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Rock singer turns to classic Irish tunes

Tommy Fleming embarks on first major U.S. tour

Tommy Fleming embarks on first major U.S. tour

March 13, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

FREDERICK, Md. -- When he was a child in Sligo, Ireland, Tommy Fleming would sing along to his father's vinyl records of artists such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and The Carpenters.

In his 20s, Fleming performed in Castlebar, Ireland, with a rock band, Jarog. They played Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and songs by Fleetwood Mac.

But it was when he sang classic Irish tunes that he got noticed, says Fleming.

Fleming, 36, will perform a mix of classic Irish and American songs Saturday night at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick.

He and a six-piece band will perform familiar American and Irish songs such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Danny Boy," and "From a Distance" as well as some of his new, contemporary, Irish pieces such as "The Contender" and "Bright Blue Rose." Audience members can call out songs and, Fleming says, if the band feels like it, they will perform them.

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This tour, Fleming's first major U.S. tour, began last week in New York and will take him along the East Coast and end in Illinois.

It was a world tour in the mid-1990s as lead vocalist with the popular, traditional, Irish band De Danann that "became like an apprenticeship," Fleming says. "It's where I learned my craft."

At the end of his stint with that band, in 1996, Fleming received a record deal and began a solo career that has produced eight albums.

Fleming hasn't had time to write music, but he's planning to change that when he sits down with some other writers to work on a new studio album in 2009.

"It's something different. I'm in that place now that I really want to (write songs)," Fleming says. He will collaborate on some of the songs with experienced songwriters such as well-known Irish songwriters Don Mescall (he's written for Rascal Flatts and Backstreet Boys) and Paul McDonald (he's written for Irish singer Mary Black) as well as American writers like John Gorka (Mary Chapin Carpenter and Maura O'Connell) and Eric Long (Black and O'Connell).

But before he can start work on that album, Fleming will work on his first Christmas album this summer.

Fleming says he'll "probably decorate the studio in Christmas trees to get in the mood."

He plans to record the holiday songs he learned as a child -- "Silent Night," "O Holy Night" and "In the Bleak Midwinter."

"I really want to do that at this stage," Fleming says. "There's something about Christmas songs. They bring you back to your childhood. There's a feel-good factor."

That would be the childhood when he performed at small-town Irish talent shows as a teenager for the prize money, maybe $200 or $500.

Then at 19 he was named entertainer of the year by an Irish radio station and won $1,000.

He used his prize money to take girls out, buy a crappy car and get equipment like a sound system so he could play in bars and get experience and make more money.

"It was a vicious circle," Fleming says. And it got him to where he is today.




If you go ...



WHAT: The Tommy Fleming Band, concert of classic Irish and American songs and contemporary Irish songs

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 15

WHERE: Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick, Md.

COST: Tickets are $10 to $25

MORE: For tickets or more information, call 301-600-2828 or go to www.weinbergcenter.org.

For more information about Tommy Fleming, go to www.tommyfleming.net.

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