Sharon Corr – Underneath The Same Big Sun
Updated: Jun 2
Sharon Corr – World Café Live – Philadelphia, PA – March 15, 2014 – photo by Jim Rinaldi © 2014
Underneath The Same Big Sun
by Jay S. Jacobs
Family is a huge part of any life and it is difficult to go out there alone. Sharon Corr knows that as well as anyone, and yet she is loving the challenge.
Less than a decade on from conquering the musical world with her sisters Andrea and Caroline and her brother Jim as the hit-making group The Corrs, Sharon has taken the reins of her career to release her second solo album The Same Sun and do her first US tour.
It is a challenge. After years of vocally backing up sister Andrea, Sharon’s voice is front and center. However, it’s also a thrill. This is Sharon’s first time singing lead vocals since she headed up a duo with big brother Jim very early on in their native Ireland. Younger sisters Andrea and Caroline joined when they got out of school.
Over the next decade, the band exploded from a cult favorite who mixed pure pop nirvana with traditional Irish musicianship into a superstar act that spawned hit singles like “Breathless,” “So Young,” “Would You Be Happier?,” “Runaway,” “Radio” and an ethereal cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”
While she loved her time performing with her sisters and brother, she realized that they all had spent so much time on the road that they had not had a chance to experience life. All of The Corrs have started families, and sister Caroline and brother Jim have decided to give up life on the road to stay home with their spouses and children. Sharon and Andrea are both continuing as solo artists, but now they are scheduling their professional lives around their home lives.
A few weeks before The Same Sun got its American release, we caught up with Sharon Corr as she prepared for a Toronto show on her North American tour to discuss her solo work, her family and the state of music.
You said in concert the other night that you got started as a classical violinist and only eventually learned about Irish music and pop music. How did your musical tastes evolve?
My first musical interest would have been my parents, because they had a band. They played on the weekends. Basically, they were playing everything that was in the top 10 for years. I suppose the top ten at the time, you know, in the early 70s, it was like the Carpenters, The Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel, all this very, very richly melodic stuff with amazing harmonies as well. So I think that would have probably provided the bedrock for all of us. Then they started me on classical violin. I do love classical music. I really feel that ultimately did very much influence my violin playing, because I’m not strictly trad. I’m very much a fusion of classical and trad. I think that’s why it became our own sound, because I didn’t do it in the purist sort of way. Because, really, I didn’t know how to. (laughs) Nor did I really want to.
Obviously, I grew up being surrounded by Irish music, so that was just part of your life. You never thought about knowing it or not knowing it. It was in every pub. Great singers and great singing in Ireland, singing a lot of Irish ballads. The likes of Mary Black and Dolores Keane and all those people. I actually started looking at it and working on it I think when I was around… my God, what age do I think? I would have been 16 or 17 when I finally decided that all structures worked for me. I probably didn’t have the discipline. I was just much more rock and roll. And I was always writing my own music, so I didn’t really see that there was a facility for me to keep that going within the classical world. I was basically writing songs from the age of six.
Not too many violinists get to become pop music stars. Do you ever wonder how you became the exception and still get to stay true to your musical roots?
Well, I have so many musical roots that I’m not true to one of them. It’s kind of like my own fusion of what I do. I don’t know how much luck is involved, to be honest. You know what I mean? I think more persistence. I was a little bit… and I always have been… I’m pretty kind, but I’m also stubborn when it comes to doing things musically my own way. In other ways, I let people get on with it. If they know way better than me, that’s absolutely fine, I don’t need to get involved. (laughs) But musically, I just know my way. I know where I want to go with it. It’s wonderful that I was able to do that. Obviously, it is incredibly difficult to make it in this past-rock world. There is like a 99.9999% failure rate. At the same time, it’s where I was going to work harder.
With The Corrs, Andrea handled the lead vocals. Are you enjoying having your voice out front as a solo act?
I do. I really enjoyed almost discovering my voice. The longer I’ve been singing, I felt the more hidden depths there are to my voice. It’s growing all the time. I’m really happy about that. In one way, it’s a bonus. I was singing lead with Jim when we had the little duo together a long time ago [an early precursor of The Corrs while Andrea and Caroline were still in University]. [With The Corrs] we all played different instruments. I played the violin. We took those natural roles within the band. It worked very, very well for us. I adore Andrea’s voice. I just adore listening to it.
But I think for me, in a way it acted to save my voice, because I was just doing backing vocals. You can find an awful lot of singers, they get to a stage when they’ve been doing it that long that they don’t know how they are doing it or why they are doing it, but they know that people love their voice. But they are sometimes not using it properly. For me, that worked to preserve my voice in a way. Now it’s very good and it works really, really well for me. It’s developing all the time. I love that. I love singing my own songs and being out front there, because I’m representing myself.
Lots of the songs on The Same Song have a very retro feel, like “Raindrops” – which for some reason reminded me of that old Neil Sedaka song “Laughter in the Rain”…
Oh, gosh, yeah. I remember it. (sings a snatch of the song) What a beautiful song.
…or “The Runaround” or “Upon an Ocean.” Were you looking to give the album sort of a timeless vibe?
It wasn’t intentional. I almost discovered it as I was doing it. I never try to dictate to a record before I’m doing it, because basically you can’t. You aren’t really aware of what’s in your heart and what your capabilities are before you set out upon it. The funny thing was, very much when I wrote with Mitchell Froom, that thing came in. I think we work incredibly instinctively and sometimes we don’t know how instinctive we are. I knew that I should be working with Mitchell. I knew from the first time I heard the Crowded House Woodface record that he was the producer for me. Even before I’d ever written songs that were worth producing. Perhaps I recognized that factor in how he approaches stuff.
How did you finally hook up with him?
We were doing an MTV Unplugged… this is The Corrs… and our manager said, “Well, who would you like to produce it? Because you can do anybody on this one.” I suggested Mitchell. Mitchell was very keen to do it and I was absolutely thrilled. We worked with Mitchell on the Unplugged and then we did the Home record with Mitchell as well, which was an Irish album.
For me, he’s just always been my choice of producer, because he doesn’t impose on songs. He serves them. He gets these lovely twists and turns musically. It’s inventive. It’s intelligent. I feel it’s at one with the way we are as people, because there is a nuance all the time in what you say and the look in your eye. People pick up so much more while we’re speaking from just looking at each other. That’s what I want from music. All of these little corners and nuances that actually exist in life. You never just have a straight feeling. A straight, big happy pop song. There is always the nuance of style and purpose. Something in it. He’s brilliant at that.
One of the lyrics on the album that really resonated for me was on "Thinking About You." You sing, "Driving in my car/Driving through the night/To get to where you are." What would you drive all night for?
My children and my husband. (laughs) And I'm driving all night tonight for a gig tomorrow night in Boston. Every day I'm doing it. (laughs again)
I believe you said in the show that "Take a Minute" was going to be the first single from the album.
Yeah, that's the plan, anyway.
You worked with major labels throughout your time with The Corrs, how is recording as an indie different? Do you think as much about singles and stuff like that? What ways is it better and which are worse?
Well, it depends on where I am. I'm actually with a label here in Canada. Universal. In New Zealand, I'm with Warner. In Spain, I'm with Parlophone. It just depends. We're really seeking out labels that are sympathetic to champion singer/songwriters. We're not really seeking out labels that have the likes of Lady Gaga on their roster, and they're not interested in any other artists, because she's the bread winner. You know what I mean? They just get completely subsumed by those types of scenarios. I've always had total artistic freedom, even within The Corrs. At Atlantic Records, we dictated our own records. We had a bit of a fight sometimes, but we all did our own thing. For me it's just that I don't need to run it by anybody, which is super. That's kind of nice. You don't have to convince them that you're doing the right thing.
I know on your first solo album you had done a couple of covers, but I believe The Same Sun is all originals. Was it important to you to do all your own songs, or did it just sort of come out that way?
I just kind of knew it was that way. For me, I've always been a writer, so I'm not out there to prove myself as a writer to anybody. People know I write. Like in The Corrs, I wrote a lot of songs. I wrote like "So Young" and "Radio." So I've done that. But for me, if you're a writer, you're a writer. It also allows you to keep much more control. Then also it just feels just more like your own. It feels like the truth when people are listening to it, because it's your truth.
Also I did it a little differently on this album, because I wrote with some other people, which was not something that I would normally do. I did write with Mitchell. I wrote with a guy called Don Mescal. "Thinking About You" and "Raindrops" I wrote on my own. I wanted to experiment. I wanted to see where my music would go if I wrote with other people. Also, sometimes you're sitting there and you're working with somebody and they're reminding you of other influences that you have. Or they are influencing you with their own influences. It's like you have a bigger buffet to choose from.
I noticed in concert you only played a couple of Corrs songs – "Radio" and "So Young."
... You did do some covers that The Corrs performed as well. Did you decide you wanted to limit the band stuff or just feel comfortable enough with your two solo album's worth of material that you wanted to focus on that?
If I felt that the concert was suffering because I was using certain things, then I would adjust it. Actually, they are loving it the way it is. I think for me it's very important, just from a musical integrity point of view that I do only what I wrote, so that I'm not sort of railroading on The Corrs. It's so important to me that I go: this is Sharon Corr. Luckily, I did write some of the hits within The Corrs, so I can do that. Then I would do "Dreams" because it's a Fleetwood Mac song and I absolutely love it. I do Irish music because that's my thing. That's the violin. That's my other voice. But, yeah the decision is very much based on integrity and just going with it. I could have done "Runaway," because I wrote it with Caroline and Andrea, but I would just rather go with the ones I wrote completely on my own.
Now going way, way back, obviously the band had gotten some acclaim with early on, and then with stuff like In Blue and "Breathless" things just really took off. How surreal was it when after years of trying to make it you were suddenly all over the radio and TV?
Very weird. I remember the first time I noticed that we were famous. That we were on the radio and people were recognizing us. It was in Australia. It took off in Australia and it just was wild. It was absolutely wild. On the other side of the Earth. I remember the time there. We paid it a lot of attention. We saw a little spike in sales there. We saw the spike when we were there in just gig after gig the Australians really appreciated us. A lot of people at the time weren't even bothering to go down there, you know? Then all of the sudden, it was just like we were back for a tour and we landed at Cairns or something like that. I remember going out, I was looking for a bikini, and every shop I went by was playing our music. I was like: Oh, my God! Then every shop I walked into, they went, "There's one of The Corrs." I was just like... [stunned]. I remember we were all in a cable car, going up into the rain forest of Cairns. It's just like a day trip. We were sitting there and people were staring at us. We were going, "Wow, do we have something wrong with our faces?" Or "Do we look funny?" Then we heard them saying, "The Corrs."
That was kind of wild. It was. Then when it hit in the UK and it was... like in Australia, I think one in three or one in four people have a Corrs record... and in the UK it went giant. After many years, but it went giant. It took the second album to do it. That was just, again, completely surreal. It was kind of great, though. (laughs) I wasn't adverse to it. I just loved it. You did lose your privacy overnight. And if you were having a bad day, it was pretty hard to hide it. But an amazing experience. I really appreciated it.
Like you said in the show, obviously life on the road is difficult and has its fights and pressures, but you are all family and have that bond tying you together. Do you feel that the family needed to take a little time apart professionally to keep the love strong? Also, I know you are focused on your solo work, but do you think the band will ever get back together to perform?
I don't know if we will. I mean, there's definitely nothing on the cards. I'm very focused on this. But I am open to the other. I think in one way, we really don't want to dilute what we did together, because it was so amazing. You want to almost just go: That was great. I appreciate that. You don't want to kind of push the boat on it.
And when we did stop working together, we needed to have families. We needed to get lives of our own. We didn't have lives of our own. We just had lives with each other. There is nothing normal about that. That's why I say it's a miracle we're still talking to each other, because we sacrificed so much to be together. It's a very loving relationship and I'm very happy with that. So, I don't know. We'll see what the future holds.
What do you think of the current state of the music business? The label system The Corrs came up in is obviously broken, with low sales, piracy and ridiculously small streaming royalties, but young acts do have many more outlets to get things out there. Do you think that a band like The Corrs could have gotten an audience in this atmosphere?
I think we'd have always have gotten an audience, because I think our music connected. The first priority is the music. Then you worry about the rest. Then you think about your market and all the rest. If you're writing something that is from the heart, that is joyous in a way, but also shows the sadness and different experiences and emotions in life, then I think you're on to a winner.
But, I think today it is extremely difficult. Yes, these others like it, people might like it, but they don't... you can't monetize these outlets. (laughs) So it's extremely difficult for bands nowadays, even though they go on and on about how wonderful the internet is with free music and all this crap, in my opinion. If a band can not afford to keep themselves, then they can not stay working. It costs money to make records. I don't get a bunch of musicians into the studio and go, "Oh, you'll do this for free, won't you? Because this album is going to be for free on the internet." The studio, they charge. The sandwich shop across the road charges to bring sandwiches every day. Your instruments cost money. Your flights cost money. So I think in a lot of ways, it's way harder, because you can seemingly have success without ever making any money that will allow you to travel and make more success, or buy an instrument that you need, or make a record that you need to make.
I think there's a giant misconception out there – okay, you're not selling records, but you can tour. If you've never made a record, and nobody ever hears your record, why is anybody ever going to buy a seat in a concert of a band they've never heard of? That sounds very negative, and I would be negative about it, because it deserves negativity, I think.
Music nourishes the soul. It's one of the greatest things in the world. It has an immense power to unite people rather than to separate people. More often than not, religion is separating people. Music brings people together in harmony. For me, I think that's worth something. If it's worth just what it's worth, if people pay what it costs, then that's fine. And a little bit extra for whatever you need. It really frustrates me that people would pay money for a Coca-Cola laden with sugar, that's really crap for their system, but they won't pay for... let's say a Neil Young song that they will love for the rest of their life and will allow them to escape and feel understood. (laughs again) So, yeah, I think you got what I feel about that. It makes me crazy.
After touring all this time with your family, how are you enjoying touring on your own? I believe this is your first US solo tour.
Yeah, I did about three days last year, and I've been touring Australia and I've toured Europe and I've been in Southeast Asia, as well. So I'm doing it a long time on my own, now. I really love it. There is an element of it where you need to get tour fit. Just from the point if you come in a bus, taking showers in venues and then being ready for an interview and getting on stage and also keeping my voice safe for the show every night. I've just done twenty-something shows. I've just done four in a row, plus a TV show the following morning. So, you can put a lot of stress and strain on it. But, you know what? I would eat it up. I just love it. It's just heaven to me. I really love it.
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 5, 2014.
Photo Credit:© 2014 Jim Rinaldi. All rights reserved.
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