Upfront: Linda Martin on almost becoming a vet and a certain song contest

Linda Martin has been a professional singer since the age of 16. She represented Ireland twice in the Eurovision Song Contest and won in 1992 with “Why Me?”, composed by Johnny Logan. Born in East Belfast, she lives on the Dublin-Meath border.

How were you as a young girl?

I was determined and a little lonely, in the sense that I was only interested in animals. My earliest memory is of being set up on a windowsill outside a house and a dog next to me. He was the first dog we ever had. I wasn’t particularly girly and I didn’t play with dolls.

What or who do you attribute your love of animals to?

It’s from my dad because he used to bring home stray dogs. My mom said when she needed to pick me up, if she saw a dog somewhere, she knew I’d be around. As I got older, I got a job at the local stables. In this way, I was able to take riding lessons. I was ready to go to vet school, but I auditioned.

How was your family?

I was the eldest of three – I have a brother and a sister. I was born into a working class family in East Belfast. My father worked in a shipyard and my mother was a cleaner until her last years. She got bored when we all flew away and she got a job at the local supermarket. She adored him.

Three words to describe you?

Loyal, professional and kind.

What motivates you ?

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Work ethic. Some people would call this a Protestant work ethic. This is how I was raised and it has never left me.

How did you get into showbiz?

My father didn’t believe in handing out money willy-nilly. That’s why I got into show business. If he had been really generous, I would not have sought a part-time job. I answered an ad in the newspaper and got a job singing in the band Chips when I was 16. It was just Saturday afternoon and I hit a five. It was huge money. Then I had the bug.

What are your role models?

My mother because of the way she raised us. She was the nicest person ever, but she was able to get you in line without roaring or shouting. Our house was an open house. It didn’t matter what religion you were or what you were doing. If you were a decent person, she brought you in and fed you.

The best advice given?

Keep your feet on the ground and treat people the way you would like to be treated.

When did the singing start?

The choir of the church. Looking back, I learned so much. But what child wants to be in a church choir? It is the arrogance of youth.

Did you play an instrument?

I was taught the piano but to my great regret I was not very interested. I can play a song if I’m forced, but I won’t come back now. As I get older, things get more difficult, but also my fingernails are too long. I have no intention of cutting them.

What are you working on now?

I’m filming ‘Reeling in the Showband’ with Red Hurley, Ronan Collins and our band, The Conquerors. It is extremely pleasant. We’ve been doing everything since the 1950s and 1960s; the audience knows the words to each song.

Any advice for Brooke Scullion at Eurovision on Thursday?

Make sure your voice is in tune, but enjoy it. The Eurovision Song Contest is the most amazing platform in the world for someone to get noticed. Where else would you have 300 million people listening and watching you in one night?

How was it to win?

It’s the best thing that ever happened to me in my musical life and I’m still living for it. It’s been so nice to me.

Strange fans?

Diehards are lovely but I got a stalker. He traveled regularly from France to Dublin, took a taxi to the office and when told that I was not there, he returned to France. It was never something that worried me. His toes are probably curled up at this point.

“Reeling in the Showband Years” is at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on May 11; nch.ie

About Hector Hedgepeth

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