Brisbane-based Dubliner releases debut album

 Mick McHugh has just released his debit album,  A Million Stars.

Mick McHugh has just released his debit album, A Million Stars.

Having shared the stage with artists as illustrious as Amy Shark and Damien Dempsey, Australian-based Dublin singer-songwriter is making a statement of his own with his debut album, A Million Stars.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Mick wrote the album with help from none other than Shane Howard of 70's/80's folk/rock group Goanna. Singles Not in Kansas Anymore and Good Good Day have been well received, even receiving industry award nominations.

Mick started recording in early 2016 and explains it may have been a long road but he wanted to make sure he was on the right track.

"I wanted to make sure I did it right," Mick told The Irish Echo.

"It gave me a great opportunity to step it up, to take myself to that next level as an independent artist and compete with the big guns. That was why I took my time to do it. I took the long road to make sure I did every step right."

One of these steps was securing the services of Howard, renowned songwriter of iconic tracks like Solid Rock.

"He is first and foremost a songwriter and he is all about the song, that is what he cares about. He cares about the song. That's why he was brilliant to work with. He was really all about the song.

"He said to me, 'Mick, if you want me to work with you, you have to give me something to chew on'. It had to be something deep. He was writing songs that mean something, songs that have a bit of weight to them and have social commentary.

"I was telling a story of how I turned up to a gig one time and I realise my stuff wasn't going to work here, ya know, because you have your stuff and you know where it works. I turned up and was like, 'Oh man, not in Kansas anymore'.

"I was telling him this story and he clicks his finger, points at me and says, 'that's the song we're going to write'. We went into his man shed with the two guitars and we came out a few hours later with this song and it's done very well for us, finished as a finalist in the Great American Song Contest and it was a semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Contest. It was quite an easy process to work together."

 Mick McHugh is a Dubliner but now calls Byron Bay home.

Mick McHugh is a Dubliner but now calls Byron Bay home.

Is it satisfying to get accolades such as these award nominations?

"It is absolutely because it's a long journey and as an independent artist in this point of my career, it's not financial gain so when it gets shortlisted, you know the song is doing its job, that it strikes a chord. It's definitely very satisfying to get the feedback. It's a pat on the back saying, 'Good on ya, man. Keep going'. That's what i means, you're getting it right and it means something to people."

Mick has been honoured to support big Irish acts like The Coronas, Gavin James, Brian Kennedy, Nathan Carter, Bell X1 and Paddy Casey when they have come to Australia.

"When you get to do those gigs, you get to see someone at the peak of their performance so being around those situations is brilliant because you get to see these bands, not just the show but the entire process and that is really beneficial to me going out there then as an independent artist on my own doing the same thing. Then of course you get the exposure to their audience, and you've nothing to lose, you've everything to win. You show people what you do and you're gonna pick up fans, you always do."

The time of Mick's album release coincided with the time he became an Australian citizen after 12 years here. This is a source of pride as it is a country that has been good to him: "I'm an Aussie, mate. Absolutely, very grateful to Australia for the journey it's given me and continues to give me. I've become a full time singer-songwriter.

"I saw the opportunity: 'Because you're emigrating, you have a clean slate. Here's your chance to just pick up the guitar and go for that'.

"Very grateful to Australia that it responded and gave me a chance to grow. I work hard at it, that's the other thing. I was coming out of Dublin going, 'I'm working in restaurants, I'm working in engineering, I'm working in teaching. I'm giving a lot of people a lot of my time. I wonder what would happen if I gave that time to myself?' That was my other inspiration to give this a go, very grateful to Australia the way it's given it back to me. With Australia, if you put the work in, it will come back to you."

Having already launched A Million Stars in his home town of Byron Bay and in the Gold Coast, Mick launches the album in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney this month.

He is also planning on visiting Tasmania, Perth and Adelaide.

"I used to go down to these places regularly but I have stepped off the last three years to focus on making the music so delighted to be stepping out again. Then we have some festivals on the cards. It's just great to be back on the road."

Mick McHugh's A Million Stars is Out Now. Mick McHugh launches the album at The Milk Factory, Brisbane on May 12, Long Play in Melbourne on 18 and 19 May and Moshpit, Sydney on May 26. For more information, visit his website