The Corrs’ journey: from rejection to fame through music and family bond | Music | Entertainment


The Corrs performing

The Corrs’ journey: from rejection to fame through music and family bond (Image: Getty)

They were playing dates in the States by invitation of Jean Kennedy Smith, the US Ambassador to Ireland. 

“While we were there, our manager John Hughes, suggested we just turn up at David Foster’s recording session in New York,” Sharon, the eldest of the three Corr sisters, recalls, her green eyes sparkling.

“So we did. We pitched up and said, ‘We’re here to see David Foster.’ The receptionist presumed we had a meeting…”

Producer and music executive Foster was impressed by the band’s chutzpah and blown away by their enchanting blend of traditional Irish folk and pop sensibilities.

“We went to the studio upstairs, got around the piano and did a couple of songs for him. A couple of days later, we were signed to Atlantic Records,” says Sharon, with a grin. 

The luck of the Irish? Or fortune favouring the brave?

That gamble turned the family band from Dundalk, Ireland, into household names. 

The Corrs went on to sell more than 40million albums; their string of magical hit singles peaked with 2000’s global smash Breathless featuring lead singer Andrea’s distinctive mini-yodel.

She co-wrote the song with producer Mutt Lange, then married to Shania Twain, who said she had “the best pop voice in the world right now”.

The four siblings – Caroline, Andrea, Sharon and their brother Jim – had formed The Corrs in 1990 when Andrea was 15; the same year that she filmed her part in The Commitments.

Nine years later were playing to 45,000 people in Dublin’s Lansdowne Road Stadium.

“I think the ‘pinch-me’ moment for all of us was selling out Wembley Arena for three nights in a row in 2000,” says violinist and pianist Sharon, 53. “I remember getting on stage, thinking, wow and saying to Andrea ‘Pinch yourself now!’ 

“It was a high-pressure time, constant touring and promos. I think our greatest success is that we all still talk to each other! It’s a difficult thing to achieve, especially when you’re younger and there’s a family pecking order.”

“The key is to respect each other’s differences and not expect to agree on everything.”

By the time they hit the pause button on their career in 2006, they’d performed for Her Majesty the Queen and Nelson Mandela, and been awarded MBEs for their charity work.

Drummer Caroline, 50, recalls hearing their 1998 hit Dreams “on Radio One in the back of a London taxi and thinking, ‘That’s cool – that’s us!’

“A couple of months later we played with the Rolling Stones in front of 90,000 people, in Germany…so many special moments.”

“It was a whirlwind,” says Andrea, 49. “When you’re in it it’s hard to see anything. It’s like a speeding train. Looking back it was extraordinary…just non-stop amazing experiences.”

At one point they played four continents in three weeks. They toured America with the Stones and U2 – Bono said the Corrs “could drink Oasis under the table”.

“Bono is very good with his one-liners,” smiles Caroline. “The Corrs always had a clean image, but we definitely enjoyed a drink…as any touring band would…”

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Sharon recalls: “We have years of on-the-road stories. We’d do anything. Early on we had to play in somebody’s back garden in San Diego because a guy wanted to propose to his girlfriend.”

At Christmas, 1997, they played the Vatican. “All the artists were waiting around all day backstage, and I kept being told ‘There’s no need to get ready yet’,” says Sharon.

“And then, suddenly, it was ‘You’re on now!’ I was in such a rush, I put my dress on backwards and ran on stage. I’m pretty sure a lot of leg was revealed to the front row of cardinals.”

“Another time in Pamplona, Spain, we came out of the hotel and were met by hundreds of screaming girls. We thought, ‘There must be a band staying here’ and then we realised it was us!”

It was a long way from their industrial home town of Dundalk, in Louth, Eire. “It’s a regular Irish town, there’s music in all the bars and great musicians. It’s part of the Irish heritage,” says Sharon.

Their late parents – Jerry, an accountant at the electricity supply board, and Jean, a stay-at-home mum until her 40s – performed all over the country in their band, Sound Affair.

Sharon recalls, “Their love of life, of each other and of making music was incredible. Mum started singing with dad after Andrea was born, so I was four when they started; when I was a bit older dad used to take me with him.”

“I saw them play a couple of times,” says Andrea. “They did covers and they were really good, but as a child I was more interested in the peanuts and crisps…”

Brother Jim, 59, was “the initiator”, says Caroline, the one who cajoled them into rehearsing while she and Andrea were still at school.

“We had a lot of influences which we accidentally combined – pop, rock, and traditional music. It made us feel different and fresh.”

“We toured relentlessly for 15years. There was friction and not much individual autonomy, but we were so young, we didn’t take ourselves so seriously. We communicate better now – I’m lucky to be part of this.”

Their individual influences vary. For Sharon, it’s Joni Mitchell, for Caroline it’s Prince and The Cure, for Jim, it’s the Police.

“Joni Mitchell was a huge influence on me,” says Sharon. “I really relate to what she does, and the truthfulness of her songwriting. The truth is relatable. She changed the way music was written. Lyrics became intensely important were true to what she was trying to say. Also, I was a major Police fan.” 

Caroline: “I was crazy into the Cure at school. They were so huge at the time. I adored Prince as well and the Police before that, but The Cure’s melodies were iconic, so memorable, and so was the way they dressed. Robert Smith had it.”

Sharon taught herself the piano but was classically trained on the violin by a local priest, who founded the Dundalk Youth Orchestra.

Their first hit Runaway, from their multi-platinum debut album, Forgiven, Not Forgotten, was entirely unexpected.

“It wasn’t intended to be on the album until David Foster heard us play it and said it had to be,” says Sharon. “The audience response when we did it live was gigantic, they’d sing it word for word. It made you well up.”

As their fame soared, raven-haired Andrea was dubbed ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’ – a slur, surely on her equally photogenic sisters.

“I was shocked,” she admits. “I certainly wasn’t feeling like it deep down.”

Sharon says: “God knows what it’s like now. We were lucky we were before social media.”

Even so, Andrea found fame “a bit overwhelming, because of the aesthetics of it; people focused on what you look like and that’s not healthy. It felt like everywhere there were mirrors, it made me feel self-conscious.

“I was very shy about that exposure. The music was the point.”

And it was the music that made them special. At a time when pop was riddled with manufactured, auto-tuned nuisances, the Corrs made authentic original music written and played on old-school instruments, including whistles, fiddles and bodhrans.

Caroline recalls their MTV Unplugged show – “Wow, that was a dream, to play our songs, acoustically and be filmed beautifully and to made a record of that…”

Sharon: “We were immersed in music – we all play, all write; the talent was in there passed down by our parents.”

In 2015, the Corrs performed at their father’s funeral and released their life-affirming come-back album White Light.

Their latest, Best Of The Corrs, has all their hits plus three Fleetwood Mac songs freshly recorded in tribute to the late Christine McVie and produced by Guy Chambers. It’s their first album since 2017’s Jupiter Calling.

“Recording songs for Christine was beautiful way to get us back into the studio,” says Sharon.

The Corrs have just toured southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand supported by Natalie Imbruglia. “A brilliant time,” says Caroline. “We had so much fun with Natalie.”

Will there be more recordings, more shows?

“We’d love to do a UK tour,” enthuses Caroline.

“I’d say watch this space,” says Sharon. “We’re planning more tours, each of us separately and us together. We’re always writing…”

*Best Of The Corrs is out now as a 2xLP gold vinyl and an expanded 2 CD collection.

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