Tommy Fleming has been described as the Voice of Ireland - so rich and emotionally charged are his renderings of tear-jerking traditional Irish balladry from Danny Boy to the Isle of Inisfree and Galway Bay and the Cliffs of Dooneen - he can make all the classics of the genre his own.
The flame-haired artist, who lives in Enniscrone, Sligo with his wife Tina, can hold audiences rapt with his spin on more modern ballads too, delivering heartfelt versions of emotive tracks like Bridge Over Troubled Waters, You Raise Me Up, From a Distance and Something Inside So Strong. Fleming’s voice is an instrument of rare power - soaring, sincere and romantic; he can transform a song with his unique interpretations - his vocals expertly delivering the crescendos and cadences of age-old lyrics and modern symphonic pop hits.
The release of his album Stories in 2016 marked his 25 years in the music business. The title track was written by Paul Brady and also includes a special duet with American country singer Vince Gill.
Always avidly touring and recording, Tommy will arrive at Belfast’s Ulster Hall on February 16 and the Millennium Forum, Londondery, on February 23.
And the artist is determined to deliver a setlist of classics that his fanbase know and love.
“It’s a mixture of everything. So it’s old and it’s new with the odd surprise in the middle of it. I’m singing The Contender, Hard Times, and Danny Boy.
“Somebody once described me as being almost like the male counterpart to Mary Black - that’s my kind of music and a comparison I am proud of.”
Fleming grew up in a musical family, always “dreaming that I’d grow up to be on stage” and his abilities were well established at local concerts and school talent shows. He got his big break after meeting pianist Phil Coulter and embarking on a US tour that took him all the way to New York’s Carnegie Hall.
“It was a huge eye-opener. I was very much green behind the gills,” says the artist. “I had been playing smoky pubs full of chat and people clinking glasses and then suddenly I was singing in Carnegie Hall. I loved the art of being a performer.”
After a brief stint with Irish folk group De Danaan Fleming released his debut solo album Different Side of Life in 1996. Album releases Restless Spirit, Sand & Water and The Contender followed and 2005’s Voice of Hope - recorded at Knock Basilica in Co Mayo - was his first US album release.
“I find performing exhilarating even if it’s just the corner of a pub. They always say if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life and I haven’t had to work in over 26 years. There is something about the old Irish ballads. Danny Boy for example must be over 200 years old. Will people be singing Lady Gaga’s Poker Face in 200 years? I doubt it. Whereas Danny Boy will endure. “Most Irish songs are about story-telling. It’s the story and the melody that endures.”