For nearly a decade he was one of the leading lights of Irish folk. And then Paul Brady turned away from the trad scene and reinvented himself as a contemporary singer-songwriter, penning songs for stars such as Tina Turner along the way. Now, with a new album under his belt, he reflects on his long journey from the pub session to the rock stage, the price of fame and talks about his burgeoning friendship with artists such as Glen Hansard, Fionn Regan and Ronan Keating.
Colm O'Hare, 23 Mar 2010
Since those days Brady has blended both his folk and rock roots on albums such as 95’s Spirits Colliding, and 2000’s Oh What A World, which featured collaborations with Carole King, Will Jennings and Ronan Keating. His last album, Say What You Feel, recorded in Nashville and released in 2005 saw a return to a rootsier sound.
His latest album, Hooba Dooba (his 14th solo record), draws on all of his strengths as a melodicist and lyricist with a blend of up-tempo numbers and ballads. One song, ‘The Price of Fame’ was written with Ronan Keating with whom he also collaborated on ‘The Long Goodbye’ – a huge hit in the US for country duo Brooks & Dunne.
“We’ve written three or four together and I liked this one”, he explains. “It’s not about rock musicians whinging about being famous. I’m fascinated by the whole notion of fame. In the music business, fame and success are inextricably linked. It’s hard to have one without the other. I’ve been ambivalent about fame. I don’t particularly like the notion at all. I’m interested in what happens when two people who are close together and one gets fame and the other doesn’t. The standard notion is that the person who gets the fame doesn’t want to know his past any longer. It’s my experience that it’s almost the opposite. The person who is – quote – ‘left behind’ is often the one who withdraws and blames the other. It’s not just confined to the artistic world. It could be about a job. You get promoted and I don’t. You’re in the management now, you’ve moved on so how do I feel about it?.”
The album also features his own take on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul classic ‘You Won’t See Me’. So has he ever considered doing a covers album? “A couple of people have suggested that to me. I think it would show a different side to me. The question would be – which songs to do?”
Meanwhile, he has been collaborating on-stage with the new generation of Irish singer songwriters. As he explains: “It’s great to see people like Glen Hansard, Declan O’Rourke, Damien Rice, Paddy Casey and Fionn Regan doing well. I think it’s wonderful that people are writing songs and standing up with an acoustic guitar and singing. It’s what I’ve always done. And I’ve had fun singing with those guys recently. I did the Ruby Sessions tenth anniversary and I also did a Haiti benefit with Glen Hansard. I didn’t really know those guys very well – obviously I’m a different generation. They’ve been very welcoming to me.”
Brady takes to the road in his own right throughout Ireland over the coming months, including a couple of dates at Dublin’s brand new Grand Canal Theatre.
“Quite a lot of people are interested in the new album. But I’ve had a solid core of fans over the last 30 years and I’m grateful for that.
“I’ve learned that there is an awful lot of disappointment in this business and that nothing lasts forever. It’s really not about what happens to you, it’s about how you react to those things that happen. I’m just delighted I’m still here and that I have the energy to record and tour.”