By David Hennessy
The duo of Pauline Scanlon and John Spillane are coming to London’s Irish Cultural Centre. Dingle singer Pauline has been singing professionally since she was 15 years old and has toured extensively with Sharon Shannon and worked with Belinda Carlisle. Singer-songwriter John is a native of Cork and has won two Meteor awards. Christy Moore, Karan Casey and Cathy Ryan are among those who have covered his songs.
Pauline told The Irish World of her long time collaborator: “John is a really amazing songwriter, he’s really prolific and I’ve been singing on John’s records for a long time now. John has a really extraordinary collection of songs that he’s written.
We’re great old pals. We’ve done a lot of projects together. I’ve covered a lot of John’s songs as well.”
A singer with Sharon Shannon’s band for three years, Scanlon is also well known as one half of celebrated singing duo Lumiere with Éilís Kennedy. As a solo performer, she has built her traditional following but added enough contemporary style to attract a broader audience since her debut album Red Colour Sun in 2004.
Pauline and John are excited to be coming back to London to be part of ICC’s Blásta festival after recording John’s forthcoming album here: “Damien O’Kane, Lunasa, it’s amazing. They(the ICC)’re doing great work. We’re really excited. We’re so connected to London. It’s so much craic with this new record that John is making.”
Pauline has found herself in demand recently for her Leonard Cohen tribute show Bird on a Wire that she has been performing with the Whileaways: “The Leonard Cohen is a strange one because we got commissioned to do a set of eight Leonard Cohen songs for an event and then, for once in my life, word spread and the phone was ringing off the hook with people looking to put it on so we just four this weekend, It’s just kind of taken on a life of its own.”
Having recently played at Sligo Live with Bird on a Wire, she will take it to Dublin’s Olympia in May 31. This show has a personal connection for Pauline: “I’m so excited to play this gig. May 31st is my late mother’s birthday. She adored Leonard Cohen. She really, really loved his songs. They accompanied her through her whole life, ups and downs. I’ll miss her on this day, but it’s lovely to have someone to sing to on the night.
“I grew up listening to Leonard Cohen. It was just part of the soundtrack of my childhood really. The beautiful thing about it is when you go to do them, the room is full of people who absolutely love those songs. There’s a kind of magic that happens. I think maybe Leonard Cohen fans are special, it’s not really accessible to the masses. You have to really focus on it and the poetry of it because there’s a lot to take in. People who come to a night of Leonard Cohen songs are really listening and they know all the words. It can be very moving and very deep. It’s really nice.
“It’s kind of like I’m singing down the phone to her (my mother).”
Pauline Scanlon and John Spillane play Irish Cultural Centre on Saturday 16 November, part of the Irish Cultural Centre’s Blásta Festival which goes on through the month of November.