This acclaimed Irish singer's troubled upbringing manifested itself in an erratic career path, including stints as a model and a street-sweeper.
She moved to London in the mid-70s, taking on a variety of jobs to make ends meet including being the above mentioned street cleaner in Ealing, West London but then returned to Galway, got married and had three children. She began her singing career in 1984, working with Dutch musician Erik Visser (who became her long-term collaborator).The following year she made an acclaimed appearance on the Late Late Show and recorded her first album, which showcased her powerful and bluesy jazz stylings and became an unexpected bestseller in her native Ireland. Despite her ongoing personal problems, Coughlan continued to reap praise for her recorded output on WEA Records. On Under The Influence she revived the 1948 Peggy Lee hit “Don’t Smoke In Bed” and the Billie Holiday ballad “Good Morning Heartache”, as well as Christy Moore’s “Ride On”.In 1988, Coughlan made her acting debut in Neil Jordan’s High Spirits, and released Ancient Rain. Her fourth album, Uncertain Pleasures, was recorded in England with producer Peter Glenister, former musical director for Terence Trent D’Arby. It included new compositions by Mark Nevin (Fairground Attraction) and Bob Geldof as well as cover versions of the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper” and the Elvis Presley hit “Heartbreak Hotel”.Coughlan began straightening her personal life out in the mid-90s, and signed a new recording contract with Big Cat Records. The label issued an excellent live set and her US debut, After The Fall was released in 1997. In June 2000, Coughlan presented a series of multimedia shows in Dublin celebrating Billie Holiday, a singer whose life story has close parallels to Coughlan’s own.
The best of these shows was collected on the wonderful Sings Billie Holiday. A new studio album was released the following April.
Mary has toured Europe,UK,Australia, New Zealand and North America extensively during her career and has found Mick Jagger, Van Morrison and Morrissey showing up unexpectedly to see her shows. She has duet-ted with Elvis Costello on his composition Mysterious Ghost.
September 2012 will see The Whole Affair: The Very Best of Mary Coughlan released. Throughout over 25 years of her quite extraordinary recording career Mary has drawn heavily from her legendary heroes; Billie Holiday’s grievous, teary outpourings, the husky flirtations of Peggy Lee, Van Morrison’s soulful wails, the defiant chanteusery of Edith Piaf. All are present and correct in her delivery. Even so, Mary, with her naked honesty makes every song her own; they belong to her and nobody else. Who else could possibly present “Double Cross” or “Magdalen Laundry” or “The Ice Cream Man” with such dedication and effortless zeal. The casual listener may know something of “Ancient Rain”, “Invisible To You” or maybe “Man Of The World”. These may well be among the greatest of Mary’s many great hits, however there is so much more to the story.