Chatting with Ursula Burns
Interview by: Ann Mehigan.
Following her win at the IMCA's - that's the Irish Musical Comedy Awards, for those of you who haven't heard of them - we sent comedy contributor Ann Mehigan for a catch up with Miss Ursula Burns and if the following exchange is anything to go by, she's certainly one to watch.
I absolutely fell about the place listening to "I do it for the money" - you look so sweet and innocent and then with this manic smile you sweetly announce "well you have to pay me". Do you find looking "Oirish" and very sweet helps when it comes to shocking people? Is that your aim, to lull people into a false sense of "ah look, she's so sweet and innocent..." and then BAM!
I love the way you put that question and to say "yes" would be a more romantic answer, however "I do it for the money" is a serious song - I meant every word! I have been a self-employed muso for nearly 20 years and I don't need experience - just Diesel to get to gigs and food to eat!
Who was the first person you called after winning the IMCA's or did you have close friends/family with you - do you get a lot of support from them?
I went on my own to the Awards. Only a handful of people around me knew I was going. I did not tell anyone and I did not want company. I was nervous because I knew nothing about the world of comedy and the people. I felt like a fish out of water - I was out of my comfort zone. I don't like driving in Dublin City Centre so I paid a taxi and followed him to the venue. I met Kieran Kennedy for dinner he has produced two albums for me - and he texted after asking did I win - I texted back "YES". I can't remember telling anyone else although I might have called my mum. I was in shock, I did not expect to win. I had no hotel booked and I drove home to Belfast at 6am and put up a message on facebook and fell asleep and missed the school run. Then I met all the circus mums, the word was out - I was walking up the street and people were stopping to congratulate me and we drank Champagne in the new MAC building in Belfast. It was lucky that I knew some of the other IMCA performers because the week before I played Victoria's Comedy Closet in Belfast. It was my first comedy gig and there I met "The Guilty Folk" who were so friendly and made it such a positive experience for me. Nostril Shorts played a blinder that night - I thought they were brilliant and sure to win when we played the finals.
I always ask this question of comedians simply because I so admire anyone who can get up in front of a crowd and perform, but do you get nervous? How do you combat this - do you find having the harp as a sort of 'prop' helps?
I have been performing all my life - Pre 10 I wrote songs at home. When I was age 14 I joined the circus and also spent many years touring with my mother Marie O'Neill, touring Medieval Banquets and folk clubs and festivals - singing folk songs and Yeats poems set to music. Then there was National Youth theatre and touring horse drawn theatre and writing music and touring for childrens theatre, touring with Magicians and Circus companies and 4 albums along the way - and years spent in dodgey vans with dodgey bands touring, touring, touring, marriage, divorce, kids, more albums, touring, touring, touring and now Comedy ... and Yes... I STILL get NERVOUS... because everything is always new! When I stand on stage without an instrument to play my hands feel extremly uncomfortable and mentally I try to console them which distracts me from what I am meant to be doing. It's not hiding, when I have an instrument I expand.
If you were going on Mastermind - what would be your specialist topic?
I am a dreamer. I did not manage very well at school. Mastermind would be my idea of Hell. They would have to drag me screaming and I will NEVER choose a topic for them.
One beauty regime you had to give up or your entire family get shot:
a. Hair removal
c. Hair products of any kind
Who ever put those two words together? Beauty and Regime. I am a songwriter and this sounds wrong! Beauty can be spilt into two; a. Natural Beauty ie nature, b. the idea of Beauty that is rammed down our necks and sold to us. Regime sounds more like it belongs to a fascist dictatorship than something I SHOULD do in the morning. I never have a plan - I like wee pots of chemical free cream and I rub them all over myself whenever I feel like it. I dont use any hair products so thats easy to give up... I grew up in west Belfast at the height of the troubles - being shot is no threat to me or my family anyway!
You're due to play at the Sunflowerfest in Hillsborough in August - have you written anything new for this? What should the audience look forward to?
I am going to play about an hour of a set for sunflower fest - just me and the harp. I do not know what songs I will play until I gauge my audience and see what feels right - if I have smallies it will be a family friendly set. .Last year I just made it up on the spot and they loved it. This year I might have an extra dimension to add but you would need to be there to understand... I was out at the farm last week and it is going to be brilliant this year!
I love the fact your first ever song at 3 was to your parents entitled "I have been long enough with you" - did they laugh or edge slowly away from you...
I love the image you have just given me - that is now the history in my reality.
Any chance at summoning up the Sun God with that harp of yours? This summer has been nothing but rain which depresses me! What gets you down and how do you snap out of it?
I have just given up my career in cloudbusting - gonna leave it to Kate Bush! I tried and tried and tried to make that cloud go away - I sat for a week amonst the roses at Lady Dixion Park playing my harp and tried to break a hole in the cloud and tease out the blue in the sky. Eventually when the harp started smouldering and my fingers caught fire I gave up. Didn't work! When I got home the sun peeked out laughing at me.
Fracking gets me down. We are all standing on this big rock hurtling through space at a great speed and some people think it is a good idea to explode open the rock, pour in toxic water, extract the "natural clean" gas and frack off leaving the water and air polluted, the land ruined and the locals to get sick and clean up... I write songs - that saves me everytime. I love this earth - I cant believe some humans have come so far from humanity that they could agree to commit such acts of violence on the planet that supports us all... all I can do is try every day to make it ok and create whatever beauty I can.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Monday 30th July 2012 | Comedy
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