Denise Nolan told David Hennessy about releasing her debut album many years after she left The Nolans to go solo and decades after it was recorded.
Forty three years since Denise Nolan left the singing sister act to pursue a solo career in 1978, she is releasing her debut album.
Denise describes For You My Love as a “total labour of love,” recorded as an ode to Frank Sinatra, who she had the honour of touring with back in 1975.
The album has got many 5 star reviews with Daily Express saying, ‘Her vocals on each track will cause your hair to stand up. How it’s taken this long for Denise to release these musical masterpieces is beyond me, but good things come to those who wait.”
Daily Mirror said: “For You My Love will transport you to places beyond your wildest dreams.”
Daily Star added: “Denise’s time to shine is now. After spending decades in the industry, the spotlight is finally on her.”
Denise recorded the album after leaving The Nolan Sisters but thinking the landscape of the time would not be interested in her takes on classic ballads, the songs went unreleased.
It was only when she sang Every Time We Say Goodbye on The Nolans Go Cruising, that her version of the song would become an iTunes going to number three in the charts.
When she was asked if she had any material recorded, she revealed she had a collection of songs all ready to go.
Denise told The Irish World: “It was an album I made 35 years ago.
“It was just after I left the act.
“We made it, sold our house to finance it and then shoved it on the back burner because no one was interested.
“And I never regretted it (not releasing it), even though we’d listen to it now and again and think, ‘It’s a shame we never got that off the ground’.
“So for it to come out at such a late time, the fact that it’s done well is just amazing, because it was from the heart.”
But why was it not released all that time ago? “We didn’t know any record companies. I wanted to do it. Maybe we didn’t know anybody to bring it to.
“We just wanted to do it. We never thought about it being released but we didn’t know anybody to give it to.
“I’d never got a chance to sing the music I love and it was just something to have of the music I love.
“We didn’t plan for it to be a hit. We did it because we love the music.
“In the back of your mind you think, ‘What if it was released?’
“But we didn’t hold out much hope for it.
“It just sat on the back burner for such a long time.
“Until Dermot (McNamara, manager/agent) said, ‘Have you got anything worth bringing out?’
“And I said, ‘Well, I’ve got one album I did years ago.
“And now, years later, it’s amazing. My family are just so chuffed for me. The reviews it’s gotten have been amazing.”
Does this release feel different to other releases Denise has been involved with for being completely hers?
“I chose all the songs. With Tom’s help, we put together a band- Tom’s my partner.
“I was heavily involved in it and I think there is a sense of achievement in that definitely.
“Whereas with the other stuff we were told what to sing, how to sing it.”
The album includes tributes to Sinatra. Denise remembers when The Nolans toured with him.
“When I left the act, people said, ‘Do you miss the girls?’
“And yes, I missed the girls. We were very close.
“I missed harmony singing. I was good at singing. I could move but I was slow at learning dance routines. That was a killer for me. I could do it but it took longer.
“But I would have slit my throat if I missed the Sinatra tour because he was my god since before I could walk.
“I left three years after the Sinatra tour and that’s the greatest thing that ever happened to us and the girls will agree because we’re all Sinatra daft.
“So to work with him was just beyond belief.
“I was struck dumb and as you can tell, that doesn’t happen to me often,” she laughs.
And indeed Denise loves to chat. So what was he actually like to Sinatra to hang out with? “I wouldn’t say that we hung out with him.
“I’d love to say, ‘Ah Frankie, come on..’
“But we didn’t hang out with him because the minute the shows finished, they put a towel around him and he was off in a taxi to the airport.
“There were fans outside waiting. I would say, ‘He’s gone’.
“And they wouldn’t believe us. I said, ‘I promise you he leaves straight after the show’.
“But the first night we met him he walked in and I thought, ‘I’m not going to be one of these stupid fans’.
“I was going to say, ‘It’s an understatement to say I’m pleased to meet you’.
“And he came up and said, ‘You girls were great. We’re gonna have a great night’.
“I went, ‘Hrrr… Errr… Hmm..’
“I couldn’t think of anything.
“You meet your heroes and I was just totally struck dumb.
“He used to say every night- He was flanked by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton one time- ‘How did it go tonight, girls?’
“And we would tell him it was fine.
“And he laid on a white limousine for the whole tour for us because he said, ‘I’m not having those young ladies traveling with the band’.
“So he couldn’t have been nicer. But he could have spat at me and I would still love him.”
Someone far closer to home is also paid tribute to in the album’s notes and that is Denise’s mother Maureen who used to sing the song A Song in my Heart which Denise includes in the album.
Does Denise think of those not here to hear this album? “Yes, my mum and my dad in particular because my dad was known as Ireland’s Frank Sinatra, and it was through him I got my love of Sinatra, but my mother used to sing With a Song in my Heart.
“So yeah, that was a tribute to her.
“And obviously I always think of Bernie when I’m doing anything because she was an amazing talent.
“It was such a tragedy for the world, not just for us, that she died so young because she had so much to give.”
Bernie Nolan died in 2013 at the age of 52 from cancer.
The Nolan family has just endured two awful years with Linda and Anne both being diagnosed with cancer at the start of the pandemic. They had just returned from filming reality show The Nolans Go Cruising.
Anne would later get the all clear after treatment but Linda’s news was not so good as her cancer is incurable.
“Linda lives five doors down from me but since she got ill, she lives with me.
“I make a joke. Sometimes. If I’m doing the dinner, she’ll say, ‘What can I do for you? Can I do anything for you?’
“I say, Yes, leave’.
“She finds that really funny.
“But she’s lived with us for maybe two years.
“But she’s amazing. She hates people saying she’s amazing.
“She says she has no choice.
“It (the last two years) has been horrendous.
“Anne is in remission, but Linda is still going through it. But hopefully she can go through it for years.
“And then luckily, we didn’t lose anyone to Covid. A lot of people lost people.
“We’re lucky that we didn’t lose anybody.
“It was a couple of very hard years.
“But it has for everybody. So many people have had an awful couple of years. So we try and keep positive.”
Denise nods in agreement straight away when The Irish World say, while it has been rough these last two years also saw great times with the sisters filming the second series of Nolans Go Cruising and At Home with the Nolans.
These would see Denise reunite with her sisters for the first time in decades.
“It was definitely great. It’s well written that we fell out for a few years, Anne and I against the girls. We decided to just forget it.
“You know, we love each other. That’s the main thing. And we don’t even talk about it. It was something and nothing.
“It must have been four or five years we didn’t talk to each other.
“We made friends with Bernie and Maureen much sooner than we did with Coleen and Linda.
“We wanted to move on and then I sent Coleen a message for Tom’s 70th birthday.
“I said, ‘Look, do you wanna come?’ And that was the end of it.
“But we don’t talk about what upset us. People say, ‘Get together in a room and trash it out’.
“I never believe in that because if you both think you’re right, you end up punching each other and it will be worse than ever.
“Move on. You love each other, move on. And I say that to anybody who’s had rows with family.
“Don’t try and patch it up, be an adult about it, you love them, move on and that’s what we’ve done. And we’re closer than ever now.
“You say hurtful things you wish you hadn’t said but hopefully it’s- No, it is forgotten now.
“So to be able to spend time with Coleen- who I don’t see a lot of anyway because she lives in Manchester, the rest of us all live around the corner from each other- after the few years we weren’t talking and after the problems we’ve had in the family, it was just lovely. Yeah, to laugh and joke. It was. We were very lucky in that way.
“We definitely count our blessings.”
The sisters have been searching for their long lost sibling. Has there been any update there? “Not really. Coleen had a message from a woman who showed her photos of this woman who was on a documentary and she said she was the absolute image of me.
“And Coleen took a look at the photos and said, ‘Oh, my God, it’s like looking at you, Denise. She’s the same age as you’.
“And we think our sister would have been my age but the woman in question has died anyway. And Coleen doesn’t know whether to pursue it or not.
“So we’re still thinking about it now but on the one hand, we don’t really want to find out she’s passed away.
“But no, we haven’t found anybody yet.
“But that was as close as we got. She said she was the image of me.
“Poor thing but she would have grown out of it anyway,” she laughs.
Nolans Go Cruising saw the sisters re-examining a painful time from their childhood.
Anne and Maureen spent a long time in a convalescent home in Cabinteely.
“Anne was in it for nearly two years and Maureen for a year and a half.
“It turned out Maureen could have been out in a week or so, it was high blood they said she had.
“They both had tests when they came to England, there was nothing wrong with them.
“Anne had a slight heart murmur which they would not keep her in hospital for.
“My mum and dad were just ignorant. They were listening to the doctors and thinking, ‘The doctors must know what they’re talking about’.
“But particularly in Ireland, I have to say, the doctors and the priests were God.
“It was an awful time.
“I was dying for them to come out but when they came out, because they had been away so long, I felt a little bit pushed out and it gave me a bit of a complex: My mum didn’t love me as much as them.
“As I get older, I think I understand she maybe felt guilty about them and made more of a fuss over them.
“But at the time it hurt. That was an awful, awful time.
“I think of how long they were in hospital for nothing. Shocking.
“My mum used to go on the bus every week to see them. She didn’t drive. It’s a long way from where we lived in Dublin.
“And in those days children weren’t allowed in the hospital. The only time I saw them was special occasions like their communion or confirmation in the grounds.
“So they were like strangers when they come out really.
“It’s only as we grow up, we started to think about it.
“You push things into the back of your mind.
“Someone mentioned it. And that’s when it came out.
“It was terrible.”
Denise has played Mrs Johnston in Blood Brothers. She was the second of the sisters to play the role after Bernie. Linda and Maureen have also played the role making them Guinness World Record holders as the only four sisters to play the same role on the West End.
Denise has also played the role of Nancy in Oliver which she describes as, ‘One of the greatest female roles ever’.
She has also toured the world performing the hits of Judy Garland and won a Variety Club Legends of Industry Award.
“I’ve had some great times in my life. And I did lots of stuff I enjoyed doing.
“My mum used to say I used to stand at my cot and sing Oh My Papa to the postman at six o’clock morning.
“He would shout up, ‘Hi Denise’.
“I loved singing.
“I used to go into my act when the fridge light went on.
“I absolutely loved to sing. I wanted to be famous to the world. Never quite happened but we did okay,” she laughs.
“I think I was ten (when the family moved to Blackpool from Dublin).
“My mum and dad couldn’t make any money in Ireland. They were very well known in Ireland.
“They came over to England and started doing the clubs and they would do really well.
“It was hard getting babysitters so they would bring the three older ones with them and they would get us up to sing as a joke at first and that’s how it started really.
“And then the others joined in, you know?
“There are questions about whether we should have done it so young, but I can’t see me ever doing anything else. Even as a child, I knew I loved it.
“I have never done anything else since.”
For You My Love is out now.
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