Our Exclusive Chat with Father Ray Kelly the Singing Priest

Father Ray Kelly

Father Ray Kelly is not just your average priest.  He has a brand new record that has just been released in the US now via Capitol Distribution.  The priest came to the public's notice when in April last year, a video surfaced on YouTube of an unassuming Catholic priest singing the classic "Hallelujah" at a wedding ceremony. Father Ray Kelly renders the song in near pitch-perfection, letting slip an impish grin at one point when the impressed audience's titters become audible.

"I didn't mean to shock you," he says, taking the pulpit to thunderous applause. Now at nearly 40 million views, Father Ray's "Original Big surprise for Bride and Groom...Chris and Leah O'Kane" has led to a record deal for his debut album,"Where I Belong."

Already out in Ireland and Germany, the 12-track effort arrives in the U.K. next week and stateside on Mar. 9 via Universal imprint Manhattan Records. A mix of originals, covers, Celtic songs and church hymns, Where I Belong was recorded in Father Ray's parochial home and at a studio in Vienna last year.

Hallels:  When you sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" for a wedding ceremony, did you expect the song to become so big?  And why did you decide to sing "Hallelujah"?  

When I sung the song Hallelujah at the wedding, I just did what I have often done before. So I was not expecting the song to be put up on Youtube or indeed to have such a world wide reaction as there was. I sung that song because personalizing it to suit a weedding makes it special for the bride and groom.

Hallels:  What happened after your rendition of "Hallelujah" went viral?  How did you end up with a record deal? 

After the Youtube clip went viral, the phone and my email started hopping like mad. Radio and T V stations from all over the world wanted to speak to me live on their shows and get my reaction. For week I was been sought after, which resulted in T V appearances in Ireland & Germany. Following that Sony & Universal Music in Ireland made contact with me with the possibility of a recording contract. Eventually Universal Music won out with recording the album Where I belong.

Hallels:  Was it a challenge when it came time to choose songs for your album?  What type of songs were you looking for? 

Choosing the music for the album was pretty much straight forward. We wanted the album to have a strong Irish flavour musically to it. I love Tears in Heaven and Everybody Hurts and was delighted to be able to record them. I also wanted the album to have a strong sense of Church and my faith as a Catholic Priest, hence Amazing grace, How great thou Art and How Marvellous. Obviously we wanted Hallelujah on it and when word came through that we had permission to record it with the new wedding words I was so happy. There is a new wedding song on the album as well specially written for me called Together, forever with love. and the title track was also written for me called Where I belong. And being Irish the obvious song were Danny Boy, Galway Bay and Isle of Hope, Isle of tears.

Hallels:  Now that your new record is released in the US, do you have any plans to do a tour here? 

There is no plan in place yet to do an U S tour but it would be my ultimate dream to be on tour in the U S, so hopefully down the road, please God.

Hallels:  Has your congregation been supportive of your singing career? And do you sing songs from your new album in your own parish?

The balance of being a singer and a parish priest is working well at the moment, once I have plenty of notice of my music appointments there is no problem fitting them in. I am a priest for the last 25 and a half years and I love my job, but I equally now lover being a singer and performing, so as long as I can the two will be very much part of my life.

Hallels:  Has your congregation been supportive of your singing career? And do you sing songs from your new album in your own parish? 

Yes nearly every sunday at my masses I sing one/ two songs from my album, usually one or two of the spiritual songs. The people of my parish have been very supportive and proud of their parish priest been put on to the big stage like this, as they say isn't it putting Oldcastle ( my parish ) on the map.

Hallels:  For our readers who would like to purchase your new album or/and find out more about you, where can they go?

My new album is available with Amazon and also available in Walmarts, U S, and also Barnes & Noble 

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