Mary Coughlan is firmly back in the public eye again,
performing at the Riverbank Arts Centre for one night only; she will
be singing the songs of Billie Holiday. Coughlan has previously recorded
standards performed by the melancholy jazz legend, who died young after
a battle with drugs. In fact, she has often been compared to Lady Day,
not least because of her troubled history with alcohol.
The thread of bruised female experience running through her
albums like Tired and Emotional and After the Fall is her blues-burnished
voice. At one point it's a whisper. At another it's a guttural cry.
It's obvious that she knows and sings songs instinctively, and receives
some form of personal salvation through them.
"Really sad songs appealed to me even as a child - I got a feeling
of great release. And that feeling has obviously intensified as I've
got older. I've been able to analyse why I'm feeling a particular way.
When I sing live, something terrible might have been happening in my
personal life - not necessarily with men. But you'd be in a bad mood,
and on stage you'd hit on the song that would make you feel even worse,
and then I'd get the passion to make everyone in the audience feel
really bad! Then they'd all feel pathetic! It really works - collective
Coughlan says she dwells on the bad times a lot. She identifies mistakes
in not putting her own interests and those of her children first and
in not being able to take control of her own life.
"The past has been a learning experience. But it could have been
the death of me, too. I remember when I was at school in Galway, the
nuns used to say they'd beat the temper and the spirit out of me. Various
people have tried to knock it out of me over the years. It nearly went.
My anger has kept me going through all these years. It's time to let
go of it now, and grow up a bit. It's certainly time to do that, isn't
For further information, please contact Gráinne
on (045) 448314/5 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org