Sharon Corr Judges The Voice

The singer-songwriter has changed her tune on television talent shows and considering herself Northern Irish

Music, says Sharon Corr, is the 'cheapest form of therapy'. Whenever the musician is feeling stressed or frustrated, she 'takes it out on the piano'. 'It's very cathartic,' Corr says. 'It's really good to get it all out, not bottle things up. Music should be personal. If it's not, then I wonder why bother at all.'

The material that Corr is currently writing for her second solo album is 'incredibly personal'. Due out in autumn, the album is likely to be called Catch The Moon. 'It's about going to any length for another person because you love them and are so lucky to have them to battle through life with,' she says wistfully.

Corr explains that the album title is a reference to her Belfast-born husband, barrister Gavin Bonnar. The couple met in Dublin while The Corrs were shooting the video for their hit single 'Runaway'.

'We'd been filming all day at Phoenix Park and around Tara Street and later that night, we were at the Gaiety,' she says. 'Gavin was there too. He followed me around the theatre and said hello. That's how we met.'

The first of the Corr sisters to tie the knot, Corr and Bonnar were wed in St John’s Church in Cratloe, County Clare. They set up home in south Belfast. Corr enjoyed living here. 'I'm from Dundalk, which is so close to the border I consider myself Northern Irish,' she says.

While Corr settled into mother-hood – the couple have two children, Cathal (6) and Flori (5) – music was never far from her mind. When working on her debut solo Dream Of You, Corr spent so much time in the recording studio in Dublin that it made sense to relocate. The Bonnar family packed up and left Stranmillis to set up home in Dublin instead.

In 2010 Dream Of You was released. All but one of the tracks – a cover of Bronski Beat's 'Smalltown Boy' – was written by Corr. On the second album, however, she decided to take the courageous step of co-writing, teaming up with Limerick man Don Mescall. The Nashville-based songwriter has worked with Ronan Keating, Brian Kennedy, The Backstreet Boys and Frances Black.

'Writing on your own is a safe thing to do, it's all about self-protection. When you write with another person, you are exposing your own level of talent and that is a scary thing. But I've got braver, the older I've become. With Don, we've done some great songs together. Where I lacked, he made up, where he lacked, I made up. It was a good cocktail. And I'm exploring writing with other people too.'

When she's not been working on her as yet unfinished second album, Corr has been touring Australia with Ronan Keating and acting as a mentor on the Irish version of the television talent show The Voice. 'Things have been a bit crazy recently, but I like it like that. It's good to be in demand.'

The last time we spoke, in 2009, Corr told me point blank how much she hated reality programmes like The X Factor. At the time, she certainly pulled no punches in her disdain for such shows. So why did she sign up as a coach for The Voice?

'When I was approached about it at the start I was a bit sceptical, to be honest. But I went away and watched the US version and I loved it. The whole format of the show by-passes the humiliation of shows like The X Factor. Nobody auditions who isn't able to sing, it's not a circus designed to poke fun at people. And you can only choose people based on the voice. It's not about having a great image, a rocking attitude or a great strut. It's simple, it's all about the voice.

'We're working with the fundamentals up and that reflects the music industry properly. Anyone who has made it in this industry has the fundamentals of a great singer or songwriter. And the coaches are very respectful of the acts. We aren't there to judge, but to offer advice, support and constructive criticism. We are there to help them work on their weaknesses and enhance their strengths.

'I feel there is enough negativity in the world without adding to it. Shows like The X Factor encourage sniggering as a weekend pastime. That's not what The Voice is about. For me it is a truly positive experience and I'd love to do it again next year.'

Corr has kept in touch with her team and is planning to work with finalist Vanessa Whelan. 'I can't really say too much about it, but when I took on the role I committed myself to helping them,' she says. 'Vanessa and I will be doing something together, not for my album, but maybe for hers.'

The summer is starting to look busy already with a few gigs and festivals lined up, before Corr hits the studio in August. But she'll be back in Northern Ireland soon, teaming up with old pal Ronan Keating at the Dalriada Festival in Glenarm, on Saturday, July 14. The week long festival will feature music, food and an action-packed Highland Games.

Corr says: 'I'm really looking forward to seeing Ronan again. We get on well and will be performing a lovely duet together. And of course, I can't wait to get back up North again.'

The Dalriada Festival runs from July 14 to 21 at Glenarm Castle Estate.

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