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still dreaming

By his own admission, singer Paul Brady is more mellow these days.

The former Planxty star has carved out a lengthy career spanning several decades and says he has much to be thankful for.

But with both of his children living abroad, there is one subject guaranteed to raise his hackles.

"Emigration is just as bad as it was in the 80s," he sighs. "It's hard not to feel bitter that the economics of the country have driven the best of our people away again."

As we speak, Paul's wife Mary is in Surrey, visiting their daughter Sarah, her husband Stephen and the grandchildren, Lyra (5) and ten-week-old baby son, Finn. Their son Colm lives in New Zealand with his wife Danielle, and they have a son Sean (2) and another baby on the way in September.


"Mary and I are very sad that our children and grandchildren are not living in Ireland," says Paul. "That is one of the hardest things in our lives at the moment. We visit a lot, and spent five weeks in New Zealand back in February as Colm got married and I did a few gigs there too.

"It's so far away though and the window you have to communicate is very small too, given the twelve hour time difference. Sarah and her family are coming over here for two weeks later this month, so we will spend a week in Dublin and then go down to Wexford to be by the sea."

So is he a good grandfather?

"I like to think I am," he says. "I haven't had to change any nappies yet, but I was a modern dad and did it with my own children.

"It is difficult to marry an artistic career with fatherhood and I wasn't always as successful as I might have been, but the best thing I can say there is that both my children are still talking to me and still profess to love me."

While he now lives in Dublin, Paul is from Strabane, Co, Tyrone. After almost 50 years in the business, the 67-year-old is still a very popular performer. He has had an amazing music career that began with The Johnsons in the 1960s, and hit a high with Planxty in the 70s.

He has also been hugely successful as a solo singer-songwriter, with many best-selling albums and hit singles, including The Island, Crazy Dreams and The Long Goodbye.

There have been many famous collaborations, and Bob Dylan was sufficiently impressed by his work to name-check him in the booklet of one of his albums.

But Paul doesn't consider himself particularly with it.

"I suppose I have never been hugely fashionable, so I never fell out of fashion," he laughs.

"It's nice to think that people still like the music, as I am still enjoying it. I go on stage with the feeling that every gig is my last one and I give it my best. I wouldn't really say I made career moves - it just worked out organically in that way. There were certain things I wanted to try, so I did."

One of the things he tried was taking over Vicar Street for an incredible twenty-three nights in October 2001, where he performed with a succession of guests, including Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Sinead O'Connor, Mary Black and Ronan Keating. It has taken him a while to get around to it, but he is planning to record an album of highlights from those concerts by the beginning of next year.

While Paul had a reputation for being slightly angsty in the past, he seems very calm and content these days.

"It's difficult when you are trying to establish yourself in a business with no rules and you have no clear definition of what you are," he explains.

"Crawling up the ladder while you are being kicked down ignites a frustration and intensity in you, but I'm happy where I am now. I'm not as burning or as angry as I was when I was a young man.

"I have mellowed, so I'm not dying to shout from the rooftops about anything. And I am content with the extent to which I'm acknowledged. I don't want to become bigger or break into new markets, and that means you don't have to struggle any more."

Paul also enjoys writing music to other people's lyrics, as it means that he doesn't have to trawl through his emotions every day, and rake up old feelings. He has had enough of being meaningful and if something isn't fun, he is no longer interested in doing it.

"I have been writing a bit with Paul Muldoon, which is really fun, because his lyrics are quirky and take me to places where I wouldn't go at all," he says.


One of the songs Paul wrote that did require trawling through his emotions was Mother and Son, which was written about the difficult relationship he had with his late mother, Mollie. They were very similar and rubbed each other up the wrong way, and he found her somewhat remote.

"I understand why things might have been difficult," he says.

"I'm less judgmental now and more understanding of why things were the way they are.

"You realise that your parents did their best and they were dealing with their own stuff too."

On the personal front, Paul met Mary in 1973 and they have been married for 39 years. Asking him what has made their marriage endure causes him to pause for a second, and then he concludes that it was because Mary allowed him to be who he was.

"She hasn't tried to tie me down and I have done the same for her," he says.

"We have had our ups and downs, like everyone else, but we work hard at it. Our lives are completely unpredictable, so we are wandering through each other's lives at different times, but it makes life interesting, to be honest.

"And you know, sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder too!"

Paul Brady performs at the National Concert Hall this Saturday at 8pm as part of Summer @ NCH Festival 2014.