Learning important lessons in politeness

Eleanor McEvoy is at The Cellars on Sunday.
Eleanor McEvoy is at The Cellars on Sunday.
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Fobbing off one of the world’s most highly-regarded record executives when he came to one of her gigs very nearly cost Irish singer-songwriter Eleanor McEvoy dearly.

Eleanor had dismissed Tom Zutaut of Geffen Records when he approached her at the end of her performance, thinking he was some crazy ‘tramp.’

She recalls: ‘This guy comes up to me after the gig with an American accent and he’s really scruffy and says: “I signed Guns ’n’ Roses, I want to sign you on a worldwide deal with Geffen Records”.

‘And I said: “You sit down there now love, you’re grand, someone give him a nice cup of tea,” and I was completely patronising to him. Luckily I was polite.

‘I went off to talk to the people from Sony Ireland and Universal Ireland who were interested in signing me, and to his eternal credit the head of Sony Ireland turned to me and said: ‘He’s really important, you should talk to him.” And I said: “Really?” He looked like a tramp.’

Eleanor agreed to meet him the next day at his swanky hotel and discovered he’d been up all night poring over the two demo tapes he’d bought at her show, and presented her with the running order of what would become her debut album.

‘I was chipping away around the clubs of Dublin at the time,’ says Eleanor, ‘but this really catapulted me.’

Zutaut had actually been in Ireland to sign a rock band called My Little Funhouse, who sank virtually without trace.

But music has been a part of Dublin-born Eleanor’s life since an early age.

Graduating in music from Trinity College, Dublin, she spent four years in Ireland’s National Symphony Orchestra.

She says: ‘I certainly loved that side of it, but what I wanted to be more than anything was a songwriter and have people perform my songs. So in an effort to make that happen I started recording my songs so people could hear them.’

Before her solo career took off Eleanor also played as part of Irish music star Mary Black’s band.

‘To be playing at that level and working with Mary, she was lovely, it was a great learning curve,’ she says.

Her most recent album Stuff – her 12th – is a collection that was originally intended for her fans.

‘I didn’t pick the songs for it,’ she says, ‘I have die-hard fans who wanted to hear these obscurities and quirky little things, and my manager said lets put it together and we can sell it at gigs, so if they want it they can buy it.

‘I wasn’t convinced at first, but then we found an order that just seemed to work really well.

‘It wasn’t supposed to be a big thing but someone in the BBC got hold of it and gave it to Terry Wogan, then Graham Norton started playing it and Chris Evans started playing it and then it was on the BBC playlist, so we had to release it.’

Eleanor is at The Cellars on Sunday, doors open 7.30pm. Tickets are £12 advance, £14 on the door. Go to thecellars.co.uk