Exclusive Interview:Matthew Gilsenan of The Celtic Tenors.

I love almost all kinds of music. I remember that Classical music was the first that I heard as a child that made me ‘feel’ in  certain way and  that was overwhelming. Growing up, Celtic music found its way into the mix. The marriage of both is just stunning. Classical, Folk, Rock, Jazz…it doesn’t really matter. They are part of the bigger picture which is music.


A couple of years ago , I got myself a copy of a magazine called “The A to Z of Irish Music”. It’s got artists like Enya, Christy Moore, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, Andrea Corr and bands like The Cranberries, U2 and others. That’s where I read about Matthew Gilsenan and The Celtic Tenors. Fast forward a few years and I got the CD Feels Like Home which is the title track and also a great song originally done by Chantal Kreviazuk for the TV series Dawson’s Creek.

I have my personal favorites and among them is the Mary Fahl pinned Going Home from Gods and Generals which opens the album with Uilleann pipes leading the way. Right now the CD is blasting in my stereo speakers and it’s been months since I got my hands on this gem and the experience never wanes.

Mathew took time to let CMF fire away these questions.

The Irish music scene is a relatively polar one. rock, opera, folk and traditional all tend to stay away from each other. There are of course notable exceptions, but it is hard when you are trying to carve a new genre which is really what we’re doing.

I have Feels Like Home and it is a rewarding listening experience. What are your own favorite tracks in the album?

Galileo was the surprise for me. I found it hugely challenging initially and really thought I couldn’t do the great song justice but living and living with it and with the lads and Martin’s skill and encouragement along with Gavin’s inspirational arrangement of the orchestra, I think we nailed it. I think it’s one of the great love songs of our time. not just that it’s my solo

How did you train to become a classical crossover singer?

I have been singing as a natural singer from when I was 6 but I have always had an interest in training. Catholic Ireland made sure that the nuns got me for my first few years I did grades and did well. I then felt it was totally uncool so I stopped aged 11 or 12. Then began again when I went to university.I joined the college of music in Dublin and from there I was smitten with learning the technique and I’m still at it. Mary Brennan was the teacher I’ve learnt most from but the icing for me is my current guy, Peter Alexander Wilson from Scotland. a fine tenor himself and he just knows his SH**.

What’s great about being part of The Celtic Tenors?

Apart from the obvious joys of singing songs that I love it’s that I work with people I really like. The team really works and it’s always huge fun.
You guys have been busy since late last year promoting the album. What’s memorable about 2011?
The most memorable thing for me about 2011 was probably singing on the top of the Irish consul general to the UN’s apartment in Manhattan at Christmas time. New York is a stunning city and I’ve never seen it look so beautiful as on that night. Also the sheer joy of making this record. It’s the first time we’ve been directly involved with actually producing one. We got what we wanted, but the next one will be even better….haha

The next one? Gotta wait for that one too! According to my research, you also worked as an Engineer. How  do you balance music and career ? Well, we can say that this is your musical career which is really rewarding. But to be a man with two worlds, this is very interesting.

I do have a BE from University College Dublin and worked, full time as an Engineer for almost 5 years. I worked for Baker Perkins in the UK as a process engineer specializing in high power microwave. But in 1998 I took 6 months break to explore singing as a career. One thing led to another and I ended up founding the Celtic Tenors in 2000 with James and another singer. So I took a longer break from the engineering and have been singing full time since.
I will always be an engineer, I do believe that it is a state of mind so I do feel like I’m both, living in symbiotic craziness.

Photo by Barry McCall 2011.

I am sure there is a child out there who aspires to be like you one day. What would you suggest to people who want to make it in the music scene?

Listen to people who have been in the business and take only the tips and “must-dos” try to take advice from people who are successful in the business. There are many people who don’t make it work, It is hard but not impossible.

Your albums are successful in your native country as well as other parts of the world. What’s the state of the Irish music scene when it comes to this genre that you are involved with?

The Irish music scene is a relatively polar one. rock, opera, folk and traditional all tend to stay away from each other. There are of course notable exceptions, but it is hard when you are trying to carve a new genre which is really what we’re doing. We have our detractors but in the main we are being hugely supported by most of the traditionalists and Classical people as well as the rockers and folkies. Our aim is genuinely trying to produce something of musical merit and quality that is at least trying to be progressive.
Do you get bookings or invitations on your own? How are they like?

I do solo work from time to time. I love it, I get to sing just the songs that I like, no compromises it’s a slightly different vibe show. I miss the guys but I could do it as a thing at a push.

10 things you can’t live without when you are stranded on a ..let us say a remote island.

1. A heard of goats eating and drinking
2. Excellent Computer with high-speed internet.
3. Pen and Paper
4. A piano
5. A microphone.
6. A fresh water spring.
7. My Family.
8. sun cream,
9. A nice apartment.
10. A sea plane fuelled up.

There you go guys, Matthew Gilsenan of The Celtic Tenors. Matthew it has been an honor for  CMF to be able to get in touch with you and ask you these questions directly. I am sure you have countless fans out there who want to find out things about you and The Celtic Tenors but which other magazines or media failed to print. They can use this site as reference. For that thank you so much. You can purchase a copy of Feels Like Home through their website http://www.celtic-tenors.com/ as well as Amazon uk.

P.S. Thanks to Anita Daly for sending me the album/


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