Then & now


Sinead Lohan, singer

In 1995, Irish audiences were enchanted by a twentysomething Cork woman with dreadlocks and an acoustic guitar. Sinéad Lohan was a bright new star in the folk firmament, who had been playing regular gigs in Cork’s Lobby bar, but caught the national attention when her song Sailing Bywas included in the second A Woman’s Heartcollection. Her debut album, Who Do You Think I Amreached number eight in the Irish charts, and songs such as Bee in the Bottle and her version of Bob Dylan’s To Ramona became staples on Irish radio. She went on tour with A Woman’s Heart, culminating in three sold-out nights at London’s Apollo theatre.

She signed a deal with Interscope, setting off for New Orleans to work on her second album, No Mermaid. It was a slicker, more mature Lohan who returned to the Irish stage, top-dollar session musicians in tow. She seemed to have lost the earthy quality that informed her debut, but the album did well in Ireland, the US and UK, and the title track featured in the movie Message in A Bottle, and was covered by Joan Baez.

“I try to make melodies that are hypnotic, that go round and round until you don’t know what I’m saying or what it means, but there’s a feeling way down in the music,” said Lohan around No Mermaid’srelease. “That’s why I’ve always been inspired by sounds like the hum of a washing machine or the rhythm of a moving train.”

After she had her second child in 2001, the sound of the washing machine must have taken over, because little has been heard from Lohan since. Her official website is long defunct, and her long-promised third album, slated for a 2007 release, never materialised. Her former manager Pat Egan says she quit the music industry and is now finding fulfilment being a full-time mother.

“She was doing well in US, and really on the verge of big success,” recalls Egan. “We went out to the US around 2000 and she did 97 gigs from Boston to LA, playing to between 500 and 3,000 people. The album had sold 200,000 copies. But she suddenly decided she didn’t want to do it any more. She never really liked the music business, and wasn’t that great doing interviews.”

She married her partner John, an accountant, and they live near Leap in Co Cork with their two children.

“Apart from a guest appearance with Phil Coulter in the Opera House in Cork six years ago, she hasn’t done anything,” says Egan. “It’s a big loss in terms of talent. She was one of the few Irish women writing good songs, and I think she was very underrated.”