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Life - Sunday Independent (12 octobre 2003)

  Cet article est également disponible en français

Love, pain and the whole damn thing

Andrea Corr has been the talk on corners for almost a decade. Her talent and her beauty have made her a global star. But beneath the pop sheen lurks a beguiling woman. The Corr's singer opens up to Barry Egan...

Andrea Jane Corr can remember the first time she ever heard singing. It was also the first time her mother Jean sang on stage.
"The funny thing is, she was pregnant with me," says Andrea. "She was wearing a big mammy outfit. I was in there just listening."

Sipping Ballygowan on a plush sofa in the Four Seasons hotel in Dublin, the kohl-eyed singer takes an educated guess that it was probably something by the Carpenters, the Eagles, or ABBA that her mother sang to her in the womb.

Jean and Gerry were musicians themselves, imbuing their four children with a natural love of music. Their upbringing in Dundalk also instilled Andrea and her siblings with a strength of character that sustained them through the darker moments of their career. The Corrs - Andrea, Caroline, Sharon and brother Jim - have now sold over 40 million albums since their 1995 debut, but it wasn't an overnight success. For years before they secured a record deal, the Corrs were met with indifference by the music business. Nobody wanted to know them, let alone give them a contract.

All of their manager John Hughes' energies seemed to go into making these young kids believe that they could go all the way with their music - difficult when his phone calls to record execswere not being returned. "But I never felt it wasn't going to work. I think John's a man with vocation."

Long before public taste and the Corrs' good looks synchronised with the triumph of Talk On Corners in 1998, life was miserable for the band.

"Because I was the youngest, I probably felt cushioned," says Andrea now. "I didn't go through the whole process of deciding that this is really what I wanted to do. I didn't go: 'I want to be singer in this band!'

"I suppose I became that, and it was the right thing. If I saw anybody doing now what we did I would go to them: 'Oh Jesus!' I would be worried for them. If I had kids and they were going out to do it I would be very worried."

When she looks back now, she says she sometimes can't believe it herself. The self-belief, she says, was almost idiotic: "'What made you think that you could sell all these albums around the world and become highly successful?' but we did," she says with pride.

"Even when it was going good we had a number of experiences along the way: record companies pretending they were interested, building up our hopes, and then not calling. You've got to have self-belief, and we very much had that. John Hughes was very optimistic and driven, and the knock-backs made it more of a challenge - and they still go on. It will never be comfortable, and that is good."

How does she feel now that people know her face everywhere she goes?

"I went through adolescence with this. I was 15 when I started. I did my whole metamorphosis in front of cameras."

The unwelcome klieg lights of paparazzi attention have formed a part of her life for years. In that time she has been linked - ridiculously rather than romantically - with everyone from ex-Spice Girls' manager Simon Fuller to Huey from the Fun Lovin' Criminals to Robbie Williams. When Andrea duetted with Mick Jagger on Wild Horses at the Rolling Stones' recent Dublin concert, certain redtops excelled themselves.

One reported that Mick had rung Andrea to ask for a date, which she politely declined; and that, undeterred, Jagger had continued ringing her to see if they could meet for dinner. Corr is said to have simply stopped answering the phone whenever Jagger's number popped up on caller ID.

"Mick Jagger calling, and all that kind of stuff, is just so completely untrue," she says. "It was worse for Mick, actually. They made an idiot out of him, and it's not fair and it's not true. The way papers put things, it is awful."

Performing with the Stones, she admits, was great. There was no shortage of adrenalin rushing through her veins as she took the stage in knee-high leather boots. "I hadn't been up in front of an audience for a long time, so a lot of things were daunting," Andrea says. "Coming on for one song - and it was a surprise, because the audience didn't know I was going to do it. I had only learnt the song that day. I have got the height of respect for the Rolling Stones and I wanted to go up and make them happy that they invited me on, and not say: 'Oh Jesus, that was a mistake.' If you've got respect for people in the same career as you, you do want to be good."

Andrea was seven when she sang for the first time on stage, at a school production of The Princess. The sixth-class girls in assembly, she recalls, were giving out parts. Nobody was auditioning, so they gave her the part of the princess. "In rehearsal I had to sing, and this was overwhelming for me."

Andrea's teacher, Elizabeth O'Donoghue, promptly took her aside. "I was crying and I was scared, and she told me I could do it and I did it. Mammy and Daddy were in the front row that afternoon to watch me," she says.

Her long lashes flutter like the feelers of a beetle on its back. Her eyes are focused somewhere else - lost in reverie. Then she says she sat up the other night in the family home in Dundalk with her father, Gerry, and watched her late mother, Jean, on old home movies.

"Daddy had watched it first and told me about it," she says, "and we both realised when we watched it that it was really good for us, because it put Mammy into the living again rather than remembering the dying.

Normal life is what everybody takes for granted with their parents. And the dying had become so prominent that you forget the happiness of life before that. In this camcorder stuff she was so happy."

In the grainy videos, Andrea watched herself and her siblings prepare for their first gig, rehearsing in a garage. She heard herself discussing with her sisters what they were going to wear. "Mammy was there, and the whole laughter and the intimacy and banter was amazing to watch.

"There is another clip on holiday in Malibu, by the pool. I had put on Daddy's clothes and Caroline put on Mammy's and we were mimicking them. She used to say: 'I am just delighted with that, Gerry.' My mother was just delighted with everything. Another thing: we were out on a boat, and it is so funny to hear your mother say your name: 'Where is Andrea?' Something like that can be so touching.

"It sounds weird, but it made me happier, because she was so happy and it is life. That is the thing," she explains. "When somebody close to you dies, the whole time of them dying is horrific. It is like a horrible nightmare. It is stuck there the whole time: the dying, the struggle, how hard she fought for her life.

"But on this camcorder it all seems very happy. It was a good thing to watch. Now when I dream- she is alive in my dreams."

In April 1999, Jean Corr was diagnosed with cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis, a rare lung disease which scars the holes where the lungs breathe. In November, when her condition deteriorated, she was flown to the Freeman hospital in Newcastle for a lung transplant. She died on November 24, 1999.

In pictures at the time, Andrea appeared strong. But scars aren't always visible to the naked eye. She wrote No More Cry to help deal with her mother's sad passing: "One day soon we'll meet again," Andrea sings. "I wanna feel just like before/ Before the rain came in my door/Shook me up, turned me around/Made me cry till I would drown".

"I do feel she is there all the time," Andrea says now. "I absolutely do. She is in our world. I do believe I have her guidance."

Two years ago, Sharon Corr was on holidays in the Caribbean when she saw a woman on the other side of the room in the hotel's spa and knew, she said, that her mother was within her. She noticed that the woman's "every single mannerism was my mother's." It echoed Patrick Kavanagh's poem: "Every old man I see/Reminds me of my father/When he had fallen in love with death..."

"It is really weird her not being around," says Andrea, before adding: "Something I don't like about that is if your love and your heart is supposed to be so overwhelming there is also an element there that says: why didn't I completely crumble? Why do I go on every day like I do?"

Why Andrea Corr didn't crumble is, she says, because of her faith, and the realisation of how precious life is. "Mammy viewed life as precious," she says. "Hers is gone and I am not going to waste mine. She didn't waste hers. She wouldn't have wanted that. And then, I suppose I am naturally an optimistic person. A very fundamental part of me is my faith."

She believes that once you do right, once you follow your light, open your arms and let yourself be guided in the right path, you'll be OK. No matter what. Andrea believes in something bigger than this. She believes we've got good and bad days, but she thinks life is essentially precious, so she lives by that.

As she thinks of a joke to tell me, Andrea emits a huge laugh that travels across the hotel lobby, startling the polite, tea-sipping Americans seated at the table next to us.

"Big Chief suffers from constipation," she begins, "and he says to the doctor: 'Big Chief no fart.' The doctor says: 'Don't worry. Take these tablets and you'll be fine. Call me in a week.' A week goes by, and the chief was looking purple. 'Big Chief no fart.'

"Doctor says, 'Take this bucketful of tablets.' Two weeks later he hobbles into the room - bloated: 'Big Chief still no fart.' Doctor gives him a lorryful of tablets. And a month goes by, and the doctor is wondering how the chief is. The little woman comes into the surgery one day and she says: 'Big fart - no chief!'"

In August 2002, Caroline Corr married the Dublin-based property developer Frank Woods in Majorca, with Bono and the Edge among the guests. In July the previous year, Sharon Corr married the Belfast barrister Gavin Bonnar. Jim Corr is still single, happily playing the field with any number of bright young things. Andrea, meanwhile, is happy in a relationship with young British actor Shaun Evans.

The Corrs, as people, she says, have all calmed a little over the years. Caroline's life has drastically changed, she says, having become a mother with a son. "There is contentment about her," Andrea says. "She really is happy. You see it when somebody has a child." Andrea recalls seeing Caroline coming straight off the stage at Nelson Mandela's birthday party in South Africa and "back to our table, where she immediately started breastfeeding her baby."

"Then this opera singer got up and she reached a high note, Caroline's whole nature was to protect his ears." She smiles, adding that she is not ready yet for children of her own.

"I do not feel fully fulfilled. I am not married. I would want to be married only if I knew I would be with that person forever. I would need to know that we were very seriously going on this adventure together. I am just not at that stage yet. But I want to, definetely."

Since she started performing in the Corrs she has never known convention. Twenty-nine now, she doesn't think she "would ever want a conventional life, or be able to deal with it, probably. I can't imagine myself being constantly in the one place. I picture life as an adventure."

Andrea grew to adulthood in a stable home in Dundalk. She offers brief glimpses of her childhood. Going to discos in town and having tea and toast - or "toe and teast" as she refers to it - with friends at home in the family kitchen afterwards.

As a young teenager, Andrea had posters of Prince up on her bedroom wall, until her father confiscated them. The inspiration behind this purge arrived the day Gerry Corr heard young Andrea singing the lyrics to Prince's Darling Nikki:

"I knew a girl named Nikki/I guess you could say she was a sex fiend./I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine./She said how'd U like to waste some time/And I could not resist."

"I didn't know what I was singing," Andrea says, laughing, "but by the look on Daddy's face he thought his young daughter was turning into Regan from The Exorcist! He immediately confiscated all my Prince records." She never sang Little Nikki at home again.

Andrea, five-foot-two in her stocking feet, has her own songs to sing these days. So Young and Runaway are just two of those Corrs songs you feel are always in the ether - you only have to turn up the volume on the radio. She is flying to Los Angeles in the morning to begin recording the band's long-awaited follow-up to In Blue, scheduled for release in March 2004.

She has just flown back from Canada, where she attended the premiere of The Boys From County Clare at the Toronto Film Festival. The plot features feuding families in an All-Ireland traditional music competition; Andrea plays Anne, who falls in love with Shaun Evans from the rival family band. She previously appeared in Alan Parker's movies The Commitments (1991) and Evita (1996). Before Toronto she was on holiday in Mexico, helped Nelson Mandela celebrate his 85th birthday in Johannesburg - with Bono, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

Andrea is a fan of the man who spent three decades in prison for his beliefs and won the Nobel prize for leading South Africa to a multi-racial democracy in 1994. "I found Mandela really overwhelming at every level. Just to meet him was incredible, she says. It is hard to put into words. He is very normal and lovely - beautiful. I was moved to tears."

When she's not recording or travelling to birthday soirees in South Africa, Andrea paints and sketches. The results are, she says, quite mad. "I have done a few drawings of myself. They were weird. I can't get myself so good. I have done Jim a lot, playing the piano. I have got Daddy great."

This woman is much more than the Celtic goddess you see on Top of the Pops or MTV. Her favourite movies are Midnight Cowboy, Last Tango in Paris, and Leaving Las Vegas. Her favourite author is Fyodor Dostoevsky. The one book she would return to the house to retrieve from a fire is Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky's meditation on guilt and retribution, which she has read several times. "Sometimes when I get to the end I just want to go back and start again," she says.

There are surely times when Andrea can't quite believe that all this success has happened. I don't doubt she takes it all with a pinch of salt. She has an unambiguous normality- her self-deprecating and unassuming manner at odds with the venal egomania of the business in which she has carved out her career.

Since I first met the Corrs in 1997, I've met up with Andrea and her siblings in the US, Britain and Sweden - and she always manages to keep her head screwed on, her feet planted on the ground. She is the anti-diva. I keep waiting for her to throw a tantrum or hissy fit, but she never does.

I remember a particularly bacchanalian night out with the Corrs in Stockholm on a chilly Christmans in 2000. Dawn was rising. Having consumed their body weight in booze, none of the band had been to bed, and there were slits where their eyes should be. We were all sprawled in the departure lounge of the airport. To clear our brains of cobwebs, Jim offered us a round of Absolut Vodkas.

Slumped in a seat in the corner, Caroline was trying to sleep. I was trying to do likewise under a table when Andrea approached with a mischievous glint in her eye.

"Sit up!" she ordered. I protested that I could not, because I'd be ill. "I can't sit if living is without you," Andrea sang, updating Harry Nilsson's Without You. Soon I am duetting with Andrea Corr: I can't sit any more !

Just as we were about to board the plane, I told her I was afraid of flying. "When it's your time, it's your time," she said. "And it's nicer up there."
Up where?
"In the next place."
At 30.000 feet?
"Much higher up than that."
"Yeah, it's good up there. So don't worry."

Right now Andrea Corr has nothing to worry about. She can take whatever life has to throw at her. She more than relishes the challenge of a new Corrs record. The band is determined, she says, not to succumb to commercial expectation.

"My idea on life, really, is that you should never do things that are easy. Don't do something unless you are terrified to fail at it. Otherwise you are not doing the right thing. Of course that's daunting," she says.

"I have the greatest respect for music and the music industry. With that respect I am going to be worthy of it. It is daunting to step up to the table in that way, because it is another step. You never do it comfortably and you never should.

"My music is very much part of who I am," she continues, "It has completely shaped my life."

Does she have regrets?
"I don't actually believe in regrets."

Nor should she. Andrea Corr, you're gorgeous.

Transcription and scans: GaëlleF

Le 25/04/2006 à 23:59 par GaëlleF

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