This much I know: Karen Egan, Performer, Chanteuse, Entertainer

On stage is the place where I feel most myself. I feel incredibly safe on stage. 

This much I know: Karen Egan, Performer, Chanteuse, Entertainer

I can be very picky beforehand. I am a natural born worrier, but once the curtain goes up, I’m totally relaxed and in the moment.

As a child, I didn’t really have any definite idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then, as my father was a judge and my siblings became involved in the legal profession, law seemed like the natural career choice.

I enjoyed studying law at UCD and Kings Inns but there was a moment in my final year when I knew I didn’t want to go straight to practising as a barrister. I had visions of being in my 40s at a dinner party and saying I wish I’d done that, although I wasn’t sure what that was.

I did a course at the Gaiety School of Acting, then another, and another until it clicked and I knew, this is what I want to do. People were forever saying ‘well, you will always have the law to fall back on’, but there came a point where I had to stop thinking like that, I had to force myself to take the acting and singing seriously, as my profession of choice.

I am the second youngest of six children and was one of the quieter ones. I do think I was greatly influenced by my mum — she was a natural entertainer from a family of gifted musicians.

The financial instability that comes with this job is extremely wearing, psychologically, of course, but the highs are incredible, and I have never been bored.

I have not the slightest twinge of regret over my choice. I have never been somebody who ran after money. I’d like a bit more stability in my life, maybe, but the number one thing for me is creativity.

I got work as an actor, then started directing and wrote my own children’s show which led to my meeting The Nualas and directing a show for them and then to joining their comedy singing trio. It was great to be exposed to so many different audiences and to be improvising all the time, but eventually I left to do some solo work with a band.

I’m hopeless at separating my work from the rest of my life. I never know when work is coming my way so I find it hard to plan ahead.

I tend to be very project driven and have been recording this album, on and off, for the last two years, with co-producer Cian Boylan. It is my second album and began as a few simple songs, but fast became a very ambitious project.

We have string arrangements, brass arrangements, 22 musicians, backing singers — even a choir that includes every member of The Nualas who just happened to be free on the day of recording.

I’ve been living in Finland for the last three years working with a theatre company. Last year they commissioned me to write a play which I have just performed. In Finnish.

I was very naive about learning the language. I love French and Spanish and have a good enough ear so I thought I’d just pick it up — but then I realised Finnish is not like that, for a number of reasons — it’s not an Indo-European language, the vocabulary is so completely different and the grammar is among the most difficult in the world. But, I did it.

I have learned to be flexible about having any type of daily routine but one thing I do need is regular exercise — and daylight. Walking is my form of meditation.

I’m fairly health conscious, I don’t respond well to eating junk food. I’ve given up bread. I always have a good breakfast, three meals a day.

One of my biggest faults is trying to pack too much into the day so I have been known to be late on occasion.

I’ve lost track of all the part-time jobs I’ve had over the years — bartender in a Japanese restaurant, silk seller, sales assistant in a clothes shop — but the worst was working in the dealing room of a Japanese bank as nobody was ever able to tell me what I was supposed to be doing.

I was immensely affected by the death of my parents and it is hard to think of them not being somewhere, anywhere, else. But how do we know if there is a life after death until we die? So I try not to dwell on it. I try to live in the moment and really respect, and appreciate, the universe.

You have to have a certain amount of nerves to focus you before a performance. Before I go on stage I just need five minutes to concentrate on my breathing. That calms me down.

I have been divorced for some time. I’d love to have had kids, but don’t.

My worst fear would be to lose my memory. My life motto would be: “swim your own race”. Comparing yourself to others is fruitless. It only serves to heighten insecurities while limiting your ability to reach your potential.

Karen Egan launches her new album Charlatanne and continues her Irish tour at Monroes, Galway (Feb 28); Whelan’s, Dublin (Mar 6) and The Source, Tipperary (May 21). Further info at www.karenegan.com

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