Original article no longer available
This is Lancashire
11:27am Friday 23rd June 2006
By Caroline Dutton
Popular Irish songstress Frances Black, who plays Salford on June 29, opens her heart about the rocky road to happiness and success and how she clawed her way back from the brink.
JAZZ singer Frances Black is one of the Emerald Isle’s best-loved artists and has been dubbed “the sweetest voice in Ireland” by critics.
But when she takes to the stage at The Lowry, it’s unlikely anyone will realise what a struggle it has taken to get there.
For three short years ago the idea of undertaking a sell-out national tour would have seemed impossible as Frances found herself in the grip of a debilitating depression, self-hatred and alcoholism demons she thought she had vanquished.
The singer, known for her charm, wit and heartwarming honesty, began her musical career at 17, when she began singing with The Black Family with her older siblings, brothers Shay, Michael, Martin and well-known sister Mary.
But by the 1980s she had begun drinking heavily, suffering crippling shyness and self-doubt after becoming a teenage mother and the collapse of her hasty first marriage.
Frances believed she had beaten her well-publicised addiction but in 2002 after 14 years of sobriety she relapsed when her mother’s mental health deteriorated and her father-in-law became ill and died.
“Mammy was such a tower of strength to us all and she had such a wonderful spirit and a heart of gold,” said Frances.
“Watching her go downhill physically was really hard, but when the bouts of dementia started it was the most heartbreaking thing for me. She needed 24-hour care.
To alleviate the pain, Frances went on a course of anti-depressants and one of the side-effects she experienced was being unable to sleep at night.
“I started taking sleeping tablets, and, for someone like me who has an addictive personality, it was just the worst thing I could do,” she said.
“I got really dependent on them and started to take them a lot.
“I became addicted and then, when the pain got really bad, I ended up picking up a drink.
“I drank for about two days and I was so frightened because I realised that I didn’t know how to stop.”
Looking for advice on how to deal with the situation, Brian, Frances’ second husband, called an addiction counsellor who suggested that Frances should go into a treatment centre.
“I felt so ashamed because I thought I’d let my husband and children down,” she recalled.
“I’d even let my fans down. I was just about to go on tour and it had to be cancelled I felt terrible about disappointing all the people who had bought tickets to see me perform.”
What Frances didn’t realise at this dark time in her life was that she was at the beginning of a process that would ultimately lead her to a greater sense of hope and belief in herself.
And with the love of her family, friends and fans, Frances believes she has truly beaten her demons this time.
And with eight best-selling albums to her credit and winning the Best Irish Female IRMA award twice, it looks like she might be right.
“I’m feeling great and really excited about it all,” she smiled.
“I’ve left behind all of the sadness and am full of hope. I feel like I’m living the dream.”
Frances Black, The Lowry, Salford, Thursday June, 29. For tickets call 0870 787 5780.