Covid Career Change“Good things were starting to happen for me. And then Covid hit.” 

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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2020 is entering its final quarter and, let’s face it, it can’t end soon enough. So many people had so many plans and opportunities which have been put on hold or lost since Covid-19 became a major part of all our lives. And live performance has been one of the areas that’s been hit the worst. Just ask Barry Kirwan. Barry’s spent years building his career in country music and he felt that 2020 was going to be his year. But, as he told Ryan Tubridy on Wednesday, 2020 was not his year. 

A lot of Irish country musicians will tell you that it might take about 5 years for your career to build and I could see that that kind of was happening and good things were starting to happen for me and then… Covid hit.” 

Almost immediately, Barry lost a tour of Scotland and England with his dad and that amounted to nearly fifty gigs. He had taken out loans to buy equipment when he was putting his own band together and once lockdown ended, the loan repayments became due again, but Barry wasn’t bringing in any money, so he had to get a job. Of course, that’s not unusual – back in the old days of 2019, plenty of people working in the arts and live entertainment industries would rely on other work in restaurants, shops, bars, etc to pay the rent between gigs. But the time between jobs isn’t supposed to be measured in years and that’s what Barry fears is in store for live music: 

The more the lockdown’s gone on and then the more the government’s shut things down, then that’s obviously become more gigs and the rest of the year’s obviously going to be taken away and cancelled. And it looks like next year’s going to be cancelled.” 

So, Barry got a job, first working for Dunnes Stores in Omagh (where he’s from) sanitising trolleys after customers had used them. That was always going be temporary, though, so he knew he had to get something more secure. And he didn’t let the fact that he’d never written up a CV, or had a job interview stand in his way. There was a job going at Lidl in Omagh – 900 people applied for it. Barry got it. 

“Just talking to people in store, you know, people realise that you have to do what you have to do. Yeah, definitely the pride’s definitely gone. I actually enjoy working in Lidl now.” 

Barry’s keeping his artistic side ticking over by doing live sessions on Facebook every Monday. He’s also teamed up with a local producer, Matt McGlynn, nephew of renowned guitarist Arty McGylnn, to record a new album, which he’s hoping will be ready for Christmas. As Ryan mentioned during the chat, Barry’s got on with things and he’s not giving out about the state of the world and he’s feeling optimistic about the future. 

“Music will come back, we just have to ride this storm.” 

Amen. You can hear the full chat between Ryan and Barry by going here.  

Song and Dance Man, the new single from Barry Kirwan, will be out in the near future. 

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2020

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