In conversation with Hilary Fennell.
Growing up in Cabra, music was my life.
My first memory of being on stage is age four, playing piano and singing at Slógadh (music competition).
I hated childhood. Dublin was grey. Cabra was grey. School was grey. I was bullied — I was overweight, had bad skin and glasses and my parents were oppressively religious. My father had been a Cistercian monk, but he was also an artist, which was an odd mix. My mother worked in the civil service until she married and had to give it up.
Early on, a piano examiner told my parents she thought I had a gift. That led to me going to the College of Music and then studying music at Trinity.
Coming from my part of Dublin, going to Trinity was a big thing. My mother wanted me to train to be a national school teacher — for the permanent, pensionable job — but all I wanted to do was music.
I’ve never been nervous about performing. On the day of my driving test I told my friend I should cancel because I felt unwell. When I described how I felt he told me it was just nerves. I couldn’t believe that some people feel that bad before they go on stage.
I started writing songs long before I got to college. Even now, I keep a notebook beside the bed, and one in my bag, ready for that bolt of inspiration. Sometimes the music comes first, sometimes the words.
One of the best places to write is on an airplane — no phone calls, no distractions.
After college, I busked and got a job in the Symphony Orchestra for a while. The two biggest turning points of my career happened at the same time. One was that Tom Zutaut of Geffen Records (who signed Guns N Roses and Motley Crue) saw me playing the Baggot Inn by chance when he was over in Ireland to sign a different band. After the gig, he bought my homemade cassette and listened to it in his hotel room all night. Next morning, he offered to sign me. The other was recording ‘A Woman’s Heart’ with Mary Black. I was suddenly off to tour the world, while at the same time ‘A Woman’s Heart’ went into the Irish charts. We’d no idea it was going to take off like it did…
I don’t think you change when you become famous. The only thing that changes is how certain people act towards you.
As a working parent, I’ve always had to juggle work and family life.
My idea of happiness is — being snowbound. I was stranded alone in our house during the snow a couple of years ago and it was bliss. That’s when I thought, ‘hang on, there may be something wrong with your life here…’
I’m coming out of a 23-year relationship and beginning to learn to have time for myself. Walks, candle-lit baths. More walks.
My idea of misery is a long daily commute.
If I could change one thing in our society I’d fix our attitude to mental health.
If I could be reborn as someone else for a day I’d be Cady Coleman, the astronaut. We met at a gig for the anniversary of the moon landings at Blackrock observatory and she suggested we get footage of each other for social media. I took mine from beside the sound desk. She went up to the tallest tower to take hers. That shows her perspective.
My biggest fault is procrastination.
The trait I most admire in others is truthfulness.
I’m on the fence about the existence of an afterlife.
I’ve pushed against religion ever since I was a kid. I read, and listen to, the teachings of various spiritual teachers, but the notion of a guru worries me.
My advice to anyone starting out on a creative career is that the only thing that matters is the music — or the acting, or the painting, or whatever it is. The act of doing the thing.
I’m a huge believer in the healing power of music. Sure, I’ve been down so low that I couldn’t even play music. But, usually, music is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I’m very lucky.
I played the original Trip to Tipp nearly 30 years ago and can’t wait to play it again.
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Really excited to be playing #Feile in Semple Stadium #Thurles Fri 20th September #Feile2019 #OnTheRoadAgain #tour #touring #ontheroad #music #livemusic #irishmusic #musiclife #musicians #musiclifestyle #sing #lovesinging #voice #singers #songs #melody #photooftheday #creativity #goodmusic #instamusic #womeninmusic #guitar #guitarist #singersongwriter #singerlife #Ireland
The biggest lesson in life so far is one which I’m continuing to learn: to live in the moment. I’m very aware how much I still tend to live either burdened by the past or fearful of the
Féile ’19 runs from September 20 to September 22. Tickets are €80: www.thetriptotipp.com