Talented singer and musician Collie Farrell is a familiar face to both tourists and residents. Julie Helliwell chatted with him recently to shed some light on his musical career and experiences.
How long have you been a musician on Lanzarote?
I’ve lived and worked here for 14 years. Initially I came over for 6 months because I was offered work in a big bar. I went back to Ireland, then returned with my fiancé for 6 months, and 14 years later, we’re still here! I worked in that bar for 7.5 years in a 5-piece rock covers band called Usual Suspects.
How did you first get into music?
I’ve been singing since I was very young, and it’s always been my passion, although no-one else in my family is musical. I did my first paid gig when I was 16 and turned professional when I was 33.
What advice would you give to musicians about having a successful career here?
It’s quite difficult to have a career here now. When I arrived, it was during the boom. There were loads of bands and it was easy to get paid. It’s mostly solo and duo acts now, so it’s harder. My advice is, if you’re going to do something, do it well. Have your show finely tuned and even if people don’t know the songs, they will appreciate music performed well. It’s a hard market and you have to cater to tourism, which means singing certain expected songs. Now I’m established, I have the luxury of being able to sing what I want.
I set up the Lanzarote Big Band 9 years ago, as I’d always wanted to sing swing and jazz with a big band. I then set up The Gathering to play soul, blues and country rock. I sing most styles of music now, and I think being versatile is a real advantage.
What’s been the highlight of your career?
I was invited to sing at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club in London last year. It’s an iconic place and I was fortunate to sing with some incredible musicians.
I’ve been invited to sing with the Gran Canaria Jazz Orchestra in January, so that will be amazing.
Lanzarote is my home now. It’s a great island to live on and my youngest daughter is in school here so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Click on the video below, to see Collie playing live!