Irish singer Maura O'Connell takes final solo bow

2013-11-14T00:00:00Z Irish singer Maura O'Connell takes final solo bowBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Maura O’Connell’s first solo performance in Tucson in decades will most likely be her last.

The Irish-born singer is calling it quits after her current tour, at least as a solo artist.

She plays the Temple of Music and Art on Sunday. Her final gig is at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, Calif., next week.

“It has come to my time,” O’Connell said in a phone interview from her home in Nashville. “I’ve had a really good run.”

O’Connell has a laundry list of reasons why she is leaving the business.

Things just aren’t the same since she first came to the States with the band De Danann in 1980, a visit that launched a long and fruitful career in the traditional Irish and Americana folk song realm.

Touring costs have increased while traveling, especially by plane, has become more difficult in a post-9/11 world.

Festivals are not calling her like they had in the past. Record labels are less inclined to take risks on projects.

“I am not really trained on how this new business model works,” she said. “Nobody is.”

O’Connell, 55, says she never really set out to make money in the industry, just good music.

She grew up in a household in County Clare, Ireland, that encouraged creativity. Her mom was a singer and at the time, traditional Irish music was the hottest thing around.

“Everyone was coming to Ireland to learn,” O’Connell said.

During her teen years, O’Connell and a friend took to performing at local folk clubs and parties where she was discovered by members of De Danann.

She was soon playing with the band in New York City, part of a six-month tour that led to the creation of its milestone album “The Star Spangled Molly.”

O’Connell eventually set out on her own, taking up a solo career and moving to Nashville, where she was a frequent collaborator with Union Station guitarist Jerry Douglas and banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck.

“I was around when these guys were developing this entirely new sound,” O’Connell said. “It was a marvelous time and very exciting.”

O’Connell said she is proud to have been a part of a scene that helped create a style of music that paved the way for artists such as Chris Thile and The Duhks.

“Nashville is ringing with fantastic musicians as a result,” she said. “Of course, now they need a place to play. We need to get out of the way. There is only so much room for old and wrinkly types.”

O’Connell isn’t completely giving up on music.

She will continue to collaborate with other musicians. She already has a project lined up with Douglas.

She also has plans for future recordings and touring dates with the Irish roots group Cherish the Ladies.

At group founder Joanie Madden’s request, O’Connell participated on the 2011 Cherish the Ladies album, “Country Crossroads: The Nashville Sessions.”

“Joanie has kind of drawn me back in,” O’Connell said. “I feel like I did when I first started.”

It’s a comfortable transition for O’Connell, who is ready to put her solo days behind her.

Her final solo performance in Tucson will include a retrospective of songs from her 1983 self-titled debut to her 2009 a cappella release, “Naked with Friends.”

“You don’t want to end up scraping the bottom of the barrel,” she said. “I just want to let it be something that I remember as a beautiful thing.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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