Hailing from County Sligo, in the west of Ireland, flame-haired singer Tommy Fleming took the roundabout route to international stardom. He spent much of the 1990s as the on-stage mouthpiece for Irish musical institutions Phil Coulter and De Dannan before establishing himself as a solo artist of repute in the latter part of the decade. Despite a brief flirtation with a more internationalized sound, Fleming has found greatest success interpreting traditional Irish music (both old and contemporary) with his forceful and dynamic bel canto tenor. His success has hinged upon his ability to take traditionally elite music styles to pop audiences in much the same fashion as Andrea Bocelli and Russell Watson have their respective styles.
Tommy Fleming was born in 1971 in the town of Aclare, in County Sligo, near Ireland's west coast, an area renowned for its musical and singing traditions. Fleming began his music career in earnest while still at school, performing at local talent contests before forming his own rock band and gigging in the local area's pubs and clubs. Upon leaving school, he toured Ireland as the frontman of the five-piece Jarog, but attracted little interest from record labels. Fleming's luck changed dramatically in July 1993, when a chance meeting with legendary composer Phil Coulter ("Congratulations," "Puppet on a String") won Fleming a prestigious slot singing with Phil Coulter & His Orchestra, leading to a North American tour later that year.
Upon returning to Ireland, Fleming was offered the vacant vocalist position with folk luminaries De Danann, a demanding position previously occupied by Dolores Keane, Mary Black, and Johnny Moynihan. He performed with the band for three years, appearing on its 1995 album Hibernian Rhapsody, before leaving to pursue a solo career. In 1996, he recorded his debut solo album, Different Sides of Life, which -- though not officially released -- was enough to earn him a recording contract with independent Irish music label Dara Records. In November of 1998, he released his second album, Restless Spirit, which debuted at number five in the Irish albums charts and went on to gain double platinum status.
Unfortunately, just as Fleming's solo career was on the rise, he was involved in a nearly fatal car crash close to his home. Fleming walked away from the crash, quite literally, before being discovered and taken home. Days later, he was diagnosed with a broken neck. A year of painful recuperation followed before Fleming was once again given clearance to resume touring. In April of 2000 he released his third solo album, The Contender, piercing the Irish albums charts at number three and easily outselling Restless Spirit as fans responded well to his return to folk music. The Contender produced Fleming's most well-known performance to date, his rendition of the standard "Danny Boy," and he was nominated for Best Irish Male Vocalist at that year's Meteor Irish Music Awards.
Released in 2002, Sand and Water was preceded by Fleming's surprising decision to spend six months in famine-stricken Sudan, working with the relief charity GOAL, and the album was eventually released upon his return in March. A compilation album, Tommy Fleming: The Collection, was released in January of 2003. In December of 2004, Fleming became the first artist to perform at Knock's Shrine Basilica, and filmed the unique occasion for a 26-track live CD and DVD entitled A Voice of Hope. It was released in October of 2005 on the newly created Clann Records, and the film footage was broadcast by PBS television in the U.S., opening up a whole new market for the singer.
The year 2006 began with a bang as he was once again nominated in the Best Irish Male Vocalist at the Meteor Irish Music Awards. He also inked a five-album deal with Universal Records, his first major-label deal, with the label's Classics and Jazz subsidiary agreeing to reissue his back catalog. He released A Life Like Mine in October of the same year. The following October he released another live album, entitled A Journey Home, while A Life Like Mine received its official U.K. release. ~ Dave Donnelly