Damian McGinty has experienced “Glee.” Now he’s happy to be back in Celtic Thunder.
The opportunity to rejoin Celtic Thunder came after two members of the singing ensemble – Colm Keegan and Emmett O’Hanlon – departed to pursue other projects. For McGinty, who left Celtic Thunder in 2011 to audition for Oxygen network’s reality show “The Glee Project,” returning to the group was like coming home.
“I’ve always kept in touch with Celtic Thunder, with the guys, the producers, and they made offers for me to return earlier, and I just didn’t feel right. But last year there was a tour,” McGinty said in a mid-August phone interview. “I wanted to get on the road again. I’d done television for three or four years. It was a very different experience to live performing, to touring, and live shows in theaters. They’re very different things. And I wanted to do that again.”
That initial tour, dubbed the “Very Best Of” tour to coincide with the release of the CD “The Very Best of Celtic Thunder,” was followed this year by the “Legacy” tour. Another greatest hits-centric outing, the tour coincides with the release of a pair of best-of CDs, “Legacy, Volume One” and “Legacy, Volume Two,” and two companion live DVDs. Having filmed the DVDs with the group, McGinty found he wanted to be part of the “Legacy” tour as well.
“As an original member, I feel like I own a bit of the group,” he said. “I feel like I’m partly responsible for the projects it produces, and that was something I wanted to be a part of. And it felt like the right time. I’m glad I did it. It’s been great.”
McGinty was one of the singers chosen for the original lineup in 2007. At the time, he was just 14, and he filled the need for a boy soprano in the group, which was started by producer Sharon Browne, who was fresh off of her stint as co-founder for the Irish female singing group Celtic Woman.
Like Celtic Woman, Celtic Thunder is rooted in Irish music. But Celtic Thunder’s repertoire is more diverse. It includes traditional Irish tunes, material written by original musical director Phil Coulter and his successor, David Munro, pop songs (Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” is included on “Legacy, Volume Two”), and even fully plugged-in rock (the group has performed “The Boys are Back in Town” by Irish rockers Thin Lizzy).
McGinty’s first run with Celtic Thunder lasted more than four years. He appeared on the group’s first eight studio albums and its 2010 holiday release, “Celtic Thunder: Christmas.”
But then came “The Glee Project,” and McGinty felt he was ready to try something new with his career – even though it wasn’t guaranteed to lead to anything more than an audition.
“At the time, I was 19 years old. I wanted a challenge. I wanted to be excited,” he said. “I wanted to challenge myself and see how much I could push myself. It was all in the name of getting better and improving and growing as an artist and growing as a person, a human, just experiencing more. That was really what made me go for it.”
The gamble paid off – perhaps more than McGinty, who turned 24 on Sept. 9, could have anticipated. He won “The Glee Project” competition and then accepted an offer to appear in seven episodes of the third season of “Glee.” That run was then extended to 18 episodes and introduced McGinty to a whole new audience.
At the moment, how long Celtic Thunder will figure into McGinty’s musical future is an open question. He is billed as a special guest for the “Legacy” touring cycle and has not cemented any plans beyond the current U.S. tour, although he said he expects to discuss his future with the group soon.
Solo music, though, will be in McGinty’s future. He released a Christmas album, “This Christmas Time,” in October. He has also started work on his first full-fledged solo album, which he said will have “a bit of a Coldplay/Snow Patrol vibe.”
But first up, the final stretch of the American leg of Celtic Thunder’s “Legacy” tour. McGinty said the title of the tour relates directly to what the group, which also includes Neil Byrne, Ryan Kelly, Michael O’Dwyer and Emmet Cahill (who was in the group from 2010 to 2014 and then rejoined in 2015), wants to express with the show.
“It’s sort of what legacy we want to leave as a group, as a show, as a production,” McGinty said. “It’s really an homage to where we’re from, to where we grew up, to our backgrounds, how we were raised. So what people can expect this fall is a ‘Legacy’ show. It’s a very live experience. This time is a little different. Everything is incredibly live, a little more stripped back. Yeah, we’re very excited for it. We’ve got obviously what you’d expect from a Celtic Thunder show, where it’s a production, it’s a visually spectacular production as well as hopefully some great singing.”
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