Dressed in his trademark flared white suit and wide-collared black shirt, Crystal Swing’s Derek Burke hucklebucked his way through Ellen DeGeneres’s audience in Los Angeles earlier this week, and on to the world stage.
Not bad for an 18-year-old from Lisgoold, in east Cork, who was, just days later, back on the bus to school in Midleton. Love them or hate them — Crystal Swing had arrived. And they are hot property.
Within weeks of creating an internet sensation with their YouTube video of the infectious country song, He Drinks Tequila, Derek, his sister, Dervla, and their mother, Mary Murray Burke, have become Ireland’s No 1 talked-about band, and have charmed America.
This time last year, the country and western family trio was charging €400 to perform at weddings. Now they command a fee up to €10,000 and are on the brink of a nationwide tour, taking in some of the country’s top venues, including Cork Opera House and the University Concert Hall in Limerick.
“The reality is only dawning on us now,” Mary said yesterday, while juggling radio interviews with a string of meetings with her new management team. “Our whole life has changed overnight. We do get tired and exhaustion does catch up with you but the adrenalin, excitement and positivity keeps you going.
“I think this is something that was meant to happen and hope it continues.”
Crystal Gayle fan Mary founded Crystal Swing nine years ago as a one-woman band. Derek and 17-year-old Dervla joined two years ago. Mary’s husband, Mike, works on administration and sound.
The big break came earlier this year when satellite channel, Rural TV, recorded the video for He Drinks Tequila at the Blarney Castle Hotel for a feature on a “Hot Country” slot.
The Burkes built a website and uploaded the video to YouTube to promote themselves.
With glamorous blonde mum Mary on keyboards and winking at the camera, and Derek and Dervla out front singing lyrics to each other like “she talks dirty in Spanish”, the clip created a storm.
Thanks in part to Twitter, and Newstalk’s Sean Moncrieff, it went viral, notching up almost half a million hits.
It resulted in a Late Late Show appearance in March. Then the clip was played on Ellen DeGeneres’ St Patrick’s Day Show.
Top-rating US chat show host, Ellen, followed up with an invitation to appear live on her show which was recorded at the Warner Brothers Studios in Hollywood last week. It airs in Ireland in about two weeks.
Tourism Ireland forked out for the flights to the US — €3,000 well spent they said. A 30-second ad slot during Ellen’s show would be about $35,000 (€26,000) and the band got nine minutes of airtime.
Mary presented Ellen with a bottle of Jameson whiskey and they plugged Ireland’s tourism industry.
Days later, Derek was back in his school uniform and on the bus to St Colman’s Community College in Midleton.
Schoolbag in one hand, mobile phone in the other, he was taking calls while on the bus one morning from a national radio station seeking his reaction to their appearance on the Ellen show.
“Even just five weeks ago, we could not have imagined how things would turn out. We’re now on the brink of a nationwide tour,” Mary said.
The band has spent the last two days in Dublin engaged in intensive talks with their new management team.
They are arranging the final rehearsals and tour dates, sifting through invites to perform at celebrity weddings, and there are talks about a charity single with Jedward. Manager Hugh Rogers said this is just the start and a number of major announcements will be made shortly.
The band has been invited to Nashville by Michelle McCord, the co-writer of He Drinks Tequila. And there is the little matter of Derek’s Leaving Cert and Dervla’s schooling. “Derek will sit the exams. He has a lot of work done already and he is confident about it,” said Mary.
But their meteoric rise to fame has come at a cost. Anonymous begrudgers have posted nasty comments on websites.
The band has spawned a raft of YouTube mimics. Newspaper articles have described the band as the cheesiest thing to come out of Ireland since Galtee.
Mary said the band doesn’t take much notice.
“The few comments on the internet haven’t bothered us. To be honest, we’ve been too busy to read them,” she said.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what they think.
“When you put yourself out there in the public, you are going to get a reaction.
“The overall picture is one of positivity. We’ve been inundated with thousands of cards, and emails, wishing us good luck.
“And we’re in this for the long term, so they better get used to us.”
The band has recorded two CDs, Sweet Dreams in 2007 and The Best Years Of Our Lives in 2009.
The single He Drinks Tequila is still available to download from the band’s website www.crystalswing.com with all proceeds going to MS Ireland.