Interview with Camille O’Sullivan

"Even though each time I’m having a meltdown, it pushes me to create a new show each year, standing side by side with other performers from all over the world."

Interview with Camille O’Sullivan

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

I’m Camille O’Sullivan half Irish/French singer and actress who hails from Cork Ireland. I interpret the stories/music of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Radiohead, Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel – finding characters in their songs I can inhabit and make my own. I choose not to imitate or be like the original recording, the nicest compliment is “When did you write that?” I am emotional person so I look for that in the song or like an actress singing a monologue, you tell the story making it your own. Can be quite chameleon and emotional, very dark, very light then be fun/joyous, all life’s madness showing the different aspects of yourself. “There is a crack in everything that’s how the lights gets in” (Leonard Cohen) sums it up.

How would you describe your show? 

This show is a sort of love letter to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, whose music I’ve loved forever. He is the finest storyteller and has written some of the most beautiful bittersweet songs and explosive feral rocks songs. Exploring his work, the sacred, profane, poetic, feral, preacher. There is a rock band on stage with Feargal Murray on piano, at times hymnal and spiritual intimate ballads and then exploding it with some joyous madness, darkness and rocking out. Also, we revisit his work over all the years, leaving the last songs be a homage paying respects to his beautiful last album. 

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe? 

Ahh, why do I want to put myself through this mad endurance test! This is my 14th year performing since 2004 (when I first brought two shows the Dark Angel and Brel, and was original performer of La Clique) and though each time I’m having a meltdown, it pushes me to create a new show each year, standing side by side with other performers from all over the world.

What differentiates it from other festivals? 

This is a shop window for promoters to come see you with the possibility of you touring all over the world with that particular show, festivals and great venues. The theatre, comedy and music world have their eyes on it, and reviewers come, but mostly it was the first festival where I felt maybe I’m good enough to tour abroad and have career in this mad business.

Magical things like performing The Roundhouse, Apollo, Sydney Opera House, Later with Jools BBC, touring with the RSC, the film Mrs Henderson Presents all came about from being spotted in Edinburgh over the years. The financial (and emotional) risk is big but really worth it when something magical comes out of it. I Realised all those years ago you must take the risk…

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations? 

I am inspired by lots of different types of art… musically felt motivated by my family, hearing Bowie, Pink Floyd, Ian Dury, John Lennon though my sisters bedroom wall and Brel from my French mother, and an eclectic record mix at home. I loved watching/listening to: Debussy, Tchaikovsky, The Beatles, Kenny Everett, old 40s movies, Ava Gardner, Kate Bush, Somewhere over the Rainbow, Emerald City, Matisse, Radiohead, Nick Cave, choreographers Pina Bausch, dancers Margot Fonteyn, Nureyev, the list goes on.

I also loved seeing a lady called Agnes Bernelle in her 70’s perform old German songs and becoming each character, which is essentially what I do now – inhabiting each song and it’s character, allowing you to tap into all different aspects of yourself and be chameleon on stage!

If you didn’t have your current job, what would you probably be doing? 

Think I’ve worked backwards in a way. I’ve had a few careers already, I was a portrait painter, a qualified architect working several years, and lectured in university, and then becoming a singer and actress.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? 

Probably like to shut myself off in a room and become a painter again. I love that solitude and it’s a perfect tonic if you are a shyer person who just happens to perform in front of lots of people for a living. What was I thinking of!!

What is your earliest childhood art memory? 

Around 4 years old, selling home-made tickets for a ballet show in our living room with my parents for audience, where my sister and I did all the different characters, prince, rat, swan, mother…hiding behind the sofa for costume changes.

Do you ever feel any pressure to be a social commentator, or constantly update material to respond to events? 

I think a lot of the artists I sing are social commentators (which is why I am drawn to them), holding a mirror to what is going on around them… and there is decision I make to lead it into my shows. The last show here was called “Where are we now?” the question Bowie posed. It related to the world where are we with the madness going on it, but also where are we personally since some of those great artists are gone. For example, Let England Shake (PJ Harvey) God is in the House (Cave), The Future (Leonard Cohen), Crack of Doom (Tiger Lilies) and a little bit of Oompla Ooompa played highlighting a certain over-tanned person in the US

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

Headmelting, wonderous, curious, vulnerable, fierce.

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

Eeek! Obviously the people I was and am a big fan of: David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Radiohead. Why? They’re just incredible inspiring performers and have mind-blowing music. I wish I had the balls to contact them to collaborate, especially the ones who are gone now!

Why would a performer opt to do either a ticketed event or participate in the free fringe? What are the benefits and limitations of both?

Not sure which is better, personally I have always done a ticketed event as I need to pay a band and backline, and I also feel as a performer I should get paid. I feel a free show would leave me vulnerable. Sometimes having a good ticket price means the audience respect you more, sadly that certainly seems the case when I’ve done stuff for free in the past…

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe? 

Spend worthwhile money on great publicity pictures, PR and marketing. I lost a lot of money the first year and never have since I decided to invest in the above. Keep your mad partying for the last week, it is a bit of a physical emotional marathon!

When and where can people see your show? 

Lovely Camille O’Sullivan sings CAVE

At lovely Pleasance One Theatre (Venue 33) Theatre 9.15pm (75mins) 31 july -27 Aug not Mondays)

And where can people find, follow and like you online? join mailing list [email protected],

Twitter: @Camilleos

Facebook: @Camilleosullivanmusic Camille O'Sullivan

Instagram: Camille.osullivan


You can see Cave at Pleasance One from 31st July – 25th August (not 7th/12th/19th) at 9.15pm

Header Image Credit: Provided.


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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