Exclusive Interview by Peter Ashton
Hazel O'Connor fans will be pleased to
hear that the feisty 80s survivor has three
gigs in the South of England this month. I
caught up with her by phone at her
cottage in County Wicklow, Ireland, just
before she packed to set off for
Glastonbury Festival where she was
appearing on the Avalon Stage. "I'm
taking my camping gear, so I hope the
weather's going to be OK," said Hazel.
After reassuring her (totally inaccurately
as it turned out) that the weather
was going to be fine, I asked Hazel how she enjoyed living in such a remote
part of Ireland.
"I love living here with my three dogs," said Hazel. "The nearest neighbours are
300 yards away, but there's a pub down the road. If your car breaks down you're
up shit creek without a paddle, but people are very kind here - you
just stick your thumb out and eventually someone will help you."
Performance-wise Hazel has recently been alternating between a stripped down
acoustic act with Irish harp player Cormac de Barra and playing with her band The
Subterraneans. "I enjoy both formats," Hazel told me - "I only have a loose
career plan. I just do something for so long until I feel I need to change gear and
I'm enjoying what I'm doing now. We're booked ahead for the next two years,
which has taken a lot of hard work."
Hazel famously got ripped off financially during her chart years. Despite
court actions she received very little return for the millions of records she
sold. "I reckon I got about 2% and everybody else got 98%," said Hazel
without any apparent bitterness. "I've been through all that and learned a lot,
but the way I look at it is that I wouldn't have been living here if things
had turned out differently. I don't pay a mortgage, I got out of that years
ago. I've been in Ireland since 1990 - when I first got the cottage I lived
in a caravan while we worked on it. It still needs a lot of work. When I go
off on tour a friend of mine comes over and dog-sits and that works well."
Hazel has a number of other projects coming up, a new blues album with a
specially invited set of world musicians to be recorded in the autumn when she
will also tour Holland and Germany, a return to acting in a pilot for a
drama-comedy series to be filmed in Scotland, and the possible realisation of a
dream to have a second home in France. "Some musician friends of mine have moved
to the Montpelier region of France and I dream of getting a place there," says
Hazel. "I'm very much into visualisation and I believe if you dream of
something enough it will come true."
Meanwhile Hazel's album "A Singular Collection - The Best of Hazel
0'Connor", containing newly recorded versions of her greatest hits is selling well,
as is her previous album "Beyond The Breaking Glass" recorded in Dublin with
Eamonn de Barra and other Irish musicians.
You can see Hazel at Tower Arts Centre in Winchester on Thursday July 8,
ForestArts, New Milton on Friday July 9 and at Southsea Bandstand on the
afternoon of Sunday July 11, all with her band The Subterraneans. The Southsea
gig is free, by the way.
(Photograph copyright Claire Edwards)