Then & now Mickey Harte, singer

a
 

IN 2002, IRELAND’S Eurovisiondream lay in the balance. Having scored our lowest-ever placing at Copenhagen the previous year, we had gone from being serial Eurovisionwinners in the 1990s to complete relegation. We needed drastic action to bring us back into the game.

So RTÉ devised a new reality show, You’re A Star, to replace our traditional national song contest. With a judging panel that included former Eurovisionwinner Linda Martin, songwriter Phil Coulter and Kerry Katona (who actually used to be a singer), You’re A Star became the nation’s top-rated TV show, as wannabe Danas and Johnny Logans lined up to compete for a chance to represent Ireland in Latvia in 2003.

The contest was won by Mickey Joe Harte, a young singer-songwriter from Lifford, Co Donegal, and he was duly dispatched to Riga to restore our Eurovisionglory. Alas, Ireland’s entry, We’ve Got The World, written by Martin Brannigan and Keith Molloy, didn’t do the business, but it did soar to number one in the Irish charts, holding on to pole position for five weeks to become the year’s best-selling song. Harte signed to Sony Ireland, and released his debut album, Sometimes Right, Sometimes Wrong, which featured some of his own songs along with songs by Paul Brady and Josh Ritter and a cover of The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks, and, of course, his Eurovisionentry.

When his deal with Sony ended, he released his second album, Live and Learn, on his own Swerve Music label, and travelled the length and breadth of the country, bringing his rock/country/blues influenced music to an ever-diminishing fanbase. Having been at the receiving end of judges’ scrutiny, Harte developed his own skills as a mentor, founding a school for musically inclined youths, and coaching young hopefuls on the RTÉ series Star Search.

Most people would have made a big deal of their association with Eurovision,but not modest Mickey. You’d be hard-pressed to find any mention of the E-word in any of his subsequent press releases, and his official biography on mickeyhartemusic.com makes no reference to his participation in Europe’s biggest televised event, though it does list his many other achievements, including supporting The Chieftains, The Sawdoctors, Shane MacGowan and Ronnie Wood, being nominated for a Meteor Music Award and performing at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Somewhere along the line, he lost the Joe, becoming plain old Mickey Harte, but he never lost his mojo. He’s spent much of the past five years in the US, gigging, writing, recording and collaborating with other musicians. Earlier this month, he released a new single, Time, from his forthcoming album, A Man’s Aloud to Dream, due out in January. He also plays a regular residency slot at Dicey’s bar on Harcourt Street, Dublin.

But his latest TV appearance may eclipse even Eurovision. Last week, Harte featured in the RTÉ documentary Brian and Pippa Get Married, which chronicled the wedding of TV presenter Brian Ormond to model Pippa O’Connor. Harte was the best man at the wedding, and even composed a song for the occasion, entitled The First Day.

a