Sis­ters find heal­ing and love in song

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - MUSIC -

Me­abh and Mella Car­ron al­ways dreamed of mak­ing it big but a mys­tery ill­ness made their mu­si­cal bond even stronger, says Donal Lynch

THERE aren’t too many Ir­ish sis­ters who have made a real mark in the pop world. Edele and Keavy Lynch from B*witched spring to mind as ex­cep­tions, along with the Corr sis­ters, Sharon, Caro­line and An­drea. Me­abh and Mella Car­ron may not have yet achieved the same renown yet as those il­lus­tri­ous sib­lings, but their in­fec­tious pop songs and tight vo­cal har­monies have gar­nered them a huge on­line fol­low­ing and seen them de­scribed as a sort of Celtic Fleetwood Mac.

Af­ter years of per­form­ing in films and mu­si­cal theatre, the softly spo­ken Ranelagh-based sis­ters are now putting all their pas­sion into Car­ron, the group they formed with Me­abh’s boyfriend Dar­ren Mcgrath.

They are al­ready be­ing no­ticed. In April 2016, they re­leased their de­but EP en­ti­tled, Roots, which quickly shot to No.4 in the Ir­ish itunes al­bum charts, and was voted ‘Best EP of 2016’ by Pure M mag­a­zine. In the fol­low­ing months, they em­barked on their de­but Ir­ish tour through­out Dublin, Cork, Gal­way, Belfast, and Lim­er­ick, as well as a sup­port slot in Lon­don with The Coronas.

Now they are ready to em­bark on a se­ries of gigs which they hope will bur­nish their rep­u­ta­tions as one of the best up-and-com­ing Ir­ish groups. And, they ex­plain to me, af­ter a dif­fi­cult few years, singing to­gether has been their ul­ti­mate ther­apy.

“We were al­ways ob­sessed with mu­sic,” Me­abh, 28, tells me over cof­fee at a city cen­tre ho­tel. “Our dad was in­volved with Coun­try FM when it started ,and when I was a lit­tle kid, I sang in Les Mis­er­ables at the Point with Colm Wilkin­son. Then I played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and An­nie at the Tivoli [Mella, 24, played Molly in the lat­ter show]. Nei­ther of us were re­ally that into school — we both wanted to be mu­si­cal stars. We both stud­ied mu­sic in col­lege. We dreamed of mak­ing it big.”

Those dreams saw Me­abh join a se­ries of bands in which she tried to find her mu­si­cal feet. In the mean­time, the younger Car­ron tried her hand at act­ing — she won small roles in Brook­lyn, which starred Saoirse Ro­nan and Domh­nall Gleeson, and in Lenny Abra­ham­son’s What Richard Did.

How­ever, in her teens, a mys­tery ill­ness stymied Mella’s promis­ing ca­reer, and caused both girls to dou­ble down on their dream of per­form­ing to­gether.

“It started when I was about 19 or 20, I just started get­ting very sick, I was in a lot of pain,” Mella re­calls. “We didn’t know what it was and the doc­tor didn’t seem to know ei­ther. It was a re­ally fright­en­ing time for the whole fam­ily.”

“She would be cry­ing in pain on the floor, scream­ing, we would have to call an am­bu­lance to get her to hos­pi­tal im­me­di­ately,” Me­abh ex­plains.

Some­times the episodes of pain would pass as quickly as they had come on. Their father be­gan to re­fer to them as ‘at­tacks’ and both sis­ters be­gan to sus­pect that there was a psy­cho­so­matic el­e­ment to the pain. “I thing there could have been a psy­cho­log­i­cal el­e­ment to it,” Mella tells me. “It seemed to be tied in with stress. I think I’m much bet­ter at deal­ing with stress now than I was then. When I was in hos­pi­tal, ev­ery­one would be like ‘what were you feel­ing bad about this time’? It was a very phys­i­cal thing, too, though — I was dosed up on mor­phine — I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on any­one. It was in my stom­ach and in my back. I lost so much weight.”

Through­out the episodes, Me­abh was there for her younger sis­ter. “A few times it’s hap­pened when I’ve been on nights out and I’m sit­ting there in the am­bu­lance with her with a few drinks on me! And I’d be think­ing, I should not be here.”

They would com­pose songs to­gether while Mella was in her hos- pital bed. “If we had a gig, I would al­ways end up in hos­pi­tal and then dis­charge my­self and just make it onto the stage for the per­for­mance,” Mella re­calls.

One song on their cur­rent EP is called Prison Ropes, with its open­ing lines, “we’re never ready for an at­tack”, ref­er­ences the dis­tress the in­ter­ludes in hos­pi­tal caused. As they con­tin­ued, Mella had her gall­blad­der re­moved — al­though they were later told that this would not solve the prob­lem. At one point, Mella went to a spe­cial­ist in Lon­don and was told she was pos­si­bly suf­fer­ing from a con­di­tion called Sphinc­ter of Oddi dys­func­tion — a prob­lem with the mus­cu­lar valve that con­trols the flow of di­ges­tive juices in the ab­domen.

“We’re still not to­tally sure if that’s what it was, be­cause the in­ves­tiga­tive surgery was it­self a bit risky and so it was de­cided not to go ahead with that,” Me­abh ex­plains. “But, touch wood, she seems to be in a much bet­ter place now.”

The group was also the cat­a­lyst for ro­mance for Me­abh — she met her boyfriend Dar­ren Mcgrath af­ter he col­lab­o­rated with the sis­ters on a num­ber of tracks. “We met him through a for­mer pro­ducer, De­nis Kielty. (Dar­ren) had recorded on five or six of our tracks be­fore I even met him,” Me­abh ex­plains. “Then when we saw him, I was like, ‘yeah he looks good’. We re­ally liked him, so we were like, ‘yeah you can stay’.”

The col­lab­o­ra­tion has paid pro­fes­sional as well as per­sonal div­i­dends. The group’s last sin­gle, Bat­tle Lines, was re­leased in June and reached No.1 in the itunes Singer/song­writer charts, fol­lowed by stand-out per­for­mances at Elec­tric Pic­nic, Groove Fes­ti­val, You­bloom, Bloom in the Park, Ruby Ses­sions, and a head­liner in The Work­man’s Club in Dublin. Through­out it all, their sound has evolved, and their su­per-pol­ished vo­cals re­call Ste­vie Nicks and The Corrs them­selves.

This com­ing Wed­nes­day, Car­ron will play The Grand So­cial in Dublin city cen­tre.

“It’s go­ing to be an amaz­ing gig,” Me­abh says.

“Af­ter all we’ve been through the last few years, we wanted to chan­nel that into the mu­sic. We can’t wait for peo­ple to hear.”

‘I’d be sit­ting there in the am­bu­lance with her with a few drinks on me, think­ing I shouldn’t be here’

Car­ron play the Grand So­cial this com­ing Wed­nes­day night. Tick­ets from Eventbrite. See www.car­ron­mu­sic.com

Mella and Me­abh Car­ron. Photo: Steve Humphreys

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