Paying homage to the legend that is Joni

Ahead of a gig on April 6, Clare O’Mahony tells how she carved a career in music and her love for Joni Mitchell
Paying homage to the legend that is Joni
Clare O’Mahony.

Tell us about yourself:

I am a songwriter and singer, born and bred in Cork. I became interested in music at a pretty young age and started playing the piano at four! However, I was also super serious, so gave up to concentrate on my Junior Cert (I know!).

I went to Colaiste Stiofan Naofa to do the Music, Management and Sound course after I finished up in UCC. I met great people there, and I started writing songs properly. I began to take music more seriously from then.

I put out a couple of albums over the last decade and got a nice bit of airplay with different singles I released too.

I was lucky enough to go to Newfoundland with some super musicians including Mick Flannery and Ger Wolfe, to write and play music there.

Right now, I am concentrating on The Songs of Joni Mitchell, which is something I’ve wanted to put together for a long time. She’s one of my favourite songwriters, and I wanted to pay homage to that by performing her songs live. It’s not a tribute act, so I hope people don’t expect a blonde wig, an easel and a cigarette (I might do the red wine though!). But I do hope that Joni and music fans enjoy what we do, which is to perform live some amazing songs written by one of the best songwriters around.

Where were you born?

I was born in Cork. I grew up in the country, in Ballygarvan. I used to think it was a million miles away from town. I went to school in Christ King, Turners Cross, so got a taste for the city then.

Where do you live?

I live just off Cathedral Road, on the northside of the city. It’s a great location because it’s so close to town. I’m at the Opera House bridge in 10 minutes.

It was a bit strange for me moving to the northside, purely because I just didn’t know it well. I was used to other parts of the city. I sometimes need my sat nav to find certain places! But it’s a great spot to live in.

Family?

I have two brothers, and my dad. My mom died when I was 19. My dad and one brother still live in Cork, while my younger brother lives in Dublin.

Best friend?

I am very, very lucky to have some really great friends. I would class them all as “best friends” if I have to use that term. I have friends who I know I could call in the middle of the night if I needed to, friends I could stay with if I needed to. And of course we just have great fun in each other’s company. I have a great support network and it’s something I am very proud of and grateful for.

Earliest childhood memory?

I’m not sure why, but it’s going into town with my mom, shopping for a coat for me! We used to call into Farmhouse and she’d buy me a cake and a glass of club orange as a treat if we were in town.

Person you most admire?

Gloria Allred is a US lawyer I really admire. She took on some of the most powerful people around (Trump, Cosby). She stands for equality, and stands firmly against any kind of discrimination (sex, race, age, physical handicap or sexual orientation). She makes no bones about what she stands for and is brave and determined. I think those characteristics are admirable. There’s a great Netflix documentary about her called Seeing Allred.

Person who most irritates you?

Oh God, I have a few of those. One thing that really irritates me in general is the ‘samey’ sounding singing that seems to be happening at the moment — that kinda forced accent and voice wrecks my head. So anyone who sings like that bugs me.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

This has to be a trip to California I took a couple of years ago, with my partner at the time. It was one of those once in a lifetime trips. We visited Santa Monica, Venice Beach and then hired a convertible camaro and drove along the coast up as far as San Francisco. We flew to Las Vegas then for a few nights — what a seedy place! I wouldn’t recommend that part.

Then we headed back to West Hollywood where we hung out for a while before heading home. It was definitely a pretty unforgettable trip.

Favourite TV programme?

I love Room To Improve and First Dates. Ireland is nice and small, so I already knew a couple of people on First Dates! It’s fun to watch and wang on about it as the show is on.

I enjoy Room To Improve cos it’s kinda fantasy home-owner stuff. I also really loved Ozark on Netflix and look forward to another season of that.

Favourite radio show?

I love Matt Cooper actually. I usually listen to the start of his show at work, and then finish it off at home

Your signature dish if cooking?

A few years back a group of us did a version of Come Dine With Me. Me and my housemate at the time, Mark, won. We cooked beef bourguignon (I use the term ‘we’ lightly). So, I’ll go with that.

Favourite restaurant?

I just love Son of a Bun. It’s consistently delicious!

Last book you read?

I was reading Reckless Daughter by David Yaffe, which is a Joni Mitchell biography. It’s a pretty interesting read if you’re a fan.

Best book you read?

I have just started a book called Darkest Truth by Catherine Kirwan. I am loving the references to Cork, including the Everyman. If you know the city at all, it means you can almost place yourself inside the story and follow it along.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

True Tides, Automatic. I love that song. The guys are great and have carved out a great sound for themselves.

Favourite song?

I cannot answer that definitively, but in the last year, I do love Shallow from A Star is Born or Automatic.

One person you would like to see in concert?

I would love to see Gregory Porter. His voice is fantastic.

Do you have a pet?

No. But I always wanted a pug. I cannot bring myself to get one for two reasons — 1) they are over-bred and so often have way more health problems than they should, and 2) because I am out a lot, it just wouldn’t be fair to leave Alfred (I have picked a pug name) at home on his own.

Morning person or night owl?

I am a night owl, but I am forced to be up early for work. I am generally more productive in the evenings/night time.

Your proudest moment?

I have a couple of stand-out moments, but I guess one was playing The Songs of Joni Mitchell in the Everyman last February to a pretty packed house, and getting the standing ovation at the end.

It can be pretty daunting to take on a show like this, so to have it work out was fantastic. The other was being asked to be godmother to my friends’ little baby, Isaac.

Spendthrift or saver?

I’ve become a saver since last week, but I just need one more thing...

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

I would create a teeny suspended car parking space, for myself. On-street parking can be a pain. And, people parking in such as way as to take up two spaces really bugs me (you could put that under the ’person who most irritates you’ also.

What makes you happy?

Mostly wine. As well as friends. Yeah, friends and wine are a great combo.

In all seriousness, being busy makes me happy too. I like to keep super-busy and then spend one evening just doing nothing at all (that’s where the friends and wine come in). I also love playing Joni Mitchell songs!

How would you like to be remembered?

I would LOVE if one of my own songs kinda took off, or even one I may write in the future. That would be a super legacy to leave.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I am pretty busy at the moment. I am in the thick of rehearsals for The Songs of Joni Mitchell. I also started a law degree by night and I work full time too. All of that keeps me very busy!

MORE ABOUT ‘THE SONGS OF JONI MITCHELL’

The Songs of Joni Mitchell will be performed by Clare and her band at the Everyman on Saturday, April 6.

Joni Mitchell’s catalogue of songs stretches far and wide musically. It’s the kind of catalogue where you know more than you think you know. From that moment in Love Actually where Emma Thompson’s character realises her husband is having an affair (Joni’s Both Sides Now plays) to Counting Crows’ version of Big Yellow Taxi, most people know more Joni Mitchell songs than they realise.

Go along to the Everyman on April 6 and be treated to a compendium of Joni Mitchell’s songs, ranging from heart-wrenching to heart-lifting, featuring songs from Joni’s earlier albums (Clouds, Ladies of the Canyon) right through and up to her more recent recordings including classics such as A Case of You, Chelsea Morning, You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio, Chinese Café and Woodstock to name just a few. A treat for any music fan.

Tickets are €25. For more info and to book tickets log onto www.everymancork.com

For more about Clare O’Mahony see www.clareomahony.com and www.facebook.com/claremusic

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