Liam Geddes and his girlfriend, Emma Doogan, sat at a table Tuesday night at PortSmitt's Lakeway Restaurant, enjoying drinks and food, shaking a few hands and exchanging hugs and hellos with people passing by.
At a glance, this could be anyone enjoying a night out in Berkshire County. But Geddes, a young musician, comes from County Mayo and Pittsfield's Irish Sister City of Ballina. But on his 14th visit to Pittsfield and the Berkshires, Geddes says of this city, "It's a second home for me."
Geddes, now 23, has been coming to Pittsfield since age 17, when he made his U.S. debut at a sold-out gig at the Colonial Theatre.
Tonight at 8, he'll perform a benefit concert for the Pittsfield Parade Committee at Spice Dragon restaurant. Then he'll appear in Friday's Fourth of July Parade, before taking the time to enjoy another week traveling around the Northeast.
"I am looking forward to my first Fourth of July in my American home town," said Geddes.
Just before his trip, Geddes posted on his Facebook page: "Most of you know I'm from the tiny town of Ballina in Co. Mayo ... I started singing for an audience of two (his parents) in my sitting room when I was 15 ... and now I'm about to board a plane to the U.S. where I'll be at the Pittsfield, Mass. Fourth of July Parade in front of about 100,000 people! I've come a long way from performing [for] just my family, and it's all thanks to all of you! ...
In 2007, Geddes entered the televised talent competition, "The X Factor," at age 16. He finished up as the youngest and highest placed Irish contestant and reached the final 12 in his category.
For the young man, it was enough to encourage him to pursue his passion for music, including vocals, playing piano and songwriting.
"A lot of musical purists might look down at a television competition, but for those of us who are a part of it, it's a fantastic opportunity for an artist to get their break," Geddes told The Eagle during an interview at PortSmitt's. About three dozen people from the Pittsfield Parade Committee and Irish Sister City Committee, along with friends he's made from the area came out to greet him and Doogan Tuesday night.
Not too long after the competition, Geddes did a small show near his town when he met Dick Stockwell, a Pittsfield delegate to the Irish Sister City Committee, who had gone to Ballina to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the municipal kinship.
"We were just amazed," said Stockwell of first hearing Geddes. He bought two demo CDs and struck up a conversation with Geddes' father. Stockwell proposed that if Geddes could get to the States, he could find a way to get him a gig at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.
Through some meetings and a lot of networking, the gig came to fruition that October.
"I think people here like him, and Liam's given a lot back to the city," said Stockwell.
Geddes has previously played benefit concerts to help St. Joseph Central High School and its boys basketball team to get new equipment. He's also played a benefit for the Lenox Fire Department.
In addition, he's performed at local venues like Barrington Stage Company and for Hillcrest Educational Centers Inc.
Peter Marchetti, president of the Pittsfield Parade Committee said he'd never considered the idea of having an international artist perform to benefit the parade, but when he met Geddes at a St. Patrick's Day party in Pittsfield, he decided to give it a go.
"We are honored to have a talent like Liam taking the time to help the Pittsfield Parade Committee," said Marchetti. "It's an opportunity to showcase both his talent and what we do with the parade."
Since making his debut on "The X Factor," Geddes has gone on to participate in the 2008 Eurosong competition, reaching the final six, and the 2012 show, "The Voice of Ireland," similar to the U.S. show, "The Voice."
Once a cover-song singer, Geddes now writes and performs his own music. Tonight's show at Spice Dragon will feature "my new style, some classics that everyone will know, and I might be singing about a certain ‘Danny Boy,'" he said.
He described his new sound as "a softer version of Coldplay, influenced by Kodaline and One Republic."
Back in January, Geddes released a new single, "Lifeboat," which features an Irish rap collective called Class A'z. He also signed with an Irish label, Savee Entertainment, which represents rising crossover artists like The Script, The Wanted, Kodaline and Little Mix.
He's also partnered with a company -- Quincy, Mass.-based Icky Bomb Empire -- to produce a clothing line that represents his music.
After Pittsfield, Geddes will return to Ireland to tour and prepare to release a new album. He's planning to release a second studio single during the first week of August, and will also announce "the biggest gig of my life" that month.
He's planning a third single release in September, followed by a full album release in November and a short U.S. tour through Pittsfield, New York and Connecticut.
"My sound has changed an awful lot over the past three years, and I took the time and caring to work on some original music properly before sharing it with the rest of the world," said Geddes.
One of his singles, which he'll perform tonight, taps into "humanity and what I've been feeling." He said since he's toured various parts of the world and moved to Dublin, he's seen not only the kindness of people, but also crime and hurt.
"You hear people say all the time, ‘We're only human,' but I think it's used too much as an excuse," Geddes said.
In the same Facebook post he put up before heading to Pittsfield, he included a meme with the quote, "If you want something you never had, you have to do something you've never done."
"I had heard that phrase a few years ago, and it brought me back to when I was singing in my parents' sitting room. It's a moment like this where I think about coming from a town of a couple thousand people, where everyone knows each other by name, and where I've since been over the last two years. I never thought it could happen, but I tried. It's been so exciting," said Geddes. "I still have a long way to go as well. But if I'm in the U.S., I'll come here definitely -- gig or no gig. Of all the places I've traveled in the world, the Berkshires is a place that I've thought, ‘I could live here.' They really make me feel welcome."