HAVING WOWED the judges, Tom Jones in particular, and audiences with her performances on The Voice UK, Clifden singer-songwriter Sharon Murphy brings her soulful sound back to the west of Ireland with two gigs in Galway - one in Monroe’s Live and the other during Cúirt.
Sharon famously reduced Tom Jones to tears with her mesmerising rendition of Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ for her audition piece on The Voice UK, prompting the enduring pop icon to tell her: “I think there is something that happens when you get older and experience from life. If you can express it through your voice then you need to have lived a while, and that is what I am getting from you. I don’t think a young girl could sing like you sing. They haven’t lived long enough.”
Fellow judge Will.i.am echoed Jones’ remarks when he declared Sharon’s voice comes from a “magical place”. The accolades of the judges have been joined by hundreds of congratulatory and complimentary remarks from viewers of the show expressing how moved and captivated they were by Sharon’s singing.
Prior to her performance, Sharon had revealed she had grown up in an orphanage in Clifden and that her childhood was a difficult one. “As a singer-songwriter I use my personal experience through music and it has been a real solace for me. It has been a healer,” she has said.
Being on The Voice UK
For the 52-year-old, being on The Voice UK has been an amazing and hugely affirmative experience, as she readily acknowledges. And yet it might never have happened had it not been for the persistence of a good friend, as she tells me over a weekend chat speaking from her Burren home.
“I hadn’t done any of those type of shows before, such as the Irish version of The Voice,” she reveals. “To be honest I had no desire to do any competition. I’d done competitions in my twenties and I thought ‘That’s not where I’m at now’.
“What happened was a good friend of mine had been encouraging me over the last few years to give it a go. In the last year she sent me all the details and all I literally had to do was to go online and click a couple of buttons, so then I thought ‘Why not? I’ll give it a go’ and I’m really glad I did now.”
I ask Sharon did she have any worries about the fact that she was older than most of her fellow competitors. “I did think about the age thing alright,” she admits. “I thought ‘God, I could be the oldest one on this’ and of course I was! To be honest, when I went up to Belfast, which is where the auditions were held, I thought they would decide there and then if I’d be chosen. I didn’t realise I would have to go through four auditions before they finally said yes.
“I did two in Belfast, one an a capella audition and another with my instrument, then I had to go and do two more in England. If I had known all that beforehand I wouldn’t have gone in the first place, so it was a case of ignorance is bliss. When they said I might have to go to England I was thinking ‘This could be very expensive’ but when they rang to say I was through they told me they would pay for the flight, and hotel so then I decided to relax and enjoy myself.”
Sharon reveals that her choice of ‘Forever Young’ was something of a last-minute decision. “I’d actually rehearsed another song but then I decided to do ‘Forever Young’ when I was flying over the night before the performance,” she reveals. “The practice went so well I thought ‘OK, I’ll sing that’. I’ve always loved the song and often play it in gigs, though I hadn’t actually done it in a while, funnily enough. I’m really glad I chose it, for some reason it just hit a chord.”
Sharon also came through a ‘Battle Round’ on the show when she was chosen over Roisin McDonagh after they performed George Ezra’s ‘Blame It On Me’ together. “The battles are very odd,” she confesses. “Myself and Roisin got on really well. None of them had that ‘battle’ mentality really, it was just all show. We got on and we just did the song as best we could.”
And how did she find the experience of being chosen as part of Tom Jones’ team in the contest? “We didn’t really work a lot with Tom, we just did a little bit with him,” she says. “There were in-house coaches which was lovely and I learned a bit from them. It would have been hard for us to relax with the celebrity coaches because they have such prominence in society. I’m not used to being with famous people, I’d much prefer working with someone ‘normal’ like myself!”
While she was ultimately eliminated from the competition, Sharon has relished the whole experience. “It’s really been positive for me,” she says. “The response has been really kind, a lot of people have commented on it. This time seven months ago I was trying to get gigs, now I am getting them. I am so grateful for all the nice comments I’ve received over the past month, so I especially want to thank everyone who sent me those.”
Looking ahead, Sharon is aiming to have a new album out in the summer and to do more gigs, both of which are good news for her many fans both old and new.
“I’m still under contract with The Voice UK which means I can’t bring out new material until three months after the show ends,” she says, “which means July, so I am hoping to have an album ready then and it will all be original material, though I’m still considering possibly including ‘Forever Young’.
“I’m also exploring getting gigs in the UK and Europe. I’d like to get an agent but if I can’t I’ll just do things myself. The beautiful thing about social media is that I can organise a lot of stuff myself, there are a lot of resources there and people who are willing to support you, so I’m just going to do my best and try and enjoy it. I think my age supports me in that regard because, I’ve got past that stage of chasing record deals, and I think I have more resource in myself than I had years ago.”
Galway audiences can see Sharon on-stage in Monroe’s Live on Thursday April 9 at 8pm. Tickets are €20/16 through www.monroes.ie She will also be in The King’s Head as part of the Cúirt International Literature Festival on Friday April 24 at 1pm. Tickets are €12.