With his powerfully distinctive voice, Tommy Fleming has been described as the “Voice of Ireland”. Today Tommy is one of Ireland’s top entertainers with millions of YouTube hits and over 5 million album sales worldwide.
The youngest of six children, Tommy was born in 1971 in Aclare, County Sligo. His natural singing ability was evident at a young age whilst participating in local talent competitions. While still at school, Tommy formed his first rock band, The Face of February, and embarked on gigging in local pubs. After leaving school Tommy joined a quartet, Jarog, gaining a legion of fans.
However, despite this success, record companies weren’t exactly knocking on Tommy’s door. Then a chance encounter with renowned producer and composer Phil Coulter changed all that. In July 1993, Phil heard Tommy performing at a charity event in Westport, County Mayo.
Within days Tommy was guesting with Phil and his orchestra at the Opera House (Cork), the National Concert Hall (Dublin) and The University Concert Hall (Limerick). Four months later he was playing to huge audiences across the US and Canada, culminating in two shows in the Boston Symphony Hall and the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York.
Tommy’s career then took another leap forward when he was invited by Galway traditional group De Danann, to join them as lead vocalist, following in the footsteps of living legends as Mary Black, Maura O’Connell, Dolores Keane and Paul Brady. The collaboration lasted three years and introduced Tommy to a worldwide audience touring Australia, Hong Kong, China and the US.
Still dreaming of a solo career, Tommy finally recorded his first solo album in 1996 - Different Sides to Life - followed by Restless Spirit two years later which went on to achieve double platinum sales. Life was good, but then things took a dramatic turn. During the album’s promotional tour Tommy was seriously injured in a major accident when the car he was driving home veered off the road and burst into flames. Staggering from the vehicle with a broken neck, Tommy was lucky to escape alive.
Tommy spent the next few weeks in hospital in a Jerome halo brace - an intimidating looking apparatus designed to keep Tommy’s neck and head immobile whilst his broken bones mended. Eventually allowed home, Tommy wondered if life would ever be the same. “I spent weeks wondering if I was paralysed and what would become of my career,” he says. “With a new album out and concert dates cancelled, I spent most of that time very quiet – which is not like me”.
Tommy wore the brace for the next three months, sleeping upright. A simple thing like taking a phone call became a major chore and bumping into doors was a common occurrence due to the size of the brace. It seemed all he had achieved was in danger of being lost. But with determination and grit, Tommy eventually recovered and his voice was fuller, more powerful and more haunting than ever. “Looking back at that tough period, it was so scary, the worst time of my life,” he says.
However, one blessing was Tommy meeting his wife Tina “his rock” at a funeral not long after the accident. Another bright spot was that Restless Spirit reached double platinum status. A year later, Tommy was back on the road touring and started working on his next album.
As a hugely popular personality, Tommy starred in reality TV show Celebrity Bainisteoir in 2011, involving celebrities competing against each other as Gaelic football team coaches. In 2014, he participated in the Cruise of the Australian Performing Arts on MS Radiance of the Seas alongside Aussie stars David Hobson, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Marina Prior. Having now recorded 14 wildly popular albums, his latest being A Voice of Hope II in 2018, Tommy is a true survivor.