We chat to Belinda Carlisle ahead of her Cork concert

As Belinda Carlisle gets set for her show in Cork, she tells Ronan Leonard about her love for Ireland and pride in her back catalogue.
We chat to Belinda Carlisle ahead of her Cork concert

Belinda Carlisle: “If you do have any sort of platform you should use it to make the world a better place.”

“NOT bad for an old broad!”, Belinda Carlisle looks back on her career that has spanned over four decades and millions of record sales with both her original band, The Go-Gos, and her own solo career producing several hits such as ‘Heaven Is a Place on Earth’, and ‘Leave a Light On’’.

This month she released ‘Gold’, a greatest hits compilation of her entire solo career, in support of this collection she will be playing in Cork Opera House on Wednesday, October 9.

Sitting down to pick and choose which songs to include — and also which particular recordings of each song to pick from the many live recordings, radio sessions and acoustic versions as well as the original album release — was quite an experience she explained.

 “I’ve done so much over the years ... luckily there are some real musicologists at my record label who know more about me than I do! They reminded me of a lot of things I’d forgotten about, they were able to dig out particular version of songs I’d recorded and interesting b-sides and be able to present them to me.”

Belinda doesn’t seem particularly obsessed with being a famous pop star, “I only remember what I do for a living when I’m working to be perfectly honest. I’ve been doing this since I was 17 and I just turned 61, I don’t spend all day thinking to myself ‘I’m a singer’, I only think of the hits when I’m reminded of them by other people.”

However, she does try to make the best use of her fame where possible and uses social media to positive effect. “I’ve dialled it all down on Twitter in recent years as it has become such an angry place but I do still use it, particularly for my advocacy work. I’ve political opinions and I’ve learned no matter what you say it will attract trolls, it’s really put a sour taste in my mouth about the internet. But having said that, I do think that if you do have any sort of platform that you should use it to make the world a better place, I feel it as a responsibility, I try to tell my followers on Instagram and Twitter about things I’ve passionate about, things like vegetarianism where I encourage people to eat meat a little less and still people find a reason to attack me about that.”

In one way this album feels almost like an end of an era for Belinda. 

“I think ‘Gold’ is probably — because of the way streaming and downloading have taken over — the last truly comprehensive CD people will be able to get of me — in terms of what you can get and hold in your hands. I’m really proud of it, they did a great job in preparing and packaging it — there’s some really good stuff on there.”

Her concerts in Europe to promote this album has been garnering great reviews in the recent weeks, she still loves performing anyway but has instilled a higher standard of professionalism to her preparation, “I used to not care about my voice when I was younger — well I didn’t do things to protect it — but now I travel with a dehumidifier, I take special medication, I do vocal warm up routines. I stay quiet on my nights off on tour, I stay in my hotel and read books. I’m very serious about preparing my voice to be ready for concerts when I’m on tour. It used to be that I’d go out drinking and smoking all night and do a show the next day no problem… but those days are over!”

While a lot of pop stars give the same generalisations about Ireland when they are interviewed, Belinda truly loves and knows Ireland well. “We have a lot of friends in Wicklow, we spent a whole summer there. I celebrated my 40th birthday in Ireland. I’ve been up and down the west coast so many times, all the way from the North to Dingle Bay, with a lot of time in Galway. I’ve had a lot of adventures in Ireland, and I’d love to do more — I love the people, I love the country, I love the culture.”

Indeed her second last studio album ‘Viola’, released in 2007, which was a collection of classic French chansons and pop standards was recorded with an ensemble that featured several Irish musicians. “I lived in France for 25 years and I always felt there was a little bit of a chanteuse in me. I was always drawn to the great French voice artists and there is so much out there, and I really wanted to do that — I had just gotten sober at that time and thought it would be a really good challenge. I spoke French really well, it was a project that came from the heart.”

The producer Belinda worked with for that album was John Reynolds, who many would know for his work with Sinead O’Connor, Damien Dempsey and a host of other musicians, and he helped Belinda source the musicians for the sessions. “John brought in people like Sharon Shannon and Fiachna Ó Braonáin (The Hothouse Flowers). It was one of my favourite experiences in making an album, it was very free — a lot of experimentation with sound and ideas — and it was fun to just work with the people. It sounds like friends playing in a studio, and that’s what it was, such a great experience.”

Belinda Carlisle and Special Guests play Cork Opera House on Wednesday 9 October. Tickets available at www,corkoperahouse.ie

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