The Corr siblings are four of the most beautiful people in the world. Andrea, Caroline, Jim and Sharon Corr all look like models, with dark, breathtaking good looks, but as Sharon points out, “The world wouldn’t know what we looked like if we didn’t have our music.” Since they started their family band in 1996, playing their own brand of bright, upbeat pop, influenced by the Irish traditional music they grew up with, the Corrs have sold more than 30 million albums, achieving gold and platinum status in 25 countries, including the U.S. Not too bad for a band formed almost by chance. “We didn’t really play together before we got our first publishing deal,” Sharon explains.
“We might play a tune at Christmas, if one of our aunts forced us to. We all pursued music separately. I was playing classically; I was in orchestras. Caroline was doing keyboards and working on a diploma in classical piano. Andrea was always singing and looking toward an academic career. Jim was the only one who’d been in a band. He’d toured with [traditional singer] Dolores Keane as well.
“They were holding open auditions for [the movie] The Commitments. Jim knew the guy who was the music coordinator, so it was his idea to get a band together and try for a part in the film. The first time we got onstage as a band was to audition for the film.”
The Corrs didn’t become the Commitments, but were all cast in small roles. “Andrea had a small role as the lead character’s sister and got to say a few rude words. I was in a country band in a fleeting scene. Jim was part of an avant-garde band and Caroline was in a horse and cart in one scene, but we’ve still never seen her, even though we’ve watched the film.”
What they really came away with, though, was a manager, John Hughes, an American who was the film’s musical director. “John and Ross Hubbard were casting the film and were friends of John Hughes. Ross said John should manage us, and that’s how it happened. We figured if we had a manager, we might as well be a band. We were moving toward it, but that made us start playing together. It was one of those moments where you know you have to listen to what’s being said.
Hughes got the Corrs a publishing deal with a big advance. The foursome took the money and retreated to Jim’s apartment to make demos and hone their ensemble playing. “Jim’s apartment was around the corner from our family home,” Sharon says. We converted the bedroom into a studio. We put egg cartons on the walls to muffle the sound; there was a damp, dirty carpet on the floor. Jim wasn’t much of a housekeeper, but the place served our purpose. The demos we did there were the blueprint for [our first album]Forgiven, Not Forgotten.”
“We did a lot of experimenting, not knowing what direction we’d go in,” recalls Jim Corr. “We started out doing dance music, but when Sharon started playing violin, we thought about pop with an influence of traditional Irish music.”
While they were working on the demos, Jim and Sharon helped make ends meet by playing traditional music in pubs. “It wasn’t strictly traditional,” Sharon says. “We’d maybe do something by Clannad, but it was all Irish. We did a lot of [singer/songwriter] Jimmy MacCarthy’s stuff and traditional Irish jigs done our own way. I found them in books and Jim would put modern chords to them.
One of the band’s first gigs was at a local pub, where Jean Kennedy Smith, the American ambassador to Ireland, saw them. She was so taken with the band that she invited them to play at a World Cup party she was sponsoring in Boston. It was their first American gig and the first time the Corrs sisters had been away from home. “We played at the Kennedy Library for the Kennedy family and the President of Ireland,” Jim Corr says. “We were psyched and nervous; it was one of our first performances in public. There were a lot of speeches and when we stared playing, people got up and<