Jacqui Sharkey tells us about juggling two very different types of careers
Donegal singer-songwriter and solicitor Jacqui Sharkey has attracted attention internationally since she released her first album in 2011.
Now hot on the heels of her second album, the west Donegal legal eagle is back with a third, ‘Shine’, which has been heralded as her best work to date, with a concert tour planned for 2017. She talked about juggling her day job as a solicitor in west Donegal with her musical career.
“Music has been a huge part of my life since I was knee high. My parents were musical, and listened to a lot of different styles of music, and I was at piano and guitar lessons from a young age.
“I wrote my first song at the age of 14 and started playing gigs at 16, when my friend and I started off with two acoustic guitars. We called ourselves Double Trouble and we certainly were,” she said.
Jacqui was raised South of Glasgow after her family moved from The Rosses in West Donegal, and there she found her footing in the city’s folk scene as a teenager.
She later returned to her roots in Donegal and formed a popular local rock and pop band, The Jury’s Out, in which she was lead singer and keyboard player. She also performed many leading roles in musical theatre, such as Florence in Chess, Nancy in Oliver, Adelaide in Guys And Dolls.
“I have always loved variety in music, and so I have always done different types of gigs, from Rock and Pop to Jazz and Folk music. I am blessed to be from a part of the world that is steeped in music, and I have been lucky enough to have performed and jammed with so many amazing musicians as a result of that, such as Moya Brennan, Paul Brady, Manus Lunny and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. I have learned from them and been inspired by them, and for that I am truly grateful.”
She has also performed in a very different type of venue… the courtroom. “ I read a lot as a child and had a big fascination for mysteries, crime stories and tv shows with the lawyer reconstructing the crime and all that, and so I thought I would do that too,” she says laughing.
“Of course, I didn’t know then that it is not as mysterious or dramatic as it appears on tv, and it is a really tough business, and not a very nice one a lot of the time. I have learned a lot from it, and I have had a lot of interesting and crazy cases, so it has been an experience.
“I always played music while practising, but it could be quite bizarre at times, leaving a courtroom and then finding myself in a concert hall doing something so radically different that same night.
“It must also be a bit strange for some of the judges who have attended my shows, when I think of it but music is my passion, and I am so overwhelmed by everything that has happened over the last few years. After a trip to Nashville, I was inspired to start writing songs again after a gap of quite a few years, and to start recording some of my own songs and give it a go.”
Following a brief venture into the recording studio to record a four-track folk EP. entitled, A Fairer Love, Jacqui began to attract the attention of radio and tv broadcasters when she recorded her first 13 track album, A New Dawn in 2011 in the style of Americana/New Country Music.
The following year saw her saw her open Billy Ocean’s electric show at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, before doing her own show at the same venue, featuring the best of the music of legendary recording artist, Anne Murray, following a chance introduction to the Canadian singer, who already had a copy of Jacqui’s recently released album.
“I was absolutely stunned to hear that Anne Murray had coincidentally heard my album and would like to get in touch. It was so strange, as a lot of people had been commenting on the similarity in our voices, so I took it as a sign! I was so honoured to bring her music back to Dublin.
“She is an amazing artist, and very gracious. She even recorded a gorgeous greeting for the audience and that was played before the show. It was a wonderful experience and I loved performing her music. I have recorded You Needed Me, which was a huge hit for Anne, so naturally, I squirm every time I think of her listening to my version!”
Jacqui went on to record her second album in 2014 with Irish musician and producer, Manus Lunny, of Scots-Irish Band, Capercailli, a recording which adds an Irish twist to Jacqui’s recordings to date and proves that Jacqui is still comfortable to dabble in a mix of musical genres.
“There is no doubt that my albums are in the wide Country Music Genre, but I just like to mix it up a little, and although they say in the industry that it isn’t a wise thing to do, I am over the moon with the response I have had. I owe so much to radio and TV shows, press and those who share my music on social media.
“I have also been performing in the UK, thanks to the Phil Mack Country Show, as I have been doing their live tours over the past few years in Ireland and the UK.
“Phil and his team are wonderful to work with, I get to play with amazing artists, and meet people at the shows who have seen my videos on Keep It Country TV and other TV channels, and who have heard me on radio, thanks to the DJs over there who have supported me. I am really so grateful to all of them, and all those who have bought my albums or come to the shows.”
Jacqui’s third album, Shine, includes her ever popular single, Take Me To Paris, and is produced by Jacqui and Irish country music singer, Seamus McGee, a great friend of hers who co-produced her first album, A New Dawn. We hope to see her over here in concert some time in 2017.