TV and singing star Cathy Maguire.
By Sean Devlin
Cathy Maguire is no stranger to new opportunities. In possession of a career decorated with accomplishments, including television appearances and multiple album releases, she has rubbed elbows with some of the best talent the country music industry has to offer. With “The Sunnyside Sessions,” she’s been branching out into a new TV venture, and embracing all the stops along the way.
Cathy and I met in the Pig N’ Whistle Pub on Second Avenue on Manhattan’s East Side. It was a sunny Friday afternoon, and we were seated on the upper level of the bar, with the rush out of town to the beaches of Long Island and other locales away from the concrete jungle going on below us.
The first time I saw Cathy Maguire perform was a week before at the Irish Consulate in Midtown at the launch party for “The Sunnyside Sessions.” Airing on IrishTV, a network that focuses on the community stories of the Irish diaspora throughout the world, “The Sunnyside Sessions” features Cathy playing music and conversing with performing artists in her back garden in Sunnyside, Queens.
That evening featured performances from whistle player Joanie Madden, a spur of the moment Irish dance performance by Jake James and Niall O’Leary, and even Congressman Joe Crowley (D — Woodside) joined in the festivities. The performance space at the Irish Consulate was standing room only, as Maguire and company entertained the crowd with both country standards and Irish classics. She even commissioned her own signature cocktail for the event in conjunction with Castle Brands, the Sunnysider to which, much like her performance that evening, the crowd gave rave reviews.
When speaking of her Sunnyside pride, Cathy did not hold back. “Arts happen in areas that are not gentrified,” she said. “The reality is that a lot of artists have moved to Queens as Manhattan and Brooklyn have gotten more expensive. That’s where movements happen, and we now live in a hotbed of artists.
“Congressman Crowley has been a dear friend of all the artists and all the elected officials in the area have been immensely supportive of ‘The Sunnyside Sessions.’” On the program, the Dundalk, Co. Louth, native Maguire has performed with some of the best names in music, including folk music legend Judy Collins. Speaking on the subject of the new show, she said proudly, “I like being something of a pied piper for artists; I want to get good work out there.”
Maguire said “The Sunnyside Sessions” was the brainchild that came organically out of a conversation with Irish journalist Colm Flynn.
“Colm and I were sitting in my garden and we were talking about how great the collaborations and the music sessions were there. I said, ‘Colm, why don’t we just make a program about this?’” she recalled.
“We approached IrishTV about filming, and two months later we’ve got a successful launch under our belt and a second series in the works.”
Maguire, a fan of country and western classics from the beginning her time as a child star back in Ireland, spoke fondly of how her first trip to the United States influenced her path in a major way.
“The first place I arrived in America was Nashville at the age of 19. I had an offer for a record deal three days after I arrived with famous producer Cowboy Jack Clement and he had me sitting in with Johnny Cash,” Cathy recalled. “I didn’t take the deal because I wasn’t prepared and I was scared. Jack wanted me to do an album with him for 10 years, and it’s coming out this year. It ended up being the last album he ever produced. I’m the only woman he ever produced in a career that consisted of recording U2, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, and that’s special to me.”
We went back and forth for a bit about her move to the United States, and the value of the Irish and Irish American network in New York.
“I think that it’s important when you move here to meet a lot of Irish people as a starting point, and so many people are willing to help you if you have drive,” Maguire said. “New York, just like Nashville, you have to cut your chops. You’ve got to prove yourself and show people that you’re willing to work hard, and then the results will start to show.”
We moved our conversation to the second-floor patio, as the New York City sun began to set and Cathy put a pair of sunglasses over her pale blue eyes. We talked more about Irish stand-up comedy, the Irish media scene, and the community in general. When we move on to her future plans, she lit up; she’s got no shortage of them in the pipeline. Apart from her plans with “The Sunnyside Sessions,” she has a show based on the music of one of her favorite artists, Patsy Cline, and a new album dropping later this year. Before we went our separate ways into the waning sunlight, Maguire spoke to the influence New York has had on her. “New York separates the tough from the not so tough. It takes a little bit of time to make it, and the cream rises to the top,” she said. “You have to work, and the Irish community has been a great support system. I’m incredibly excited to see where things go.”
Cathy Maguire was the Irish Echo’s People’s Choice recipient in 2014. She was also one of the Irish Echo’s Top 40 Under 40. “Off To Join The World: The Cowboy Jack Clement Nashville Sessions” will be released in this fall.