Phil Coulter: “The world doesn’t owe you for living just because you’re talented”
Irish singer-songwriter Phil Coulter says hard work and the ability to reinvent himself have been cornerstones of his success in the music industry.
The 79-year-old has worked as a musician for more than five decades and has always found new ways to interact with his audience during the lockdown.
During his brilliant career, he amassed 23 platinum records, 39 gold records, 52 silver records and won the Eurovision Song Contest.
Join Bobby Kerr on To business Live from Bray today, Mr Coulter, one of the famous townspeople of the town of Wicklow, spoke about his musical life.
“As a songwriter, we aspire to write songs of addiction, songs that continue,” he said.
“It was, and Congratulations is a song that fed, clothed and educated many of my children, so it was glory days.
“If you won Eurovision back then, you could turn the kettle on for six or seven million records, that’s the way it was.”
Mr Coulter said he was “very lucky” when he was born as he was in his mid teens when the “rock and roll revolution” began with Buddy Holly and Elvis.
He explained, “Before that there had been pop music but they were all pretty cute, you know songs like, How much is that dog on the window.
“I have a lot to be grateful for, but the timing was so important.”
Reinvention has been a big part of his career after being involved in four different Eurovision songs in the 1960s and 1970s.
He co-wrote three Eurovision entries: Puppet on a string who was a winner for the UK; Congratulations, second place for the United Kingdom; and You, for Luxembourg, which finished fifth. He also wrote the arrangement for the Irish winner of Eurovision Song Contest All kinds of everything.
After that, along with Bill Martin, Mr. Coulter wrote numerous Top 10 hits including Bay City Rollers and Slik.
He said that these different songwriting gigs were important so that he wasn’t limited to just one type of artist.
“The point is, you can’t afford to be defined,” he said.
“If I had considered myself a Eurovision songwriter, I would have been dead in the water.
Likewise, if I had allowed myself to be defined as a teenybopper writer / producer, I would have been dead in the water.
“Here is the problem, at no time can you subscribe to this feeling of entitlement.
“Just because you had success last year doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful this year.
“Just because you were able to sell a venue last year doesn’t mean you will be able to sell a venue this year.
“You have to stay in control, you can’t take anything for granted.”
Mr. Coulter added that one of the big “mistakes” made by talented people is that “just because you are talented the world owes you your life.”
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he explained.
“Talent maybe what gets you in the game, all the hard work and everything that keeps you in the game is the secret.
“I was recently asked what I attribute my longevity of being 55, 60 in the music business and still active and I said, ‘It’s easy, I show up for work on Monday morning.’ .
During the lockdown, he added that it would have been easy to “curl up in a corner and start feeling sorry for yourself”.
“The only thing to do was to embrace the whole online stuff, which we did,” he said, which included recording an audiobook of his memoir.
“We invented this thing called the Lockdown Lounge where every Saturday afternoon we spent 40 minutes playing the piano, telling a few stories, reading my memoirs and reaching a whole new audience.
“You are looking at an old dog who had to learn a lot of new tricks.
“There is no such thing, even at this late stage for me, to try something that you have never done before.”