Star chat! Camille O’Sullivan: Unveiling the soul of music

Camille O’Sullivan, the enigmatic Irish singer known for her powerful voice and captivating performances, recently invited me on a journey through her stream of consciousness and the heart of music. With her soulful interpretations and captivating stage presence, Camille O’Sullivan ‘s musical adventure knows no bounds, seamlessly blending rock, theatre, and storytelling into a mesmerising experience.

When you connect two passionate women over the phone — one Irish and one Italian — the result is nothing short of explosive. Our interview, initially planned for just 20 minutes, ended up stretching over an hour, delving into a multitude of topics. From cherished musical memories and iconic figures to discussions about fencing and song-writing, our conversation covered a wide array of subjects. Yet, amidst it all, one thing became abundantly clear: Camille O’Sullivan possesses an unmatched fiery spirit and an incredible warmth that exudes a star-like quality, making her instantly likable.

 

Camille O'Sullivan

Q: You mentioned how romantic-era music and the raw energy of rock and roll inspire your songs. Can you explain how these influences shape your music?

Camille: Absolutely! The romantic vibes and the pure essence of rock and roll have always resonated with me. While bands like Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran were rocking the charts with heavily produced sounds, I’ve always been drawn to the raw simplicity of rock. It’s like The Prisoners, who make music with just a guitar and bass, keeping it real and honest. My music is about stripping away the layers and letting the soul of the music shine through.

Camille O'Sullivan

Q: Your performances are often described as unique and mesmerising. What inspires your special style?

Camille: I draw inspiration from a mix of artists, like Nick Cave and David Bowie. Each song I perform becomes a part of me, infused with my own feelings and experiences. Whether it’s a haunting ballad or an electrifying rock anthem, I aim to take the audience on a journey, making them feel every note and every word.

Q: How do you approach song-writing, especially when you’re interpreting songs by other artists?

Camille: Writing lyrics is like pouring out my heart onto paper. It’s personal and intuitive, letting the words flow naturally. When I sing other artists’ songs, I aim to capture the essence of the original while adding my own twist. It’s about bringing the music to life on stage, making it my own.

Q: Your performances have gained worldwide acclaim. How do you connect with the audience and express your emotions during live shows?

Camille: Performing is like therapy for me. I pour all my emotions into every song, immersing myself in the moment. I want to create a connection with the audience, inviting them into my world. Whether it’s joy, sadness, or passion, I want them to feel it too.

 

Q: Looking back on your career, what have been some memorable moments or challenges?

Camille: Like any artist, I’ve faced doubts and uncertainties. The loss of musical legends like David Bowie and Leonard Cohen hit me hard, making me question my path. But these challenges have also been opportunities for growth. It’s about staying true to myself and my vision, no matter what.

Camille O'Sullivan

Last December, I found myself singing at Shane McGowan’s funeral alongside my dear friend Mundy. It was a bittersweet moment as I bid farewell to my friend whom I deeply respected and cherished. However, when they asked us to perform “Haunted” by Sinead O’Connor, I was taken aback. The song held such profound meaning, and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the responsibility.

 

Q: What are your feelings about returning to the stage after the pandemic?

Camille: It’s been quite a journey, hasn’t it? With Covid shaking up our lives, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. Personally, I’ve felt a bit like a lost soul, especially after being away from the stage for two years. Last year, I found solace in hula-hooping, but now I’m delving deeper into my artistic self. I’m exploring new ways to connect with audiences, engaging in more conversations during gigs. It’s a time of reflection and transformation for me. I want to express my gratitude and love to both the people who have supported me and the artists who have inspired me, like Shane and Bowie, as well as the remarkable women in my life, including my daughter.

I love performing gigs in churches, such as London’s Union Chapel on 8th March, because every part of the venue feels like a stage, and people seem to feel more spiritually connected.

I get nervous before every concert. Someone once told me that I seem like a scared mouse pacing at the back of the stage, but as soon as I step to the front, I transform into a confident tiger. It’s as if I have to become a fierce animal to overcome my fears. Every song is different, and I aim to take each person in the audience on an emotional journey. Like my heritage—half French, half Irish — darkness and light are significant. Life has its tough moments and its wonders, and we embrace them all. As Nick Cave used to say, Irish people have a dark sense of humour.

Camille O'Sullivan

There’s a concept in Spanish culture called “duende.” Duende is an elusive quality in artistic expression, characterised by intense emotion, rawness, and authenticity. It goes beyond technical skill, captivating audiences with its profound emotional depth. It involves tapping into deep emotions and channeling them through art, creating a powerful connection with the audience. It’s the magic that happens when an artist is fully engaged in their craft, evoking strong emotional responses from those who witness it.

My mother used to joke, “I’m glad you’re not fully French; you’d be too serious.” Being open and vulnerable on stage is crucial for me as a performer. In my personal life, I often feel uncertain, but being on stage is therapeutic. The joy of music unlocks something within me. I feel most present when performing in front of an audience, despite any fear I may have. It allows me to embody all the qualities I aspire to — more sexy, more funny, more open, more free — like a child. I see that same freedom in my daughter, and it’s something I’ve lost in my own life. But when I sing with the band, I feel the power of people. I like to embrace people through songs and give hugs after the show.

Rock ‘n’ roll, to me, is about being wild, feral and untamed. Let’s dance and sing until my time on this earth is over.

Q: Besides music, you’ve explored architecture and acting. How have these experiences shaped your artistry?

Camille: Each experience has added to my artistic journey. Architecture taught me about structure and design, while acting allowed me to explore different emotions. It’s all about storytelling and expression, enriching my performances on stage.

Q: What’s next for you, both personally and professionally?

Camille: I’m excited to keep sharing my music with the world, exploring new creative ventures. Personally, I’m focused on nurturing my relationships, especially with my daughter, and finding balance in life. Whether I’m on stage or at home, I want to embrace each moment and stay true to my passions.

 

Raunchy and dangerously fragile with an exceptional voice, Camille O’Sullivan is a courageous and singular performer, one of the most gifted interpreters of narrative songs about loss, love, joy, light, and darkness.

Camille O’Sullivan will perform in the stunning surroundings of London’s Union Chapel on 8th March 2024.

Tickets here: https://unionchapel.org.uk/whats-on/camille-osullivan

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