STUNNING brunette Lisa McHugh is often credited with bringing a little sex appeal to the Irish country scene.
The beautiful Glaswegian burst onto the scene in 2010 when she moved to County Fermanagh to perform full time.
In just five years Lisa, 27, has seen her career go from unknown artist to performing on the iconic Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville with American country legend Gene Watson.
In late 2015 she celebrated the release of her latest single Favourite Boyfriend Of The Year, from her forthcoming album Wildfire, at the Irish TV Country Music Awards where she scooped the award for Female Artist Of The Year to add to her growing collection of accolades.
Despite her success, Lisa says she’s just getting started and still has big dreams for her career.
“Getting the opportunity to sing at the Grand Ole Opry with Gene Watson was an honour” she said.
“He’s now a great friend of mine and I’ll always be hugely grateful to him for giving me such a massive opportunity at such an early stage in my career. I hope it’s not the last time I perform there either.
“Of course I dream about the big stadium world tour like every other artist.
“And I wouldn’t mind following Daniel O’Donnell into Strictly Come Dancing. I’ve always loved dancing as well as singing.
“I was an Irish dancer for 12 years when I was younger.”
Lisa’s success hasn’t come easy, the performer has worked hard to get where she is today.
“I remember holding the first ever five track EP I recorded for my 16th birthday. It was like all of my Christmas’ had come at once” said Lisa.
“I had dreamt of recording my own songs and for people to buy them for so many years so to finally be able to hold one was so overwhelming to say the least.
“In 2009 I was part of a television show called Glor Tire and was delighted to have got to the final of the competition.
“It was such an enjoyable experience and a huge platform for someone like myself starting off on the scene and it really gave me the bug to want to do it full time.
“I decided to move to Ireland full time in June 2010 and I worked tirelessly for six months doing guest appearances, radio tours, and anything to try and get my name out there.
“During that time I worked on putting a band together to go on the road and on January 31, 2011 I had my very first show with the band and thankfully since then we have been incredibly lucky to continue touring with the support and fans.”
Growing up in a household of country music lovers it was inevitable that after Lisa found a love for singing she would gravitate towards the genre she knew best.
“I grew up listening to country music at home, my parents are huge fans and that’s all they had on the radio, in the car and anywhere we went involved country music” she said, adding: “From a young age, it was like second nature to know the songs that Philomena Begley or Daniel O’Donnell and even Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn sang.
“It was a great influence on me growing up and as I began singing, I found myself leaning towards country music and felt very comfortable singing it, especially American country.
“I think people can hear that from my voice and also the material I have released to date.
“I always loved being on stage and being centre of attention.
“Growing up though I didn’t really think it was possible and a real lifestyle to be able to achieve but little did I know that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.”
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing for gorgeous Lisa.
She admits that at times things got tough.
“It hasn’t all been plain sailing to get to where I am today and there’s so much I still want to achieve.
“The reality is, and not many people will want to admit this, that there have been shows in the early days when we were on the road and maybe only 10 people showed up to and unfortunately because it couldn’t pay the bills, we’d have to cancel and go home again.
“That can be very disheartening but it also makes me appreciate everything so much more now that things are going so well.”
While Lisa may be one of Northern Ireland’s most popular country pin-ups the single girl says being a woman in the industry comes with its own set of challenges.
She explained: “I personally don’t see myself as a pin-up at all and I actually find it quite funny that people would consider me like that. But it’s also very flattering.
“Image of course is one of the most important factors of being in the music business. You always have to present yourself in the best light possible at every opportunity as we are judged every single day on how we look and how we act.
“My image today is definitely very different from when I started out. I was only young when I started in the business and I have grown into a woman, in my career and in my style.
“I think it’s only natural to grow in every way as much as possible, to find the best in yourself.
“Being a woman in this industry certainly isn’t an easy ride. As I said being in the spotlight it goes hand and hand with people judging you and sometimes sadly finding any opportunity to put you down.
“As I’m one of the only females on the road full time, I guess I can be judged more than the males in the scene on what I’m wearing or what I sing or how I present myself.
“But at the same time it’s really humbling knowing that so many people take time to find out what I’ll be wearing to the next show, or what makeup I’m wearing, or who does my hair, where do I shop, what will my next video be like and things like that.
“It certainly drives me to achieve so much all the time.”
And Lisa’s advice for other young up-and-coming female country singers?
“Never take no for an answer” she said.
“Always believe in yourself because if you don’t then you can’t blame others for not believing in you.
“And always be pleasant and caring to everyone you meet no matter who they are or where you meet them, because you’ll never know when you might come across them in the future.”
Lisa McHugh’s single Favourite Boyfriend Of The Year from her forthcoming album Wildfire is now available. For more information log onto www.lisa-McHugh.com. You can also see Lisa on her own TV show On The Road With Lisa on Irish TV (Sky Channel 191).
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