Soul queen’s Commitment to music

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

I AM some woman for one woman, Bronagh Gallagher roars with laughter down the phone from her London home.

I AM some woman for one woman, Bronagh Gallagher roars with laughter down the phone from her London home.

“It has been manic, a hard old graft and some days you want to sleep for an hour, and I did last week,” she laughs, again uproariously, causing the receiver in City Life’s hand almost to leap from our grasp.

“I’m rained out of it in London, I am trying to get up to the hardware shop and I am like a duck,” says Gallagher, almost to herself and muttered before I can pose a question as to her current state of mind, granted she is about to release her second album and go on tour as well as balance her increasingly high profile movie, television and stage career.

It is good to know that the Derry actress and singer, who has appeared in the likes of the Commitments, Pulp Fiction, Sherlock Holmes and Albert Nobbs over a 20 year career and has just spent over two years in War Horse in London’s National Theatre, is also forced to think about real life commitments as well as struggle to find enough hours in the day to squeeze her life into.

Indeed the self-titled album, which pays homage to the sound and essence of the great producers of the 60s and early 70s, deals with the last eight years of Gallagher’s life, real life stories wrapped in a soulful, gospel fuelled glow.

“Basically the songs encompass my life for the last eight years and close friends lives,” she says. “Mainly they are all based on things that have happened or stories that I have read about other people and ideas pop into my head and become a song.”

It is a deeply rich and vibrant soul and gospel album, with touches of country, Gallagher displaying her roots and influences gleaned from her parents.

“Ultimately I am a soul girl and always have been since a very young age, my parents were big soul collectors and that is the music I grew up, it is part of my heartbeat, I don’t have the passion for anything like I do for soul music. It will come to a point where it is probably obsessive,” she laughs.

Bronagh’s debut album was well-received, securing a Meteor nomination and glowing critical praise, giving her confidence to pour into the follow-up. But she never felt pressure, she says, allowing the songs to “find their way through her”.

“I think it just happens that the songs find you, without sounding like a mad hippy, but the songs come through you and the music comes out, that is what soul music is,” she says.

“It is where I am at in my life, the things I celebrate, the things I love - where I am in my life - so I didn’t feel that giving it a title was right. I am neither a singer or an actress, I am just me, in that way.

“I feel very confident that I am not under any great pressure to make music. I don’t have anybody breathing down my neck to say I must produce songs, and some close friends of mine are under that pressure. It is probably maturity and getting older, I just think we are our own boss, you create your own destiny.”

Gallagher produced the album herself, and assembled a supporting cast of rock royalty both to record it and to perform it live. The eight piece cast includes Graham Hopkins of Therapy? fame on drums, along with Conor Brady, Clare Kenny and more, and Gallagher could refer to super producer Brian Eno - a life-long friend - for advice. She also uses the experience of her career in performing the songs live.

“I had great guidance, Conor was there at my side the whole way, all the band helped out. You hopefully gain confidence from doing something like that and tuck it under your arm and keep it for the next time. I am very proud of it,” she says.

“All of the work I have done in 20-odd years of being an actress, all of the experience, I have learned so much about performance and how to hold moments, be silent on stage, all of the things I have been taught by incredible teachers, that is part of my show now. All those characters are in the songs now, it is really exciting,” she adds.

Bronagh Gallagher plays in Dolan’s this Thursday. Her album is out Friday.