Sharon Corr talks about Vonda Shepard, living in Madrid and returning to Belfast
Ahead of her gig in Belfast next week, Jenny Lee chats to Sharon Corr about living in Madrid, family life, teaming up with her friend Vonda Shepard and her intimate gig inside an IVF lab
SHARON Corr is leaving the sun of her adopted home, Madrid, behind to return to Belfast for an intimate gig with American singer-songwriter Vonda Shepard.
Sharon is, of course, best known as one quarter of Dundalk band The Corrs, alongside her siblings Jim, Caroline and Andrea. One of the biggest-selling Irish bands of all time, The Corrs went on an extended hiatus starting in 2006, raising their own families and pursuing solo careers. Reunited in 2015, their six studio album White Light was followed by the critically acclaimed Jupiter Calling two years later.
It was while recording their 1999 album Unplugged in Dublin with American musician and producer Mitchell Froom that Sharon was introduced to his now wife Vonda, a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning singer best known for providing the musical accompaniment to hit US TV show Ally McBeal.
Sharon, who is married to Belfast barrister Gavin Bonnar, admits she was a "big fan" of the legal drama, which originally aired from 1997 to 2002.
"I really enjoyed watching it. It was fun and quirky and Vonda was super in it," she recalls.
The pair immediately clicked and have formed a firm friendship over the years.
"I recorded my second album, The Same Sun, in 2013, with Mitchell in his studio at his house in LA. I ate with Vonda in her kitchen every day and we had great chats. We have a lot in common – music, kids and a love of food – and have swapped recipes and kept in touch ever since," adds the 48-year-old. Modest about her culinary skills, the Co Louth woman admits Vonda enjoyed her "rainbow trout with pistachio" recipe.
"We thought of doing this tour a couple of years ago but I was busy with solo work and The Corrs, so now we've finally got the chance to pull it together, " says Sharon, who is looking forward to returning to Belfast, where she lived for four years following her marriage.
Vonda and Sharon's whistle-stop tour of Ireland and Britain will include their own hits, as well as a new duet.
"Vonda's out in LA, so we've been coming together on Skype to work together on our vocal harmonies and backing vocals. I think the show will be very dynamic. We're going to each do our own sets and then at the end join together and do a couple of cover songs," says Sharon, whose personal favourites to perform include Upon An Ocean – which she co-wrote with Vonda's husband – We Could Be Lovers and The Corrs' hit Runaway.
Sharon is remaining coy about their new song, which will be debuted on the tour.
"We've both contributed to the inspiration behind it. It's about rain – but that is more of a metaphor."
Sharon is currently working on her third studio album in Madrid, where she has embraced the Spanish language and lifestyle. Although she says her children Cathal (12) and Flor (11) are "embarrassed" by her standard of Spanish, she is proud of what she has learnt so far.
"The children are amazing; they speak like natives. I did a couple of classes but I've learnt most of it on the street, going to supermarkets and so forth. Once you're in the place, you get your ear adjusted and you understand it much faster," she says.
While maintaining her Celtic roots and violin accompaniment, Sharon admits the Mediterranean culture has influenced her music.
"I think you bring your roots with you, but as a musician you have to change – otherwise you are learning nothing. For me, I'm very interested in different types of music and really inspired by music from different countries and different instruments – so I think I'm changing all the time. I absolutely adore flamenco and I've written a song recently in Spanish," adds Sharon, who is adamant she won't be showcasing her Spanish dancing skills in public. "They would throw me off the stage if I tried that," she laughs.
Last year she was "honoured" to perform her music live "for hundreds of embryos growing in incubators" at Institut Marques Fertility Centre in Barcelona.
Sharon's performance, during which she as accompanied by Spanish musician Alex Ubago, with whom she recorded Amarrado a Ti in 2009, was also streamed live to embryos in incubators at Institut Marques clinics in Clane, Co Kildare, and Villa Salaria in Rome.
"It came about when my gynaecologist told me about the clinic's Nobel Prize-winning research into how a higher percentage of embryos are fertilised when exposed to music. It shows the amazing effect music can have. We sang with our scrubs on and it was an amazing and emotional experience."
The Corrs' main influences were their parents, who encouraged them all to learn instruments. This is something Sharon has passed onto her children.
"They are both learning piano. My son has a great sense of rhythm, so I'm going to get him on to drums and percussion next," says Sharon, who also sees promise in Cathal's songwriting skills.
"He's writing songs at school at the moment, so I have helped him come up with different chord ideas on the piano. It's lovely working with him."
With all her siblings having children themselves, is there any chance of there being a second generation of The Corrs?
"No, no, I wouldn't impose that on them," she laughs. "If they wanted to, sure, but it has to come naturally."
A former coach in the RTÉ talent show The Voice of Ireland, Sharon's advice to any budding young musicians is, be original.
"Find who you are, work out your own unique style and write your own songs. It's the only part of the music business nowadays where you can maybe make some money – if you are lucky."
With her children approaching their teens, I ask Sharon, is it easier to combine motherhood and music now?
"I don't know. [At the age they are now] it's more difficult in a way, as they have more extra-curricular activities and the homework is heavy. But I love my kids and I love music – so I do both."
And her children's opinion on their mum's music?
"They didn't know anything about The Corrs for a long time because we were on a hiatus. Then they came to see us in the 02 in London in 2017 in front of 20,000 people and were shocked – but in a good way."
Jupiter Calling had a great reception – so I ask Sharon if it's just a matter of logistics and time before we get another Corrs album?
"We're still looking at new stuff to do together, so we will see."
:: Vonda Shepard and Sharon Corr live at The Empire, Belfast on Wednesday March 13. Tickets from Thebelfastempire.com