Sunday 19 January 2020

Clare's star to shine in 2020

Hubert Murphy profiles the Nashville-based former DkIT student who is destined for stardom

She might be resident in the home of music - Nashville - but the unique Irishness that flows from Clare Cunningham makes her the wonderful performer that she has become.

For years, she travelled the world, maybe trying to find Clare Cunningham, but in that music mecca in Tennessee, the Collon woman has discovered her soul.

There could be nothing more diverse than performing with an all girl Swedish rock band - Thunder Mother - to standing in a traditional American venue, singing her own 'Eireann i mo Chroi,' with proud, die hard Irish Americans crying into their drinks, yearning for their roots, yearning for what Clare brings to them everytime she stands in front of an audience.

This week, she will release her latest single, 'Angel of the Emerald Isle' - just in time for the Christmas season. She wrote it with Patrick McManus and it was produced by Colin Rowe.

It is Irish, it is beautiful and is the start of another chapter in her ever constant, ever changing, ever eye-opening career.

The artwork is of Monasterboice, an image courtesy of her sister Linda and her husband Chris and it's available across all music channels.

Ironically, the day she releases the single - December 17 - people can also sit back and enjoy her voice in her first feature film, 'Bernie the Dolpin 2'. She co-wrote the song with Colin Rowe and she spent last weekend in Florida at a red carpet premiere.

Her career is dotted with such moments, but one can't help but feel the journey she has travelled has galvanised her spirit, something she will readily agree with.

For someone to put a life story of sorts into words in one song can be difficult, but 'Eireann i mo Chroi' has delivered that.

'It's what I call my most precious prized possession,' she admits. 'It gets the best response when I'm performing live. Someone always cries and the room always goes silent. That's a good sign.

'I like sharing my roots and it brings people here back to their heritage.'

Her early days in Collon form part of it, one line mentioning 'the wee county.' She has long left Collon, but you get the sense it hasn't left her. 'I'm on the road a long time and while I've become more suited to big cities, the simplicity of Collon is beautiful. It is a homely place and it gave me a nice foundation.

'I remember the Christmas times with my siblings. We were overly excited and used to get up at 3am or 4am and start opening presents. There was a tradition that Santa Claus always brought a round Terry's chocolate orange and every time I see one, I think of Christmas.'

Her favourite ballad is 'Go Lassie Go' - a firm family favourite too. 'Me, my sister and dad sang it when she walked down the aisle at her wedding and we sing it whenever we get together. It has a special place in my heart.'

There is something essentially magical about Clare Cunningham's voice, and in equal proportions, her songwriting.

From somewhere in the soul of someone so young, she draws on a lifetime's experience. No ordinary mortals can write such classics as 'Already Dead, 'Whiskey Talks', 'Bad to it', 'Chances' (with Drew Taylor), 'Never Stood a Chance' and 'Still Gonna Love You' - surely a No.1 in the making.

She takes all the plaudits in her stride, because she knows there's trapdoors along this road.

But what's the inspiration?

The family in Collon, mum and dad, Triona and John, and siblings, Ian, Laura and Mark, have been an inspiration for her wandering spirit.

'I have been blessed with the family I have. They have supported me through every journey and it hasn't always been easy. Without them, I might not have had the courage or will power to continue on this crazy journey and the pitfalls that it endures,' she states.

She also draws from sources like pro athletes, musicians and entrepreneurs, especially in the female industry.

She says her dad was a big 'T. Rex' fan in the day and she likes them too. 'It's probably the music of the 70s, you know, ACDC, Led Zeppelin. The first cassette I got was Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill.'

Her voice allows her transcend the genres of rock, pop, Blues and Jazz, with a hint of country, but despite being resident in Nashville, country is not a pathway she's looking at.

She sees herself as a 'multi genre artist' and does not want to be boxed in. 'I think my voice lends itself to too many styles and people all get a taste of something they like,' she feels.

She works with different producers and she hopes that in 2020, people will get a flavour of what's to come.

In 2020, her focus is just on continuing the journey, but she'll be releasing more music and there's movie and TV options that she wants to explore.

'Look, I love what I do and hope I can inspire more and more people with my music,' she reveals.

Big news is that she is hoping to do an Irish tour next year, especially with the amount of Irish influence in her present work. 'It is on the cards. I think I'll be coming over to play some shows or tour.'

For the first time in a long time, Clare will be back in Collon for Christmas. She lands at Dublin Airport on Christmas Eve and will travel down the M1 before the bright lights of Collon come into view.

Family are home from Australia too and when the night beckons, they'll gather and the house will echo to, 'Oh the summertime is coming and the trees are sweetly blooming, And the wild mountain thyme, Grows around the blooming heather, Will ye go, Lassie go?'

Christmas in Collon... magic.

Drogheda Independent