Country and Western music? In UCD? Intrigued, Matt Gregg goes to meet Belfield’s own answer to Dolly Parton to find out more
Late nights and trips away from home, along with an energetic alias, are just some of the pleasures of leading a double life. Last week, someone even approached her after a gig and offered to market her quite unusual talent.
C.C. Cooper is UCD’s very own country and western singer.
From a very young age, Christine had frequent exposure to country music. Her grandfather was an original member of the Clipper Carlton Showband, an innovative Irish musical outfit from the post-war era, and it seems that his musical touch was not lost to his generation.
“My Mam has always loved music. Whenever she was growing up, she and her siblings, they could all play instruments and sing and stuff,” she explains animatedly. “So anytime that we were on journeys back up to the North it would just be pure country in the car. From a really young age that would’ve been the music I’d be listening to.”
However, it hasn’t always been her style. After a yearlong media course, Christine auditioned for a show similar to ITV’s Popstars (the one that brought the lovely Nadine Coyle, and the lovelier Cheryl Cole, to our attention) where she was paired up with two other girls to form a group called ‘Nickel and Dime’. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite as catchy as Girls Aloud, though some of their songs did enjoy slightly longer shelf lives.
“We sang two original songs on the show that BMG Records gave to us but in the end they didn’t take us on or whatever,” she mutters wistfully, visibly deflated for the first time. “Instead, those they were given to Luanne Pearl who went on to win five Meteor Awards that year with the songs. I was devastated but, like, she kind of had changed the songs a little bit, made them a bit more moody and not as fun and poppy as we had them.”
Though a kick in the teeth, it was during her brief sojourn in ‘Nickel and Dime’ that Christine realised Country and Western music was her real calling. So when a country radio show launched a nationwide singing competition, with a trip to Country and Western’s Mecca – Nashville, Tennessee – as the prize, she leapt at the opportunity.
“I applied online, and then I got a phone call not too long afterward about the Dublin heats,” she begins, her enthusiasm making a welcome return. “I won that so I went on to the final which was held in The Well, in Moate.”
Going into the final, Christine was confident but certainly far from assured of victory. In fact, she’d already booked holidays to Australia that overlapped with the Nashville jamboree. Nevertheless, playing with Martin Cuff’s amusingly named band, ‘Off the Cuff’, Christine blew the judges away to secure first place and her dream trip to Nashville. Australia – not for the first time – would have to wait.
“I’d been to Nashville before, two years ago now, and that was actually the first time I’d planned to go to Australia. It seems every time I plan to go, I get redirected to Nashville.” Suggestions that it was her ‘destiny calling’, however, are quickly laughed off.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of her victory was the opportunity to perform at UTV’s annual Country Fest. Christine herself admits that she probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without that performance and the contacts she made there.
Now halfway through her first year of Children’s and General Nursing here at UCD, Christine seems decidedly non-commital when pressed on her future. However, one thing she seems very certain about is raising the profile of country and western music around campus.
“I’d love to perform in UCD. There’s no country and western society, but Ents run events, or I could do an open mic night. I know the girls in my class and all of them are dying to hear me sing. Maybe UCD could hold a country night?”
Nervous laughter. Would dungarees finally become acceptable apparel around Belfield?
“Sure! If they wanted, I could probably dress them all up! I’ve got about a million cowboy hats,” she exclaims enthusiastically. “Given half the opportunity, I’d love to work with the Ents crew or whatever to design UCD’s very own barn dance.”
Now there’s an original manifesto idea.