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The Mail on Sunday - You Magazine (23 mai 2004)

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How Andrea Corr Found Happiness - Andrea's Corr Strength

She's the lead singer of a successful band, and has been hailed the most beautiful woman in the world, so why is Andrea Corr often depicted as tragic? Here, she reveals how the support of her family, and a new relationship, have made her much more at ease with herself.

Andrea Corr is sipping a camomile tea on the sofa. "I like it weak," she says demurely, removing her teabag. She glances over at my cup of peppermint. "You're leaving your tea bag in?" she asks, her eyes widening. "Wow, that's hardcore.You're so rock 'n' roll."

Andrea is poking gentle fun at the Corr's image of, well, a weak-camomile tea kind of band: three gorgeous sisters, Andrea, Sharon, Caroline, and their gorgeous-in-his-own-way brother, Jim, who sing wholesome, catchy tunes steeped in Oirish romanticism that won't frighten your gran and who've attracted equal parts pop-phenomenon status-30 million albums sold, 18 countries' charts topped- and critical didsdain.

The band has also been sent up by everyone from Ant and Dec to Ali G to David Brent (yes, Andrea has seen The Office episode where the latter drunkenly detailed what he'd like to do to the Corr sisters, and yes, she blushed and shrieked at the same time).

The new album, Borrowed Heaven, the first collection of all-new material in 4 years, deepens and broadens the Corr's formula of pitch-perfect harmonies, catchy hook lines and a touch of fiddle-de-dee, with some summery pop, as well as writing by U2's Bono, and the voices of South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

"Musically, we've only ever wanted to satisfy ourselves," says Andrea in her sing-song Dundalk accent. "I mean, we came out at a time when grunge and Nirvana were the big things. We were never going to please everybody. I've heard all the words so many times," she continues. "Bland, safe, nice, blah blah blah. They use them against people like Norah Jones now. But there's depth in our music if you want to hear it. Our songs are important to a lot of people in the world," she concludes. "They pick up on the honesty in them."

Theres a certain world-weariness in Andrea's defence of the band, but her defiance is also heartfelt. As the youngest Corr, the lead singer, and the continuing recipitent of Most Beautiful Woman in the World accolades from the more testosterone-laden men's mags, she's been the spokesperson and the one who's life has been analysed most forensically in the band's 15 year existance. Since she joined up as a teenager,she's done all her growing up in public, from supposed affairs with Robbie Williams to endless speculation about sibling cat-fighting.

On my way up to Andrea’s hotel suite I pass Sharon and Caroline, armed with huge floral bouquets; Jim hovers around inside and makes himself scarce with the resigned air of someone who’s spent half his life waiting for the bathroom. Andrea is pottering around pouring tea and rearranging napkins. ‘I’m making the place nice for you’ she calls cheerily. ‘God,’ she rebukes herself, ‘I’m getting so mumsy.’

In fact, at 30, Andrea exudes a sultry air that’s only enhanced by an engaging artlessness. Her Irish colouring – Ivory skin, ebony hair cut in a stylish bob – suggests a fragility belied by her freewheeling, bohemian nature. Her hourglass figure is strikingly set off by a black bolero jacket and a short black pleated skirt. An occasional defensiveness is usually trounced by flashes of wicked humour. If Caroline’s the tomboy, Sharon the poised one, and Jim, well, just Jim, Andrea has been portrayed as the sensitive child like Corr; but she no longer resembles the bewildered looking girl caught up in the band’s abrupt ascension to fame. ‘I’m much happier now than I was at 20,’ she confirms. ‘I didn’t look in the mirror ten years ago and think, “Look at my lovely face.” I was pulling myself apart, like you do at that age. Now, I’m much more relaxed about everything, faults and all. I know there are times I’ll look and feel crap, and it won’t be the end of the world,’ she laughs. ‘It’s going to be my bestseller, “Embrace your inner hound”.’

In fact, it’s Andrea’s maturity both as lyric writer and singer that drives the momentum of Borrowed Heaven. The album is dedicated to the siblings’ mother Jean, who died four years ago from a lung disease; songs such as ‘Angel’ and ‘Goodbye’ are about her, while others, ‘Summer Sunshine’ and the title track, are about living for today. ‘The transience of this existence,’ elaborates Andrea, the fact that all the pain and pleasure, the way we hurt and love each other, how we cry and feel so much, is a miracle that’s all on loan to us, and it goes by so fast.’

The most personal track ‘Confidence for Quiet,’ is about Andrea’s feelings of ambiguity towards stardom. ‘It was the first song I wrote for the record,’ she says, ‘and it was kind of about “do I even want to do this any more?” Because I’m not one of these pop stars who don’t exist when the lights get turned off,’ she says emphatically. ‘I don’t need fame to be validated. And the song goes on to say that I’m not tragic or lonely, like I’ve been depicted in the press.’ She narrows her eyes, then shrugs, ‘I think the breaks been great for all of us. We’ve got some perspective on things.’

The four year pause wasn’t exactly an orgy of heel-kicking; Jim got a helicopter pilot’s license, and regularly flies his siblings down to their dad’s house, ‘so we can make rock star entrances,’ grimaces Andrea. Meanwhile, Sharon and Caroline were married, and the latter had a baby. ‘So I was a bridesmaid twice, and now I’m a doting auntie,’ she beams. However, she failed to catch the bouqet at either ceremony. ‘I don’t even remember one being thrown,’ she says, puzzled, ‘I must have missed that bit.’

The band was determined to take it’s time over the new record. ‘We wanted to be the proudest we could be of every moment on there,’ says Andrea. ‘Because I look back on old albums, and I’m proud of them, but there are moments where I’ll cough over myself [singing], because I’m a bit embarrassed.’ She grins, ‘I mean our whole career was about being thrown in at the deep end.’

To say the Corrs are a musical family is rather like describing the Redgraves as a bunch of jobbing actors. Their parents, Jean and Gerry, had sung as a duo in bars around Dundalk (in County Louth) for many years; the children grew up surrounded by instruments, records, and radios before Jim started a band. Andrea would listen to music before heading off to school; Prince was her favourite. ‘He’s a genius,’ she swoons. ‘I had that Lovesexy album and I’d run around singing these filthy lyrics at the top of my voice. I didn’t know what they meant – I was 12, 13. Daddy came home and he thought I’d turned into Regan from The Exorcist, or I had Tourette’s. He confiscated the record.’

Jim asked her to join the siblings’ band – then a synth-troupe doing bleeps and bloops in his bedroom – when she was about to go to university, ‘Well I don’t think I was ever asked actually,’ she laughs. ‘More like forced.’ But she claims she never had second thoughts. ‘I’ve had ten times the education I would have had, and all in the university of life,’ she grins. ‘I mean, I was a bit torn, sure. But everyone made sacrifices for this band.’

The Corrs’ big break came in 1995 when their manager John Hughes doorstepped top producer David Foster at a Michael Jackson recording session and asked for an audition. Foster – suitably awestruck – three great chicks, one guy, all family, a no-brainer’—went on to produce their first album. Suddenly they were caught up in a whirlwind. ‘It could be hard going,’ concedes Andrea. ‘I was an adolescent, self-conscious, a late developer. I was more confident as a child than I became as an adult – I found myself constantly smiling when I wasn’t that happy. This isn’t a moan – I’m a very lucky person – but I’d be on TV, doing a photo-shoot, and I just wanted to hide behind my hair. I was seeing my face everywhere at a time when I had no confidence in the way I looked.’

While most onlookers imagined there must be something weird in the family-band concept – invoking the Jackson 5 and Five Star as irrefutable evidence – Andrea insists it was the opposite. ‘I knew these people would catch me if I fell. You know how bands like U2 become families? We were a family that became more like band members. We had to let go of all that history, the falling into roles. All that’s out of bounds now. We had to step back to survive. Our mother’s death had a profound affect on us; it made us realise how important we are to each other in every way.’ She falls back into the cushions, hugging herself. The most important word in this isn’t love, it’s respect. Though, of course, we do love each other,’ she adds hurriedly.

Andrea’s very conscious of how she comes across; she berates herself at various points for sounding ‘arrogant,’ ‘meek,’ ‘egotistical,’ and ‘boring,’ Perhaps it’s the mark of someone still baffled at the amount of public attention she receives. All those websites and background chatter, it feels like they’re talking about a caricature she shrugs.’ ‘I know people like Courtney Love buy into their public image, but she works with the media, and I’m sure she believes that’s what they want of her. I’m in this purely because of the music, not to shock people. I’d say Courtney Love would be the absolute antithesis of me.’

Normality, she stresses, is very important to her. More than that, it’s my inspiration – sitting on the Tube, shopping, observing people. I insist on going out and getting a carton of milk. If I had to isolate myself I wouldn’t want to be living.’ Going out with Robbie Williams probably wasn’t the best idea then, I offer. ‘But I never did,’ she protests. ‘The celebrity magazines picked up on some scrap and turned it into a sexy story – “bad boy meets good girl.” ‘No,’ she continues, ‘I felt bombarded by the press coverage; all those pages of “Andrea: I can’t find a man”.’

In any case, that’s all over; Andrea’s in a new relationship, following on from a spell with Charlotte Church’s manager, Giles Baxendale. She met Shaun Evans, a 24 year old actor, on the set of the film The Boys from County Clare in which he played her love interest. ‘It’s great. I was single by choice for so many years,’ she continues, ‘but now I’m more ready to give in. There comes a point where you think, “Oh, I’ve no one to go on holidays with,” The other girls were going back to their families, and me, I guess I wanted somebody to talk to, to share experiences with.’ Marriage isn’t imminent however. “Whenever I think of that word,’ she laughs, “I think of the Katharine Hepburn quote: “If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, get married.”’ She claps her hands and hoots with laughter, ‘It’s true!”

So, Andrea is all grown-up. Or almost, she may have swapped Harry Potter for Dostoevsky, but she still implacably sucks her thumb, “and Caroline’s little boy pulls it out of my mouth,’ she laughs, ‘I guess I’m forever the youngest.’ And, while she may have a relationship to work on and a house in Dublin to repair to, the years of touring have awoken a wanderlust. I’ve yet to experience the joys of settling down,’ she admits. “I find it hard to stay in one place for a week. I guess I’m an experience junkie.’

Careful, I say – you’re starting to sound just a little bit rock n’ roll.
‘Really? Now we’ve got to watch that, haven’t we?’ says Andrea Corr, declining another camomile tea for good measure.

Le 29/04/2007 à 22:56 par GaëlleF

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