IT'S 10 years since Eimear Quinn won the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo. As the votes stacked up for The Voice, Ireland's entry, the shy 23-year-old college student was showered with champagne and serenaded by Morton from pop group A-ha. The next day she awoke to find her face on the cover of every newspaper in Europe, and clips of her triumphant encore already on a loop on a
IT'S 10 years since Eimear Quinn won the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo. As the votes stacked up for The Voice, Ireland's entry, the shy 23-year-old college student was showered with champagne and serenaded by Morton from pop group A-ha. The next day she awoke to find her face on the cover of every newspaper in Europe, and clips of her triumphant encore already on a loop on all the main news bulletins.
Up to that point Eimear, also a vocalist with traditional Irish group Anuna, had only performed for small audiences. This ought to have been her fairytale initiation into the pop big-time, but in the Nineties that wasn't how it worked.
By the time Eimear won, it seemed Ireland already had a stranglehold on the competition and people baulked at the idea of their licence fee once again going towards hosting what many believed had turned into an annual pageant of lip-synching drag queens and Russian lesbians. While most people were happy for Eimear, the reaction in many quarters, she recalls, was, "Oh, for God's sake! Not again!"
Not that she was too bothered. "Actually I was completely overwhelmed by the whole thing, she remembers. "I loved the song but I really didn't think I'd win. I'd only been on TV a couple of times and I just wasn't ready for the circus-like atmosphere of the night itself and what happened afterwards."
Being young, talented and beautiful Eimear was eminently marketable, a fact not wasted on the agents and promoters who swarmed around her after the win. "It was too much," she says. "I just took a step back."
Despite pressure to tour and perform the song again, Eimear insisted on going back to college for three weeks to finish out the term. And, to widespread incredulity in the record industry, she stuck to her guns. "I flew out from Dublin on the Saturday, won the Song Contest on the Sunday and satan exam on the Monday," shetells me, giggling at the memory.
The decision lost her some commercial momentum but it's not one that Eimear, a statuesque blonde from Tallaght in Dublin, can regret.
"It just wasn't something I would have been emotionally able to handle at the time. You have to remember just a few years before, it was just me singing into myhairbrush in my bedroom. I got into music because I love it. The fame and attention was not what I was after."
Anyway, besides college work Eimear had another big project to take care of. While in Oslo she had fallen in love with Noel Curran, head of the Irish delegation for RTE. "It was a pretty instant thing," she reveals, her eyes shining at the memory. "I thought he was amazing."
Noel had met Eimear's parents on the night of the show and three weeks later he was reintroduced to them, this time as her boyfriend. "So the best thing in the worldfor me came out of the Eurovision, really. There's winning and there's winning!"
Once she had decided she was going to be in the music industry on her own terms, Eimear began to develop her own sound and style and also began writing her own material. She toured all over the world, her delicate ethereal voice (think Enya meets Kate Bush) wowed audiences in, amongst other places, the grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney State Theatre.
She also collaborated with Pol Brennan, a brother of Enya, for her critically acclaimed solo album Through the Lens of A Tear.
Some might think that her husband's connections in RTE would mean Eimear could be assured of regular airtime but she laughs at the notion that she might get any easy breaks in that regard.
"A friend of mine is a singerand her husband works in RTEtoo, and we joke that marryinginto the media did us no good,"she tells me. "If anything, it goes against you because nobody wants to be accused of favouritism or nepotism."
Eimear's newest release, Gatherings, is a collection of collaborations with other composers and musicians over the 10 years since she got into the music business.
It includes contributions from Anuna, the group in which she started, and - naturally - the Eurovision winner, The Voice, which was written by Brendan Graham. And, to mark the 10th anniversary of her win, she has been asked by RTE to present the results of the Irish televote during thefinal on Saturday.
So, does she have any advice for our newest Eurovision hopeful? "I wouldn't dream of telling Brian Kennedy what to do," she says. "He's a pro and he'll have the audience in the palm of his hand, as he always does."
Does Eimear have any regrets about her time in the Eurovision spotlight 10 years ago? "It was a mad summer, but I don't wish I did anything differently," sheremarks, fingering her wedding ring. "Everything worked outjust great."
Eimear's latest album, Gatherings, is out now and her website is www.eimearquinn.com