FOR rising country music star Catherine McGrath the waiting is finally over.

The Irish-born singer is about to set out on her first major UK headline tour including a date in Manchester next Thursday which will continue what has been a pretty remarkable year.

Having showcased at the prestigious C2C Festival in London in March, Catherine had a series of sold out dates and then, in July, released her much-anticipated debut album Talk of This Town.

“The months leading up to the album release have been so intense,” she said. “Now that it’s out there I’m just dying to get on the road and play it for people. Through social media you know that people are listening to it but it’s not until you see them face to face and singing the words that it really sinks in.”

Catherine has been showcasing some of the songs from the album at her shows this year and the reaction has surprised her.

“It’s exciting to play songs live that haven’t been released,” she said. “Then when you go back to the next show somehow people have seen a live version on YouTube and have learned all the words.

“To finally put the studio version out there and let people really listen to the songs is so cool. Everything is going to be on a much bigger scale now – it’s so exiting.”

With Talk of the Town topping the UK country charts for several weeks, Catherine has clearly made an impression the growing number of country fans.

“I’ve loved country music since I was 12,” she said, “so to look at the chart and see my album there alongside so many of my favourite artists shows me I’ve been accepted in this special community.”

Music is in Catherine’s blood. Her parents even run their own music festival - Fiddler’s Green - in Northern Ireland.

“I grew up in a family that loves music; my parents would be singing in pubs seven nights a week,” she said. “When I went to Nashville I could recognise that same love of music there too.”

Still only 21, Catherine is at the forefront of a new generation of country artists who are changing people’s perceptions of the music.

“For me the coolest thing about country is that it ranges so much,” she said. “A lot of time, when you speak to people about country music who aren’t so aware of it, they don’t realise that. They think that George Strait and Johnny Cash are all that there is.

“I adore George Strait and love that traditional style of country but I also love Sam Hunt and Maren Morris. When it comes to my own music I get to think about the lyrics first and I get to write the song and the whole sound of it is something we can have fun with."

With country now entering the mainstream embracing pop and even hip hop influences, its profile particularly in the UK has never been higher.

“It’s funny for me because I was that 12-year-old who loved country music and played and sang it in my bedroom but nobody really knew what I was talking about,” said Catherine. “Now you see major stars like Beyonce and Justin Timberlake duetting with country stars and everybody is getting on board.

“You feel cool because you knew it first, you can say ‘I told you guys - that’s what I was talking about!’”

Having had a brief break this summer, Catherine is now raring to go for her UK tour.

“I love to get out and meet the fans,” she said. “There are some people who have followed me for a while but now with the album there are going to be a lot of new faces to get to know - I can’t wait.”

Catherine McGrath, Gorilla, Manchester, Thursday, September 20. Details from 0844 858 8521 or