DANIEL O’DONNELL has been making music for 40 years.
Over that time the Donegal singer has claimed his place as one of the biggest stars ever to come out of Ireland.
This year he celebrates his 60th birthday – on December 12 to be exact.
With that in mind, and with the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic hopefully behind us, he has embarked on two pretty significant new projects.
His new album, Daniel O’Donnell 60, is set for release on October 15.
But there is the small matter of a 19-date concert tour of Britain, which kicks off on October 1 in Eastbourne and concludes in Manchester on October 27, to attend to before that.
It will be the first time that the thousands of dedicated DOD fans who are based in Britain will get to see their musical hero perform live in more than 18 months.
Following that he is heading to the US, to perform for the many more adoring fans who reside there.
Fans who, he admits, he would not be where he is today without.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve done a proper live show,” O’Donnell told The Irish Post, “the last one was in February 2020.”
“It’s exciting to be getting back out there,” he adds, “to see light at the end of the Covid tunnel.”
He explained: “Myself and the band are on tour in Britain for the duration of next month – we are going to do it and do it the way we would have always done it.”
They hope to bring a sense of those concerts their fans love back to them once again, but O’Donnell admits there will be certain unavoidable changes to the format.
“I never knew the importance of a bubble until Covid, all we are thinking about is bubbles and bubbles at the moment,” he says.
“We are still going to be respectful of the limitations that Covid has put on us, and I think it’s great theatres are opening up, but we [the band] will be travelling together, we will be on a bus together, we are aware you have to be careful.
“But we are going out and are just looking forward to playing music and having people in front of us who will hopefully enjoy it.”
He added: “I do think too that some people are going to be very cautious about coming out, so it’s hard to know what numbers you will get for the concert tour, its clearly not going to be like it was before.
“However, I felt there was a need to do this, for me the important thing was that we do it, because it is positive.”
One thing that won’t be happening on this tour is the popular meet and greet session that the Kincasslagh native traditionally undertakes at the close of each concert.
“We have to be mindful that at the end of the show, where I would normally go out and meet everybody, that’s not possible to do for this tour,” he confirms.
“People are in the theatre in their space with the people around them, but they are not mingling with everyone in the theatre.
“I think that is what we have to do for the next wee while.
He admits: “That will be hard for me, I do enjoy the meet and greet, I get to know the people who come to my shows, I know some of them very well now over the years.
“But I think people will understand the reasoning for this.
“We need to be grateful for the small steps we can now take.
“When we were here in [lockdown in] Ireland limited to going 2km from home, and then 5km from home, you were just grateful for the things you were afforded that were ok to do.
“That’s the way we feel now, we are so excited that we are able to go out and play music.”
There’s no question that O’Donnell’s legion of loyal fans will understand, many of whom have been following his career since he first hit the scene in January 1981, when he joined his sister Margo’s band.
“The fans have been fantastic,” O’Donnell says.
“I would not have done what I have done over the years without the support of the people who come to the shows and buy the albums, and that goes right across the board to wherever we have gone.”
He added: “That’s who makes the career possible, we can sing all we like but if no one enjoys it or if no one wants to be there then it is a non-starter.”
So, what can fans expect from the new album, a 15-track CD which includes some music recorded while in lockdown and other songs completed since restrictions lifted.
“The album is a mixture of songs, some that I would have thought about recording for many years, some are older, songs that I wasn’t even aware of, then people put them my way and said, ‘did you ever hear this’, or that, and I loved them,” he explains.
“So it’s a mixture of songs that I hope people will enjoy, I certainly enjoyed recording them,” he adds.
Does he have any favourites?
“I get to pick all the music myself and nobody insists that I record anything, so I am responsible for all the music choices,” he says.
“I have to love them to record them,” he adds, “but I love a song called Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun and I love another song called Down At The La De Dah, which I only heard recently, on the radio.
“I found it and thought I just love it and I went and recorded it very late for the album, but it made it on.”
He added: “There is one by The Seekers too, I’ll Never Find Another You.
“It was their first great hit from the 60s and I have always been a great fan of Judith Durham and The Seekers, so that’s the kind of thing I do, I just record songs that I love.”
Despite 40 years in the business now under his belt, the singer’s love of music is as strong today as ever.
And as he approaches his 60th birthday, he is grateful to still be making music, and determined to make it to the grand age of 100.
“I’m quite happy being 60,” he admits.
“I think it is great that I am doing what I am doing and am able to have the life I have, I am not worried about any age.”
He adds: “My father died at 49 so we as a family, especially the boys in my house, we have always been very aware of how young he was when he died.
“I hope I will live to 100 and I hope I will be well; I would love to.”
He’s also in a good place musically.
“Musically I am very happy,” he says, “I am very much on my own terms with what I want to do.
“I don’t do as many shows as I used to,” he explains.
“Although I am doing 42 shows between now and Christmas, that is because we had so many postponements last year, that these shows are all bunched together.
“But I don’t do as much. After that I will do the Gertrude Byrne cruise in the Caribbean next February but then I don’t do anything until August.”
Instead, O’Donnell will spend time with his family - which continues to grow.
“I have the balance now of going out and touring but also the balance of being home, I enjoy that,” he explains.
“We have grandchildren, we have two and another on the way in October, and that is exciting.
“My niece gave birth to twins recently, so its lovely to be able to experience all that in the family too.
“Grandchildren are something else, it’s hard to describe what they bring to you,” he admits.
So, as he celebrates a milestone year, both professionally and personally, is there anything left on O’Donnell’s career bucket list?
“One of the things I have never done is something in a musical, I think I would enjoy that,” he reveals.
“I have never done any acting so I think I would fall very, very short, but I think I would enjoy it.”
He adds: “Would that ever happen? Who knows?
“I suppose if you really wanted to you could make something like that happen.
“Maybe one day.”
Daniel O Donnell 60 is released by the Demon Music Group on October 15 on Green Vinyl, CD and digital formats. For tickets for Daniel’s tour click here.