This Much I Know: Rock and Roll Kid, Paul Harrington

I’m the youngest of six and although the official family business was printing, we were all very musical.

This Much I Know: Rock and Roll Kid, Paul Harrington

I’m not a natural performer.

I was inherently shy and as a kid, I was the one sitting at the back of the class.

I’m the youngest of six and although the official family business was printing, we were all very musical.

My first memory of music is of my mother buying a piano for a tenner so that my sister Siobhán could practice. It was a tenner well spent.

After school, I fell into a job in the Civil Service, in the Department of Labour. I stuck it for eight years, while also playing music at night, until I decided to take a career break, to try and concentrate on the music. I was exhausted from full-time work and doing eight gigs a week.

I like to see my career as more of a slow burner than a sudden rise. I guess winning the Eurovision [along with Charlie McGettigan in 1994 with their hit song ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’] would be considered my big break, but I’d already released an album by then.

It took me a long time to be truly confident of my ability as a musician and as a writer. It’s a funny game. I’ve worked in so many different situations from performing before 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden, to performing at the RDS with Michael Flatley’s Celtic Tiger show, to doing corporate gigs where I am completely ignored.

I think ambition is essential in this business and I was certainly driven. But not by money.

The biggest challenge I’ve had to face was, pretty obviously, losing loved ones. My parents and two brothers and a sister. During my darkest hours, I was leading this weird existence, playing in the celebrity haunt Lillies Bordello every night, but underneath the performance, I was grief-stricken. A priest in Whitefriars Church, David Weakliam, helped me through it with bereavement counselling. At our first meeting I broke down and he said “I’m not going to tell you what to do as there is no cure, but, this is an exchange. I’m going to learn from you and you from me”. And that was the start of my healing.

I do believe in fate. I’ve met the important people in my life, like Charlie McGettigan and my wife Carol, by chance. Charlie was thorough Brendan Graham, who wrote ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’, and Carol was through a mutual friend who asked me to be a guest judge for a talent show at the school where they taught. I believe Carol was pushed in my direction by my late sister Siobhan.

We’ve been together for 10 years. Our lives have been completely changed by the arrival or our little Molly, 18 weeks ago. I realise how incredible that is and how lucky I am. It is life-changing in the best possible way.

To keep sane, I walk the dog every day.

My idea of misery would be life without people. I love the company.

If I could change one thing in our society I’d get rid of mobile phones. I can’t stand someone fact-checking me halfway through a conversation.

I have to believe in an afterlife. I couldn’t bear the thought that there isn’t one.

I’m religious enough. Our daughter will be christened.

I spent a lot of my life wanting to be other people, but now I wouldn’t like to be reborn as anyone, not even for a day.

My favourite quote is from Rudyard Kipling ‘if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.’

My biggest fault is that I can be very hard on myself.

The character trait I most admire is sincerity.

The thing that irritates me most is people who have to put up a front all the time, who cannot be open.

So far life has taught me to try not to fight the human condition.

  • Paul Harrington performs in the National Concert Hall as part of the Piano Legends concert on March 21, 2020, to play piano hits on two grand pianos.
  • The show features four of Ireland's greatest pianists as Paul will be joined by David Hayes (Riverdance), Eugene McCarthy (musical director to the stars) and special guest Phil Coulter.
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