I had the pleasure of meeting Gilbert O’Sullivan recently, and although I already admired his work, I found a deeper respect for the man behind the words. Such an easy character with a wonderful, no nonsense outlook on life, a breath of fresh air in the media world.

As always, I asked the questions that others wouldn’t, and found out his views on careers, success and parenthood. Even if you’re not a huge fan of Gilbert O’Sullivan, you’ll find something positive to take away from this interview! An incredible talent that has spanned generations, this is a man that discovered what he loved doing and pursued it with a passion.

A Chat with Gilbert O’Sullivan

Like me, you were brought up in a household where both your parents ran businesses, do you think this made a difference to how you saw the world and what you could achieve?

My mother ran her own business (a shop) in her early years in Ireland.

My father worked in a meat factory. On moving to England my mother’s business ran to bringing up six children, working part time to feed us, clothes us, discipline and love us.

My father worked in an abattoir.

You began as an artist but quickly (or not so quickly I guess if you’re living it) realised that music was your passion. Both are creative pursuits, do you find one complemented the other or gave you a richer insight?

The link between art and music was never more prevalent than in the sixties and it was during my four years at art college in Swindon that I not only worked and combined the two but it’s also where I grew up and out of my early immaturity.

Do you still paint/ draw now?

With my passion and enthusiasm for music and song writing there is no time. As Kurt Weill said to his wife, you know you come first right after my music.

You’ve had some struggles in your early career where you’ve had to handle control over to record companies. A lot of our readers will identify with this, as an author I know I do and I know how frustrating it is. What advice would you give to someone experiencing this? Should they bite their tongue and be grateful for the opportunity or risk losing the contract and follow their integrity instead?

Fortunately the business is now in much better shape with regard to conflicts or interests and miss management of artists. My advice might not be to everyone’s satisfaction when you consider that for me, I’d rather lose a case having put up a good fight than do nothing and live to regret it!

Many people talk about a big break for talented artists that make it into the public eye but in my own opinion, the big break is usually not noticed by the person enjoying it as it’s more a culmination of a lot of hard work (which is why I abhor the term “lucky” when referring to someone who’s worked very hard for success). Do you feel as though you had a big break and if so when?

Or do you feel as though it was a series of events and a lot of determination on your part to succeed?

The biggest break for me was being managed by Gordon Mills the manager of Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck.

It’s all those things, luck, judgement, timing. My first recording contract was through the luck of meeting someone who I worked with at C & A, who took my demo tape to a record company he had just been signed to.

The biggest break for me was being managed by Gordon Mills the manager of Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck.

One aspect of your career I noticed, which is not only inspirational but admirable, is that you never gave up. You’re obviously a household name today but back in the beginning, you didn’t take no for an answer and kept going. What motivated you to continue when times were tough?

The more they disliked it the more determined I became!

My motto has always been, you may not be as good as you think you are but thinking you are is good. You need that healthy arrogance to succeed along with steely determination. In my case the image I created that no-one liked. Did I care, not at all. The more they disliked it the more determined I became! Daring to be different was a key factor in my initial early success.

I always advise my clients to embrace feedback, and to let any offense pass while learning from the people who will pay the money for the product. Have you listened to your fans feedback over the years and adapted or have you stayed on a straight path and followed your own route?

The nice thing about performing in concert is that you get to meet people after who will tell you un-equivocally what they like about you and your music. That said, I do what I do primarily to please myself in the hope always that someone out there likes it.

It’s obvious you’ve adapted to change over the years, which is brilliant, and today I downloaded your albums in seconds. How important do you think it is in business to adapt to trends? Do you think you’d be still so successful if you’d stood still and released music the same way every time?

Whether you like it or not you have to embrace all the technology that is available. Much of it goes over my head as I am internet un-friendly for example I will only listen to c.d.s on a player in front of two large speakers. However instant access is inescapable. The only trend I follow is that of sitting at a piano to come up with a melody and sitting at a desk to come up with a lyric. I don’t look back on what might have been, what’s done can’t be undone. Analysis while important I leave to others.

I occasionally write articles or stories that can offend distant family members and frenemies as they’re my way to vent. I’ve learned to reign this in a bit now but I do find it cathartic. I guess Taylor Swift is the master of this too! Are any of your singles a result of a disagreement or (as the young ones would say it) used as an opportunity to throw some shade on a situation or person?

I do need to be careful though with interviews I give as from experience they can and have caused problems.

I don’t write with my heart on my sleeve so to speak but as a good observer , much of what I read about or see can get into my lyrics but never in an obvious way. I’ve seen relationships with people I know that are hurtful and yes I have incorporated them into a song. A good example of this is a new song on the “Essential Collections” taken from the album “Latin Ala G” released late last year called “No Way” which deals with a not uncommon situation of either partner believing the other is having an affair, which they are not. I do need to be careful though with interviews I give as from experience they can and have caused problems.

You’ve obviously been a great role model to children in your life before becoming a father yourself. When you became a father, did you find your attitude to work and success changed at all? If so, how?

I wouldn’t say I was a role model let alone a great one for children unless you are referring to Clair [yes I was :)], who I was and still am very fond of. I loved the experience of seeing our daughters grow up and of course I was lucky in that my work did not take me away from home that often so I could be there to assist and capture all the wonderful moments of early childhood. The only thing that changed is instead of working through the night to write I had to adapt to a nine to five routine often interrupted by either of the children home from school bursting into my music room while working and joining me on the piano.

We’ve already seen snippets of your new album on TV this week, this is your chance to plug it. Please tell us how to get hold of it and what is important to you, about this new album release.

When you think of how many albums I’ve released ( a lot!) for me having written all the songs, the nice part about putting together “The Essential Collection” available on line, in supermarkets and the few that are left, record stores, is that I was able to select apart from the well known songs some that were album highlights along with many that are favourites of mine.

You’ve been at the Mermaid Theatre this year already along with St Patrick’s Cathedral, where can our readers see you live next?

We continue promoting “The Essential Collection” and “Latin Ala G” and head off to Europe latter part of this year finishing up March 2017 after S. E. Asia and Ireland with a major UK tour. Then it’s back to the writing!