Rhi­an­non Gid­dens

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Upfront - In con­ver­sa­tion with Hi­lary Fen­nell

As a kid I would sit at school dances and play check­ers. I was a book­worm, a nerd, as we say in the States. I loved sci-fi and fan­tasy and, yes, I watched Star Trek and learned how to code way be­fore it was ‘cool’. First, I wanted to be an an­i­ma­tor for Dis­ney and then a physi­cist. At school, I con­cen­trated on sci­ence and maths and tech­nol­ogy and it wasn’t un­til I went to a camp for cho­ral mu­sic that I re­alised that they were not for me. I spent five years at Ober­lin Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic in north­ern Ohio learn­ing how to read and sing clas­si­cal mu­sic, and be­came quite ad­dicted to opera. My ear­li­est mem­ory of singing is with my fam­ily. My fa­ther was a singer and I sang a lot with him and my sis­ter; his whole side is mu­si­cal. My mother is very much a mu­sic con­nois­seur and ex­posed us to lots of dif­fer­ent mu­sic, from Queen to An­dre Se­govia. My ‘work life’ bal­ance isn’t great. I work too much and I’m try­ing to slow it down a lit­tle. When I’m not work­ing I’m with my kids. I do feel the strain, for sure. I’m not great at pre­par­ing for things far in ad­vance, but I sure can light the fire when the dead­line is com­ing up. When I’m not with my kids, I do noth­ing but think about mu­sic and his­tory and my mis­sion... The best ad­vice I ever re­ceived is to do noth­ing for money, power, or pres­tige - this way lies mad­ness. My mother told me that years ago — ba­si­cally, do what is right and what is right for you, and the rest will fol­low. The trait I ad­mire in other peo­ple is hon­esty, with a big dose of kind­ness. Hon­esty with­out kind­ness is bru­tal. I think my main fault is fear – to be afraid of what some­one will say, or think …I’m work­ing on it. We are all works in progress. My idea of hap­pi­ness is do­ing what I’m do­ing with a bit more free time. I’d love to learn to make bet­ter yeast bread, or how to weave. But for the most part, I’m happy — I’m do­ing what I love and have won­der­ful chil­dren and re­la­tion­ships. My big­gest chal­lenge in life so far has been step­ping into my fullest self. It’s a very scary thing. But we were all given gifts, ev­ery one of us, and the best thing we can do is to cel­e­brate them as things we were given, and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for them, and not think it’s all about us. I’m a lark for sure. My brain shuts down in the evening - I can play and sing but do­ing any kind of cre­ative func­tion or larger scale think­ing is tough for me. My idea of misery is do­ing what you hate, day in, day out. Liv­ing for 5 o’clock. Or 12 or for the end of the tour, or what­ever it is. This is the only life we have – we have to make it count as much as we can. En­dur­ing some­thing for a short amount of time is part of the gig, but years of do­ing some­thing you hate just to make the money or make the par­ents happy or what­ever is just so sad to me. I’ve done my share of it and I just won’t any­more. If you love serv­ing cof­fee, serve cof­fee — doesn’t mat­ter what it is long as you can keep body and soul to­gether and it makes you happy, and adds to the good in the world. If money wasn’t an is­sue I’d travel…. to Morocco, Si­cily, back to the He­brides... Brazil. I would just go and eat and lis­ten to mu­sic and watch peo­ple and then go to the next place, rinse and re­peat. It’s funny to think I would travel, when I travel for a liv­ing — but I rarely see much of the places I go. It’s the back of the venue and the bus or the plane, and when I have a day off on tour I’m usu­ally so tired, I just sleep. The thing I find most ir­ri­tat­ing about other peo­ple is when they lie to them­selves and then make the peo­ple around them mis­er­able be­cause of it.A lit­tle tal­ent with a lot of am­bi­tion will usu­ally go far­ther than a lit­tle am­bi­tion but a lot of tal­ent. If I could be re­born as some­one else for a day I’d be a craftsper­son – an il­lu­mi­nated parch­ment monk, or gold­smith, or Chi­nese cal­ligraphist — whose only re­spon­si­bil­ity is mak­ing vis­ual art. So far life has taught me that every­thing changes, yet noth­ing is new.

Rhi­an­non Gid­dens will per­form live in ■ con­cert on Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 28 at the Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sligo with special guests Liz Car­roll and Séan Óg Gra­ham (Beoga). Ticket, €28, are on sale from www.sligo­live.ie and from the Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sligo (071 916 1518) or in per­son

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