Interview With Sharon Shannon, first published in Downtown/The Evening Echo 2014-1-2

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In recent years The Sharon Shannon Big Band has become a juggernaut of musical entertainment around Ireland and the globe, they will be rolling into Cork for a special Women’s Little Christmas concert in The Savoy on Monday 6 January. Ronan Leonard spoke with its bandleader Sharon Shannon and immediately she was talking excitedly about the upcoming gig, “I’m really looking forward to playing the Savoy, I love that venue”.

Her positivity continued as she spoke about 2013, “I had a really busy year, it was choc-a-bloc, and we topped it off there with a few gigs in Japan. My musical highlight of 2013, the thing I was most excited about, was finally releasing ‘Christmas Time Again’. I’m really delighted with it, I’ve put a lot of work into it, we have been working on it for about 5 years. I was hoping to get it out for last Christmas but it wasn’t ready in time but we have it polished off nicely now. It was a great choice to get Wallis Bird in to sing it, she did a really good vocal and I’m really happy with it.  We certainly took a lot of time, and there was a lot of rewriting, going over stuff, to-ing and fro-ing. A fella called Rory Gallagher, not that Rory Gallagher!, a singer-songwriter from Donegal who plays a lot in Lanzarote now and used to be the guitarist in The Revs, is really good friend of mine and it was him who came up with the chorus for the song a few years ago and we wrote the song together.”

Wallis Bird who sings on the song is one of three guest singers joining the Big Band in the Savoy, Sharon gave a run down on the whole ensemble, “I’m joined by Jim Murray (who also plays in a Irish Traditional duo with accordion legend Seamus Begley) on the acoustic guitar; Jack Maher, on the electric guitar; Alan Connor on piano; Tony Molloy on bass, Sean Reagan on fiddle and then there will be Shane MacGowan, Mundy and Wallis Bird, 3 generations of Irish songwriters. We did our first gig of this tour last week and Wallis sung the other half of ‘Fairy Tale Of New York’ with Shane and it was amazing!”

Sharon pointed out that they should not be considered support acts, “the concert is all the one gig, the big band is on from the word go, we’ll start and then after a few tunes Wallis will come out and join us for a few songs; when she finishes we’ll do a few more tunes, then Mundy will come out and we’ll play a few of his songs and ‘Galway Girl’ and then we play a few more tunes and then Shane MacGowan will join us and play 3 or 4 songs with us and then we’ll do ‘Fairytale of New York’ with Wallis and Shane, we’ll play a few more tunes and finish up… and if the audience wants an encore we’ll do that too!”

Sharon also had a big project reach completion this year with the release of ‘21: The Definitive Sharon Shannon’, she explains “it’s a compilation of all the favourite tracks from my albums released over the last 21 years, and also a few new songs too, such as ‘Christmas Time Again’.” It seems that selecting the songs to sum up her career was a relatively easy affair, “myself and John Dunford, my manager, picked all the songs, it was quite easy to pick the tracks and the running order really. John and myself have been working together from day one, we get on really well and we usually agree on things anyway so it was great.”

Both the track listing of the compilation and how the membership of her Big Band rotates Sharon loves to collaborate with different musicians, I wondered who would be her dream musician to work with, her answer was surprising, “the way I look at it is that all the collaborations I ever had over the years and things that ended up on my albums all happened very naturally and most of the time I knew the people already, I’ve never really decided to pick somebody I’d like to work with. There are people I really like and admire but I mightn’t necessarily want to work with them, for example some of my musical heroes would be Mark Knoffler, Van Morrison, The Band and Bob Dylan, they’d be all huge musical influences of mine but I don’t think of playing with them. I can look up to them from afar.”

The Sharon Shannon Big Band with Shane MacGowan, Mundy and Wallis Bird will play the Savoy on Monday 6 January. Doors are 8pm, tickets are €30 and available at http://www.entertainment.ie or http://www.ticketmaster.ie

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