Nicholas McCarthy

Nicholas McCarthy is a concert pianist who was born without his right hand, and didn’t even begin playing piano until he was fourteen years old.  Having been told that he would never succeed as a concert pianist, Nicholas McCarthy didn’t let himself be disheartened, and instead went on to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music, and became the one one-handed pianist to graduate in its 130 year history – a truly remarkable feat.  Nicholas has performed in numerous major venues in the UK, including The Royal Albert Hall, and has also performed around the world – including touring in South Africa, South Korea, Malta, Kazakhstan and the U.S.  One of his proudest moments was performing with the British Paraorchestra at the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic games, in front of 86,000 people live and around half a billion viewers worldwide. In the Summer of 2014, Nicholas McCarthy presented two of the world famous BBC Proms.  In 2015, Nicholas McCarthy was signed to an exclusive record deal with Warner Music and released his first album entitled Solo.  There’s no questioning that Nicholas McCarthy is a wildly inspiring individual who has achieved some magnificent things.  Please enjoy my interview with the amazing Nicholas McCarthy… 

When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?

I say I’m a Concert Pianist, then I wait for the reaction…it’s usually disbelief or that they think I’m joking because I have one hand.

the Bletchley girlsWhat are you reading at the moment?

I am currently reading Bletchley Girls by Tessa Dunlop.

What’s your earliest memory of reading?

My earliest memory of reading is reading ladybird books with my Mum on a sunny day in the garden.

If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?

I’d encourage them to read The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.

As a child, who influenced your taste in music?

A friend performing a Beethoven a Piano Sonata, it was like a light turning on.

What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

I am tremendously lucky that I have never really had a ‘worst’ job as I taught a lot before becoming a Concert Pianist. I did work in a video shop just prior to that though-although I enjoyed recommending films to people!

Can you remember the first album you ever purchased?

The first album I ever purchased was Frank by Amy Winehouse.

Do you read as much as you’d like to?

Not nearly as much I’d like to, I tend to be preoccupied with music books but when I tour abroad, it is great to catch up on reading on long flights.

What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path?

I got great solace from biographies and autobiographies of great Pianists and Composers of the 19th & 20th Century, no one ever had an easy climb or a  plain sailing! One of my favourites was Franz Liszt’s autobiography.

What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring musician?

Look ahead and not side to side, don’t compare yourself because you are unique and it’s your path. Always remember that rejection and disappointment may lead to new opportunities.

 Who are the three artists you’re currently listening to most?

I’m currently listening to Adele, Martha Argerich Concert Pianist and Alex Mendham & his Orchestra, they play the music of the 1920s/30s.

Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?

I find the books I read stay with me, I keep the ones that make an impact and can refer to them if I choose to; but mainly I give them away to friends with a strong recommendation to read them.

the secret scriptureWhat book have you recommended the most to friends and family?

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.

If you weren’t in music, what do you think you’d be doing?

A Chef!

What’s your favourite genre of book?

It depends on my mood and what is going on in my life.

What do you think a world without books would be like?

A dull, uninspired and dark place.

Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?

I’ll read anything written by Sebastian Barry.

Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?

Never, there is no comparison.

What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?

I feel humanity would benefit from reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

I know why the caged bird singsWhat is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?

Again, I’d have to say I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?

I would also include the following:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak,
Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and
The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir by Graham Norton.

What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?

I will be reading Darling Baby Mine: A Son’s Extraordinary Search for His Mother by John de St. Jorre and My Century in Song by Helen Clare.  Helen has been working on a book in her 100th year recalling her illustrious singing career.

If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?

On the Other Hand!

If you’d like to learn more about Nicholas McCarthy, you can find him on his website, Facebook and Twitter.