By Eileen Murphy
Some advice: you wouldn’t want to meet the Corrs if you were having a bad hair day. The four singing siblings from Dundalk, Co. Louth, are about as good looking in person as they are in their publicity stills, which is to say, they are pretty good-looking. All the high cheekbones, artfully tousled hair and toned, slinky physiques would make even a supermodel check her mirror to see if she had lipstick on her teeth.
But for all their physical perfection, Sharon, Caroline, Andrea and Jim Corr seem like a nice, normal family who just happen to have a major record deal, two top-selling albums and an ever-increasing worldwide fan base. Lounging in a conference room at Atlantic Records’ midtown headquarters last week, they seemed at once calm and excited about doing their first major American tour.
"We’re really hoping to break through here in the states," said Andrea, the band’s lead singer and the youngest Corr sister. "We’ve had great success all over the world, and that’s brilliant. America’s the next challenge."
A reviewer for Billboard magazine characterized their fusion of rock, pop and traditional celtic melodies as "too sophisticated for Top 40 radio." The Corrs disagree.
"It’s hard for the radio stations to know what to do with us," said elder sister, Sharon, who plays the violin and sings backup. "Everything is so formatted on radio here. We hope to break through."
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Similar but different
The Corr siblings share a strong physical resemblance, but that’s where the similarity ends. Each has a distinct personality, which translates directly to their stage performances.
Andrea, the youngest at 24, is the group’s lead singer onstage, and the band’s unofficial spokesperson offstage. She’s at once intense, direct and animated, with huge dark eyes and the world’s coolest platform shoes.
Sharon, who’s 28, has a ready smile and a breezy, casual manner. She’s quieter than Andrea, but quick to jump in with anecdotes, or to tell funny stories about the others. Middle sister Caroline, 25, who plays drums and bodhran in addition to singing backup, is reserved. She seems to take the group’s sudden celebrity with a grain of salt.
"You know, if I were to go out in Dublin one night with some friends and get drunk, the newspapers would report that I was an alcoholic," she said with amused exasperation.
"Things get taken out of context, and then they’re reported all over the place. It means you’re a bit guarded about what you do or say in public. You just have to be careful."
Jim, at 33, is the eldest sibling. Sitting in the corner of the room, he watched quietly and listened to his sisters field questions, his hands gently tapping out rhythms on the table top. His contributions, when they come, are precise and polite, but he lets his sisters do most of the talking.
"I produced three of the songs on ‘Talk on Corners,’ " he said. "We hired producers to work on the other tracks, and it was a great experience to collaborate with them, to get the best out of the songs."
What the Corrs do share is a wicked sense of humor. Asked what their fans would be surprised to know about them, Caroline confessed with mock sincerity, "Well, we’re crack addicts."
The others burst out laughing.
"Also, we mug old ladies," added Sharon.
"We’re desperate criminals," offered Andrea.
Jim just grinned.
"But we’re mostly crack addicts," laughed Caroline.
Make that craic addicts.
The road to rock stardom has been a long one for the Corrs, who formed the band in 1990 in order to audition for the Alan Parker film "The Commitments."
"We all wound up in the film," noted Sharon wryly. "But it’s hard to find us. Except for her." She jerked her head towards Andrea, who seemed a little embarrassed.
Andrea, who had played younger sister Sharon Rabbitte in the film, rolled her eyes as she acknowledged that her most memorable line in the film had been a withering "Go and shite."
"I was also in ‘Evita,’ " she added. "But I don’t have plans to do any more movies at the moment. None of us do."
"We’re simply too busy," said Caroline.
"Busy" is an understatement. When the Corrs finish their American tour at the end of this month, they go straight into a UK tour, which includes headlining at London’s Wembley Stadium. After a short Christmas break, they’ll begin work on a new CD, which is due out next year.
"We write all our own songs," Sharon said.
Musical talent runs in the family. The Corrs’ parents sang and played instruments, performing in bars and clubs while holding down what Sharon called, "regular daytime jobs."
Jim occasionally played guitar in his parents’ act, which led to a career as a session musician. Though none of the siblings take credit for coming up with the idea of forming a band, the sisters say that the idea originated with him.
"Andrea and myself were just teenagers, and we didn’t have a clue what we wanted to do with ourselves," recalled Caroline, laughing. "We didn’t know anything about being in a band. It just seemed natural."
Added Andrea, "We just fell into it."
At the "Commitments" audition, the Corrs met John Hughes, who signed on as their manager. Their deal with Atlantic Records came during a trip to New York City two years ago.
"We were here looking for a record deal, and John thought we should see [12-time Grammy Award-winning producer] David Foster, but we couldn’t get an appointment," Andrea said. "We were sitting in our hotel room, wondering what to do, knowing that we were leaving for Ireland the next day.
"Then we heard that he was at the Hit Factory, at a recording session with Michael Jackson. John came up with a plan."
The Corrs dressed in their coolest clothes, grabbed their instruments, and followed their manager over to the recording studio. Hughes coolly informed the guard at the front desk that they had come to see Foster.
Andrea still marvels at Hughes’s nerve.
"We didn’t have an appointment or anything," John said, "We’re there to see David Foster. They never thought to ask if he was supposed to see us."
"We walked into the building, and there were loads of big security guards all over the place," Sharon recalled.
"David must have been curious, so he came out to see us. We immediately played him, "XXXX" from ‘Talk on Corners,’ and then we performed an acoustic version of ‘XXXXX’ on the piano right there in the studio."
Foster, a keen judge of talent, liked what he saw. The next day, the Corrs had a major record deal.
Family, professional relationships
The Corrs consider their close family relationship to be the glue that holds the group together.
"When we were starting out, it was really hard," Caroline said. "We were younger then, and of course we fought. Then there was the pressure of being in a struggling band."
Jim, who had been quiet so far, broke in.
"I don’t know if we’d have stayed together as a band if we hadn’t been related," he said.
Andrea nodded in agreement.
"But we’re older now, and we’ve learned to separate the family relationship from the professional one."
Sharon smiled at this.
"I think we’ve learned to see each other as people rather than as family," she said slowly. "We appreciate each other more; we recognize that each of us is a person with an individual talent."
The group seems unperturbed that people, particularly the music press, seem to focus a great deal on the Corrs’ good looks.
"It’s flattering," Andrea said, laughing. Caroline added, "It’s always nice to hear that people like your looks."
"It wouldn’t be good if our looks were the whole point of the articles, rather than the music," Sharon said.
"Because the music’s the point," Andrea said. "And I think that when people see us live now, and hear the music, they like it.
"And since we don’t have to prove anything — musically — anymore," she added impishly, "we figure it’s just showbiz."
"And we’re appreciative," Caroline said, laughing.
None of the band members is married, though Caroline and Sharon have steady boyfriends.
"That means Jim and I are available!" Andrea said, much to her brother’s embarrassment. She dissolved in giggles as her sisters shook their heads at her.
An impromptu photo session on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan underscores the band’s casual attitude toward their image. A quick lipstick touch-up, a couple of flicks with the hairbrush, and the three sisters were ready to head downstairs with their brother, a photographer and a publicist.
As they posed in a tight group, with Radio City in the background, even jaded New York passersby paused to take a look. The Corrs smiled pleasantly throughout the shoot — seasoned veterans in front of the camera.
When the shoot was over, the Corr siblings gathered around the publicist, retrieving handbags and making plans to meet in a couple of hours.
Sharon and Caroline were off on a quick shopping trip, Jim and Andrea were on their way to the Mercury Lounge, where the band had a show that night.
"Sound checks for me," Andrea explains, wrinkling her nose. "Sound checks," she repeated with a sigh and a grin.
A young man with sandy red hair and a beard ambled by.
"I’m a big fan," he called out in an English accent. "You’re great!"
The Corrs smiled and waved at him.
"I’ve got tickets to see you in Newcastle next month," he continued. He waved and walked on.
"That’s great," Andrea said, smiling. "It’s so cool to hear stuff like that."