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 theUnplugged 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.