The new series of Glór Tíre is now underway on TG4.
Six finalists will battle it out for the top prize of €5,000 and a step up the ladder of dreams on the country music trail.
The contestants hail from Tipperary, Armagh, Mayo, Galway, Donegal and Westmeath.
The format remains the same as in recent years with each finalist being assigned a mentor for the series.
The mentors for the current series are Louise Morrissey, Mike Denver, Michael English, Robert Mizzell, Cliona Hagan and the Sheerin Family.
The first seven shows have already been recorded at The Quays venue in Galway. The series is due to start broadcasting live again in early March.
Emma Donohue from Killoran, a few miles from Ballinasloe, is 22 years old and epitomises the enduring love for country music in the rural heartlands.
The family operate a beef and suckler farm while also tending to horses, with hens and ducks thrown into the mix as well.
“I am a real country girl,” says Emma who is also a student nurse. “My parents Tommy and Helen are steeped in the farming tradition and my brother Colin (19) is also involved in the day-to-day matters.
“My main interest is in the horses while my mother takes charge of the hens and ducks and dad and Colin take care of the cattle. I can often be seen driving the tractor on the farm. You wouldn’t get away too light here if you didn’t drive something!” quips Emma. “The next two or three weeks will be very busy with the calving season upon us.
“I love the horses and mam and I always enjoy the Countryside Drag Hunt in Kiltormer which operates most Sundays from October to March, but has fallen victim to the coronavirus restrictions this year.”
“My parents love country music and I grew up listening to Big Tom, Philomena Begley, Declan Nerney and many others.
“I was in transition year in Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe, when I started going to some dances in places like The Well in Moate. I was hooked on country music from there on.
“My mentor, Mike Denver, has been very supportive. He lives around 20 minutes away in Portumna. It is a privilege to work with him on this series.”
Emma is currently on placement as a student nurse in Portlaoise Hospital and expects to be assigned to Tullamore Hospital inside the next month or so.
David Connor from Scardaune, Claremorris, is no stranger to the farming scene either. He grew up helping his parents, Peter and Bernie, with all the usual chores.
“I know all about days in the bog, helping out with the silage and looking after the livestock,” says David. “It is part of growing up in this part of the country.”
David released two singles during 2020, As She’s Walking Away and You Couldn’t Have Come At a Better Time.
Guest spots have seen David acquire a relaxed stage presence and these include appearances on Matt Keane and Friends Christmas Show in Claregalway and the Finbar Furey Show in Claremorris Town Hall Theatre.
Michael English takes on the role of mentor for David, whose musical influences include Buck Owens, George Strait, Glen Campbell, Garth Brooks, John Fogarty and Elvis Presley.
Teenager Kelan Brown is just 17 and is the youngest of the finalists this season.
He hails from Ballybofey, Co Donegal and was the first contestant featured on the opening show three weeks ago.
He got rave reviews from the adjudicators. He lists his influences as Elvis, Conway Twitty, Luke Combs, Johnny Cash, Kane Brown, George Jones and Randy Travis.
Soccer is his second passion and he plays for his local club, Ballybofey United. His mentor is Robert Mizzell.
Mary Hoey hails from Cullyhanna, Armagh, and lists herself as a singer, songwriter and full-time mom.
“I love decorating and crafts. I love writing my songs. I started off writing poetry before songs and I have some poems published in England.
“I love singing and I love posting my singing videos on Facebook. Keith Whitley is one of my main influences in music,” says Mary who also enjoyed a major endorsement from the judges on opening night.
Her mentors are the Sheerin Family from Westmeath.
Stephen Stokes hails from Tipperary Town and is being mentored by Louise Morrissey.
He has a big interest in greyhounds and owns a few which he races at various meetings.
Stephen has a great fondness for country music and among his favourites are Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Mick Flavin and Georg Strait.
Tilly Dawson-Stanley is from Glasson near Athlone and is a clerical officer with the HSE.
She has a great love for the outdoors and horses and competes on a regular basis at show-jumping events.
Her mentor is Cliona Hagan and she cites Miley Cyrus, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, Dolly Parton, and the Dixie Chicks among her main influences on the music circuit.
The series, which runs over 12 Tuesday nights between 9.30pm and 10pm on TG4, is presented by Aoife Ní Thuairisg and Seamús Ó Scanláin. The adjudicators are John Creedon, Caitríona Ní Shúilleabháin and Jó Ní Chéide who advise and guide the contestants. Viewers decide who will stay each week after the competition arrives at the elimination stages and voting is via the Glór Tíre app in the App Store or on Google Playstore.