Eleanor McEvoy (born 22 January 1967) is one of Ireland’s most accomplished contemporary singer/songwriters. McEvoy composed the song “Only A Woman’s Heart”, title track of A Woman’s Heart, the best-selling Irish album in Irish history.
McEvoy’s life as a musician began at the age of four when she began playing piano. At the age of eight she took up violin. Upon finishing school she attended Trinity College, Dublin where she studied music by day and worked in pit orchestras and music clubs by night.
During a solo date in July 1992, she performed a little-known, self-penned song, “Only a Woman’s Heart”. Mary Black, of whose band McEvoy was a member, was in the audience and invited her to add the track to an album of Irish female artists. The album was subsequently titled A Woman’s Heart and the track was released as the lead single.
A few days before A Woman’s Heart was released, Tom Zutaut A & R from Geffen Records, who had previously signed Guns & Roses, Motley Crew, and Edie Brickell, offered McEvoy a worldwide recording deal after watching her perform at The Baggot Inn in Dublin.
The album went on to sell over three-quarters of a million copies in Ireland alone and was (and remains) the biggest selling Irish album of all time.
Eleanor McEvoy, the self-titled debut offering, recorded in Windmill Lane Studios, was released in February 1993, and tours in the United States, Asia, and Europe followed. Back on Irish soil, McEvoy was awarded Best New Artist, Best New Performer, and Best Songwriter Awards by the Irish entertainment and music industries. In 2011 Portuguese singer Luis Represas included a lovely version of Go Now from McEvoy’s eponymous album on his recording Reserva Especial.
As she began writing her second album, Tom Zutaut departed Geffen Records, so when Columbia U.S. offered her a new deal, she jumped ship and began working on a new, edgier second album, which would eventually be titled What’s Following Me? The album was released in 1996 and the sound was louder and grungier that her debut. The single “Precious Little” built to a Top-10 radio hit in the United States, giving McEvoy the exposure she needed for a headline tour of the U.S. She was invited to contribute of a number of movie and TV soundtracks.
At home, the success of A Woman’s Heart continued to overshadow McEvoy’s solo work and fans of the mammoth hit were disappointed with the rock elements of the second album and those that might have identified with her bittersweet lyrics, sensual vocals, and loud guitars turned a blind eye to the album.
McEvoy released her third album Snapshots in 1999. Her primary goal was to make Snapshots her most song-oriented album to date. Toward that goal, McEvoy hooked up with legendary producer Rupert Hine (who worked with Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Suzanne Vega, and Duncan Sheik) and recorded the album at Rupert’s “Chateau de la Tour de Moulin” and then in Metropolis Studios in London. The extensive use of drum loops was a complete change in style from her previous work.
The album was greeted by rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. ”… her sophisticated voice and compassionate seasoned lyrics … make Eleanor McEvoy’s album a gem….” declared The Boston Globe, while The Sunday Times described it as “her strongest album to date, with well appointed social comment topics…McEvoy’s take on matters emotional also hits pay dirt with the likes of the excellent ‘Did You Tell Him?'” However Columbia Records had been unprepared for the complete stylistic change and relations between the company and McEvoy became strained. Despite this, a sell-out, 24-date tour of the United States accompanied the release of Snapshots in the summer of 1999, followed by the “Snapshots Unplugged” tour March–April 2000, which culminated in a performance in Boulder, Colorado accompanied by the E Town Band where she duetted with Richard Thompson.
By 2000 McEvoy found herself increasingly entwined in record company red tape, Columbia had bought her first album Eleanor McEvoy from Geffen Records, but were refusing to release it. Neither What’s Following Me? nor Snapshots had set the sales charts on fire, and McEvoy’s public perception, particularly in Ireland, was caught in a limbo state between rock and folk, with “A Woman’s Heart” and its many incarnations still lurking in the back of the minds of the record-buying public.
Increasingly McEvoy started to work on outside projects. The Bert Jansch tribute album People On The Highway – A Bert Jansch Encomium (Market Square Records catalog number MSMCD106, Koch, September 2000) saw a newly recorded version of Jansch’s song about Sandy Denny, “Where Did My Life Go?”, recorded by McEvoy especially for the album. Participating artists included Al Stewart, Roy Harper, Bernard Butler, Donovan, and Ralph McTell.
As the century closed, McEvoy had had enough of major-label involvement, making the decision to take the fourth album and head down the independent road. Yola was a turning point in McEvoy’s musical direction. Released in 2001, it reflected the acoustic, jazz-influenced style she had developed on stage with Brian Connor. For McEvoy it was a new departure and one that found favour with music media. Irish Music Press described it as …. “her finest album”, “a brave rejection of the predictable”, “musically daring….beautifully atmospheric”. International press lauded it as “a back to basics triumph”, “beautifully restrained”, “a classic”, and “McEvoy’s best release to date”. Extensive touring throughout the U.S. and the UK followed. In 2002 Yola was named “Record of the Year” by Hi-Fi+ Magazine.
March 2004 saw the release of Early Hours (Market Square MSM51SACD128, distributor RSK/BMG), produced by McEvoy and Brian Connor. The album featured McEvoy on vocals, guitar, and fiddle; Connor on piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond organ, and keyboards; Liam Bradley on kit percussion and backing vocals; Calum McColl on guitars and backing vocals; Nicky Scott on bass; and Lindley Hamilton on trumpets. The style differed from McEvoy’s previous work, taking on a jazz/blues feel for many of the songs. Early Hours continued the high-quality audio work that had been established with Yola. This album was the first to use TiMax (unique audio imaging) technology, mixed in 5.1 surround-sound onto multi-channel Super Audio CD (SACD). Early Hours was voted Best Contemporary Album 2004-2005, by Irish Music Magazine Readers Poll.
McEvoy continued to tour with Brian Connor until April 2005. She then began performing solo, accompanying herself on bass guitar, electric guitar, mandolin and violin.
Her sixth album, Out There, was recorded in The Grange Studio in Norfolk and released in early 2007. It was self-penned, self-produced and featured McEvoy all of the instruments with the exception of a guitar part on “Quote I Love You Unquote” played by Dave Rotheray (ex-Beautiful South) and the drumming of Liam Bradley (Van Morrison, Ronan Keeting) on three tracks. On track 5, Vigeland’s Dream, McEvoy eloquently describes a walk she once took in Vigeland Sculputre Park which is a part of Frogner Park (Frognerparken), a public park located in the borough of Frogner, in Oslo, Norway. McEvoy toured the album extensively in Britain, Ireland, Spain and Australia throughout 2007 and early 2008. In 2007 Out There brought McEvoy her second “Record of the Year” award from Hi-Fi+ Magazine.
Love Must Be Tough (MOSCD404, released 2008), her seventh album, is a departure from previous albums, where all the songs were typically her own. Half of this album features songs by other writers. Typically these songs were written by men and sung by men, but were about women. When sung by a woman, with the minimum of alteration to the lyrics, the words tell a new story. It revels in gender juxtaposition.
Recorded with the South King Street Band, with arrangements by Peter Beckett, Love Must Be Tough opens with The Rolling Stones’s “Mother’s Little Helper”. The opening line, “what a drag it is getting old”, sets the tone of the entire collection.
The title track, “Love Must Be Tough”, written by McEvoy and U.S. legend Johnny Rivers during a late-night songwriting session in Killarney, is a nugget of West-Coast Americana. The lead single, “Old, New, Borrowed and Blue”, penned by McEvoy and long-time friend Dave Rotheray (Beautiful South/Homespun), is a twist on the jaundiced over-optimism of the standard wedding song. Another track by the duo, “The Night May Still Be Young, But I Am Not”, is also on the album. In 2008 McEvoy received her third “Record of the Year” award from Hi-Fi+ Magazine.
In 2007 McEvoy was awarded “Best Traditional Act” at the 7th annual Big Buzz Awards. Awards are voted for entirely by the general public, and are designed to recognise the outstanding achievements and the amazing talent within the Irish entertainment scene.
In 2008 McEvoy toured from January to November in the UK, Australia, Spain, Germany, Poland, and Ireland, with additional one-off dates in the Far East and elsewhere in Europe, including an appearance at Glastonbury in June 2008.
On 21 November 2008, “Easy In Love” from the album Love Must Be Tough was released as a single to highlight McEvoy’s recent visit to Uganda on behalf of Oxfam Ireland.
McEvoy’s album Singled Out was released on 28 September 2008. The album is a compilation of singles taken from McEvoy’s four award-winning, independently released albums. Three of the albums, Yola, Out There, and Love Must Be Tough, received the coveted Album of the Year Award from Hi-Fi+ Magazine. Early Hours was voted Best Contemporary Album 2004-2005 by Irish Music Magazine Readers Poll. The album includes “Did I Hurt You” and “Isn’t It a Little Late” from McEvoy’s double A-side single, the world’s first single to be released on SACD format. Singled Out includes one new song, “Oh Uganda”, which was written by McEvoy after her visit to Northern Uganda as part of her support for the work of Oxfam Unwrapped.
I’d Rather Go Blonde, released 20 September 2010, is McEvoy’s eighth album. Never one to shy away from the big issues, this album sees McEvoy tackling themes such as alienation, hypocrisy, recent Irish history and romance. As McEvoy says herself, “I always try to express myself clearly and honestly. I was the odd one, the tubby girl with glasses who had to go to violin lessons after school. The ray of sunlight was the radio with its music. The escape was learning to sing and play instruments and play with others and write and just get out there.” The album has been met with glowing reviews including the five-star review in 2010 Maverick Magazine: “This absolutely stunning album, has been a real find – one of the most compelling female singer-songwriters I’ve heard in a long time.”
Alone, McEvoy’s ninth album, released 12 September 2011, is a collection of twelve stripped-down solo numbers. Says McEvoy, ““There was a time when I was stranded in a long gap between tour dates and, with time to kill, I headed for the peace of The Grange; a small studio tucked away in the Norfolk countryside.” The product of those tranquil sessions is an album of incredibly haunting performances, up close, personal, and timeless. This is McEvoy in her most intimate setting, running through the journey of her writing and singing career.
“If You Leave…” McEvoy’s tenth studio album was released 6 May 2013. It features eight new songs and four interpretations including God Only Knows, True Colors, and Lift The Wings from Riverdance. Recorded live in the studio with some of Ireland’s finest players this album of soulful performances shows McEvoy in a bluesier neo-retro style. The overall feel is retro. Said McEvoy, “I’d been listening to a lot of 60s albums, Stones, Beatles, Beach Boys stuff like that and it was with the spirit of those albums in my musical soul that I entered the studio.”
Only A Woman’s Heart:
“Only A Woman’s Heart” written by McEvoy is the title song of the album A Woman’s Heart which went on to sell over three-quarters of a million copies in Ireland alone and was (and remains) the biggest selling Irish album of all time.
The song “Only A Woman’s Heart” has been covered by a French Canadian singer Isabelle Boulay. Boulay’s version appeared on her album De retour à la source, which was nominated as one of the five finalists for the 2008 Juno Awards for the category “Francophone Album of The Year”.
Les mejores canciones dance del Siglo XX – Vol. 11, 2011
Celtic Woman 2012 album Celtic Woman: Believe
“Only A Woman’s Heart” also has a page and half mention in Charles Webb’s book New Cardiff which was made into the movie Hope Springs. Webb’s book The Graduate was the basis for the award winning film The Graduate.
2012 marks the twentieth anniversary of A Woman’s Heart . The anniversary was celebrated with four sold-out performances at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Coughlan, Sharon Shannon, Dolores Keane, Wallis Bird, and Hermione Hennessy were on the bill. Further anniversary concerts are being planned.
In April 2012 Kiera Murphy produced at documentary entitled Our Woman’s Hearts which explores how A Woman’s Heart came about, why it became so popular, as well as the effect it has had on three generations of women. The documentary is a part of RTÉ Radio 1’s series Documentary on One.
The Secret of Living written by McEvoy was released in July 2012 to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the iconic A Woman’s Heart. The song is performed by McEvoy, Mary Coughlan, Sharon Shannon, Gemma Hayes, and Hermione Hennessey. In a review from Hot Press, The Secret of Living was described as a classy new single from the A Woman’s Heart group.