High note

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Niamh Kavanagh | The Shape I’m In - Irene Feighan

BE­FORE Ni­amh Ka­vanagh un­der­went surgery on Jan­uary 31 for an on­go­ing prob­lem with her thy­roid, she sounded as if she was asth­matic. “I just couldn’t get enough oxy­gen in,” she says. “It was weird be­cause I was ac­tu­ally fine.”

Eight months af­ter the op­er­a­tion at the Royal Vic­to­ria Hospi­tal in Belfast, the for­mer Euro­vi­sion win­ner in in fine form. But re­tun­ing her “in­stru­ment” is an on­go­ing process.

“I’m not go­ing to say it was easy. Some­times when I was train­ing back up sounds came out of my mouth I didn’t even know I could make.

“For some­one like me who has al­ways been in com­plete con­trol of my in­stru­ment — even at the height of a cold — psy­cho­log­i­cally it can throw you a lit­tle bit.”

An en­larged goitre had stretched the mus­cles in her throat over the years. “Like any­thing, if you haven’t used a mus­cle for a while you need to re­train it.

“Some­times I can soar beau­ti­fully — all those notes that were so easy for me in my 20s are start­ing to come back but I’m not al­ways as sure yet — I would imag­ine in an­other four or five months I’ll be in full voice again.”

Mar­ried to mu­si­cian Paul Me­ga­hey, they have two chil­dren, Jack, 16, and Tom, 14, and live in Car­rick­fer­gus, Co Antrim.

She de­scribes her­self as a “feeder” and loves to cook. It’s a skill that brought her na­tional at­ten­tion when she won TV3’s Celebrity Masterchef ear­lier this year. But she has no plans to write her own cook­ery book. “I’m never un­der any il­lu­sion where my tal­ent is. I love to sing and I never want to be for­got­ten for that.”

The Il­le­gals with Ni­amh Ka­vanagh cel­e­brate the 40th an­niver­saries of Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nia by The Ea­gles and Ru­mours by Fleet­wood Mac at the Every­man, Cork, Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 21. See: ev­ery­man­cork.com

What shape are you in?

I haven’t been that hard on my­self [since the op­er­a­tion] As a re­sult I’m car­ry­ing a bit of weight. In gen­eral, I’m rea­son­ably fit be­cause I walk ev­ery day — I usu­ally walk at least five miles and I do big walks ev­ery now and then which I love.

What are your health­i­est eat­ing habits?

I eat a lot of fresh pro­duce. I cook a lot from scratch. I love fish. I drink a lot of water, es­pe­cially when I’m work­ing.

What’s your guilty plea­sure?

I love my but­ter. I don’t care what any­one says. Usu­ally, it’s Ker­ry­gold. And I can’t live with­out Barry’s Tea — the Classic blend in the brown box.

What would keep you awake at night?

Some­times when I’ve got a lot of work on my brain gets re­ally busy at night. I sit down and make a list and gen­er­ally that helps me.

Who would you in­vite to your dream din­ner party?

Terry Pratch­ett — I love his books, his hu­mour, his wis­dom. I like peo­ple who make me laugh, like Sandi Toksvig or Myles Jupp, and singer/song­writer Bon­nie Raitt.

What’s your favourite smell?

If I’ve been trav­el­ling a lot I get very ex­cited about a rasher sand­wich when I come home.

What would you like to change about your ap­pear­ance?

I hate my fa­cial hair. As I get older it be­comes more of an is­sue to me. I deal with it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. I keep look­ing at laser and look­ing at this that and the other but some­times I find I can’t be both­ered. Mostly, I’m rea­son­ably happy with my­self. Sure I could be taller, I could be thin­ner, but ac­tu­ally, I gave up on that a long time ago.

When is the last time you cried?

I don’t cry of­ten in life but I cry co­pi­ously at movies. I cried last sum­mer be­cause my youngest sis­ter, who was born when I was 15 years old, texted me to say she’d got en­gaged. They had just trav­elled all over the world but they got en­gaged on a beach, near Ros­beg in Co Done­gal, that I love to walk with her.

What traits do you least like about oth­ers?

I don’t like un­kind­ness or mean­ness.

What are the traits you least like about your­self?

I don’t like the fact that I can be quite cut­ting. When I was younger if you an­noyed me I could hurt you ver­bally. I gen­er­ally don’t do it now be­cause I am aware of it.

Do you pray?

I have faith. I won’t say I’m an avid church­goer. I love the com­fort that I’ve never been alone in my life. It’s one of the great­est gifts my par­ents have given to me.

What cheers up your day?

I am eas­ily cheered up. I like any­thing that makes me happy, that makes me smile. I ac­tively seek it and en­cour­age.

‘My brain gets re­ally busy at night’

Pic­ture: Brian McEvoy

GREAT OUT­DOORS: Ni­amh Ka­vanagh stays fit by walk­ing at least five miles ev­ery day.

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