ROXBURY, NJ - On Friday, a world-class entertainer will get in his Ford Edge in Nashville, point it toward Roxbury and, as he steps on the gas, tell himself, “This is the life.”
Colm Kirwan, whose first name is pronounced the same as the word column, said he is not daunted by the 14 hours of driving that will get him to The Investors Bank Theater at Horseshoe Lake Park for his Saturday night show. Quite the opposite, actually.
Kirwan said he grew fond of road trips when he toured with country music legend Don Williams. As the opening act, he got very little money, but he enjoyed the adventure going city to city with a group of musicians.
“During that time, I actually grew to love it,” said the 32-year-old Northern Ireland native. “I don’t know if have gypsy heart, but it’s almost like a vacation. To do such a road trip through America - for a lot of my friends back home - would be a dream come true, and I always enjoy long drives. I always find them very therapeutic.”
And then there’s the thing about people in this part of the world.
Kirwan has performed all over the United States and the United Kingdom and “a little bit” in other parts of Europe. He’s been to New Jersey only twice, but he got a real kick out of the lack of pretentiousness he found in the people he met here, he said.
“I was with Don Williams in Red Bank and I remember everybody was really talkative and really open to have a conversation," he said. "Often – maybe because of the Irish thing in me – people are very polite and politically correct and quiet. I loved that when I was up in New York and New Jersey, everybody just spoke their mind.”
You can expect Kirwan to be similarly forthright when he takes the stage in Succasunna at 7:30 p.m. He often explains the roots of his songs, something that should work well in a small venue like the 200-seat theater.
“This show is going to allow me to just be able to tell my story, from beginning to end, through songs,” said Kirwan. “I always enjoy finding out where songs were born and how they were created. This type of show allows me to do that.”
He calls his music “Celtic country,” a genre that mixes a bit of Irish folksiness and humor with standard country style. In addition to opening for Don Williams, Kirwan’s been the opening act for George Jones, Collin Raye, Richie McDonald of Lonestar and others. He also performed with his father, Dominic Kirwan, a popular recording artist who instilled in Kirwan a passion for country music.
“(Songwriting) inspiration comes from all different directions,” Kirwan said. “We mentioned long drives, well one of the things I like most about long drives is that my mind goes into autopilot and a lot of times I’ll get song ideas. I might just get a song title, or I’ll start singing a chorus or melodies.”
Kirwan said he’s yet to spend time walking around New York City, so that’s on his list of things to possibly do after his Roxbury performance. But one thing is certain: He will return to Nashville because he loves the place.
“Moving to Nashville is the one decision in my life I will never regret,” said Kirwan. “My moving to Nashville has made me a better writer, a better singer and, by all means, a better man.”
He said a feeling came over him soon after he got off the plane on his first visit to the Tennesee city. “I heard, very loud and clear somewhere inside me, ‘This is home,’ and I just never looked back. Doors have opened here that I never expected … My move to Nashville was kind of an inspired thing. It wasn’t planned … but I discovered it is the heart of country music.”
Tickets for Kirwan's show, are available online from the Roxbury Arts Alliance and at the door. The theater is at 72 Eyland Ave., Succasunna, NJ. 07876.