Interview by Barry Egan
In October, 2002, Frances Black was taking sleeping tablets and Prozac to beat the band. When she wasn’t sleeping a wink, the celebrated chanteuse started taking the tablets earlier and earlier in the day.
“I was taking them at six in the evening and functioning,” she told me in 2008. Then one day (“out of my box on the sleeping tablets”) Frances, who had a previous problem with drink, opened a bottle of wine. “And before I knew it, the bottle was gone.”
I think sometimes the second time around with things you appreciate it a lot more on its own terms
She knew she was in big trouble. A few weeks later, Frances was in an addiction treatment centre in Kerry.
“It was this horrible thing of: ‘Am I mental? Am I a nutcase?’ I didn’t know whether I was going into a place where it was going to be all white coats and then locked in a room. The shame of walking in there was terrible,” she said.
Frances has since set up The Rise Foundation which helps the families of those in addiction. But when you hear that harrowing story, you almost forget just what a fantastic singer Frances Black is, and how deeply her music has touched many of us.
In fact, it was when she sat down with singer-songwriter Kieran Goss to perform two beautifully emotive songs — Take That’s Rule The World and Mick Hanly’s My Love Is In America — for The Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie — that I realised the immense sonic chemistry that she and Goss possess. They are reuniting for a special night at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on November 7.
What brought the pair back together after two decades was, Kieran says, pure chance.
“Earlier in the year, a promoter in the north of Ireland phoned me and asked me would myself and Frances consider getting back together and doing a couple of nights at the Opera House in Belfast.
“I said: ‘I’m game but I can’t speak for Frances’. She said: ‘Lets do it for the craic’.
“The shows sold out really quickly. Probably quicker than they did when we were touring 23 years ago!” he laughs.
“That surprised me big time,” says Frances. “Because we hadn’t been together for so long, I didn’t know people remembered us from 23 years ago. But like that,” she says snapping her fingers, “they sold out. Same in Scotland. It was a really lovely surprise.”
“It was kind of loose,” adds Kieran. “There was no big masterplan to it. At one point we talked about the idea of bringing in a band, and make it a big production. But what felt best was what you heard today in Windmill — acoustic guitar and vocals.
“And that’s what people remember about us. We have no major plans to take over the world. We are going to do five or six shows in November. Then both of us have our own solo commitments. We are doing some shows together and loving it but we are just playing it by ear.”
Frances and Kieran recorded a self-titled album together in 1992. As of this moment, they say, however, that they have no immediate plans to enter the studio again.
“No,” says Kieran, “we’re just doing the shows, but we are bringing some new songs to it. Originally for the shows, it was all about getting up the old songs that we hadn’t done in 20-odd years, but in the last few weeks, we’ve been ringing each other and going: ‘What do you think of that song?’
“And in the meantime, I’ve written quite a bit. So there’s maybe new songs of mine that I can bring to the table.”
“We recorded the Belfast show and are very happy with it,” says Frances. “So we might bring it out as a live album.”
What do they think people see in Frances Black and Kieran Goss together?
“There is a certain amount of nostalgia,” answers Kieran. “But I think sometimes the second time around with things you appreciate it a lot more on its own terms.”
Frances Black and Kieran Goss play the Olympia on November 7
Fight Like Apes talk new album and being Tina Turner's favourite Irish band