Sharon Corrs’ kids had no idea their mum was a music icon – until the band made a comeback, she tells Lorraine Wylie.
Louth may be Ireland’s smallest county but there’s nothing insignificant about the talent it has produced.
Born in Dundalk, a family of four siblings, known as The Corrs, has helped put their home town on the musical map.
The story of The Corrs began in 1991 when sisters, Sharon, Andrea and Caroline along with their brother Jim, pooled their talent and formed a band.
But for Sharon, then 21, the musical odyssey had begun much earlier.
“I had a couple of violin lessons when I was six years old but even before then, probably as young as four, I was already drawn to the instrument.
"I soon discovered that I could apply reading the notes to the piano which, to me has the most beautiful sound. I loved it so much, I taught myself to play.
"Over the years, when writing I’ve more or less used piano.”
The fact that she wrote two of her songs ‘So Young’ and ‘Radio’ on guitar, might suggest she’s also a talented guitarist.
Sharon is quick to dispel the myth.
“Contrary to what’s been said, I don’t actually play guitar.
"I know a few chords and managed to write the songs but in all honesty, you do not want to hear me play guitar!”
Growing up in Dundalk, Sharon attended Dún Lughaidh Convent School, where she gave her first theatrical performance.
“Apart from music, I loved English. They’re still my favourite subjects today. I can remember my English teacher, Mr Murray.
"He was a wonderful man and incredibly passionate about his subject. His enthusiasm was infectious and it infused me.
"I learned about Macbeth and Hamlet through role-playing in class. I actually played the part of Lady Macbeth. What a treacherous woman.”
As a teenager, Sharon’s flair as a musician was obvious but, it could be argued, her taste in décor was limited.
“My bedroom walls were plastered with posters of Paul Young. I thought I was very cool but my sisters teased me mercilessly.
"Later I began listening to artists who, at the time were experimenting and taking recording sonically in a new direction.
"The Police were favourites of mine. In particular, Stewart Copeland on drums just blew my mind.
"He was quite the innovator, both sonically and rhythmically. Even today, I love listening to The Police.”
Back then, no-one could have imagined what the future had in store.
Within a few years of forming their band, The Corrs’ unique sound, a blend of rock pop and traditional Irish themes, found its niche.
Soon, instead of performing in a classroom, Sharon, together with her siblings, was on the international stage, playing to packed arenas.
As their fame grew, it was posters of The Corrs that decorated the bedroom walls of many teenage fans.
As a writer, Sharon finds inspiration everywhere. Sometimes, the most beautiful and powerful songs are born from tragedy.
When her mother passed away in 1999, Sharon’s life was never the same.
But at Christmastime, when thoughts return to childhood and Christmases past, the pain of loss has an added sting.
For Sharon, it was only natural that such deep emotion should find expression in song.
“This song (‘Christmas Night’) is a very raw and emotional one for me. I love and miss her very much. I think of her all the time.”
Since its inception, the success of The Corrs is well documented.
Their musical talent as well as their work for charity won them royal recognition and, in 2005 they were awarded an honorary MBE. In the same year, the band decided to take time out.
The event not only marked a new chapter in Sharon’s career but led to what she has described as the biggest achievement of her life.
Married to Belfast barrister, Gavin Bonnar, Sharon joined the ranks of motherhood when she gave birth to their first child, Cathal Robert Gerard, in 2006.
His sister Flori Jean Elizabeth, followed a year later.
As a mum, she revels in the role and is delighted that her children appear to have inherited The Corrs’ ear for music.
“At the minute, they love playing piano and singing. But I simply want them to feel the passion and enjoy the music.
"If they make a career out of it, I’d be happy. Although it’ll be their choice. All I want is their happiness. For me, that’s paramount.”
Combining motherhood with the demands of her career can’t be easy. Fortunately, Sharon has found a way to relax.
“I find writing is a great way to ease the stresses and strains. Having a good lie-in also helps.
"Then again, it’s hard to beat the therapeutic value of a nice glass of red wine! Yummy!”
Now in her 40s and despite the toll of childbirth, she looks trim and enviably slender. So what’s her secret?
“I try to exercise a few days every week. Yoga and running are great not just for physical fitness but for emotional energy too.
"The release of endorphins give an incredible feeling that keeps me upbeat and positive. I eat well and try to be moderate. But, like everyone else, I don’t always stick to the plan!”
In a world obsessed with youth and beauty, Sharon understands how many women feel pressured to conform.
“Compared to our foremothers, modern women in the western world might have a lot more options. Yet, there’s still this added pressure to excel at everything.
"As well as holding down a successful career, we’re expected to be the perfect mother, great artist, to look fabulous and be eternally young. Who set the rules?
“I’m being sarcastic of course, nevertheless, the pressure is immense and totally unfair. I appreciate the advantages that contemporary life has to offer.
"But while I love having a long and successful career and a great family life, it wasn’t handed to me. My brother, sisters and I have worked hard for everything.”
Would Sharon consider herself as a feminist?
“I am a feminist in that I’m pro-woman, not anti-man. There’s a big difference between the two.”
There’s been a lot of milestones since The Corrs first got together. In the past decade, each has taken the time to grow as individuals.
As well as enjoying her family, Sharon has had the satisfaction of establishing a career as a solo artist.
Equally, the siblings have had their fair share of heartache, especially at the loss of their father in 2015.
Now, as they demonstrated at the Radio 2 concert, Live in Hyde Park in September last year, The Corrs are well and truly back.
“Wow, being back, performing with my brother and sisters is a beautiful experience, it’s a real privilege.
"The audience at the Hyde Park concert showed so much love and appreciation, singing along to old favourites.
"At times it was overwhelming. We were all touched and quite teary. We were truly grateful.”
The Hyde Park event was also a bit of a revelation for Sharon’s kids.
“They didn’t really know about The Corrs’ fame until then. It was great to see them on their feet and dancing the night away.”
Performing for the people at home is always special and, like her siblings, Sharon is looking forward to Thursday when The Corrs will be playing Live at The Marquee in Cork
No doubt their fans will appreciate the band’s latest album, White Light.
The third track, the song that gave the album its title, was written by Andrea after she’d watched the documentary about Amy Winehouse.
The White Light can have a literal or spiritual interpretation.
The former is about individuals who have to cope with the anxiety and stress of performing under the spotlight. Sadly some don’t survive the experience.
“This album is very emotionally charged. But the songs are beautiful with a lot of honesty.”
At home, Sharon likes to relax over dinner with Gavin and their children.
She’s particularly partial to Thai green curry. Like the rest of us, she’d had her share of the bad times, but she’s also had a lot of happiness.
“As you get older, you learn not to worry so much. The things that once seemed so important now appear trivial.”
It’s been almost a decade since The Corrs hit the pause button. Now, as it says in the song from Sharon’s album, The Same Sun, they have finally come full circle.
The Corrs play Live At The Marquee on Thursday
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