Tipperary Country and Irish singer Louise Morrissey is celebrating three decades as a solo act, she reflects with Michael McDonagh
When you get to a certain age certain dates and events in the past sort of blur in time and merge so they all seem like they were just a few short years back. I vividly recall meeting, setting up and directing a photo shoot in Dublin for a young woman, who had recently branched out on her own to start her solo career, making a name for herself in the Country and Irish Music Scene. It did not seem that long ago at all, so I was astonished when a double CD, , landed on my desk celebrating the thirty year career of Louise Morrissey.
I could not believe it and wondered where all the years had gone but they had clearly gone well for Louise, as I asked her if she remembered when it was?
“Oh yes it was in the early years but I can’t remember what year. I started the country band in 1988 and I went into the country scene then but I think it would have been a few years later when I had an album with Ritz at the time, probably about 1994 or 95. When I look back on things everything just blurs and seems about 5 or six years ago”.
Most of us still think of you as a young slip of a thing, you must have been a baby when you started out. Was that with the Morriseys or had you performed earlier as a child?
“Oh yes I tell everybody I was a only a child and was just one when I started. I come from Co Tipperary and grew up on a farm in a small village near Tipperary town called Bansha.
My father was a farmer and my mother looked after the house and took care of us and I went to school in Tipperary town and I have lived in Tipperary all of my life and still do. There was always music in our house.
As well as farming my father was a musician and played the saxophone and the fiddle and he played in a local band along with his brother, my uncle, and they played around the place in a local scene way back. When he married my mother he gave up the band because he did not want to be gone at night when she was alone with us children.
Music was always in the house and my mother was very musical too. She played the piano and both of them sang, so we grew up with little music sessions and little singsongs that were just part of growing up in our house and it was very much encouraged.
There were six children, three girls and three boys with my two sisters being the oldest, so me and my brothers were in the middle at the one time and we always seemed to be singing doing local talent competitions and concerts and the local pubs. All the family can sing but it was with my brothers that we ended up doing it for a living.”
Who influenced your music at the very start?
“We did Irish folk music, American folk music and some ballads. I was always a huge fan of Judith Durham of the Seekers from Australia and their albums were always there in the house. I used to sing a lot of their songs from as long as far back as I can remember. My mother probably bought them at some stage but I loved them so I sang a lot of those songs when I was with the Morrisseys who I was with in the beginning.
My first single when I was launching my country band and two of my brothers were with me in the band, was the song The Night Daniel O’Donnell Came To Town. It was about Daniel but it was written for me by Nick McCarty based on the song The Day Hank Williams Came To Town, with the words changed to be about Daniel. That was my first country single in 1988. It was huge at the time and my band was launched on The Late Late Show.
This was a big thing for me fronting my new country band because in the folk group I would have taken a back seat a little bit and I never spoke on stage or did any announcing as the lead singing was shared within the folk group but I made up for it since as I had to do it then fronting my own band.
Our first gig with the band was at Barry’s hotel in Dublin and it was the third of March 1988, that was the very first gig we did. We had a huge crowd that night, the place was packed which was brilliant for a new band”.
Louise has toured the world and worked with so many stars including legends like Kris Kristofferson.
“Oh yes that was very very good and that came about as a promoter called Leo I had worked for over in Newfoundland.
I had gone out there as Louise Morrissey and had done some shows for him and we had been out there before with the Morrisseys but now he was bringing Kris Kristofferson to St John’s in Newfoundland as part of his Canadian tour and they wanted an opening act He was doing it solo with just an acoustic guitar and no band and they wanted somebody for the opening spot who could do the same thing so I was offered the job and I jumped at it.
I went along with my guitar and I did it and it was fantastic. It was daunting and all that but it was really great and the audiences went along with it and gave me a great welcome and we had a ball. Of course he is a lovely man, a very very nice man so that was a career highlight alright.
Over the years I got to work with a lot of lovely people. I worked with Charlie Pride in the early days with the band again and we did a week in Ireland and three weeks on tour in the UK. He was an absolute gentleman and we had great fun on that tour and it was a great opportunity for me to get a leg in to the UK.
I then spent a lot of time over the years with Dominic Kiirwan doing tours of the UK. Then another highlight was the Queens of Country tours; there were various versions but the one with Billie Joe Spears, Philomena Begley Jennie Seely and Lynn Anderson. It was lovely to work with these great ladies and of course Philomena has been friends with us for years and has stayed in my house many times. You get to meet and make friends and it is great to work with so many of these great people”.
I asked Louise if she had noticed a recent revival in interest in Country Music in Ireland?
“Country music has always been there with people like me celebrating 30 years and Philomena celebrating 55 years and Mick Flavin, John Hogan and others have been there for a long time but now there is a new young audience that is out there that is following Nathan Carter and Cliona Hagan and others and it is great to see it but we are all still out there working and are not necessarily getting the young people as we have our own audience but it is very good and it keeps the whole industry going”.
Any special plans to celebrate the anniversary?
“We have lots of nice things coming up for the celebration year with some concerts coming with some special guests. On the 31 of March I’m going to be in the Gleneagle Ballroom in Killarney and on Sunday April 1st, which is Easter Sunday I’m in the Middleton Park Hotel and on Easter Monday I’m in Hotel Minela in Clonmel in Tipperary.
I will be in England later in the year as part of the Stars of Irish Country going across England and Scotland also we are going to America with Gary Gamble (AKA Daniel O’Double) for seven dates on the east coast and we will be in the UK around St Patrick’s weekend with Derek Ryan.
I am also going to Spain with Jimmy Buckley and I then I will be doing some shows in Newfoundland. But there is a great music scene in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and we always love being there. It all sounds very Jet set”.
At this rate with all these shows will you still be entertaining audiences for another 30 years.
“Oh I will if I live long enough but it has been great and not only did I get to work with a lot of great people and make friends along the way but the fans have been great supporting me for 30 years. We would all be sitting at home without them”. Here’s to Louise Morrisey’s next thirty years, hoping she will continue to be there for us for many more decades to come.