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Eleanor McEvoy Biography

Last updated: 12/08/2011 11:00:00 AM

From the lilting pop melodies of "Where is the Healing" and "A Glass Unkissed" to the hook-laden chorus and expressive guitar solo of "Trapped Inside," Eleanor McEvoy's second album and Columbia Records debut, WHAT'S FOLLOWING ME?, powerfully chronicles the pain and frustration of everyday life; "A fun day isn't going to compel me to write a song. When I'm devastated by something, that's when I like to write," says McEvoy. "I think music is a very important part of the healing process. Hopefully people can hear something in my songs that they can relate to and will make them feel better about whatever their personal situation is."

Eleanor is Irish and proud of her Celtic roots, but her enormous rock energy and emotion and passionate melodies have more in common with Aimee Mann or R.E.M. and her insightful narratives are more inspired by her favorite performers Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen than by chanteys and pennywhistles. Co-produced by McEvoy, WHAT'S FOLLOWING ME? fuses spirited rock 'n' roll with the age-old genre of classical music. Songs like "Whisper a Prayer to the Moon" and "Sleepless" make use of strings, harpsichord and harp to create the desired mood. "I love the art of songwriting, and I love fusing different genres of music" she says.

And unlike many performers who rely on professional arrangers to garnish their songs with classical elements, McEvoy calls on her own expertise acquired from years of formal training as an academic musician and as a violinist in the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. "When I write a song I just do it from the heart. I do it the way I hear it in my head. Then I write it down and look at the specific chord changes to see if it's structurally okay. That's where my classical training comes in. When I want to use strings, I write the parts out myself, so I don't have to give up any control."

Eleanor was born in Dublin, and from an early age expressed a keen interest in music. When she was four, she started piano lessons. "I remember that at the time I had a ridiculous fascination with "Cecilia" by Simon and Garfunkel. I used to hound my father to put that song on, and he got fed up with it. So one day he went and put it on a loop tape, so when it ended it would start over. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. He came home at lunch time, and I was still sitting there listening to it."

At age six, McEvoy took up the violin and developed a deep love for classical music when she joined the Jr. Irish Youth Orchestra at age 13. After high school she went to music college and worked in pit orchestras on the side. After college, she was accepted to the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, which she played with for four years until she decided to pursue a career in pop music.

How does Eleanor explain her switch from a classical diva to a full-fledged pop rocker? "I hate snobbery in music. Music is something that's so good and all encompassing. When classical musicians look down at rock musicians I say to them, 'You couldn't busk "Happy Birthday" if I paid you. You just read what's written in front of you. You could teach a monkey to do that.' Then when my rock friends insult classical music I tell them, 'You don't know what's involved. They're playing some of the finest music on this planet.'"

Eleanor McEvoy achieved star status in Ireland in 1992 when her song "Only A Woman's Heart" inspired the title for, and appeared on, the A WOMAN'S HEART anthology album. It has since gone on to become the best selling album in Irish history (even eclipsing records by Van Morrison and U2). The album stayed in the Top 10 for over a year (and in fact still remains in the charts to this day). Eleanor was awarded the Irish Record Industry Award for Best New Artist in 1992, and the Irish National Entertainment Award for Best New Artist in 1993. Hot Press, the
influential Irish rock-and-roll magazine, name her Best Solo Performer (1992) and Best Song Writer (1993).

In Ireland, the anthemic "A Woman's Heart" pigeon-holed McEvoy as a folkie-feminist. Nothing could be further from the truth. "I really don't want to be thought of as political," she says. "I'm kind of wary of rock musicians coming out and making heavy political statements because I often feel they have a forum that they shouldn't have. I'm just trying to take little photographs of things that are going on around me," she explains. "I never sit down to write from a woman's point of view, but I'm a woman so that's the way I see the world."

1994 saw the world-wide release of Eleanor McEvoy her major label debut on Geffen Records. With that CD she built a firm base of fans and sales through several international radio hits, including "Apologise" and a re-recorded version of "Only A Woman's Heart". Hot Press placed it among the top debuts of that year. Other highlights around her debut CD included two sold-out shows at the Bottom Line, an appearance on the popular Vince Scelsa radio program "Idiot's Delight," along with extensive touring of the states, Europe, and the far east. Her band has recently performed for 80,000 people gathered in Dublin to hear the US President speak, and rocked an audience of 60,000 in the Ukraine.

In her homeland, McEvoy is already a pop superstar. WHAT'S FOLLOWING ME? should earn her similar recognition in America. From the wistful beauty of "Don't Ask Me Why" to the rousing glory of "Biochemistry," Eleanor has created a poignant record that spans nations, generations and genres. "A great record is like a good friend," she concludes. "It's like somebody you can talk to, who understands you when you're down. Maybe that 'friend' is Loudon Wainwright III, Edith Piaf or R.E.M. But it's someone who can heal the hurt, and that's what's really important."