An Irish singer with an affinity for American country music — who created more than a wee bit of a stir in 2014 with his Irish version of “Callin’ Baton Rouge” — is releasing the song on an upcoming album.
Matthew O’Donnell (Maitiu O’Domhnaill), 19, entertained fans from Baton Rouge to his native Galway, Ireland, with his Youtube video of the Garth Brooks favorite, which features a crowd of Irish young people line dancing and singing along.
O’Donnell’s first album, to be released soon, will feature both the Irish and English versions of “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” as well as a song he wrote and other country music favorites.
The album’s timing is perfect for O’Donnell, who will travel to the United States in June for an Irish festival in Boston. As cool as that will be, his dream is to one day perform his signature song in Baton Rouge.
“The people of Baton Rouge have been fantastic to me,” he said, “and to know that they love my Irish version of ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge’ puts a big smile on my face.”
Baton Rouge discovered the singer soon after the LSU Tiger Marching Band traveled to Ireland in March of 2014 to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin. The release of the video in July of that year led some to wonder if the singer was inspired by the Tiger Band visit.
“Garth Brooks is my all-time favorite musician. He is my hero,” O’Donnell said in a recent online interview with The Advocate. “I listen to Garth all day every day. And when I heard Garth sing ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge,’ I fell in love with it. The lyrics, that fiddle playing and that good old Cajun country stole my heart.”
Nearly two years after it was posted, O’Donnell is still in awe of the popularity of the video, which to date has received more than 150,000 views on YouTube. “No matter where I go, people know me as that guy who sings ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge’ in Irish,” he said. “It has helped me get some incredible opportunities, like my record deal, for example.”
Still, the question remains, why do “Callin’ Baton Rouge” in Gaelic?
At the time, O’Donnell said, he was working with the Irish language school Coláiste Lurgan. “They teach Irish to the students through music by translating English songs to Irish songs,” he said. “So when they asked me to do a song with them, my heart was set on doing the classic ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge.’”
The video was shot at a big concert hall at the college. “From the very start until the end of the song, the whole place was rocking,” O’Donnell said. “Cowboy hats ... there was some line dancing going on, and I was even wearing my Garth Brooks shirt. There was a real country feel to it all. It was all unfolding before my eyes as I performed the song on stage. Everybody was on a high, the atmosphere was electric, and everybody loved the song. It was like their anthem -- which filled me with joy.”
It’s becoming a more common scene in Ireland, O’Donnell said, as more young people have become country fans, and young artists are leading a revival in Irish country music.
Two of the songs on O’Donnell’s album are available on YouTube: Josh Turner’s “The Longer The Waiting (The Sweeter The Kiss)” (https://youtu.be/E0IzBse7FXE) and Alan Jackson’s “Dog River Blues” (https://youtu.be/fNkYopHI9yY).
Eventually, the entire album will be available on iTunes and elsewhere, he said.