Ireland's new country pop star Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson talks to Alan Corr about finding the fun in country music, Dolly Parton and why Garth Brooks is Cirque Du Soleil country

"I’d actually just faint. I genuinely think if I was ever in a room with her, I think I would genuinely collapse on to the floor. I can’t imagine ever being able to talk to her or shake her hand . . . "

Breathless and probably wide-eyed at the sheer prospect of it, Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson is on the other end of my phone, outlining what would happen if - and when - she finally gets to meet her hero, Dolly Parton.

Ciara is CMAT, a left of centre country pop star from the wild west side of Dublin who dresses up her songs of heartbreak and self-doubt in killer melodies and the cheekiest wink this side of the Shannon.

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She may have more in common with country star/earth mother Dolly than she’d care to claim. There’s the rhinestone and denim chic, the same quick wit, a giddy warmth and, most of all, an uncanny knack for penning songs that sound like minted classics on first listen.

Ireland’s newest and best honky tonk woman has just released her debut album, If My Wife New I’d be Dead. That grammatically askew title sounds like a cheating husband on the town, and it sums up CMAT’s artfully oblique take on bayou blues and big city badness.

The 25-year-old Finglas belle has made a livewire connection to Nashville via the sprawling suburbs of Dublin and has become one of the most talked about and gawped at new acts in Ireland and it’s not hard to see why.

With her outré couture and torch and twang songs you can call her kitschy and western. Sure, she’s a celebration of real country music and a sharp rebuke to the plastic fantastics that too often pass for country stars in Ireland but there’s so much more going on with CMAT.

Let’s say she’s an old romantic seeking self-acceptance in a cruel, cruel world.

"You’ve hit the nail on the head, unfortunately! Hahaha!" she laughs. "Romantic is right but seeking self-forgiveness more so than self-acceptance.

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"The actions that one does when one is a romantic. Moving on and talking about things rather than making jokes about how bad things are all the time . . . "

But isn’t making jokes about how terrible things are the Irish way? "It certainly f***ing is! Hahaha."

Of course, Ireland has a simpatico with country music for obvious historical and social reasons and that may have been part of her attraction to an oft maligned and misunderstood genre.

"Whatever you think about him, Garth Brooks is a performer, and you can't take that away from him. Look at him on stage, he’s a f***ing madman! It’s like Cirque Du Soleil country."

"I don’t think I had any conscious decision in my love of country music," she says. "It was more subconscious, and I think with art in general, I try to follow and listen and read and watch what I like and figure out why I like it afterwards.

"When I was 12 I loved country music, nothing sounded better and was more fun and then I got to the age of 14, 15 and I read somewhere that apparently country music wasn’t cool and I thought, well, I guess I can’t listen to it now. I guess it’s not cool.

"I thought, `Now I have to listen to Dad Rock’, I love Dad Rock by the way, won’t have a bad word said against Dad Rock, but then I came full circle again when I was 18, 19, I love country music and folk music and I’m not going to apologise for it anymore!"

CMAT lived in Finglas until she was three and then moved to Clonee in the north-west of Dublin until she was 12 when her family moved to Dunboyne. "I am Blanch," she says and she doesn’t mean DuBois.

"I would never in a million years consider myself a Meath woman, although a lot of people say that to me to wind me up. I’m a Dub all the way."

While not quite on a mission to rescue Ireland from the doldrums of Country and Irish, she still has plenty to say on the subject.

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Unsurprisingly, she is a fan of the old guard. "The likes of Philomena Begley is an idol," CMAT says. "She’s never done anything wrong in her whole life and I absolutely love her take on country and Irish but to be honest with you - and I don’t want to piss on anyone’s cornflakes here - I don’t like the modern Country and Irish music and I’m sure anyone who listens to my music will know that.

"Bobbie Gentry, Loretta Lynn, Tammy . . . that is just for me the peak of glamour because it's gorgeous and you can see it from the back row but it’s also something distinctly off about it in that it’s not high fashion."

"I love the people in Country and Irish music who really believe in and do what they do really well. Daniel O’Donnell is brilliant, he’s amazing and he genuinely loves country music but there a couple of clowns around at the moment who are driving country music in the f***ing bin.

"It’s not even cheap country music for the sake of dancing and community. It’s literally cheap country music for the sake of selling badly mixed records. I think it’s quite manipulative and it’s playing on the bad country stereotype."

And as for that ultimate rhinestone cowboy, Garth Brooks . . . "I don’t want to say I’m a Garth Brooks apologist, but I will see I understand the Garth Brooks thing a little bit," she says.

"Whatever you think that man is a performer, and you can’t take that away from him. Look at him on stage, he’s a f***ing madman! It’s like Cirque Du Soleil country."

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She’s the lovelorn girl who’ll call a tarot line after one too many alcopops but while CMAT’s album may froth over with fizzy country pop and surreal lyrics, there is plenty of emotional weight too. She does tacky brilliantly, but she also journeys into the sadness at the heart of most country.

There’s canyons of longing and a dustbowl of hurt on tracks like I’d Want You and Geography Teacher, a plaintive banjo lament that will leave your guts hanging from your chintziest lampshade.

The techno country squelch of No More Virgos and the blear-eyed waltz of Groundhog Day (on which CMAT sounds like one of the flailing marathon dancers in Peter Bogdanovich’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?) show another side of her too.

As she avows on Nashville, a song about just disappearing, "I’m going tell everybody I’m moving to Nashville."

It’s very much a real-life ambition and one that she'll fulfil in just under three weeks when she plays a gig there on March 23. "I’m dying to go. I haven’t been there," CMAT says. "I’ve always wanted to go since I was a child, but this will show you how shallow I am - I really want to go to Nashville for the clothes shopping because I just know I’m going to get good stuff, the proper country gear, the stuff I should be wearing every day anyway."

If My Wife New I'd be Dead is out now

And image is everything for CMAT. "I’m a huge clothes and fashion person," she says. "When I was a teenager I really wanted to be a fashion designer and I learnt how to sew and make dresses.

"Then I really got into Seventies country and a big part of the appeal was the way everyone looked, Bobbie Gentry, Loretta Lynn, Tammy . . . that is just for me the peak of glamour because it’s gorgeous and you can see it from the back row but it’s also something distinctly off about it in that it’s not high fashion.

"It’s the essence of camp - it aims to be elegant and beautiful but it’s not and that makes it even more beautiful and elegant. I love big hair, I love big stupid collars and I love fringes and I love country and western stuff and since I was a teenager I’ve been an avid eBayer and collector of clothes.

"I’m a hoarder but I’ve never had the money of the space to be a hoarder."

Make room, Nashville. There’s gonna be a new kid in town.

Alan Corr @CorrAlan2

If My Wife New I’d be Dead is out on Friday, March 4. CMAT plays Mar 05: Lucky's, Dublin, Mar 08:Connolly’s, Leap, Mar 09: Golden Discs, Cork, Mar 09: Cyprus Avenue, Cork, Mar 10: Steamboat, Limerick *Mar 10: Dolan’s, Limerick (sold out), Mar 11: The Academy, Dublin (sold out).