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Chris de Burgh:

“ I had to pull my car over to the side of the road and simply listen,” says Chris of ‘The Living Years’ by Mike & The Mechanics . “It suddenly hit me about my own relationship with my father, which was not the easiest. I couldn’t drive because I was crying. The tears were rolling down my face and this song helped me to build bridges between myself and my father. ”

“ Music is the soundtrack to our own lives, ” he says. “ These songs, at particular times in my life, were cornerstones. They were the footsteps, like stepping stones across the river, that helped me on my way. ”

“ There were no definite choices, immediately, but the album began to take its own shape and, as always, it’s very important to have a dynamic attitude to the overall; you can’t just have ten really powerful songs at high tempo, you have to balance - the balance is critical. ”

“ I gave myself the biggest challenge of my career in writing and recording that album,” Chris estimates. “It was very difficult but great, great fun to have done that, ultimately. Meanwhile, let’s not forget that the ‘Footsteps’ albums were of songs that existed already! I didn’t have to put a lot of songwriting into them, which is what really takes the time. ”

“ I think the day will come, as long as I’m still in good voice and, certainly, people who have heard ‘Footsteps 2’ say it’s probably the best singing I’ve ever done. I am very pleased with it. It also comes down to public interest; whether they want to hear it. The material is out there. There are plenty of great songs to record. Maybe we’ll approach it in a slightly different way, perhaps look at a different kind of material. I’ve always been drawn, for example, to classical music and to church chorale music. Maybe an album of Christmas carols. Who knows? ”

     
 

 

Chris de Burgh:

“ Listening to the great songwriters was the inspiration for me to try and become a good songwriter myself,” he readily admits. “I’m talking about the likes of Lennon & McCartney and Bob Dylan; people as good as that just don’t seem to exist any more. I learned my trade, my craft, almost at the feet of the Great Masters. And that is my musical journey. Those songs are my footsteps. ”

“ There were hundreds and hundreds of titles, which all got narrowed down to the ones I recorded. They are all, in my opinion, great songs – and each one has a resonance with me for a very particular reason. ”

“ When I was growing up in my father’s castle/hotel, I would sing a lot of these songs, to the guests. For example, ‘The Long And Winding Road’, ‘Sealed With A Kiss’, ‘Where Have All The Flowes Gone?’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’... ”

‘American Pie’, for me, used to be the one that, when I was singing in a restaurant, would make people stop eating and clap along. I still enjoy performing it, to this day. ‘Corinna, Corinna’ is a song I frequently sing in my soundcheck, as I do ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’. ‘Polly Von’, the song by Peter, Paul and Mary, is one that, probably, gave me some indications about writing story songs. ‘Spanish Train’, ‘The Tower’...many of those songs from my early days owe something to ‘Polly Von’. ”

“ I like to wear a song like I’m wearing a coat and wanted to to fit into each one of these songs,” Chris explains, “and a lot of them are singer’s songs - they really stretch the singer - but we made the album very quickly. It was all recorded live in the studio, with me singing together with the orchestra or together with the band. It took us eight days – and that’s including all of the vocals and all of the backing vocals. All in all, it was a real pleasure, a complete thrill. ”

“ I have to stress that to nail it down to just the songs recorded was extremely difficult. There are so many other great writers; Jackson Browne and Paul Simon, to name but two. However, I didn’t believe that certain songs would work on this record. So I might come back with longer footsteps, another time... ”

     
 

 

Chris de Burgh:

When I was a child, my father’s engineering job took my parents to Nigeria and what was then the Belgian Congo. My brother, Richard, and I went to boarding school; I was at Marlborough College, Richard at Stowe. My grandfather, General Sir Eric de Burgh, had retired to Ireland and, during the holidays, Richard and I stayed with him.

My father had often expressed this insane desire to live in a castle. There are lots in Ireland – most of them falling down. So, in 1960, as my parents and lots of others were leaving the Congo in a hurry on the eve of its independence, my grandfather bought a Norman castle for us.

We moved in when I was 12. I was so excited. The idea of living in a castle was romantic and dramatic – even though it had no light, heat, electricity, water or furniture. Bargy Castle is near Wexford, on the southeast coast of Ireland, two or three miles from the sea. The huge tower was built in the 12th century. The strategic way of communicating then was with fire or smoke, and from the top of our tower, you can see five others. Above the front door is the hole where boiling oil was poured over intruders, and there are, of course, arrow slits. At the back of the castle, there is a dry moat. The sea would once have come within a few hundred yards of the front.

My grandfather paid £7,500 for Bargy Castle. The previous owner was a market gardener who had kept birds in all the rooms. The place was a shambles; there had been turkeys in one room, pheasants in another. We had to pump water from a well. Twenty minutes of pumping got enough buckets of water for the day. It was a spartan lifestyle, but, being at an English boarding school, I knew all about that.

The place was wired within a year or so. We had open fires and, eventually, central heating. To furnish the place, my mum and dad went to auctions. They bought big pieces that nobody wanted, which were relatively cheap. They got tables for the banqueting hall and six four-poster beds. The castle was attached to a 170-acre farm, and we started as farmers, with cattle, sheep, corn and sugar beet. Richard and I had to muck in, particularly during the lambing season. We had early lambs in January and February, when it was bitterly cold, so we had to get up at night and run about in the frozen fields. We saw the back ends of more sheep than I care to remember.

Once the castle was more habitable, my grandfather moved in and my mum and dad decided to open a family hotel. We had accommodation for 50 people, and the season was from Easter to the end of September. My mother did the cooking and my father took care of the business side. Richard and I were baggage handlers and waiters. We organised riding, volleyball and cricket. In the evenings, because the local pub was a mile away and there was no television, I would pick up a guitar and start singing. It was a great way to meet girls. Before I ever stood on a professional stage, I’d done hundreds of living-room concerts for people from all over the world.

As the years went on, my father installed 18 bathrooms, which was quite something, because some of the exterior walls were 6ft thick. We had 12 bedrooms in the main house, an annexe with five bedrooms, three at the top of the tower, and a basement where the summer staff would sleep.

As a family, we had to move out of our rooms at the beginning of the season. We had a little cottage down the end of the lane where my mother decamped, and occasionally, I slept there too. Or I took a room at the top of the tower, which meant going up 70 spiral steps to bed. One year, I slept in a cow shed. People would wake me up in the morning by throwing rocks on the tin roof.

My father never thought he achieved much, but he was an amazing man who did a huge amount. He knocked through two arches in the banqueting hall to double the size of the room. He also built a drawbridge from the hall across the moat. At one end of the room was a pipe organ; at the other, two ornamental horse-drawn carriages. In the hall are a portrait of my grandfather and the de Burgh crest, which allegedly originated during one of the crusades. Richard Coeur de Lion is said to have dipped his finger in the blood of a slain Saracen king, put a red cross on the gold shield of a de Burgh, and said: “For your bravery, this will be your crest.”

My parents ran the castle as a hotel for 20 years. My dad is dead, but my mum still lives there. I love Bargy Castle. I started in my profession because of the opportunity it gave me, and I called my first album Far Beyond These Castle Walls. I go back as often as possible, and when I drive through the gates, it’s like stepping off the planet into a different world.

Interview by Rosanna Greenstreet - © Copyright Times Newspapers Ltd

     
 

 

Download 'The Storyman' stories booklet in PDF format from this link. File size is 236KB.

     
 

 

Chris de Burgh released his new album 'The Storyman' in October 2006. The CD contains 12 new tracks and to tie in with the theme of 'The Storyman' Chris has written a short story to accompany each song. These stories set the scene and expand upon the lyrics with detail, colour and atmosphere.

The initial shipment of 'The Storyman' is available as a special limited edition digi-pak containing 2 books - one The Stories behind the songs and the other The Lyrics.

'The Storyman' is the most immediately identifiable album in the long and illustrious career of Chris de Burgh.

Vivid story-making has, after all, always been at the very core of his worldwide success.

Whether his lyrical - and musical - themes have tackled love and loss or been set against imaginative backdrops created from the past, present or future, the telling of tales is his special gift.

Across more than three decades now, Chris's extensive repertoire of songs has taken his audience on travels through continents, cultures and centuries - in cinematic proportion.

Such is the inspiration behind the concept of 'The Storyman'.

'From the moment the overture music of the album begins, I am inviting the listener to join me on a journey through space and time,' Chris explains, 'to faraway lands and places, where the tales and dramas will unfold.'

What is more, many of the featured songs immediately transport themselves to countries around the globe, entwining local music, and musicians, into their fabric.

'These musical textures evoke the special characteristics and sounds of the destinations to where we are travelling,' Chris explains.

For example, 'Leningrad' features the London Russian Choir, 'My Father's Eyes' is a duet with the Egyptian singer Hani Hussein (recently a runner-up in the Middle Eastern version of 'Star Academy' - similar to the UK's version of 'Fame Academy') while the three-piece African vocal group The Mahotella Queens sing on 'Spirit'.

Meanwhile, 'Raging Storm' - a forthcoming single - is a duet with Kristyna Myles, winner of the BBC 'Busker Of The Year' competition and, on 'The Mirror Of The Soul', Chris - a former pupil himself - is joined by The Marlborough College Chamber Choir.

Six of the album's songs were recorded live in session with 90 members of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, at London's legendary Abbey Road studios.

It all makes for a stirring and evocative trademark musical statement by Chris - and one which he is looking forward to bringing to life when he begins an extensive 18-month world tour - re-uniting him with his band for the first time in three years - in support of the album.

'My hope is that each person who listens will let themselves believe that they are in a cinema; the lights go down as the overture of 'The Storyman Theme' starts to play,' says Chris.

'I'd like them then to simply drift away into the world of their imagination, where dreams begin - and anything is possible!'

     
 

 

Interviewer: 'Can you talk us through the songs, one by one?'

Chris de Burgh: With pleasure. Here they are...

When Winter Comes: This is the first time I've ever put a track that is completely instrumental on a record. It's very evocative, and very 18th Century, which leads then into the title track...

The Road To Freedom: A lot of people who have come to the more recent live shows have already heard me performing it, and it's almost immediately become a favorite. Certainly, people have told me via the website that they loved it. It's an extremely powerful song and is very much about a feeling of being in the West of Ireland, or the West of Scotland, in the 17th Century. Times are very hard and a father is grieving for his son, who may not be dead but who has definitely gone off to fight for freedom. The father wants his son back again, and he says 'Freedom doesn't change anything. I've lived a long life and I've seen that nothing really happens because of it. Does it make my crops grow? Does it bring the rain and the sun?' He is much more concerned about his crops and losing his son than he is about this slightly nebulous word, freedom. That's his point of view. I did three tracks with orchestra, including this one, and I was absolutely thrilled again to be performing live with an orchestra. It's such a buzz.

Snow Is Falling: Hauntingly beautiful, with an Eastern European feel. Lyrically, it's to do with loved ones lost- quite literally so. Again, this is a song I've already performed a lot in concert. You'll only have to mention the title of this one and, I'm sure, people will remember it from my recent live shows. Once again, I performed and recorded this with an orchestra.

The Words 'I love you': Starts off looking at a child-parent relationship and how, so often, particularly with sons and fathers, when they try to talk the knives come out before they have begun. I´m saying 'Well, that was me', but I´ve actually learned to say 'I love you'. That´s actually a fact that happened to me; I got through all of that drame with my Dad by swallowing my pride and saying 'Dad, I love you'. And it meant the world to both of us. The song actually goes deeper and broader than that by saying if people around the world had more tolerance to each other´s religions and beliefs by saying the words 'I love you' it would make for a different world. And I´m saying that the one that I believe in is the one who died upon the cross. So, it´s a deep look at religious and social tolerance around the world, as well as a personal look at father-son relationships.

Songbird: A moving tribute to Eva Cassidy. It's my way of saying that this girl had an absolutely stunning voice.

Five Past Dreams: For me, because I write in such a visual way-and I always saw 'The Lady In Red' as being an incident that happened one night - I often wonder what happened next, later that night, into the dawn. This song is the second part. Ever since I recorded 'The Lady In Red', I had such a strong picture in my mind of what happened preceding the party that these two people went to, and during the party. This song concerns the bit that happened after the party and, no, it's not all about the sexual connotations! 'Five Past Dreams' is about after everybody has gone home after the party. The guy singing it is actually pretty drunk. He admits that he's had too much to drink, but he doesn't want to let the moment go; he's having too much fun. The both of them are. It's coming up to dawn, the dawn is rising and the city lights are shining out in the distance. There's just the two of them and the song is about what happened. As I say, it's the second part of 'The Lady In Red'. There are some fairly interesting musical and lyrical references to that song, too..."

Here For You: Written from the standpoint of a parent. It's the scene at the airport when the child who has grown up to their late teens, early 20s, is leaving for a couple of years to go to Australia or America; somewhere far, far away. All the friends are there and there's lots of tears and great excitement from the child, the youngster, but also apprehension as well. The father is saying 'The time has come. I know you have to fly unaided but I'm here for you wherever you are and whatever you do.' That's a thoughtful one and, again, it´s performed live with an orchestra. There's a very positive feeling coming off it-and Rosanna sings on it. Long before she became interest in Miss Irelan or Miss World, incidentally. I decided that I wanted her on it, because the song is really about her growing up. Basically, with her being the eldest: this sort of situation was going to happen with her first. She sings a bit on the end, which is going to be of great interest to those interested in such stuff! Incidentally, the eye on the cover of the album also belongs to my daughter.

What You Mean To Me: A fun, Spanish-style song - with Spanish lyrics in it, which I wrote. It's a co-write with Phil Palmer, the guitar player who has been playing on my records since 1982. It's a fun look at memories and a couple revisiting a place where they went when they were young lovers. This was their favourite place, and they're revisiting it. In a way, it almost links to 'Five Past Dreams'.

Rose Of England: This is about the bittersweet life of Queen Elizabeth - and it has already become one of my personal favourites. It's the story of Elizabeth the First, and the fact that she had to put duty before love. Although she was in love before she acceded to the throne after her sister Mary died, she was unable to marry the man she loved because it wasn't the political marriage that everybody, all her advisors, were telling her to have. So, in fact, she married nobody. She married England and became the Virgin Queen. The words behind the song are 'Rose of England, sweet and fair, shining with the sun. Rose of England, have a care - for where the thorn is, there the blood will run.' It's the paradox of what a rose actually is; a rose is a gorgeous flower, but if you hold it wrong, it will prick your hand and the blood will flow. That's also the paradox of her life; it was in some ways so blessed, so beautiful, but there was also a lot of sadness and grief underneath it.

The Journey: This one is about saying to someone who is passing into the next life 'Go with love upon your journey'. And all the things that this person has meant to them.

Read My Name: We all have a chance to leave a mark in life and make something of ourselves. There's no point drifting through life and nothing happening. Every child that has been born, we have a chance in life to make a statement, to make a difference, to take part. And at the end of it all, to say 'I have been here, I have done something - read my name.' It's an exhortation, exhorting people to do something. It's a very up and...wild, almost like Gypsy Kings-style song.

   
 
 
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