Noel Boland may have grown up listening to country music, but the discovery of Garth Brooks’ No Fences album was the true turning point in his life. The Blessington based singer-songwriter and musician, says his “life changed forever” after hearing that album, setting him on a path which has resulted in him reaching the semi-finals of TG4’s long running, and influential, Country & Irish music show, Glór Tíre.
“I was 8-years-old when a Garth Brooks tape came into the house,” says Noel of that pivotal moment. “It was No Fences. Dad brought it home, then said, ‘That’s not Country Music!” I took the tape on him and listened to it loads and loads. Garth is my inspiration, I was at the Croke Park concerts last summer. I was there twice!”
American Country music is an enormous influence on Noel’s own songwriting. He recalls his parent’s playing George Jones and the ‘King of Country’, George Strait. Later he would explore the ‘Outlaw Country’ of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. “Maybe prison songs and shooting songs weren’t very appropriate for a child to be listening to, but I loved the passion they put into writing those songs,” he laughs.
However Garth Brooks, and the American Country of the 1990s and 2000s is his key inspiration. “There are many who would agree that there is nothing like that era, and I like writing in that style,” he says. All of these elements have gone into making the Wicklowman the songwriter he is today. Indeed, Noel’s songwriting has already gained attention, with his composition, ‘Always In My Heart’, having received “a huge response on local radio”.
“My Mum passed away in 2011, so she never got to see me play,” he says. “The song is written about her and dedicated to her. As a songwriter, you want to stir up an emotion in someone, that’s what I try to do in my music. I love lyrics and a lot of Irish Country music is based on beat. I’m more lyrics based. I love a good story, something that moves you or means something to you.”
For Irish Country musicians – emerging and established – TG4’s Glór Tíre is the backbone of the music, an essential platform for the genre, and a pivotal showcase for artists. Noel, as a contestant on Season 19 is well aware of why it matters. “Everybody knows Glór Tíre, there is not anybody who doesn’t know this show,” he says. “It is hugely, massively important. For somebody like me, who is relatively unknown, you get a platform and everybody gets to see you and hear your music. I’m hoping to achieve exposure from being on TV and hopefully build on that.”
Glór Tíre contestants are mentored throughout the run of the show by an established figure in Country & Irish, and Noel’s mentor is none other than Louise Morrissey. “It’s a bit daunting!” he says of having a legend of the genre as his mentor. “She is a lovely person and her reputation precedes her. Who doesn’t know Louise Morrissey? She has had such a fantastic career. I’m looking forward to working with her and learning with her. I’m sure I’m going to learn loads.”
As well as competing in Glór Tíre, Noel is also working on a solo album of original material, and his music can be heard on Spotify, Apple Music, Facebook, Instagram, and www.noelboland.com.
Noel will perform in Glór Tíre semi-finals on February 7 and 14 on TG4 at 9.30am. The Grand Final is on
February 21. See www.tg4.ie and follow @glortire on social media for all of the latest news and updates.