According to Sharon
INTERVIEW:The accordion player, who has appeared with Bono, The Chieftains, Nigel Kennedy and Wille Nelson – and played in the White House – has an album to promote but she is more interested in talking about rescuing dogs, writes EILEEN BATTERSBY
GALWAY IS IN full festival mood as the Volvo Ocean Race celebrations culminate tonight in a concert featuring Sharon Shannon and a 40-piece orchestra. She is delighted to be part of it all, not just because it is Galway, where she lives, but it means that her beloved dogs won’t have to wait long for her to come home.
“For me it is the worst part – the only bad bit about performing – is the travel. I hate leaving the dogs behind. When I’m at home, I bring them down to the beach every day, it is my favourite thing to.”
For this reason her recording studio is within driving distance of her house, and the dogs come too. Normal is her medium; she is one of Ireland’s most internationally successful artists and has played for US presidents and for royalty. She played in the White House for President Clinton, had an open-air concert on a stage with Sydney Opera House providing a dramatic backdrop and has toured with violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy, Willie Nelson and Jackson Browne as well as appearing and recording with The Chieftains, Bono and Adam Clayton. She is, in fact a superstar, only she doesn’t know it or seems not all that bothered.
There have never been sulks or tantrums, always a smile and a genuine goodness. If more people were like Sharon Shannon, the world would be a great deal happier. Her new album, her ninth, The Flying Circus, on which she wrote, or co-wrote, most of the tracks with her long-time accompanist, guitarist Jim Murray, was recorded with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
“It was a great experience; I had never played under a conductor before. It is amazing seeing how David kept all of the instruments together. If he heard a false note, he could immediately identify where it was coming from. Totally different from what I’m used to playing solo or with a band. I loved it.”
It is an intriguingly intimate blend of the distinctive Shannon button accordion with its verve and energy ably supported by an orchestra playing with a relaxed lightness of touch. Particularly effective is the string section. The mood piece Cape Clear, a traditional Irish air, is hauntingly beautiful and if one thing is capable of deflecting the horrors of this dismal summer weather it is this album which opens with a lively track, Top Dog Gaffo, dedicated to one of Shannon’s dogs,that died this time last year. “I had Gaffo for 14 years; he was the pup of a pregnant stray I rescued from the road. I called her Daisy. She was a fantastic character. She died in March when I was touring in Australia, I know she was very old, but I don’t have to tell you I was upset I was.”
She doesn’t have to, her face says it all. She is about to cry and pauses, waiting for the moment to pass. Shannon is an emotional individual, it shines through her music and she always engages with her audience. Everyone likes her, she is easy to work with and knows her own musical mind, often surprising by her attention to detail, all softened by her characteristic opening gambit: “Come here to me.” The only criticism ever voiced about her is that she does not promote herself.