Glee star Damian McGinty back home in Derry before release of new album

Glee singing star Damian McGinty is all grown up. The Derry performer tells Joanne Sweeney why he wants to share his music with the world

Singer Damian McGinty is the longest-serving member of Irish boy band Celtic Thunder
Singer Damian McGinty is the longest-serving member of Irish boy band Celtic Thunder

DERRY singer Damian McGinty has well and truly escaped the floodlights of US hit show Glee to become a top recording artist in his own right. By the end of this year, the 24-year-old will release a new album of his own songs, as he celebrates his 10th year in the entertainment business.

He made the number one spot on the iTunes Holiday chart in the USA, Australia, Canada and Mexico following the release of his debut full-length album This Christmas Time in October. Covering classics such as George Michael's Last Christmas and It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas, it also reached number two on the Billboard Holiday Album and Billboard World Album charts.

But as the youngest and longest-serving member of Irish boy band Celtic Thunder, which has released 10 albums and several DVDs, Damian was already no stranger to huge record sales in the US. He starred in Fox's hit TV show Glee at age 19 after temporarily leaving the group to win the role by competing in TV audition show The Glee Project.

For Damian's yet-to-be-named original album, fans on both sides of the Atlantic can expect something a bit different to his previous work.

"I've always loved pop music so what I've been writing is not so much Justin Bieber but it has more like a Coldplay or Robbie Williams vibe to it, " says Damian, who lives in LA. "It's funny, when you are starting to write your own music, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where it is, but I do think it has its own vibe and style."

Damian has written more than 30 songs in the past few years and has been busy recording.

"I'm excited about the album release as I've been learning the trade of writing, creating and working with different producers in LA and London. I'm eager to start sharing what I have been working on for the last two to three years."

He has also recorded a new album with Celtic Thunder, to be released in September, and will be making a TV special to mark the group’s 10th birthday.

This weekend, however, he's back home in Derry to join Phil Coulter as headline acts for a gala concert and dinner at the Everglades Hotel to launch the Ryan McBride Foundation, an organisation which helps to develop and support young football talent. The 27-year-old Derry City captain died suddenly at his home in March.

"I'm an avid Derry City fan and watched Ryan play multiple times at the Brandywell. Ryan was our captain, a real leader. I was dumbfounded to learn of his death," Damian says. "When Phil approached me to do the concert, I didn't have to think twice about it. I'm delighted to be there on Saturday night."

Coulter and Damian sang a version of The Town I Loved So Well at a concert in San Francisco in tribute both to Ryan and the late Martin McGuinness; a video of the performance has since received nearly 100,000 views on social media.

It was Coulter who recognised Damian's potential when he was a teenager, but that was after he found his voice during a family holiday in Turkey at the age of five.

"There was a karaoke competition going on and I begged my parents to let me enter and they really didn't want me to. I sang Boyzone's No Matter What and ended up winning a non-alcoholic cocktail as a prize. I caught the bug from that moment on," he laughs.

Raised on the Buncrana Road, Damian owes his big break to the intervention of Derry city centre manager Jim Roddy. After winning a local talent competition, he recorded an amateur CD of 14 tracks which Jim, a friend of Damian's father, Damian senior, passed on to his friend, Phil Coulter.

Damian continues the story: "Phil listened to all the tracks and rang my da and said, 'Listen I have no idea about what I'm going to do with your son but I'm going to do something. Keep him on ice and don't put him into X Factor, don't put him on Britain's Got Talent, just be patient and I will find an opportunity for him."

Within five weeks, Coulter got Damian a chance to audition for Celtic Thunder.

"Without question, Phil is one of my greatest friends. Phil was the man who pinpointed me for that gig and I'm very grateful for it," Damian adds.

:: www.damianmcginty.com