Belfast Telegraph

For Bronagh Gallagher great music 'is a primal thing - it's my home, more so than film acting' '

'When I hear music or singing. I just feel it is my home... more so than film acting'

By Donna Deeney

Derry-born singer and actress Bronagh Gallagher on the challenges of being an independent artist and why she's really looking forward to a hectic Christmas with three generations of her family.

Q. Have you any plans for a tour in the new year?

A. We were in London in September and we are going to Switzerland in January, then we are going to see how things go. There is no point in taking the band to England or wherever when we don't have any real notoriety there.

We are going to keep playing here and building things up, but it just isn't a smart move to go to England yet, although London was great and the venue was jammed, which for us was the most important thing.

The tricky thing about being an independent artist is that unless you have the right people helping you, you are doing it yourself - and I am doing it by myself.

Q. Your album, Gather Your Greatness, follows the acclaimed Precious Soul, which you mostly wrote yourself, obviously sung and also played the drums. Is there no end to your musical talent?

A. I'm not a great guitar player. Precious Soul was 2004. The second album, Bronagh Gallagher, was 2012. This album, I wrote all of the songs and I am the lyricist, but in certain songs if there are weaknesses, I will bring in my guitar player, Clare, who is great.

I get a great buzz when people come up to me who are maybe having a hard time and say that one particular song or another could have been written about them. People have told me about really hard times in their lives when they were struggling, but then they said: "That song got me through it." That is so moving, and to me that's what's it all about.

Q. Where did your talent come from? Is your family musical?

A. Not really. My mammy and daddy are huge music collectors - they love records and have a great music knowledge. They love soul, blues and country music. They have good taste, and I grew up with that. It's like you put on music for a kid and they just react - that's the way I still am about music. It is my major love and I feel a connection to it like nothing else.

My grandfather on my mother's side was a great singer and was involved in amateur dramatics in the 1950s. He was a great character who loved telling stories and yarns.

I must have always been a bit of a show-off as a kid. I am the youngest of three, so I must have been vying for attention. I just feel at home when I am on the stage, but it is a funny thing because sometimes I questioned why I needed to do this. It is a primal thing. When I hear great music or great singing, I just feel like it is home more than acting, more than anything.

Q. On that subject, you are already well established as an actor, which you have been doing since your teens. You had your first big break as Bernie in the Commitments, and you even featured on a stamp for that. You were 17 then. Does that seem a long time ago now?

A. It does, you know, it was 26 years ago. You meet people now that you worked with and you see their children who are now adults and you realise that although it doesn't seem that long ago, it is a quarter of a century.

When I think about what has happened and the people who have come since, I see the passage of time, but it was an incredible period and, thankfully, a joyous one. It is something that is mentioned to me every day because it is one of those films that people loved.

Q. Do you ever tire of people talking to you about it?

A. I don't, no, but what does bother me is that if you are out socialising, especially in this era of the selfie, people just grab you. I was out with my friend and this woman literally grabbed me by the arm and pulled me. People can even get you in a headlock, but if you say anything it is all over social media. Selfies have become the bane of my life. It is a bit exhausting, but you can't be rude to people because most of them are sweet.

Q. Your success on the big screen didn't stop there though. You had parts in Pulp Fiction, Star Wars, You, Me and Marley and Divorcing Jack. Can you tell us a bit more about those jobs?

A. Most of us can only imagine what it is like on the set of a blockbuster movie, but what's the reality, is it all glamour? It can be glamorous when you are going to a nice premiere, but film work is generally 5am starts. Filming on sets is usually in a big building or a big warehouse which is freezing. It's hard and you earn your money.

The whole Pulp Fiction experience was a very quick one, and Star Wars. They ended up being massive films, but they were very short roles. They were small parts, but they were great. You get to meet people and travel, but the times you aren't working are tough.

Q. You have also had roles in the theatre and on the small screen. How did those compare to the big business of Hollywood?

A. I've done a lot of theatre. It is where my heart is in acting because it is live and you also have the audience's reaction. I have worked a lot in London, in the Royal Court, the National Theatre, the West End. People think that you are out of action when you are not doing films, but theatre work is where a lot of actors' hearts are.

I have a great agent and he is really supportive and understands the stuff I would want to be doing.

If you are in the theatre, you are in one job and you could be out of action for about six or seven months. But if you are in repertoire, you might have four or five days off. I did Sherlock Holmes in the middle of War Horse, so it's all about balancing things.

Q. We've talked about the public face of Bronagh Gallagher and you have alluded to your love of privacy, but away from the gaze of the media what do you like to do?

A. I love cooking. I do a great roast and I love Mexican, Spanish and Indian food. Mexican is my speciality. Outside that, I love yoga and love going for big hikes and walks. I live near the sea in Dublin, so I can go up around the mountains there.

When I am in Derry, I love going to Donegal and Malin Head. I am a real outdoors person.

Q. You live in Dublin now. Is that home to you, or does your heart still lie in Derry?

A. I am home so much between Dublin and Derry. My family are still in Derry, my friends are here, too, and my sister is also in Belfast, so I feel that I haven't been away long enough for it not to still be my home.

My band are all in Dublin, so that's where I do my work. Derry is very much about taking it easy for a week or two or even a few days. My granny is still here - she is 92 - and my mammy and daddy are still here, thank God.

Q. And would you describe the Gallaghers as a close family?

A. We really are. Mammy and daddy are so supportive, they are amazing. Never once did they say, "Rein it in Bro", even when I was moving from one career - the acting, which was always solvent and good. Now with the singing they are right by my side, and that's gold. My brother, Paul, and I work together running our record company, so we are really close.

Q. We are approaching Christmas. Is this a time you enjoy, and where do you plan on spending it?

A. My family are all coming to me for Christmas. I think the older I get, the more I realise what it means to have my family and my parents healthy and together, and to have my brother and sister with me. I have three wee nieces and nephews, so that's a great joy.

I will be like Cinderella doing all the cooking. No, actually, we will all muscle in together and it will be great to get them all down - all the three generations. There will be bodies everywhere, but it will be great.

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