The poet Sylvia Plath wrote: "I talk to God, but the sky is empty." Andrea Corr doesn't see the sky as empty at all, not even when she was at her lowest after the first of five miscarriages. She prayed in a church in Laghet in France with her mother-in-law, Pat Desmond, and a Jesuit priest named Father Brennan, who had taught Andrea's husband Brett.
"Faith is not against reason," Andrea believes. "It is beyond it.
"This is where and what God is, maybe," Andrea adds, of the church where they prayed. "The room of love and hope."
Hope was in short supply that Easter, eight years ago.
"My first miscarriage, it caused me trouble," the 46-year-old lead singer of The Corrs says. "It probably made me have the others, when I look back on it. I had operations in between.
"Sometimes it seemed hopeless... I was waking up from one (operation) with the doctor and he couldn't give me any hope. I looked at him and said, 'What about IVF?' And he said, 'The problem is your womb.'"
The two years between the surgeon telling her, "Sorry, I don't know what we can do", and Andrea having her first baby - Jeannie - were "a very anxious time". The birth was so traumatic that Andrea "nearly died" - there were "blood transfusions and worrying heart irregularities", she writes in her poignant memoir, Barefoot Pilgrimage, which came out to acclaim and some surprise late last year; surprise because it wasn't a cut-and-paste pop biography.
"But then the thing was, then I seemed to be fixed. I seemed to be okay. I got pregnant. Then miscarried again. It's a mystery.
"Then I had three miscarriages after I had the two children, Jeannie, then Brett. That was that."
How did she cope, hide her sadness about the miscarriages?
Jeannie (named after Andrea's late mother) and Brett junior were babies back then, she says. "So, I had been at the other side, and the three miscarriages that I had after Jeannie and Brett weren't as tough obviously as the first two because they were there. I was already a mother..."
So how did she get 'fixed'?
"That was miraculous. I had scarring after the miscarriages. I had scarring after the first miscarriage. That just can happen. So, the lining (of her womb) wouldn't be good." But she went on to have Jeannie and Brett. "Thank God, because it felt miraculous. That's what my doctor feels. He thinks they are miraculous. I suppose every baby is miraculous. Every child is miraculous. But they felt in this case that... it didn't look good for me, you know?
"My mother-in-law was amazing," continues Andrea. (She married tycoon Dermot Desmond's son Brett on August 21, 2009 at the Doonbeg resort in Clare, a wedding attended by everyone from Bono and Ali to Padraig Harrington and wife, Caroline, Martin O'Neill and Patrick Kielty, among many others.) "My whole family were amazing. My brother and my father-in-law, my sister-in-law."
What was Andrea like during that period? Trying to be strong?
"Ah, I was sensitive." It was a sensitive time for the singer.
Was it difficult to see babies or women with prams? "Obviously, I was around my sisters who had babies," she says, of her older sisters Caroline and Sharon, who together with brother Jim, make up the The Corrs. "Sometimes I would go to Caroline's and I would hear the children downstairs in the morning and that was quite a sad sound... The bustle and the kids in the morning. It was quite a sad sound .. but it all turned good. There is always so much worse. There is always worse. But it doesn't take (away the past pain) ... It is all relative. In my life it was a tough time."
Was it difficult to write about her miscarriages in her book?
"Not with the kids running around me. There is a beauty in it. And writing that while there's babies and nappies and bums ... that feels like poetry and something lovely when things turn out good. Nice but not a fairy-tale.
"Do you know what the thing was?" Andrea asks two hours into our conversation last week in the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin. "In the first draft there was nothing to do with miscarriages or anything that personal. It really was our family story, not me as I moved on." She didn't write about them until she realised, "that I was almost punctuating episodes in life that have brought me to here, and are the story of the evolution of one person within that family. But also it is my perspective."
Then Andrea found herself just writing that part of her life. She says it is always about "seeing the bright side".
"Even though in any art, what I think we look at is, and what we see, is somebody's hope coming out of a picture or coming out of their words, and it can hopefully be contagious," she continues.
"Also, I think, when you write something down at a distance and you are not thinking about writing a book, it really feels a lot better. It feels like, 'Oh, that happened to her.'
"It feels also that that is the only way it could have happened to her because it is the only story I know. It is the only story there is. And the only story there is includes some hard times."
"I just went straight into it. Again, it's like anything: if you can't find the words because it hurts, just say the exact words and no more. It was all worth it. I would do it all again. There is always worse, sadly."
But at the time?
"At the time, it felt awful. Fortunately, I have two children now. So I can talk about it. I feel lucky, really, really lucky."
What is Andrea like as a mother? Did people say to her, "You're so like your own mother?" Like her own?
"Yeah. Dad would say, that more. He'd say, 'You're like your mother there.' It would be something nurturing with the children. Some little domestic, everyday moment that must have seemed lovely to my father's eyes." Her mum died at the age of 57, in November 1990, of a rare lung condition.
Andrea Corr was born on the day of the worst bombings of the Troubles, the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, on May, 17, 1974. "I think of the full-term baby that was also killed in that and you think of the parallels," she says. "Awful."
She says that her mother cried variously to movies, soap operas and adverts. "I didn't do a lot of crying as a child. I cried, I think, when Caroline became a teenager and stopped worrying about me and I had to worry about myself. That happened. It was me and Caroline together and Jim and Sharon who were older. I think I'd gone a long time without having that worry ache. That's a good childhood, I think. I think I'd got to about 12 years of age without having that feeling."
The Corrs' family home in Ard Easmuinn, Dundalk, sits on sloping ground. Andrea recalls herself and Caroline sliding down the driveway in their shoes "when it was icy or snowy. There was a place around the corner near The Redeemer Church which was great for sliding too.
"It was a happy, music-filled house. Obviously there were ghosts but doesn't every house have ghosts?" asks Andrea. Her brother Gerard was knocked down and killed by a car at the age of three, four years before Andrea was born.
Can she remember the conversation when her parents told her about Gerard dying?
"No, because there always was another person. It was always there."
Andrea remembers the swimming pool in Blackrock in Co Louth as a young girl with her family. "And it was an outdoor swimming pool. Can you imagine? Freezing! I almost drowned in it once. I did. And I almost look like I'm drowning when I swim now," she says, laughing.
"Daddy left me at the swimming pool. I didn't want to go home that day. 'I'm not going home!' So, they drove off and I was sitting on the wall. I was 10. They went and hid around the corner. And then they came back for me."
She also remembers her father doing Meals On Wheels around Dundalk. Andrea used to accompany him. "I would have been about seven or eight. He used to stop and talk to some people at the doors, and I thought it was lovely, because some of them were lonely and old, and hadn't been spoken to all day."
Andrea read her late father's private memoirs after she wrote her own published memoirs.
"It was very emotional to read. It was also his perspective on me, and all of us, one of the perspectives was written about the early days of the band and (manager) John (Hughes) coming to the house, and you know, his big plans for us and all those things. And in (her father's account), there's the early disappointments. It is beautifully written, really," she says. "Dad also writes about recording early vocals or when we did our first TV shows and I couldn't watch them, I couldn't bear looking at myself. And he wrote that. I didn't even know he saw it. And I didn't know he knew. I didn't like that side of it (TV appearances, etc) but I did like singing. "
In her early teens, Andrea used to wear down the needle on the record player by playing River Road by Crystal Gayle. She would sing along with a fake country accent.
"I played River Road so often that a man that was painting the house, asked me to please stop playing it," she says. "I was a bit appalled, to be honest. I'll never forget it.
"Do you know how Mammy excused him? It was such a lovely way. You see, back then when someone came to paint the house they were given sandwiches and everything by the mammy. The whole lot. Now they're lucky if they get a glass of water."
Andrea recalls her mum Jean saying about the painter ("who was a bachelor and was older and is well dead now") that after getting the nice sandwich and then telling her young daughter to stop singing and playing music, that "he was imagining that he was the man of the house".
"It was sad. But my mother was kind to him."
Later, when she was singing to packed stadiums around the world with The Corrs, and clocking up sales of 40 million, Andrea says that she "was always sensitive and incredibly self-critical. I was always doing a much better job than any critic could do, in my own head, and I think that's the way I make a laugh of everything. (I'll get to that in a moment.)
"I am haunted by Spinal Tap. Anyone who gets earnest about their work, I turn to Spinal Tap. I think if we think we'd achieved a situation where we don't need to laugh at ourselves, then we need to turn back quickly. And you never achieve that."
Andrea adds that when her mother would "try to get me to stop being giddy and laughing, she would say, 'You're boring me now, Andrea.' Poor Jean."
As for her father, she says that "they had high hopes for him to become a priest. He was a good altar boy. Although he laughed his head off on the altar too."
What was her father like?
"He was ahead of his time."
Andrea suddenly bursts into an impromptu impersonation of Donald Trump to describe her father: "He was a good guy. The best! One of the good guys! Tremendous!"
Andrea can find humour in everything. She thinks she inherited this from her mother.
"My mother had a really wrong sense of humour. No, really. She'd laugh until she cried," says Andrea.
Does she have plans for the future in terms of The Corrs, whose last album was Jupiter Calling in 2017?
"Obviously, there are no plans to be made. There is no live music. I would have hoped to have played together again. I look forward to playing together again at some point, hopefully, but right now, God knows if there will be live music. The last six months has been surreal and bewildering. Like life is just suddenly interrupted. The uncertainty and the unknown and real fear. But then, I suppose, in so many ways I'm lucky. Some people have an awful time. Our children are young."
Is she home-schooling them?
"I've been doing what every mummy has been trying to do but I'm not getting very much respect here! But I do get my come-uppance when my children laugh at me."
Andrea says she realises more and more every day how much her mother influenced her.
"Daddy used to says my mother wrote letters like she spoke. I write like I speak in a way, too. She wasn't limited by the Irish Catholic restrictions, even though she was of a time where the woman stays at home and minds the kids and cooks and cleans and the man goes to work. Now I'm of a time where I can create. Mum's creativity went to just us. The clothes she made. The food she made. The curtains she made. Green velvet. The garden she planted. She really was amazing, when I look back on it. She would get the seaweed from Blackrock beach in Louth. She thoough these things were worthwile. We would go and collect the seaweed on Blackrock beach to fertilise the soil for the plants she was growing."
Has she continued the tradition in her own garden in Dublin 4 of getting seaweed from Killiney or Sandymount beaches?
Andrea laughs out loud: "Do I go out and get seaweed randomly? The Seaweed Lady! I swim in the sea but the seaweed gets tangled up around me."
She becomes more serious, says that music was "the most amazing gift" her parents gave her - "to want to listen to music when you get up in the morning and want to listen to music first thing when you got home from school and put that record back on and go again. And how much it meant. I didn't know that that wasn't how everybody behaved, but I was so lucky to have that. And I loved singing. I loved the stories of it. I loved to tell stories in a song."
What you see with Andrea Corr is what you get. She is certainly unconventional in this so-called modern world of ours. She is by her own admission "not good on the phone". She avoids emails "because they just start to build up. And then I realised that the world wasn't falling down when I didn't look at them. So I don't bother now.
"I have an anxiety about the phone. I don't like the phone. I didn't want one at the beginning. Caroline and (her husband) Frank forced me to get one, because they were sick of not being able to get me. They couldn't find me."
Where were you?
"I was still at the swimming pool," Andrea laughs, remembering that day long ago in Blackrock. "And I was covered in seaweed! My next album is going to be called The Seaweed Woman Presents ..."
Barefoot Pilgrimage is published by HarperCollins, £12.99