I’m from Limerick originally, I come from a family of two girls and we are all musical — my Dad is a musician too, so it’s in the family. I was sent to a primary school that was a country school in our neighbouring village. My parents wanted me to go there because they were known for an interest in music and drama and that sort of thing.
Every child in my primary school played the tin whistle and it was amazing. It was called Caherline and it was a very special place to attend. The headmaster was really into making sure that all the kids came away with some music and songs. For me, who had been playing since I was very small, it was a wonderful experience. Being musical did not make me stand out in any way at Caherline, simply because everyone else played.
I think that schools that devote this kind of time and energy to nurturing children in interests like music go above and beyond. It’s very telling about the teachers and the staff in the school, for them to take on this big responsibility outside of all the other things they have to teach the children is a huge thing.
For secondary school I went to Doon until third year. I was reasonably good academically, but I wasn’t massively smart. My sister is really, really smart and I was always coming up behind her! She still is, she’s one of these really clever people. I was always in the middle of the class, and I think that suited me. I would always do just enough, but never really killed myself to get top marks. I would say that I kind of floated along in secondary school.
I don’t think I gave much thought to my career path while I was in school. I never thought that I could really do music as a career — I know that sounds weird, especially because my Dad is a musician, but when it came to college, I ended up studying music, because I knew it was something I would be able to do. I knew I loved it, but my brain never really went there, in terms of thinking about music as my job.
I loved English, of all the subjects, it captured my heart. I had really great English teachers, and we used to do really cool things like act out Macbeth in the classroom. I think if it wasn’t music, I would have ended up doing something to do with English.
English has stood to me, funnily enough, in my career. When it comes to filling out grant forms and all of the paraphenalia that comes with it, it gives you that sense of expression and not to be afraid of language. There is a huge link between poetry and song, of course, so it is one subject that has stood to me outside the classroom.
For Leaving Certificate, my sister moved into the city and I followed her, attending Crescent College Comprehensive. I absolutely adored it there, because there were boys! It was very exciting!
Music has given me huge freedom in the way I communicate with people. Even from the very beginning, I realised that playing music is a different language; it’s a different way of communicating with each other. At gigs and festivals you are meeting people for the first time and you are sharing music and instantly, you have to find a way to click.
School, for me, was a grand experience. I think I always saw it as a means to an end. It was something that you had to do. I was lucky because I was able to get on without working too hard.
The music industry is hard work, and so to any kids who are in school and want to pursue a career in music, I would tell them to work as hard as they can. Do all of your school work, and then play as hard and as much as you can. You have to put in the hours, and I know that as a teenager that’s not always easy, when the choice is either stay in and play or go out with everyone else and enjoy yourself.
The other thing I would say to all children today is be kind. Be kind to each other and supportive and helpful to your peers. This is especially for those who want to pursue a path in the music industry, and even more for women. Kindness will stand to you. You never know who you will see on the way up and who you will see on the way down. As you get older, you realise that there is room and space for us all to raise each other up, and I think that is a sentiment that applies to all people in all situations.
The more you raise other people up, you’ll find yourself being raised up as well.
The 2020 Gradam Ceoil TG4 music awards are coming to Belfast on 23rd February. Trad group Beoga, who collaborated with Ed Sheeran for his 2017 chart topping hit ‘Galway Girl’ will take to the stag at the internationally acclaimed event, for what is set to be the biggest Gradam Ceoil to date.
Tickets for the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Awards 2020 are available now from www.waterfront.co.uk/what-s-on/ gradam-ceoil-tg4-2020