Sharon Murphy, who auditioned for The Voice (BBC1, Saturday) last month, talks to TV Times about her childhood growing up in an orphanage in Clifden, County Galway, Ireland being given up for adoption as a baby…
How difficult was it growing up in an orphanage?
“It was quite a painful place. The ones that were in charge of us were very cruel. Not knowing who my family is made me feel isolated and lonely. As a black Irish I did experience at times being treated differently. It was scary but it was family and it was home. It’s what I knew.
“I was about 11 months old, a black child with a white mother. There was usually a stigma, even more so if the child was black”
Has music played a crucial part in helping you cope with the heartaches and challenges?
“As a singer-songwriter I use my personal experience through music and it has been a real solace for me. It has been a healer.”
The Voice UK coaches, Sir Tom Jones, Ricky Wilson, Rita Ora and will.i.am were blown away by your performance. Both Tom and Ricky hit their buttons, how did you decide who you wanted to be your coach?
“Tom was touched and that touched me. He said some lovely things on the night, things that resonated with me. I felt that I needed to be with someone with his kind of background and maturity. I felt that Tom got me.”
For many years your main source of income was from gigging. Why at the age of 40 did you decide to get a full-time job travelling around Ireland holding anti-racism workshops?
“I wasn’t earning as much as I wanted to earn. I was doing OK, but I needed something consistent so I got a full-time job. I didn’t give up performing completely but I became more involved in the work and less involved in gigging.’
You’ve been performing since you were a teenager, were you surprised about how nervous you were at our audition for The Voice?
“I’m comfortable going out doing gigs, but this was a whole different experience for me, so I didn’t expect me to be so nervous but I was. I was relieved that I wasn’t looking at their faces because I think I’d feel more vulnerable if I went up on stage and the four of them were looking at me and the audience were behind them.”
This week the coaches pair singers from their teams and give them a song to sing together. Based on what they hear, the coach then has to send one of them home. Are you as nervous about this as you were for your audition?
“I’ve decided not to take that worry on until it happens because there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s two of us singing the one song – I’ve never done that before so I’m not really sure what that’s going to be like.”
The Voice is all about singing other people’s songs, but do you still hope you will get the chance to perform some of your own material?
“I didn’t start writing songs until I was 25. It never occurred to me before. When you grow up in an orphanage you’re not seen, your talents aren’t necessarily recognised. But the first song I wrote, which was about my mother, came out in about 10 minutes and it was like winning the lottery. I was wired for days!”