Damian McGinty’s life is all about music.
But after a stint on “The Glee Project” and “Glee" (he played Rory Flanagan), he’s thrown in a bit of acting as well.
“My acting career definitely gets a bit of a cold shoulder, to be honest. . . . Music is a priority for me,” McGinty said.
In between working with Celtic Thunder, an Irish theatrical singing group, and starring in a movie called “Santa Fake,” he’s been writing songs and will visit The Linda/WAMC Performing Arts Studio on April 4 for the first stop on his solo tour.
His music combines a bit of classic Irish storytelling with catchy hooks and a pop feel. With his first original EP “No More Time,” which comes out March 30, McGinty is bringing some of the lessons he’s learned from being in the industry for more than a decade (he’s 25) and traveling the world. As his dad often tells him, “Every day is a school day.”
McGinty recently talked with The Gazette about his new EP, his impromptu acting career and where he’s going next.
Q: So how did you get started singing? Have you just been singing since you were a kid?
A: I was about 4 or 5 years old when I started figuring out that I love music. At the time, I was on vacation with my family and there was a karaoke competition, and I wanted to enter it. I remember my parents being like “Oh no, our 4-year-old son wants to go up there and probably embarrass us.” I ended up [competing] and winning that competition. I’m sure a lot of it was the sympathy vote, obviously. But basically [my family] was like “Wait, this kid actually has a voice. He can actually sing.” It was nothing serious for a long time. I was always just singing around the house and listening to music. Then when I was 14, I got the gig in Celtic Thunder, which was the beginning of my professional career. It’s kinda crazy.
Q: How did the opportunity to join Celtic Thunder come up?
A: So a friend of my dad’s passed on my amateur record to the first musical director of Celtic Thunder, Phil Coulter. He loved it. Phil told my dad “Don’t put [your son] on all those reality shows that are crippling our environment at the moment. I’ll figure something out.” My dad told me and I thought “OK, I’ll just go back to school and this will probably blow over.” But a few weeks later we got a phone call about Celtic Thunder. I went and auditioned, and I was the first official member. When I got the role, the first thing I was thinking was “Yes, I get out of school.” That was all I could think of. I wasn’t even thinking this [could be] a career or a break. I mean, I was 14.
Q: Do you feel like it’s helped you develop musically and get your name out there?
A: I would say both. Initially, it helped me get my name out there and helped me grow musically because it was just my introduction to everything: to professional recording studios, to delivering a song on a professional stage, to harmonies. I mean, I learned a lot of what I know about the music industry from Celtic Thunder. Now, we’re sort of back for our 10th-anniversary special. It’s a big project and it’s a different feel to it because I’m still only 25, but I’ve experienced a lot [like “The Glee Project”]. Last Saturday, we just did the "Star Spangled Banner" for the New York Knicks and that was a new experience. That was pretty terrifying, a five-piece a capella harmony in the middle of Madison Square Garden. . . . That’s quite an intimidating thought. So it keeps bringing things to the table that I’ve never done and for that, I’m grateful.
Q: You mentioned “The Glee Project” and I know you were on “Glee” for a little while. What was that experience like?
A: It was great. I enjoyed “The Glee Project” more than “Glee” itself. I was able to just be more myself on “The Glee Project.” I was 19 at the time and I made a lot of great friends. There was no real expectation on my shoulders. It was just “challenge yourself and see what happens.” I ended up really enjoying that experience and it just happened to be that I won it. Out of 40,000 kids . . . I just never expected to win it. I am a competitive person by nature, so I was going into it to win it, but I was also realistic. Looking at the talent around me I [thought], “There’s no way I’m going to win this.” It was like sink or swim, and I was just trying to swim each week. I did a lot of growing during that show, more than I’ve ever done. Then “Glee” itself was great, working with some of those professionals like Cory Monteith, Jane Lynch, Matthew Morrison, just people that are incredible talents. I did that for a year and a half. It sort of brought my profile to a different level. National television was not something that I ever thought would be a part of my journey.
Q: Was that your first acting experience?
A: Yeah. Honestly, if you watch the first episode [that I’m in] you can definitely tell. Growing up, I went to drama class and stuff like that. I used to go to class every Saturday afternoon and I would be part of these little shows. But I was never taken to professional acting lessons. I had Irish parents. I didn’t have an LA mother driving me around to auditions. I see all of that now, because I’m based in LA, but that was not my upbringing at all. And I’m grateful for that.
Q: So how long have you been [working on] your own music?
A: I started writing songs about three or four years ago. I always wanted to, I just didn’t know how. It’s not easy. My favorite artists are independent songwriters who are writing their own records and putting out a record every 12 or 18 months. So I’d been listening to those people for five or seven years and I really wanted to do that. I really wanted to tell my stories. I just needed to learn the craft of songwriting because I didn’t want to just walk into it, because that’s a disservice to songwriters around the world. So I went through [the] process of learning [it]. I worked with producers and writers. . . . I’ve worked with hundreds of people over the last three or four years. Eventually, I came into a group with my producers now, who are Irish. We just got some songwriting sessions together and the stuff we churned out was actually good. It was the first time I felt like I had people who understood what I was looking for and what sound I wanted. It just clicked. Then, in the last year, for two or three weeks at a time, we just locked ourselves in the studio and wrote songs, produced them and recorded them, all that stuff. I just released a song, “Slow Dance,” which premiered on the Elvis Duran show, which was really cool. Actually, it was more than pretty cool - I was blown away by that. Then the EP is coming out on March 30 and the tour is after that.
Q: What’s your songwriting process like?
A: I start with a story, because I know my sound now [and] my producers know what we need to do to make it. We get in a room, we mess around with a few chords and get a few melodies. One of my strengths is writing chorus melodies, I really love writing hooky melodies and it sort of comes naturally. Then we figure out the formula and what we want it to sound like. Before you know it, we’re sitting there with a demo. Then we [build it from there].
Q: What sort of stories or experiences have inspired the songs?
A: “Slow Dance,” is about being young and falling in love. It’s also my personal story [because] I’m always on the road, I’m always touring, I just made a movie, just all these things that are constantly moving pieces for me. But no matter what, I always have this person who is my anchor. No matter what, when it comes to her [it’s steady]. I have a song on the album called “No More Time,” which the EP itself is actually called. That song is about making sure you grab the day and use your initiative. Just because life is short and when you get to travel the world, it’s odd, when you get back the world becomes a much smaller place. Time goes so quick for me personally and I know I’m not the only one who feels that. Then “Sweetest Goodbye,” is about me leaving home. I wrote with a guy [named] Mark Kaplus, who is a great singer-songwriter. It's about my nieces and nephews and coming home. So I think [the album] is going to be relatable for a lot of people. People seem to be enjoying “Slow Dance” so far, but what I’m most excited about is my first original record. I think this is a really strong starting point and I’m already excited to get better.
Q: Like you just said, you were just filming a movie. Can you tell me about it?
A: We shot a movie, it was my first year not going home for Christmas, which was the only hard part about it. But I couldn’t turn it down. We were in Santa Fe and the movie is called “Santa Fake.” It’ll be released in November and I got to work with Heather Morris again from “Glee.” I worked with John Rhys-Davies who plays Gimli in “Lord of the Rings” and Judd Nelson from “The Breakfast Club” and Jeff Fahey from “Lost.” We [filmed] for about a month. My character was the main role so it was a crazy experience, but I absolutely loved it. It was my first movie, so I’m very curious and nervous to see how it comes out.
Q: How do you feel like you’re doing balancing singing and acting careers?
A: My acting career definitely gets a bit of a cold shoulder, to be honest. For my agent, I have to be a frustrating client because I’m always so busy doing something. Music is a priority for me [and] I’ve never shied away from that. I feel like it’s a bit of a disservice to say that both of them are my priorities because that’s not [true]. I’d love to get to a point with [my] music where I could take on acting projects and grow within acting projects because of my musical profile. That’s the idea for the next five years. But music is No. 1 for sure.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: The Linda/WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio
MORE INFO: Thelinda.org; 518-465-5233 x158