Let's dance to the song
Paula Flynn may be younger than her fella, but she tells Andrea Smith they are happy mixing romance with high hopes for her album
THE first time singer Paula Flynn saw Greg McAteer was when he walked into the auditorium during her gig with Jinx Lennon.
"Oh look, it's Michael Stipe," she cried out to the audience at the Spirit Store in Dundalk, because for a split second she genuinely thought he resembled the REM front man.
"Maybe it was the hat he was wearing," says Paula, who grew up in south Armagh. "I felt really guilty afterwards, because I had just found out that Michael Stipe was gay. And although I'm not homophobic and have loads of gay friends, I was afraid that Greg might have taken it as an insult."
She's a bit of a worrier like that, is Miss Paula Flynn, her stage name, but she needn't have been concerned because Greg wasn't the least bit offended.
They met again a few months later, when Jinx and Paula were again playing at the Spirit Store. Greg came up to Paula as she was reading a book on serial killers, and told her that he was friends with the author.
"I was trying to hide, because I was a bit embarrassed that people would think I was weird reading about serial killers," she says.
Aside from playing with Jinx, Paula had burst onto the music scene a few months earlier with her version of Let's Dance, which became a huge hit after it was featured on a Ballygowan advert. By the time she met Greg, she was on her third manager.
"But after meeting Greg, I really trusted him. Maybe it's because he's Northern like me, and came from close to home, but he got me."
Although she is still self-conscious and finds it difficult to recognise her own talent, Paula trusted Greg and found that she could be herself around him. And so he became her manager.
"I didn't feel stupid with him, and after a while I found it very hard to be apart from him," she says. "I even showed him my lyrics."
They met in 2007 and have now been together a year and a half, and although Greg was a little anxious about moving the relationship from a professional to a personal level, that didn't faze Paula at all. Greg had been married previously, while Paula had had a relationship with Jinx that lasted five and a half years.
"There was a sense that this was one thing up to now, and it was going to get a whole lot more complicated," admits Greg. "I liked Paula's honesty, directness and sense of humour, and her sheer talent was a very attractive thing. We also work very well together, although as I'm a wee bit older, I tend to go at things like a steamroller sometimes, and have to pull myself back."
Outside music, Paula and Greg are very into their three cats: Sugar Puff, Yoghurt and Elmo. And then there's a stray called Treacle, whom they are trying to entice in.
Although only 29, she's quite old-fashioned and quirky, is Miss Paula Flynn, and arrives to the interview looking like she's just stepped out of a Fifties tea dance. She and Greg were born in the same hospital in Newry, although it was a few years apart, given that Greg was born in the early Sixties and Paula in 1980.
She started singing when she was 11, and embarked on a degree course after school at the University of Coleraine, where she studied media, theatre and philosophy. She decided not to finish the degree, because she found the philosophy classes too challenging.
"I was 17 before I met my first Protestant," she explains. "Philosophy kind of messed with my head, so I left and went to Ballyfermot Rock School. I was still living at home, so I travelled from Armagh to Ballyfermot every day on buses."
Ultimately, Paula decided that this course wasn't for her either, so having now dropped out of two courses, she went back home with her "tail between her legs". She moved to Dublin and worked in various shops, but was robbed at work three times, as well as being pick-pocketed and having her handbag snatched.
She was traumatised, so went home and started working at Dundalk FM, which is where she met Jinx Lennon. She then applied to DCU to do a degree in communications as a mature student, driving from Armagh to Glasnevin every day. She won the Uaneen Fitzsimons Award for creative input into her degree, in memory of the brilliant young radio and TV presenter who was killed in a car crash in 2000.
Apart from her music career, Paula is now working with Anne Marie Power on a radio documentary. She also presents a country music show called The C Word on the digital station RTE 2XM on Tuesdays at 10pm.
Greg is a regular contributor to the show, putting his varied musical background to good use. As well as the music, he studied history of art at Trinity College, and worked at MusicBase and the royalty collection agency MCPS. He got involved with music publishing and artist management with the likes of Dervish, and in an interesting coincidence, actually cleared Let's Dance for use in the Ballygowan advert. He also writes for Hot Press.
While Paula still performs with Jinx, she has just released her own album of 17 original songs, called Miss Paula Flynn. Produced by Greg, it's a gorgeous album and they are both justifiably proud of it. They intend to tour in February, and tour dates will be posted on Paula's website.
After 18 months, her relationship with Greg is going from strength to strength, she says.
"Greg's best point is his sense of humour, and I love that he will make me a hot water bottle any time of the day, any time of the year," she says. "His worst point is that he will fall asleep anywhere."
"Well Paula's best point is that she's completely honest, and her worst point is that she's completely honest," laughs Greg.
Miss Paula Flynn is out now. Paula will perform at Dukes Hotel, Belfast on February 27th, as part of the Belfast Nashville Songwriters' Festival, and the Droichead Arts Centre, Co. Louth, on April 9th. Further information from www.misspaulaflynn.com