Jill O’Sullivan – intervew Jill O’Sullivan: interview

Music Like a Vitamin is an annual gig that has become a key part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, which is on now. This year Music Like a Vitamin will be held at the HMV Picturehouse in Edinburgh on 25th October. Ahead of the event, LTW reporter, Vivienne Wilson spoke to Jill O’Sullivan from Sparrow and the workshop who will be performing along with Rod Jones’ the Birthday Suit and Withered Hand.

Jill arrives carrying cat masks which she explains she has bought for a gig the following night with her side project, Body Parts with Jenny Reeve. I ask her about Sparrow and the Workshop.

“We’ve just finished recording with Paul Savage. “ She tells me. “We are four friends who get on really well. We spent three weeks in the studio together and a couple of months writing songs before that.

“I wish I could listen to it with objective ears. When you put your stuff out and people criticise it – sometimes people write about you and say what you are trying to do. I struggle with that. How would they know? Sometimes it means different things to different people and that’s fine.”

O’Sullivan is an original member of the Fruit Tree Foundation and an enthusiastic supporter of Music Like a Vitamin and the SMHAFF. How did she get involved?

“I’ve been involved with the Fruit Tree Foundation for two years now. Rod Jones got us all together and compiled the Fruit Tree albumn. I was asked to join and at that time, I’d never worked with other songwriters. I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen. Some people have a way of doing things that is different from mine.”

“I’ve made some great friends through it including Jenny Reeve, who I’m now in Body Parts with. James Yorkston has become a good friend too. They both have an intuitive way of working which is great for me.

“Sanjeev Kohli also invited me to join Grand Gestures with him and Emma Pollock. I just got a Facebook message out of the blue and it’s turned into something really interesting.”

I ask about the Sparrow and the Workshop albumn.

“We are figuring out what to do with it. We will release it when we are ready. “We’ll organise a fundraising gig in Glasgow later this year. One step at a time.”

“I feel very fortunate to have collaborated with such talented people. I’m very lucky.”

I tell her it’s not really luck, but talent and hard work that have got her to where she is. She grins and says:

“If you put the time and effort in, things will come your way. It’s my personality that I need to be busy. Collaboration is perfect for me. When I’m not with Sparrow, I go off and work with other people. If you allow yourself to be available, people will ask you to do things. Looking back over the past two years, I realise I’ve done a lot.”

So what has her workload been like recently?

“In the past two months, I had not had one day off.” she replies “But I had Wednesday and Thursday off, so I slept in and watched movies I never have time to watch.

How did she get into music?

“I was classically trained in violin when I was a child.” she explains. “I was taught the key of things, how the notes are dispersed – I understand the mathematics and the rules of music, but now I’m more interested in being intuitive and instinctive.

“There are elements of songwriting I take for granted – like picking up beats. I know it is n’t easy for everyone, but I have an easier time of it, because I’ve had years and years of it.

Who did she admire when she was growing up?

“Kim Gordon, Debbie Harry, Siouxsie, Cat Power. None of these women were 21 year-olds. They all had life experience to draw on.

I ask about her life:

“I was born in Ireland, grew up in Chicago, went to uni in Canada, moved to London and I’ve been in Glasgow for years now. I love travelling, but not everyone in the band is as suited to it as I am, so we won’t be doing any ridiculously long tours.

I ask if there is anyone he would like to collaborate with who she has not yet worked with?

“Patti Smith, David Byrne…” she laughs “I think I’ve said enough.”

Sparrow and the Workshop play Music Like a Vitamin at HMV Picturehouse in Edinburgh on 25th October with Fatherson, Withered Hand, The Birthday Suit and Emma Pollock. More information on the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival can be found HERE

Sparrow and the Workshop’s official site can be found HERE and their Facebook is HERE

The Grand Gestures play Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club in London on Friday 2nd November. Tickets are available HERE

Photo: courtesy of Sarah Roberts Photography
All words by Vivienne Wilson

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  1. Saw Sparrow in Wolverhampton in 2011 they were excellent and I like the 2013 album a lot. Jill is lovely i spoke to her after the gig . They should be more popular but I hope they do not get discouraged.
    people who like “Sparrow” listen to Innocence Mission , the Dear Janes and Sol Seppy (all on you tube !) Plenty of great music about in 2013. people should not live “in the past”


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