Arts Q&A: Co Down singer-songwriter Brigid O'Neill

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Co Down singer-songwriter Brigid O'Neill

Brigid O'Neill, whose current band includes Anthony Toner, Johnny McCullough, Conor McCreanor and Matt Weir

1. When did you think about music as a career and what were your first steps into it?

I began singing at the old Sunflower Folk Club on Corporation Street in Belfast. Not a lot of people would come into the city centre at night in those days but the music was alive and well at the Sunflower. The first time I went up on to the stage my knees were knocking together so much I could hardly stand but I'll not forget the buzz I got coming off that small stage. I think I was hooked then and there.

2. Best gigs you've been to?

I was very fortunate to be in Nashville last year for John Prine's 70th birthday gig at the Ryman Auditorium. He was on top form – a party on stage. Paul Simon at the 3Arena in Dublin last November was effortless mastery in songwriting, performance and groove. And Tom Waits at the Olympia in Dublin, March 1981, was special – he had a beer fridge and a sofa on stage.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Paul Simon's band. They were quite unreal – funk and groove all the way. Though I'd settle for Brendan Quinn's band especially if the amazing Henry McCullough could only come back again.

4. The record you'd take to a desert island and why?

The Miles Davis Quintet Cookin' Relaxin'. It calms me and motivates me in equal measure.

5. And the book you'd take to a desert island and why?

Bruce Springsteen's autobiography Born to Run. Full of good stories to return to, great advice for life and very inspirational.

6. Top three films?

Breakfast on Pluto, Whiplash and Strictly Ballroom.

7. Worst film you've seen?

Fortunately I can't recall the worst film.

8. Favourite authors?

Ian McEwan, Colm Tóibín and Arundhati Roy.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

Gaelic football and Saul – the one my son is in.

10. Ideal holiday destination?


11. Pet hate?

Shop assistants taking to each other when they are supposed to be addressing you.

12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? My mum's.

Dessert? Meringues.

Drink? Wine.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

I'm very fortunate to have a best friend called Roisin whom I met on the first day of grammar school. We sure have come a long way since that day, and still manage to laugh hysterically at the most ridiculous things.

14. Is there a God?

Well, there's my God...

:: Brigid will launch her album Touchstone tonight at Belfast's Black Box and will play concerts in Dungannon, Derry, Portstewart, Downpatrick and Dublin. For tickets and details visit

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