Karen bringing Soul back into the city

The annual festival ‘Soul in the City’ takes place this June Bank Holiday weekend. We talk to Karen Underwood who brings Soul Journey to St Luke's.
Karen bringing Soul back into the city
Karen Underwood. Picture: Philip Daly

TELL us about yourself?

I am a singer, writer and storyteller. I love talking, singing and writing. I am married and I have a daughter and four stepsons.

I lost my son Erbie in 2012 to suicide and since then I have become a public speaker talking mainly on subjects of mind your mental health, body image, resilience and defying the odds.

I go to speak at any secondary schools on these subjects. The response is incredible. When I share the experience of loss with others, It means my boy did not die in vain. I keep it simple really. I sing because I have to. Singing to me is my baptism by fire. I give a lot of myself, but I get a hell of a lot back.

How do you spend your Friday nights?

My perfect Friday is in on the sofa watching Monty Don Gardeners World.

Thank God we pay our TV licence. I love clubs and bars and I get plenty of that. Otherwise, I am cooking and drinking the good wine with friends. I have a tight group of PLU’s (people like us). Funny thing is all of them have different careers and opinions.

Hairstylists, musicians, social workers, salesperson, writers. My friends are my family really on loan, I guess.

Lie-ins- or up with the lark?

For the past 20 years or more I have lived with insomnia and tried different things. I accept that early mornings are on an emergency basis only.

My schedule is non-existent whatever works. Sometimes I am up working on a project at 3am and I crawl back to bed at 7 or 8 am.

Does work creep into your weekends?

When I’m not gigging or volunteering in schools, I am in my local gardening center buying way too much stuff.

I live for billowing borders which I have not fully achieved in the nine years I’ve had the garden.

I also grow veg like 15 different herbs, garlic, and asparagus and lettuces. It’s then to the table with beautiful prawns a soft boiled egg and lightly dressed fresh picked veg and potatoes.

For dessert it’s key lime pie these days for the family and friends, as I am not big on desserts.

I am happiest in my garden (that is where I recharge the old batteries), in the kitchen with family and friends, the stage or travelling.

If money was no object where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

I love waking up in new places. If I could go anywhere it would be Bordeaux in France to the vineyards with my darling wife in a small villa as I like to cook.

Hotels are lovely but I love a well-equipped kitchen in a foreign country.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork - where are your go to spots for coffee/lunch/special meal?

Occasionally, we dine out like if I am at the Opera for a show I just eat there cause the food is mostly local and fresh. If I am at the Everyman I eat in Gallaghers for the gastro grub but if I want a belly washer and soul food I go to The White Rabbit for the barbeque. I love a meeting in Filter.

It’s gritty so I won’t stay long but the coffee is amazing. Just yesterday I met an old friend for dinner and we caught a show at the Everyman, so we splashed out and had dinner at Greenes.

I had a Beara Pink Gin and I wanted to drown myself. Decadent. Life is short and my weekends off with the people I love are everything to me.

Sunday night comes around too fast, how do you spend it?

On Sunday it’s a lie-in, a nice breakfast and a visit to a garden and we would go as far as Waterford or Carlow and we may not arrive back til late at night. It’s a cuddle with herself, a glass of red and Netflix.

What are you up to at the moment?

At the moment life is good. Never thought I would say that.

I am just home from a sell-out gig at Marlay walled garden festival.

I am well into rehearsals for ‘Soul Journey’ with Gemma Sugrue, Niall McCabe, Rapper Isaiah G, Leah Ahern and for the first time my daughter Christiana Underwood, ‘Soul Journey in St Luke’s is June 3, doors at 7.30pm.

If you have never been to St Luke’s, get in there! This year and every year ‘Soul in the City’ has a highlight show, with a completely different set.

This year is no exception. There are some tickets available at Uticket.ie, the ‘Soul in the City’ website and Gallaghers, MacCurtain Street.

For more see: http://soulinthecitycork.ie/

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