How I Got Here: Black Is The Colour

By Laura Coates
From Irish Independent

Name: Frances Black
Education: Left school at 15. Currently studying at All Hallows College, with the aim of qualifying as an addiction counsellor.

In the news for: Black will release her new double album, This Love Will Carry, on 3 February. She is about to start a 20-date tour, including gigs in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on 29 January; Tipperary Excel on 3 February; the Limerick Institute of Technology Millennium Theatre on 4 February; and the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork, on 5 February. She started her career performing with The Black Family which included her siblings Mary, Shay, Michael and Martin. She subsequently joined Arcady, recorded and toured with Kieran Goss and released her debut solo album Talk to Me in 1994.

Laura Coates (LC): When did you get your big break?
Frances Black (FB): My big break was my first solo album deal and it was not until it went to No 1 that I knew it was really a break. I had been in the traditional band Arcady and we made an album together. They were doing work in the US and I didn’t want to be away from the kids. I joined Kieran Goss to do some gigs. What happened was for the A Woman’s Heart album (1992), Dara Records took a couple of tracks I’d already recorded. That took off and after that I was offered a record deal.

LC: Have you ever had a boss that influenced your career?
FB: I don’t think so, but I have worked with people down through the years who have been an inspiration. Kieran Goss was a huge influence on me in the way he handled an audience. He taught me: “When on the stage, always be yourself.”

LC: What was the best career advice you ever received?
Mary [sister, singer Mary Black] talked me into doing my debut album. I was thinking of not going ahead with the deal. She said “Frances, you have to go through with this, what is the worst that can happen? Even if nothing happens with it, you will have it for the rest of your life.” I was thinking it would be nice to have something to show the grandkids, that I had recorded an album once.

LC: What was your most embarrassing moment at work?
When I was about 16, these lads starting a folk band asked me to sing. I was shy but I said I’d chance it. Their gig was in Slatterys in Capel Street. I was so petrified. They played a few tunes and then they gave me an intro. I moved to the mike… and nothing came out. They said ‘don’t panic’, but three times nothing came out. I just went blank, I couldn’t remember anything. The lads paid me afterwards, they insisted on giving me a few bob, but I was mortified.

LC: What was your first paying job?
Waitressing in the Harcourt Hotel during a summer holiday when I was about 14. I loved it. I felt so grown up and independent and I had my own few bob.

LC: Did education play a big part in your career?
It had nothing to do with education whatsoever. I left school at 15, I thought I’d never get out of it. Part of me does regret not staying in school. I felt a bit isolated. I’m back at college now to become an addiction counsellor. It is exhausting, because I’ve been working non-stop this year and last year, but I really love it, soaking up the knowledge. It is something I’m really passionate about. [Black has had her own well-publicised battle with alcohol addiction.]

LC: What was the highlight of your career?
The [debut] album being at No 1 for 10 weeks in Ireland. That was a huge shock to me, and looking back I’m not even sure if I enjoyed it at the time. I won two IRMA awards and it was hard to imagine everyone voting for me.

LC: What would your advice be to young musicians?
For me, in the music industry, it is so, so important to be true to yourself in your music, that you don’t follow a path of listening to other people telling you what to do.