A Derry businesswoman is swapping her clipboard in favour of a guitar - with welcome results. Antrim-born Sandra Sherlock of Sandra Sherlock Associates, Clarendon Street, is promoting her debut album ‘Echoes of the Night’. As of yet she has no plans to give up the day job, but considering she currently has the best of both worlds why would she?
The album was recorded late last year after the singer returned to her ‘first love’ after a musical hiatus of some years.
It should be mentioned that Sherlock is Sandra’s given surname, not a stage or professional name; “No it was Conan Doyle who made that rubbish up, mine’s is real,” she laughs.
The former nurse has a background in health care services. Having previously owned the Deanfield and Edgewater nursing homes, Sandra says she “fell” into her current career of providing medical consultations and reports on accident victims and their health care needs. For the last 12 years she has developed and grown the business from a ‘cottage industry’ into one which sees her assist clients from as far away as the US, Slovakia, Germany, Belguim, Italy and Jordan.
“Wherever the accident occurs is where the jurisdiction applies,” she says.
“I started my career in nursing but studied law in nightclass while working at the Royal. I’m not qualifed to practice law as such but I am certified in courtroom skills.
“I deal with pubic in catastrophic circumstances so if I never see them again I rest hoping I helped them during their misfortunes.
Having nursed at the Royal, Sandra went on to teach there before moving to Derry some 20 years ago to run nursing homes here. “I really enjoyed those years. You were always on hand in case something was needed so it was intensive work
“I wanted to use the knowledge I’d gained in the health care sector. We provided a good service - it was good to us and we were good to it.
“It was while there that I did my first medical consultation and report for the legal profession. Initially that is how work came to me. I did one case with Brendan Kearney Kelly and Co., one case was followed by another, then cases followed cases, and twelve years later I’m still doing it!”
Sandra has enjoyed a number of careers but her latest was also her first.
“To the horror of my poor mother I toured around Europe performing when I was younger,” she smiles. “It was a grand experience and I even landed a recording contract in Germany.”
All that fell to the wayside after a particularly tough call from home.
“My father had taken ill so I returned home and that changed my whole life. It was just what you did, there was no decision to be made. When I came back my new life took over but I always had an inkling to return to performing life. I never thought it would take me this long though!”
Music was clearly never far from Sandra’s mind: “I came from a very musical family in Antrim. We had TV but no-one ever turned it on. It was all music in our house. My grandmother was a violinist, harpist and accordian player, my mother played keyboards. The house was literally filled with music.”
Modestly Sandra adds: “I play guitar but I wouldn’t be the world’s best guitarist.”
Having decided to return to her first love, Sandra dug out the old song and note books from her ‘tour bus days’.
“I always had the scribblings from the tour bus and the la la las that I sung to myself so I worked on them for about a year but it wasn’t until Joe McNamee gave me a call that the project really took shape. Joe has a wee studio in Feeney and I thought I’d like to go there someday. But thanks to his sister, Joe rang me and invited me over.”
‘Echoes of the Night’, Sandra’s debut album, is the result of that partnership.
“I owe so much to Joe, he is an absolute darling, he is my Musical Director,” she laughs. “That’s the fancy way of saying he’s the boss!”
Sandra, however, wrote the songs herself: “And I am very happy with them. Drive 105’s Dessie said of the album: ‘Well I didn’t turn it off’ and I quite liked that comment! I didn’t want to record in a particular genre so there is a bit of folk/trad then some blues, rock and jazz and country. I don’t want that ‘middle of the road’ label.”
Reporting that she is “very happy” with both her album and her return to live performing, Sandra admits that she still holds on to her fears before going on stage.
“Well, you need the nerves to give you an edge I think. Performing to a live audience was a bit of a gambit,” she confesses.
A capacity audience at her Waterside showcase late last year would, however, suggest otherwise.
“The show was a total of 20 songs and it was almost over before I knew it had started. I suppose we all like to be loved but you have to know not everyone will like everything you do. So I only hope some people enjoyed it. That said, the feedback was fairly positive and I enjoyed it immensely but it was difficult. Most importantly, I thought the skills, my ability to play live, were still there.”
The experiences have given Sandra a new perspective on where she’s going. feferring to music and performing live she said: “It’s what I do and what I want to do and am about to start work on second album.”
“Between the day and the night jobs there is some juggling all right but a lot of delegating. I’m just glad to get my music up and running. It’s a hard business when you’re an independent. I’m self- funding until I win a bit of interest but I would love to have a crack at it. I believe I have one good song in me that I want to write.”
There are several of those good songs on ‘Echoes of the Night’ which is available via www.CDBaby.com and itunes.com
Catch Sandra Sherlock live at Belfast’s Black Box on Sunday April 29.