Mary Black makes a welcome returns to the stage after a short illness and is thankful to be back.
With her Millennium Forum gig just around the corner during the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival, we caught up with the Irish singing legend to find out more about what had knocked her for six during her Irish tour and to get the lowdown on her new album ‘Mary Black Sings Jimmy Mac’.
“I’m a lot better now than I was” admitted Mary. “I was really sidetracked by it. I was in hospital for five days on an intravenous drip and had got very very sick. It was called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome which can get into your inner ear and cause all sorts of problems to your hearing and can even cause facial paralysis apart from the obvious illness and sickness.
“You can imagine for me as an artist it was doubly worrying because my hearing is everything. I was in the middle of the tour too which was a disaster for me. Thankfully I have come out of it the other side now and this week in particular I feel a big improvement. I’m still not 100 percent, a bit low in energy and stuff, but that’s to be expected. There’s no paralysis of the face and no bad fallout that way so it looks like that they got it just in time” revealed the thanksful singer.
“I’m back gigging now and delighted that I am able to continue with the tour. My daughter Roisin is helping me [on tour] and she’s been a great support to me.”
Music runs with intensity within the Black family’s blood, so it’s no surprise that two of her children have carved out a career in the business. Roisin, who goes by the stage name Róisín O, is a singer, songwriter, and musician while son Danny O'Reilly is frontman of Dublin rock band The Coronas.
“For the Black family, music is what we are and it’s always been that the kids would be involved and sing a song growing up. We did the same growing up with our parents too.
“I never expected them to have music career though, not that I didn’t think that they were good enough, but because music is a such a hard and tough road and I was quick to tell then that. But they were focussed and wanted to do their own thing, and it’s great to see. I get a bigger kick out of watching them on stage than me being on stage, I get so excited seeing them up there playing.
“My advice was always to be ready to work hard and start small and to not expect miracles from the beginning. Young people nowadays tend to think success will come overnight, but you have to put the hard graft in and do it because you love it not because you’re going to get famous or rich. I also made sure to tell them that it’s not just about talent but also about being lucky, being in the right pace at the time. You can be very talented and not make it. I said all those things not to put them off, as I obviously want them to be happy and follow their dreams.”
Speaking about how the album came about, Mary revealed that it was the result of a phone call from the man himself, Jimmy MacCarthy. “He called and asked me how I would feel about recording a whole album of his songs” said Mary.
“It was a lovely thing to do. There’s songs that are very close to my heart and Jimmy MacCarthy is such an amazing songwriter. There are four newly recorded songs on the album and it was really a tribute to him and his writing.
“On the tour it’s not only Jimmy MacCarthy songs, there’s other great nuggets in there too taken from various albums through the years.”
With a career spanning many years, the Irish singer has toured extensively far and wide but has recently decided to take a step back. “I have wound down my work abroad and have said my goodbyes to a lot of places as I have toured all over the world over the last 25 years. I’ll continue to do maybe one tour a year here in Ireland and the occasional festival, but I won’t be stopping doing what I do, I’d miss it too much.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Derry and seeing my old friends. I’ll be there during the Jazz Festival so I might be able to take in some of the music while I’m there.”
Mary Black performs at the Millennium Forum on Friday 4th May with tickets priced at £27.50.