I was with Clannad for a little over three years and did two albums with them. I was living at home at the time in Donegal so after touring I would go back there and go back to working in our family's bar. I used to love that: working in the bar and then whenever any gigs would come up with Clannad I would go off and tour with the band.
I think that I didn't look enough for session work and that I could have done more. I was quite young and I was enjoying living at home and then going on the odd tour now and again. And now when I look back on it, I should have been more adventurous and should have ventured down to Dublin and been more available for different acts. I feel that there can be a danger with backing vocals in that if you do them so long, it's hard to break away for a solo career. You see some backing vocalists who are trying to break out and do solo careers and they really are looked at like "oh, she did backing vocals".
I thought about moving to Dublin but I thought that a bigger challenge was moving to London. I don't even know how I stuck it out for the first year because it was really difficult, trying to survive, getting work, going out for interviews. London can be really unfriendly, apart from the people I worked with it was really hard to make friends. I just became really lonely because I come from a really close family and I just missed all that. That's when you actually find out how strong you are as a person.
When I went across to London first I was working in a food safety place with a phone line, giving advice to people. "Should I throw my chicken out, it's been done for three days?", "How often should I clean my fridge?", all these sorts of questions. If it was something that sounded dangerous we had this professor that we could phone up and then get back to people. There was one particular call and I just couldn't stop laughing at it. This girl phoned up and said "I cooked for my boyfriend last night. I made this prawn curry and when we sat down to watch the video and turned the lights off the prawns were glowing. We had already started eating them so was there any danger of radiation?" I was like, "I'll get back to you on that one."
Then I started looking for other jobs and I saw that there was a receptionist job in Charles Worthington’s hairdressing salon - I had worked as a hairdresser for two to two-and-a-half years in Donegal when I left school. So I went for three interviews to get the job - I felt it was like a really tight security job. I got the job and then I got promoted to being senior receptionist. Charles Worthington has celebrity clients and people off TV and I would have to deal with them.
I was a year into the job before they knew I was related to Enya. I never mentioned it and I had been talking to one of the girls and the following day I was called into head office and I was like "what did I do?" It was Charles Worthington's sister who was running the place and she was like, "Brídín, there's something you haven't told us." And she was like "are you a sister of Enya's?" and I said "well you never asked". I'd have to go around to head office to pick up stuff for the salon and they'd be like "can you sing as well? Can you sing a little song for us?"
When I went to London I got back into 9-5 work. I was about two years into working in London when I started to really miss music. I started thinking that I wanted to have some part in music whether it was working in a record company or whatever. But it just so happened that a friend of mine had got in touch with me and he was doing an album and he'd ask me to do backing vocals. So I went in and worked on that for a week or so and the next thing he asked me to do a main vocal. That was the first time I had ever done a main vocal and I went 'wow'. I didn't realise that I was capable of it more than anything else. It was always backing vocals and I never really thought that I was capable of it and that I'd leave it to the older generation of the family. My manager knew these two other guys who were writing and he asked me if I had ever thought of writing and I said that I had never really tried. So I started putting some melodies down and lyrics and I met up with Chris O'Brien and Graham Murphy who I'm working with now.
I'm proud of what my sisters have done but I don't feel that I have to live up to certain expectations. I just feel that it's a learning experience for me. I'm writing for the first time and singing on my own for the first time. I guess I'm probably selfish in a way in that I hope people will actually like me for who I am and what I do and not completely compare me at all times with my sisters. If I do really well out of it that would be a bonus. I'm happy I'm doing it now. I don't know if I would have been ready years ago. I think it's come together at the right time. I was building it up as I was going along.
Brídín Brennan was in conversation with Harry Guerin.
Her debut single "Hang On" is out now.