Music is “in the DNA” of her family, says Mick Flannery’s aunt and long-time band member Yvonne Daly.
Like her nephew, Yvonne was immersed in the sounds of Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits from her early years growing up in Coolroe, outside Killarney.
Just 12 years separate the two who would jam with the rest of the family in the Killarney pub they nicknamed “the sitting room” — little knowing back then those sessions would segue into performances together onstage in packed arenas across the globe.
Talking from the homestead in Coolroe (“I live here, I was given a site for my sins!”), Yvonne recalls how the household was always steeped in melody.
“My father and mother and siblings all sang. We all love music. There was never a dull moment. My dad Patrick (Pa) Sullivan used to sing a lot of American folk. My mother, Kay, sang too. She is still sprightly at 87,” she says.
“I am the second-youngest of nine. My younger sister Karrie Sullivan sings also. She is writing all her own music and during lockdown she was producing ‘CoVids’ with Dublin musician Jimmy Smyth (the pair released an album Home Thoughts on July 17).”
Yvonne became arguably Mick’s “favourite aunt” at a tender age.
“Elaine, his mom, is my sister and nearly every summer I would go to stay with them in Blarney, where they lived. I would say I babysat all of the children at some stage,” she says.
“One time, my mom and I were babysitting, as his parents were at a wedding in Dublin. We had pushed the two beds together.
"Mick was in between us, Mom on one side and I on the other. We heard this crying during the night. Mick was missing. I got straight out of bed and ran downstairs.
But it turned out he had fallen down between the beds and his cry had been muffled. I couldn’t console the child. He was not impressed.”
The years passed and when Mick was in his late teens he would join Yvonne and the family at singsongs in the Vintage Bar on New Street, Killarney.
“American folk was a huge influence: Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris,” says Yvonne.
“The Vintage Bar was my local. I was living in town at the time. I used to frequent it and all the gang would end up there at the end of the night. We used to call it the sitting room (it’s now a sports shop) and Mick would join us singing there.
"At this time Mick was studying in Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa.”
Soon after Yvonne was to join Mick in recording his first album, Evening Train. “I loved it,” she says. “It was a huge shock because I had never done anything like that before.
Then the gigs came along. And he asked me to be part of it all because I had sung the part of Grace on the album.” Yvonne, a graphic designer, received a call one day from Mick asking to join him on tour.
“He rang me at work. I nearly fell on the floor. Things snowballed from there,” she says. “I didn’t realise it would take us to where we are. He brought me along all the way on all his album releases.”
But it is Yvonne’s first gig with Mick stands out as one of her favourites. “It was in Ballycotton in The Blackbird in 2007,” she says.
“Before that, I would never sing in public except in sessions in the Vintage or the odd night here and there in Faha Court (outside Killarney)."
The following years took them across Ireland and the globe, including performances in London and Tel Aviv (singer Eric Berman invited Mick as he wanted to do a cover of one of his songs), but for Yvonne the small Irish venues are her favourites.
“They’re the ones I love. The likes of Cork Opera House and the Olympia are lovely too.
“It’s a long way from Ballycotton now, but it’s smaller venues that stand out as very intimate and personal. You can see the faces and people’s expressions. You can take it all in.
“There's another recent special one when we played Cork Opera House with the Cork Opera House orchestra in February this year.
"It was such a humbling experience to be part of that gig in the midst of such awesome classically trained pros. It was a big hit with the audience.”
Mick has just released his seventh album Alive – Cork Opera House (Friday, July 24). All proceeds will be distributed evenly between Mick’s band and crew, who have lost work this year due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Besides Mick and Yvonne (vocals), the band and crew members are Chloe Nagle (sound engineer), Christian Best (drums), Alan Comerford (electric guitar, vocals), John Fitzgerald (monitor engineer), Karen O’Doherty (violin, synthesiser, vocals), Matthew Berrill (saxophone, clarinet), Mike O’Connell (bass, vocals), Phil Christie (keyboards, vocals) and Sandra O’Mahony (sound engineer).