Despite his role in EastEnders, Patrick Bergin has still returned to his love of music, writes Ed Power.
When he was shooting Sleeping With The Enemy with Julia Roberts in 1990, Irish actor Patrick Bergin would retreat to his trailer whenever he had a moment.
Awaiting him was the battered guitar he’d busked around Europe with in his youth. He’d shut the door, cradle the instrument and just play.
“There would always be a guitar and harmonica,” recalls Bergin, today best known now for portraying wicked silver fox Aidan Maguire on EastEnders.
“I’ve always played. I’ve written a couple of hundred songs. What happened is that my acting career got in the way.”
At 67 finally doing something to remedy the situation. Bergin’s new single ‘Crazy In Love’ has been play-listed by Radio One and he hopes to follow up its success with a tour later in the year.
The track has nothing to do with the 2003 Beyonce smash; it’s a frisky blues number showcasing Bergin’s fine, husky voice.
‘I’ve always written songs for myself. For me a good song tells a story. A film can take 90 to 100 minutes to get a message across. A song has to do it in three minutes.
I went to see Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread recent. It’s a very inspirational piece of work. But they had an hour and a half to tell their story.”
On set, he doesn’t require much prompting to whip out his guitar. Just last Christmas Bergin entertained the EastEnders cast and crew with an impromptu concert in the BBC canteen.
“I’ve always had ambitions,” he says. “I’m writing all the time and it was suggested that the new song might be appropriate this time of year, with Valentine’s Day approaching. It’s a little love ditty.”
Bergin was born in Drimnagh, Dublin, the son of Labour party Senator Paddy Bergin. He is the brother of Emmet Bergin, aka Dick Moran from Glenroe.
It was Patrick’s love of music, rather than any particular desire to tread the boards, that led him leave Ireland aged 17. He hit the road with nothing much beyond a guitar and a determination to do something with his life.
“I headed off to see the world,” he says. “I busked all over. I was a big fan of Bob Dylan. I started a folk club in London, and I would regularly tour Norway, playing four-hour shows six nights a week. As you can imagine it would hard work — but great fun.”
Today he divides his time between London and Dublin. When home he is struck by the centrality of music to people’s lives.
“That’s one of the great things we Irish have — a love of music. It’s something I’ve become more and more impressed with in my mature years. I don’t know if there’s another country that teaches its culture as well.”
From Johnny Depp to Russell Crowe, via Bruce Willis and Hugh Laurie the history of actors dabbling in music is long and inglorious. But Bergin does not regard songwriting as a mere indulgence.
“Am I a dilettante?” he laughs. “I would love to be called a dilettante. You know you’ve arrived when they are referring to you in those terms.
"But no — I think the songs are the real me. It’s what I’m thinking. They come from me personally.”
‘Crazy In Love’ is a pretty if throwaway piece. Yet he feels music should tackle more serious subjects too.
“My next song will be ‘The Tipperary Waltz’ which is a very profound song about the First World War. I’m trying to dis-establish a ‘Long Way To Tipperary’ as the song people think of when they think of Tipperary.
“My father encouraged me to write it. He didn’t like a ‘Long Way to Tipperary’ — it was British recruitment song.”
Crazy in Love is out now on Avalon Records.