Catch a falling star
With her musical siblings tending to their young families, Andrea Corr decided to release her own solo album ... but is anyone listening? Deirdre Reynolds reports
Sultry star Andrea Corr is famous for making funeral fashion foxy. Since first hitting the spot75though, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Andrea's pitch-black garbs are more than just a fashion statement as she mourns the passing of her pop prime.
As lead singer of the Dundalk sibling troupe, Andrea was one of Irish music's biggest success stories. With vampish beauty and a willowy voice, the stunning sister automatically became the poster girl for the niche brand of harmless Celtic pop and helped to flog a staggering 60 million albums across the globe. But the word is that the baby of the band's solo career is in crisis.
Sisters Sharon and Caroline and brother Jim swapped touring for teething two years ago, putting the band on the backburner to spend time with their tots. And the footloose frontwoman used the hiatus for her very own labour of love - solo album Ten Feet High.
"In 2005, the rest of my family seemed to be pregnant or having babies or already had babies and this looked contagious," 33-year-old Andrea explained. "So I think I needed to go away. Our manager came to me and said: 'Look, maybe this is the time for you to make a solo record. I'm thinking you either go with it now or you don't go with it at all.' I'd songs already written, so I just decided: 'Yeah, well, ok, maybe I should do that.' I was quite excited at the prospect of doing it."
But now it seems that Aunty Andrea should have stuck to babysitting her five nieces and nephews until the musical clan could regroup.
The collection of pop and trad tracks was released this summer after a three-year gestation period. But it eluded the respectable Top 30 chart. Debut single, anti-war tune Shame on You limped into the 108 spot. And instead of sparkling, latest release Champagne Through a Straw simply fizzled out after failing to register in the UK top 100.
He may be able to save the world, but it appears that not even pop prophet Bono, who executive-produced the record, can rescue the star's ill-fated solo bid. It's a long way from Dundalk to the top, but it looks equally steep on the way back down.
Encouraged by their musician parents Jean and Gerry, the latter-day Von Trapps all learned to play the piano at a young age. Andrea elbowed in on the act the moment she graduated from Don Lughaidh Convent School. The trio-turned-quartet got their shot at fame in 1991 when they auditioned for a role in Alan Parker's film of Roddy Doyle's The Commitments.
While the rest of the gang secured blink-and-you'll-miss-it turns in the hit film, eye-catching Andrea landed a speaking part. And it wouldn't be the last time the tiny siren was projected onto the big screen: she later got a gig playing Juan Peron's mistress alongside Madonna in Evita and the singing voice of Kayley in animated flick Quest for Camelot.
However, it was her humble role in The Commitments that proved most fateful. At the audition, the singing siblings were spotted and snapped up by manager John Hughes.
After three years of touring, fate intervened again. In 1994, the American Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith heard Andrea and her family singing and invited the brood to play at a high-profile event in Boston.
Once Stateside, the band didn't miss a beat. Flanked by her siblings, 5ft 1in Andrea marched into the office of Atlantic Records producer, David Foster and whipped out the tin whistle and violin. The ballsy impromptu session worked; the porcelain-skinned pop princess packed the SPF and headed to California, where The Corrs' debut Forgiven not Forgotten hit shelves within a year.
Despite breaking the States, the grass of home was greener for the group. In 1998 catchy singles Runaway and Someday made the album Talk On Corners a No 1 hit in 13 countries throughout Europe, including the UK. And third outing In Blue also sold well, going gold or platinum in 21 countries.
But after a decade and a half of hard work, the release of the album Home heralded a break for The Corrs. Sharon is expecting her second child with hubby Gavin Bonnar; Jim has a little boy; and Caroline and spouse Frank Wood have their hands full with three tots.
"My brothers and sisters have been very supportive, but they needed to take the time themselves to do what they needed to do," Andrea said. " Obviously I wasn't on the same path as them in my life at the time. But they tell me they like the record and they look like they're telling the truth."
Blood is thicker than water though; Andrea's vocal transition from dulcet tones to cat-in-heat rasp seems to have startled the CD-buying public. But at least she has the shoulder of boyfriend Brett Desmond, son of billionaire businessman Dermot Desmond, to cry on.
As sales of her solo effort continue to nosedive, Andrea, who has also dated music manager Giles Baxendale, Fun Lovin' Criminal Huey Morgan and been pursued by Robbie Williams, conceded that she would like to front the family outfit again in the future.
"It's definitely not all over for The Corrs," she revealed. " I really, really love our records and I'm so proud of them and whatever we make in the future."
And she's remaining philosophical about the disappointing sales of Ten Feet High. "This isn't about showing the world the real me. This is just an album where I've had fun and an adventure."