it's a public vote and especially because the show is much better known down south than it is here, but I'll be hoping for the best."

Voting lines have already opened and close on March 5. Anyone wishing to show their support for John can text GLOR6 to 60999 or phone 0901656610.

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