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Niall Stokes: People would make an assumption that since The Corrs have sold millions of records, you ve already got it made. Does it feel like that to you?
Niall Stokes, 07 Dec 2000
Sharon Corr: Sometimes it s hard to relate to your own success, especially with the type of speed at which we move around the world. And generally we ve left a place we ve done the promo, and when we hit No.1 we re already on to another territory that we re still trying to break. To be perfectly honest, we are an incredibly successful band. But we still would like to have more success. I mean, success for us is writing good albums and then being appreciated worldwide. I think we ve always had quite high expectations.
What do you say to people who see what you re doing as a completely glamorous occupation?
It s not really something I would get into, because they re so far removed from it, if that s the way they see it. I think it s 99% hard work and 1% glamour. In some ways it s quite like the movie industry: the finished product looks very glamorous, but most of the time you re working very hard in quite uncomfortable conditions.
So given the level of effort that goes into it and the fact that you have to go out like an army, in a sense, to make the thing work, is it really worth the grief involved to you?
Definitely. There s no gain without pain and, for me, the reason I get so much satisfaction from what I do is because I have worked so hard. Had it come easy, I don t think I d have felt worthy of it.
Was there a time along the way when you felt a sense of despair, that it wasn t going to fly and you d just like to see the end of it?
Not really. There have been moments of despair without a doubt. I can remember in the very early days when we spent most of our time around the corner from our parents house, in Jim s place, recording and writing songs and the girls were still at school and we d be up till four in the morning singing backing vocals and it was quite stifling, because we were together all the time and we really needed to feel a sense of ourselves and maybe have experienced more of the world as individuals before we came together and did this. But although that was quite stifling, it wasn t the worst. I can remember a member of an enormous record company coming over to see us and it built up our hopes. He came over, had a look and said to John that he just didn t get it.
What company was that?
I wouldn t care to mention it to be honest because there was no bitterness or anything like that. But he was so good, he also passed on The Cranberries, put it that way! We spent so many hours, so many years working, to try and get a record deal and when somebody literally just doesn t hear it, that s quite frustrating. And I think sometimes there s been a little bit of despair at the end of a long haul of promotion and touring. But that s more to do with exhaustion than with how you truly think about the band.
There was a perception in Ireland that The Corrs had it easy, that it was just you ve got three gorgeous women, put some Irish music into the mix and it s automatically going to be a hit.
Well, that s just cynicism, you know. And there s plenty of it about. It also probably sells newspapers. But I don t really get involved in that because besides having played instruments all our lives, we ve spent long hours writing our music, long hours travelling around the world to try and make something of our music, and of our career and without that nobody would ever have heard of us. So it s quite useless saying that.
In a lot of ways, as the singer and as the youngest and as somebody who s naturally emotional, Andrea is the most vulnerable person in the group. As the big sister do you find yourself worrying about her?
I do, yes, definitely. I think even more so since our mum died because I was catapulted into adulthood overnight. Even though I ve been of an age to be considered an adult for many years now, there s something that happens when your mum dies you lose that ability to act like a child now and then. And I think for me, my first instinct was to pull everything together and make sure everybody was OK. Sometimes Andrea she is emotional and vulnerable but I think everybody in the band is, to be perfectly honest. Music is something where you truly expose yourself, especially when you write your own music. I suppose you see more of Andrea s vulnerability because she s actually singing the lyrics and I think perhaps for that reason people feel she s more vulnerable. But certainly as an older sister I am quite protective of her, yes, that s for sure.
And does that make your position in the band more difficult?
I think we ve learned over the years to let our own personalities grow and give each other space to breathe. Andrea, Caroline and Jim are very strong individuals and we would get along absolutely fine on our own. And if I m down, Andrea would look after me. We all have bad days on different days. So she would help me and I would help her at different times.
Obviously it s been very tough for everyone since your mother died. That must make your current campaign that much more difficult in a lot of ways.
I m the eternal optimist. I seek the silver lining out of every situation or I talk myself into it one or the other. And I think in some ways it has made me much stronger, but in some ways it has also made me much more vulnerable. So if I do have a lot of work on, I have a tendency to become much more emotional in situations. I find myself much more vulnerable on a daily basis and I find myself having a tendency to be a little bit down. Especially around this time of year because it was yesterday that Mum went to Newcastle for her assessment and it was one week later that she died. So if somebody says to me you ve got to go to America on Monday , I go oh my God, oh my God , and it s not really America that s getting to me, it s Mum. It s the pressure of going and working, but it s also the pressure of just being more vulnerable.
Most people have no concept of the impact grief can have until they re plunged into it.
I think that s the most difficult thing about it. I don t think you really have any preparation. For quite a few months before Mum died, I found myself crying myself to sleep every night. It was almost like I knew. But there s something in yourself that seeks to preserve yourself and you don t admit it. And even the doctors were saying it wasn t going to happen but something in me knew. The finality of it, that s the most frustrating thing. I find that it hits you in the most uncanny situations. When you ask me about it, so straight and so directly I can cope with it. But there can be other moments when I hear a song I was watching a film last night, Andrea Boccelli and Sarah Brightman, Time To Say Goodbye. My mother played that about 25 times in a row one night in the house because she loved it so much. And it s moments like that that really get me. And what I find particularly difficult is I m always surrounded by a lot of people, so you generally have to stifle your tears and hide your feelings and try and find a corner where you can be alone, you know.
Do you feel now that In Blue is that much stronger because it was recorded in an emotional context?
That s something I can only speculate on. For myself, I don t know if I d have written certain songs the way I did if Mum hadn t died. So, definitely, the lyrical content is about her and to do with grief No More Cry in particular. So, I suppose, yes, the record did change because of that experience.
Pop music often doesn t deal with deeper emotional truths. So you could see this record as the record where The Corrs maturity is established.
Well, yeah, you could, but (hesitates) I m quite allergic to that type of sentiment, that pop music is without any sort of depth. Just because it s not Leonard Cohen doesn t mean that within the lyrics or the music there isn t a very strong sentiment or a very strong feeling. I think also that in situations of grief or trouble or depression, sometimes the best release is to write something uplifting. As I said earlier, I do tend to try and seek the good or the positive. And I know that in whatever songs I wrote after Mum died, it was about losing my childhood overnight, but in The Corrs it s about the gift of somebody loving me and how that helps me through it. So it s about both. I don t think you necessarily need to be completely down, in order to express your true emotions. I think life is full of paradoxes and I think happiness and sadness can t exist without each other. During Mum s illness there were moments of intense humour even she was joking all the time. And after she died there were moments of very black humour. But that s life!
How do you evaluate the importance of the contribution of John Hughes to the group?
Fundamental. He s the fifth Corr and he certainly brought enthusiasm and bred hope in us all from the beginning. I think he s a man with a vocation. He s going to get very embarrassed if he reads this, but I think he s a very, very good man and a very caring man and I think we ve been very lucky with him. Because he not only sought to promote us careerwise, but he also sought to promote us as people, learning-wise and growing-up-wise. He basically had a bunch of kids on his hands, and he really nurtured our individuality and nurtured our belief in ourselves and our good points. And I think he brought our capabilities and our possibilities to the forefront. I do think he nurtured what was good in us and I don t mean just on a musical level, I mean on a human level.
There s a very strong element with The Corrs, that people see there s three gorgeous women up there. Is there pressure on you to look beautiful all the time?
Admittedly it is a pressure. I can t remember the last time I had a walk in daylight because I m in venues all the time and hotels, and we re arriving in at 5 in the morning and sleeping till 12 and then going for a soundcheck. So I got up this morning and said OK, I m going out for a walk. I need some sunlight . So I don t want to put on any make-up, I put on a pair of shades and I walk out of the hotel and there s this guy following me up the street with a camera. And when that happens there is a pressure I suppose to look a certain way, to have make-up on and to be dressed up. But I don t want to let it get in on me. Because it s not important. If we didn t play and write music you would never know how we look.
Do you ever feel that you want to be a slob, you don t want to have to think about any of this stuff?
It s not really in my nature to be like that. My mother never went out the door without lipstick on. She always did herself up every day. It was like a self-respect. She always wanted to look well and it was just her way of doing things. And we got that from her. You d rarely see me out in a track suit. But it s possible!
We have a great picture of you on stage playing the violin, where you re bent half backwards. Do you work on flexibility, or do some kind of training to be able to do that?
(laughs) Oh God, oh my God. Little do you know, Niall. I do not work out whatsoever. The only work-out I get is running from hotel to hotel, and from airport to airport. It is quite good exercise! Yes, I do seem to be quite flexible but I think it s just because of how fast my life is. I always was quite supple, but the only thing I do is walk and work hard. I chastise myself for it actually, because I m getting older and I think I might need to start doing some sort of exercise.
You don t seem to have a problem staying slim.
I eat very healthily, although I always believe you should enjoy a little bit of everything. I eat all types of meat, a little bit of chocolate, a little bit of junk food here and there but generally very, very healthily. Also, I think it s the pace of life. I think I ve got a lot of energy naturally. If I get overstressed I ve a tendency to lose weight, so it s something I have to watch.
Is it extra-hard to maintain relationships being on the road and especially being away for so long?
Yes, it is very difficult and you do see so many relationships split up. I m in a relationship now for almost six years. It s fantastic. It s actually better than it was. But it has been very trying on him. I think it s harder for a woman involved in the music industry. It s still quite chauvinist I suppose in that way: women put up with men being on the road a lot more than men would put up with women being on the road. And for that reason, I need, and women need, a man who s very self-contained and is very self-confident and also trusts you and believes in your relationship. And I ve been lucky, I ve found that.
It must affect your sex life something rotten?
(laughs) That s obvious.
Do you see yourself getting married?
Yes, definitely. I m engaged.
Do you see yourself having a bunch of kids?
I would love to be blessed with children. It s not something I would take for granted. Hopefully I m healthy enough and he s healthy enough, and we would have children. I would absolutely love that.
In a group where you ve got three women, that must be very hard to incorporate in a way that works for the group, as well as for the individuals.
Well, we haven t had to face that so far. But to be honest, if I have children, they ll come first. I would endeavour to be always involved in music and I would always write, but if I need to make a sacrifice in some way, I will do that because children are the most important thing.
Do you envisage having a white wedding or will you do a Dolores with the wedding dress?
No. I m going to have a good old-fashioned traditional wedding with all my family there, and just have a good day.
You spend a lot of time in the North. There s a feeling that people there are feeling a lot less optimistic now than they would have done a year ago. How do you feel yourself?
I tell you what I feel about the North and it s from I suppose quite a non-political point of view. I see a lot of fantastic changes in the North of Ireland. I see a lot of investment. I see a lot of great clubs, and great restaurants, opening up in the city centre in Belfast, where you couldn t go at nighttime, a few years ago. I see a lot more optimism at street level in the North of Ireland. So I don t think the news portrays accurately how people on the ground genuinely feel. I think they re looking towards the future. They ve moved on and they cannot go back. And even if it does go back for a short time, I think the people will not tolerate it any more. So from a very non-political point of view I just feel that the people on the street are more optimistic than you think.
But would you feel that the Real IRA are pushing the thing towards boiling point again?
I think there s always a possibility of extreme violence returning. Of course there is. But as I said I m an optimist. I don t believe the people will allow that to happen, I really don t.
Along the same lines, do you think Unionism is capable of accommodating Sinn Fein in government?
Yes, I do. I think some parts of the Unionist parties may not be. But I think that, in general, they are endeavouring to embrace a new Northern Ireland and I think it is a fact that they will have to be in government with them in order for it to work.
What is it about Ireland that most annoys you?
Oh God! I ll tell you what it is, the road from Dundalk to Dublin, it s atrocious!
Is the taxi situation in Dublin adequate at all?
Absolutely not. It s crazy. I did spend about an hour one night recently in front of Trinity College, waiting for a taxi. I know people who have waited two hours. That s terrible. But I don t like to give out because I miss home most of the time, and I just love it.
One of the prospects that s in store for us now is the possibility of another abortion referendum.
I don t know. I m always in two minds about that. I do feel it s wrong to take the life of the unborn child, I really do. But I also feel that for women in the very difficult position, let s say, who are not equipped to cope with pregnancy at a certain age, or who are victims of rape, that they should have that choice. So I suppose I am pro-choice. But at the same time I m not pro-murder either. I don t think it s clear cut. I really don t think it is.
Do you ever despair of politicians in Ireland?
Where I find that I would despair in Ireland is cases of young girls being pregnant and not being able to tell their families or someone at school that they are. And that young girl dying. That makes me despair because it s very much skeletons in the closet, and sometimes still is in Ireland.
But isn t that a product of the fact that Irish people for a long time had a very negative attitude towards sexuality?
Absolutely. And that s something I think is so wrong. Sexuality is a wonderful gift and it enables us to have the gift of life. It s the most beautiful thing and it can be the most terrific release for people, from their daily frustrations. It can also bring two people so close together. It shouldn t be seen as a dirty thing, or something that you re supposed to hide or pretend you didn t enjoy. I think especially for women. Although I must say I ve little to complain about because I ve been brought up in a generation where these type of situations didn t affect me. But things like a woman being churched after she had a baby. My mother had to go through that. Why was my mother seen as soiled, or in some way unworthy of holy communion because she was pregnant? That was a disgrace. But it no longer exists and I don t want to cry over spilt milk. And, as I say, especially because of the industry I m in, I ve never really felt the pressure of oppressing my sexuality. I ve always felt very free with it.
But the thing was, you were told it s a sin, you can t do it, you can only do it if you re married and that set up a whole series of chain reactions, all of which made it an area where Irish people felt shame and guilt.
Yes. You could only do it if you were married and you certainly couldn t enjoy it then! I know for my parents they kissed and then they went to confession. It s absolutely wrong.
We ve talked about various aspects of being a star. Do you ever just long for peace, quiet, to be on your own?
Yes, I do. Some days I long for space and some days I d like to walk out of the hotel and know that nobody knows me, or go out to the pub and not have my fiance have to watch over me all night. It isn t often a problem in Ireland, but it certainly is a problem in other countries. But at the same time, I wouldn t give up what I have because I love it.
Is self-indulgence a danger for people in a band?
Definitely. The funny thing about doing shows is that it s your work. But after you come offstage there s always a rider, and a bar to go to in the hotel. If you re a doctor you don t get that. It s a funny scenario. Once you come off stage it takes a long time to wind down and drink does help you to relax. We do very much enjoy a drink, or whatever, and do let loose and have good fun. I wouldn t consider it excessive. But it s something you need to watch cos it s something you could rely on in order to wind down.
In the music industry, something like cannabis is an accepted part of what goes on. Do you feel this whole thing of criminalising people who use it is right?
One reason why I think criminalising it is wrong is because it can be medicinal for some people. Certainly people with certain conditions find they can get a brief reprieve from their symptoms through cannabis. I think it should definitely be available to them and it shouldn t be criminal for them to take it at all. There are good sides and bad sides to it there s something in cannabis that can inhibit your sense of reality. It is a form of escapism and sometimes I think you can escape too much with it. But ultimately I feel it should be a choice. But if it is going to be legalised, I do think there should be, in tandem with it, a lot of information made available to the public, especially to children.
Finally, I asked the others for their recipe for the dish they d make if they were having a friend around to the house.
OK. One of my favourites is fillets of rainbow trout. It s simple and really quick. You switch on the grill to medium, put the trout upside-down with the skin facing up towards the grill and grill it until it starts to blister. Take it out, turn it over, douse it in olive oil and sprinkle cajun seasoning over the top, add a bit of lemon juice and put it under for about seven minutes. Then it s done and you can put crushed pistachio nuts over the top and it s absolutely delicious. I would serve it with vegetables and potatoes, or I d do ratatouille and rice. I do all that as an after thought. The meat or the fish is the main thing.