A major label deal could push Lyra to the next level, writes Ed Power.
AMID endless swells of soundalike pop, Lyra is an artist proudly doing her own thing. The Cork singer takes her favourite bits of Enya, Florence and the Machine and Kate Bush and applies a winningly personal perspective.
Her music is as large as her personality — she could talk for her country — but shot through with mystery and melancholy. As with the best pop, it also finds a way to be catchy, no matter what.
Her singular approach is now paying off. “I’m in shock,” she says. “My single made Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist and overnight it went up 15,000 plays. I was thinking, ‘it can’t just be my family listening — there aren’t that many of them!’”
The first time the Irish Examiner spoke to Lyra, from Cork city, she was an up-and-comer hoping to crash the big-time. Two years later, everything is going to plan. She has signed a major label deal with Polydor, and her new single, ‘Falling’, has, as she says, made the influential Spotify New Music Friday playlist (and, for good measure, the streaming service’s Pop List too).
“It’s a double whammy,” she says from London, where she has based herself since signing her record deal. “I don’t actually know what’s going on. I’m just delighted. I’m living it large.”
She takes particularly satisfaction from the fact that ‘Falling’ is a serious song about a serious topic. The subject is an unhappy romance in which Lyra was taken for granted by a commitment-phobic boyfriend (who wasn’t all that much of a boyfriend, she later discovered).
“A lot of my friends have gone through the same thing,” she says. “For a song to work for me, I have to have an emotional connection with it. I want it to have that essential ingredient that it moves people.”
She’s had her struggles, she admits. On first moving to London she was encouraged to collaborate with seasoned writers and professionals. As any artist — particularly a female one will tell you — this can be a fraught process.
The older, invariably male songwriters can be dismissive of their younger collaborators and surprised if they actually express an opinion. It was just one such encounter that prompted Sigrid to write her mega-hit ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ (addressed to older guys who , as she sings, tried to “shut her down”).
Lyra didn’t endure quite the same ordeal. But it was still a learning experience.
She grew up in Rochestown on the southside of Cork. An early inspiration was Enya, whose material, like Lyra’s, has a cinematic quality that works very well with visual images. She was also a fan of Christy Moore, falling in love with his music after her parents separated and she would drive to her dad’s new home in Waterford.
But she was never a compulsive gig-goer in Cork. “I went to a few concerts in Connolly’s of Leap. I would go to Cyprus Avenue. I went to see All Saints but I’ve never seen Christy Moore.”
She had a triumphant home-coming last year when opening for James Bay at Live at the Marquee.
A bundle of nerves in the build-up — she had to forego her usual drummer for logistical reasons — she took to the stage as though she had something to prove and delivered one of her favourite ever performances.
“I just went for it and I had a ball,” she says. “Afterwards, I watched James play and met my friends and celebrated with them. You know how the music industry goes — it could be my first and my last time playing there.
“So my attitude was to just enjoy every moment of it. We had a great night. We went backstage where they had an open bar. And then we all ended up going out to Riordan’s. I remember thinking, well, this is surreal isn’t it?”
- ‘Falling’ is out now. Lyra will release another single later this year and hopes to announce live dates shortly.