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State of the Scene: Irish Music in 2021

There’s some real cosmic fuckery going on in the Irish music industry right now.

The scene is more exhilarating and bursting with talent than ever, but we’re unable to pack into sweaty, beer-stained venues to see these homegrown acts play live. Nonetheless, the past 12 months have provided us with a bevy of phenomenal musicians and bands to guide us through an objectively shitty year, whether it was Pillow Queens’ stirring rock or Denise Chaila’s captivating, hook-laden rap.  

Despite the abundance of new and ground-breaking music, we’ve been disheartened by the relative lack of coverage of artists who didn’t fit the generic mould of being straight cis white men. We wanted to start this magazine (Blog? Website? Online publication? Take your pick.) to combat the status quo. Last year, the Why Not Her campaign exposed the staggering disparity in how often Irish women and artists of colour are played on the radio. Women only made up 11% of Ireland’s Top 100 Airplay Chart in the latter half of 2020, while men and gender collaborative efforts made up 85% and 4% of the chart, respectively. 

To kick ourselves off, we asked people active in the Irish scene the same three questions to see how they feel about the state of our island’s music. For obvious reasons, all of these interviews happened digitally, whether over Zoom or email, but their energy and excitement was still palpable even through pixelated screens.

BITCH FALCON

Bitch Falcon lead singer Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s voice is a formidable force, burning bright throughout their debut album, Staring at Clocks. The Dublin band’s sound oscillates between grunge and punk, with songs often culminating in a cathartic maelstrom of furious guitar and pounding drums. With sonic power like theirs, it’s no wonder their record received an RTÉ Choice Award nomination. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Lizzie Fitzpatrick: In terms of marginalised communities, people in Direct Provision don’t really have that much of an outlet. It’s only really up to individual bands that are trying to offer a bit of a leg up. People living in Direct Provision are really restricted from integrating into the community, which is really shit. There are different things that can help, like I’ve seen gigs where it’s free for people from Direct Provision because otherwise they can’t really integrate at all. You’re not allowed to earn any money in Direct Provision and you can only get 20 euro a week to keep you going, and that includes your food. So in terms of marginalised communities, I think that it’s really down to the artists themselves to reach out, which can be admirable that some artists take it upon themselves to do that, but I don’t think people know enough about it. I would love to see a bit more of putting the hand out there. People from Direct Provision are really left on their own to put themselves out there.

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

LF: I think we need more opportunities to develop music, like government-funded rehearsal studios or production studios. That way there’s more access for all types of people to kind of come in and really use music as a community project, rather than it being something that’s kept exclusive where, you know, you can’t record anything unless you have a friend who can just do it DIY. Otherwise, it’s quite expensive and it’s quite daunting to get into, so I would love to see a programme where they make it far more open and accessible for people to even see the inside of the studio or produce ideas. It’s really scary when you first go in. You don’t know what to ask for and it’s all like, You only have eight hours left, so you better have it perfect, and you don’t know what to do. It’d be cool to have more learning opportunities in the music scene.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

LF: I love Pretty Happy from Cork. They’re this mad indie rock band, but they have little experimental parts to them. They’re like the Pixies when the Pixies were mental. Not straight up stuff, more just fucking mad, I love them. I like Silverbacks and I like NewDad from Galway, they’re pretty cool. They’re chill indie. And then I like Shifting. They’re heavy, stoner-y doom rock from Dublin and Cork. The music is pretty intense and screamy, so you wouldn’t really think it’s the type of music their name suggests.

CELAVIEDMAI

Galway rapper Maimouna Salif, better known as Celaviedmai, has opened for the likes of Lil Wayne and Mac Miller, but she’s a star all her own. She mixes the incredible confidence on her give-no-fucks anthem “Reckless,” with a keen sense of vulnerability on her collaboration with Nealo and Alan McKee “Questions” when she confesses, “I almost lost my life / Wish I would die / So many tears I cry.” Her candor and brilliant bars are exactly what Ireland needs right now. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Maimouna Salif: I think it’s flourishing. When I started originally, there weren’t that many artists, but now I feel like people are coming out of nowhere, which is great. I love the fact that we’re now building a small community and I think, especially for women, our voices are being heard a little more than they used to be. I also see a lot of queer artists getting a lot of shine. An artist I actually love right now is Bobbi Arlo. She’s a queer artist, as well. I love that there is more diversity and that there’s also more shine on LGBTQ artists. 

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

MS: I’d like for urban music to get more shine. When you go to other places, like in the UK, urban music is very mainstream. Here, DJs or radio stations will be like, Oh, we can’t play this because it’s too something. They don’t really say it, but they do say it like, It’s too urban, it’s too hip hop, it’s too rap, or whatever. I can’t wait until urban music is popular music and it can be played continuously on the radio, especially local Irish urban music. I hope that changes very soon. But so far, we have a great community. I think people uniting and even doing collaborations is pushing it towards a change.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

MS: Bobbi Arlo. I love Nealo. Can I say four? Tomi Keni and Tomike. I came across Bobbi Arlo last year, but I know she’s releasing a single soon. I’ve been stalking her a little bit on Instagram. Her music is really, really good. She has a song called “Berries,” I think that song is just the vibe. She is part of the LGBTQ community, and then Tomi is part of the LGBTQ community as well. We did two songs together: “Cake” and “Lose Control.” He’s just amazing. I can’t wait until he actually gets the shine he deserves. I think being a male gay artist in the urban community—even just rap—is still not somewhat accepted. There is still a big gap there, so I hope he gets the shine he deserves because he’s really, really good. He’s a great songwriter and just an overall amazing artist. 

And then Nealo, I did a song with him called “Questions,” and he has an amazing album. He’s from Dublin himself and he’s just so good. You need to actually go listen to the album. It actually hits you right in your soul and you’re like, Oh my gosh, I know it was emotional before but now I’m actually crying. It’s just so heartfelt and emotional and I feel like everyone can relate to this album even if you haven’t gone through the same experiences. 

And then Tomike—I’m telling you she is next to blow up. If I were to say Queen of R&B, I would say Tomike. I think she just needs that bit more of a focus from the Irish industry and then Ireland will be on the map when it comes to R&B. She released a song called “Hit Me Up” recently, but one of my favourite songs from her is “You Don’t Really Rate Me.” I think the reason why I relate to that song so much is because sometimes I just feel like the underdog, like no one really cares—not like music-wise, but just in life. Sometimes you feel like, Oh my gosh, does anyone even notice me like, do I even exist? But then the song gives you a feeling of, You know what, even though you don’t notice me, that’s fine. I’m still the baddest bitch. It’s gangster but R&B at the same time. I love that song so much. And then her song “Hit Me Up” is like you’re talking to a guy or girl or whatever, saying, Just call me, okay, this is a vibe. She’s a very versatile artist and I can’t wait to see what she releases throughout the year. Sorry, I go so in depth when I talk about people, but when I love an artist, I’m just so obsessed. I feel like I know them like at their core, but I don’t, but I do.

DYVR

With their gorgeous, lemony vocals and penchant for intimate storytelling, DYVR (aka Adam Cleaver) follows in the footsteps of artists like Blood Orange. The Belfast-based musician uses dark, pop-inflected electronica to explore their multifaceted queer identity. DYVR’s music is sonically seductive, but also challenges our preconceived notions of gender and sexuality. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Adam Cleaver: As a relative newcomer to the Irish scene, I suppose my perspective is kind of interesting on this. I’d say one of the biggest feelings I have is that representation is something that seems to be a big conversation in Ireland right now. Like with so many countries, there are questions to be asked about why there have previously been so few artists in the public eye who are from backgrounds other than the cis-white-heteronormative one. It’s important that we have fair representation, because we all deserve to see people like ourselves achieving in the world. With all that said, the scene is so exciting in Ireland right now—I’m seeing so much incredible work being made by people who are celebrating their unique identities and that is just so inspiring. 

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

AC: I think I would just love to see even more of the work that has been started. What we’re seeing in Ireland is just the beginning of a story that hopefully leads to a more inclusive environment for all types of people.  As a queer artist, I would love to see more artists who own that part of their identity—and there is always room for stronger ties at local level between charities, activist groups and artists which I would also love to see more of.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

AC: This is always such a tricky question because there are so many exciting artists in Ireland! I would say I, like so many, have had a spell cast on me by Denise Chaila—her music is so inventive and unique and I am a total super fan! I’m going to include Cherym in this list—they just capture so much joy and energy in their songs and I’m totally in love with them. Lastly but in no way leastly, I want to mention my label buddy St. Bishop—we’re both a part of a community called Veta Music and honestly every time he puts something out I’m like, How the hell am I working alongside such a freaking talented person?!

FEARS / M(H)AOL / TULLE COLLECTIVE

Constance Keane’s project Fears connects to Ireland in a way that feels ancient but also sounds incredibly modern, her haunting vocals floating over pangs of otherworldly synth. Fears’ debut album, Oíche, will be released in May, but Keane has plenty of other projects keeping her busy. Besides playing in the post-punk outfit M(h)aol, she also co-founded Tulle Collective in 2020, a record label run by women and aiming to uplift underrepresented artists. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Constance Keane: I think the Irish music scene at the moment is incredibly exciting. I feel like there’s been a huge shift in the past maybe two years. I left Dublin five years ago when I was 22 and moved to Belfast, but I feel like the Irish music scene and even just the Dublin music scene is very different to the one that I left. When I was playing shows at that age, it was very rare that I would be playing a show with another woman on the bill, even just a woman in a band on the bill. It felt very different. It was predominantly white cis straight men with guitars. And yes, there’s still a lot of that, but I think now with the explosion of an Irish hip hop scene, it’s amazing to see Black creativity being celebrated in Ireland. I think that’s hugely important. It’s amazing to see women being celebrated on their artistic merit. I feel like there’s a lot of women who are very much like claiming a space and doing it in a way that they want to. They’re putting themselves out there and are taking control of their own narrative and their own identity as an artist. The whole visual aspect of it is all being considered as well and I feel like it’s being controlled less by the status quo at the moment. 

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

CK: No men. [laughs] No, I would like to see women being put on more of an international stage. I’m so excited watching what’s happening with Pillow Queens at the moment. To me, that’s so encouraging. They are getting the credit that they deserve outside of Ireland now. A lot of the time the music scene can be quite inward looking and it feels like a huge jump to get any kind of international praise or international coverage, and the majority of the people that do are men. I think that there’s been such an image of what the UK wants from an Irish band over the last few years, and that does not necessarily involve women or Black people or people of colour. I would love to see the other people from Ireland who are doing amazing things get the credit internationally that they deserve. I found it really discouraging when I came over to London two years ago and listened to the types of Irish acts over here that everybody wants to talk about, but I think that it’s starting to change now. I think that thankfully people are opening their minds to the fact that there are acts from Ireland that aren’t just white men in bands and ill-fitting trousers.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

CK: That’s so hard. First of all, I’m gonna say Maija Sofia. I’m obsessed with her. I’ve never met her in real life but I have had a vision of us being friends for like, a year and a half now. Who knows, maybe she won’t want to be my friend in real life [laughs], but I think her songwriting is absolutely incredible. I think the way that her songwriting is informed by historical events and literature and stuff is really insightful. It feels like there’s so much context behind her music and to me, that gives it so much depth. She has an incredibly honest voice and I find myself going back to her album Bathtime once a week. I just think it’s absolutely incredible. Almost every playlist I make, I have to put a Maija Sofia song on, so I’m super excited to hear stuff that she’s been working on over the past year. 

I’m really excited about a band called Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra, led by Sarah Deegan, who’s just an incredible musician and lyricist. She has a way of saying things that’s so direct, but so relatable in how direct it is. She just put out a song last week, “I Didn’t Love You when I Said I Did and I Don’t Now,” and I think it’s her best one yet. The second that I heard it, I was just like, This needs to be heard everywhere, by everyone. I’m very excited to see her and the band live as well, because I’ve never seen them live before, so hopefully towards the end of 2021 I’ll be able to do that. 

And then the third act I’m super excited about is CMAT, just ‘cause she’s amazing. She’s the kind of person who is taking control of her own artistic narrative. She is so true to herself and the stuff that she’s passionate about and she does things in a way that convinces you stuff is cool that you’d like never even thought about beforehand. She taps into the part of me that was obsessed with Fearless by Taylor Swift when I was 16 and listening to a lot of very bad pop punk music, but randomly feeling so drawn to that slight country twang and being confused by it. CMAT is just an absolute boss. She works her ass off. She knows what she wants. She goes for it. She writes about things that could be quite upsetting, but keeps her sense of humour throughout, which is something that you can bring into your actual everyday life. I try a lot to laugh through bad things that are happening, and to me like listening to her music is very empowering in that way.

GADGET AND THE CLOUD

Cork producer Kelly Doherty performs as Gadget and the Cloud, crafting dreamy, experimental electronica that ignites the imagination. If you haven’t listened to Doherty’s music, you’ve probably read some of her work in District Magazine, Bandcamp, or Nialler9, to name a few publications she’s written for. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Kelly Doherty: I think the Irish scene is really interesting at the moment. I think it’s very exciting. We’re seeing the start of a lot of new scenes that might not have existed in such a structure before. Obviously there’s always been artists doing cool, interesting things, but I think in terms of community building and very tight knit scenes, we’re at an exciting point, whether that’s like the Irish hip hop scene—that’s blowing up at the moment—or the experimental music scene and everyone who’s attached to the general circle around like Dublin Digital Radio, etc. There’s just this really interesting sense of community and support and it’s getting so much attention, even from outside of Ireland. I think there’s a lot more opportunities than there were before to get a gig. Doesn’t matter what type of artist you are, as well. Féile na Gréine and Open Ear both very much actively encourage experimental artists and give them a platform that I think would be quite hard to get before this point, so I’m finding that quite exciting. 

I think that if you’re looking at marginalised groups, it’s interesting. In the experimental music scene with groups like Gash Collective and Gxrl Code, there are spaces where you can exist as an artist and not feel like you’re an outsider, because there are other female DJs or queer DJs that you’re working alongside. I think, particularly for myself, my entire Irish music experience has been in a very safe bubble. I learned how to DJ through like a Gash Collective workshop. I played a Women’s Day Party for my first ever DJ set. I’ve worked very much within that structure and that scene, where everyone’s supporting each other, which I think is really nice. 

Once you step outside of very specific spaces, there is quite a lot of work that does need to be done. I think potentially we excuse ourselves on the grounds of we’re Irish and our scenes are small and they’re new, and people aren’t being as critical as they could be of where they operate in terms of marginalised groups and inclusivity with collaboration. The Irish hip hop scene is a big one for me in terms of, obviously we have people, like Denise Chaila, who are doing amazing work. But I watched a documentary about the Irish hip hop scene quite recently, and one of the things that was being repeated in it was that unlike the US hip hop scene, sexism isn’t as much of an issue in Irish hip hop. I think there’s a problem when you have that mindset because if scenes are starting up, that’s the perfect time to step in and make sure you’re creating inclusive spaces. When you’re way down the road and the established leads of the scene are established leads, it’s a lot harder to make those changes. I think there should be stuff that people are a bit more conscious of at this moment. Denise is such a big figure in like Irish music at the moment, so it’s quite easy to be like, Okay, there’s gender representation, and there’s representation because she’s a person of colour. But then elsewhere, you’re still seeing things where you’ve got all-male lineups for gigs or collectives. I think there’s quite a lot of collectives operating in Ireland at the moment where everyone is a lad and they have maybe one female social media person or something. And I don’t think people do that on purpose. I think a lot of the time it is, Me and my five friends all really like DJing and therefore, we started doing this thing together, and it’s kind of blown up a little bit. And that’s fair enough. A lot of the time, it does come from your personal circle. But I think once you start getting a bit bigger and start getting a bit of a reach, it’s important to like, look and say, Am I just surrounded by people who look the exact same as me? Or could I be giving opportunities to people who aren’t the same as me, but don’t have that foot up because they’re not in an inner circle or an inner clique? Sometimes there’s unintentional exclusivity and that needs to be worked on.

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

KD: I think more collaboration with people outside of your friend group is really important. There are so many different people around the place with really interesting skills and talents, but if you’re standing out on your own, and you didn’t happen to go to a school where there were four lads who’re all into the same thing, it’s a lot harder to break through or get that first initial gig. So I think people should be conscious of that and go out of their way to not just work with people they know, and that also applies in terms of location. If you’re based in Dublin, it’s a lot easier to go to a gig where there happens to be a music journalist there or it’s a lot easier to go to a gig where there’s someone who’s connected to a small label or something, and therefore you can get that “in” because you’re someone who’s quite charismatic, but someone who’s making just as good, if not better music elsewhere doesn’t have that inlet. So I think we need to be conscious of the responsibility to reach out to different groups of people and not just pick who’s standing right next to you at any time to collaborate or work with. 

One thing that always needs to be paid attention to—and that I don’t think gets enough attention anywhere realistically—is sexual harassment at gigs and in live music settings, or creepy guys and bands who get a pass because everyone thinks they’re sound. I don’t think we’re very good at holding people accountable. I’m very used to like a set bubble of stuff like Gash Collective gigs where it’s quite an open space, and it would be easy to speak up if something did happen to you at one of those—not easy to speak up necessarily, but there’s the support structure there if you did need to speak up because someone said something bad to you or something bad happened to you. I think that that needs to be replicated amongst other music spaces, that holding accountability for people who do bad things, even if they are your nice friend, because it’s just all about keeping those spaces open. I don’t know if you heard about the “Ask for Angela” thing, but it was a small campaign running in Cork for a little while to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault at gigs and on nights out. I think replicating that type of thing across the music scene or something could benefit everyone. We might have a small scene here, but as we can see from American scenes or with the UK, there are always so much stories around sexual harassment and sexual assault and just because our scene’s smaller, it doesn’t mean that that doesn’t happen. I think because the scene is small, it’d be hard to speak up about stuff like that happening because everyone knows everyone. I just think that trying to have a safety net for that type of stuff should be number one, especially now as well, because we have this time to reflect on what live music and what our scenes look like. I’d hate to think that we take this break away, and we’d go back to the same type of flawed issues that we would have had before. This is the time to reflect and ask, How do we restructure club nights to be inclusive and protect people from from things like sexual violence? 

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

KD: Okay, so the first one—and I can’t stop raving about them, I actually interviewed them a couple of weeks ago—is NewDad from Galway. If anyone will listen to me talk for more than two seconds, I’ve been talking about how much of a stan I am. I think they’re absolutely brilliant. Their music is so good, they are so young, and I could see them headlining Reading and Leeds within a few years. I’m pitching all my bets on this. Who else? My brain is occupied with NewDad. Lighght is a producer from Cork, Eamon Ivri, and I think he’s just about to put out another release. He makes quite experimental, boundary-pushing electronic music that has club elements, but also these very beautiful, orchestral-y, ambient-y type pieces in there. He’s a workhorse as well, like the amount of music that man puts out, and every release is great, so heavy recommend for him. And Cork love, as usual. Sohotsospicy and Dark Mavis are working on collaborative music at the moment. Both of them are DJs, and I really appreciate the DJing work and their sets and stuff. So the two of them coming together is a collaboration that I think is a huge one to watch out for. 

TEBI REX

Beloved Kildare hip hop duo Tebi Rex draw you in with their catchy tunes, but underneath the earworms is a whole lot of heart. Their latest single “Oh It Hurts,” released in late February, is the perfect sing along for anyone feeling heartbreak of whatever variety. They’ve rightly received international attention since their track “I Never Got Off the Bus” was featured in the BBC/Hulu adaptation of Normal People in spring of 2020. We spoke to one half of Tebi Rex, Max Zanga, about his experiences in the Irish music industry. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Max Zanga: Good question. I guess it’s a mixed bag, because obviously I’ve had some good experiences and some level of success, minorly in comparison to a big artist, but within the scene. So it’s always a mixed bag, because I often get told—and I think that it’s definitely true—I’m in a band with a straight white dude, so I get away with stuff to a certain degree that maybe I wouldn’t if I was just me by myself. That’s the beauty of Matt. I always joke about that, Oh, we formed the band so I could get rich off his white privilege, because he’s the definition of a “good boy” and so accessible and marketable that even in terms of interviews, I don’t really do them. I let him do that kind of stuff and run the socials because he’s very accessible. I feel being a marginalised artist to a certain extent, you almost feel you need to be more accessible to be successful, especially with rap. I think there are certain beliefs or assumptions made if you’re a rapper. I always use the example of Jafaris as probably one of the biggest rappers in the country, but Jafaris for the most part has to be perfect and has shaped himself as perfect. There are expectations put on you when you’re Black and doing rap at that level where I feel it’s definitely easier and there’s less pressure if you are seen as the norm. Once you’re outside the norm, you’re trying to constantly prove that you deserve to be in the space you’re in, or that if you’re in a space you won’t make anyone too uncomfortable or stir things up, make it weird for fucking white people.

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

MZ: I would like to hear more diversity in terms of stuff that’s being talked about. I think that’s so much to do with the music news in this country as well. Ireland has this really weird thing where if people don’t understand the genre of music and they don’t like it, they just don’t write about it, which I think is super, super odd because these genres that people don’t understand or aren’t familiar with are usually ones that have marginalised people. I think it’s so funny that up until recently, about a year or two ago, you had these guys making drill in Drogheda getting a million streams on YouTube, but the people in some of these Irish blogs and magazines, they don’t understand or listen to drill—which is fair, you don’t have to listen to drill or even understand it. But then you have this music and these artists who are making massive waves, getting all this love in the UK and getting written about in the UK, and no one’s talking about them over here, which is so bizarre. 

I feel like that’s across the board, even on a Dublin-Kildare level. I’ve been written about in Dublin magazines and London magazines and blogs, but not a single Kildare outlet or newspaper. I feel like if someone did some shitty indie band here they’d be like, Fine yeah, we’re putting on the paper. Oh, man, these Kildare guys, they’re such big things, and shit like that. I’m like, bro, we went to Eurosonic, like, fuck. So yeah, I definitely think there should be more diversity in what music is reported on, but I’m also saying, be critical. I don’t think that by virtue of me making a certain type of music or being from a certain area I’m above critique. You don’t have to love my shit. You can hate it. But I never understood people ignoring stuff they don’t understand, which is so indicative of the Irish music scene. What’s the last bad review you heard about Irish artists written in a magazine? Like, it’s weird, man. It’s always really bugged me that I people are just ignored if they’re not what people are familiar with. It’s very odd. You know, maybe because Ireland’s small and you really don’t want to be like, Hey, this guy’s like, this album sucked, and you see that motherfucker the next week out and then it’s like Oh, shit. Y’all are writers, you get that, it’s like, you know, it’s an art form in of itself, it’s integrity in of itself. And no one’s being mean, you know. If some shit doesn’t slap to you, it doesn’t slap to you.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

MZ: Okay, so Rebecca Locke. She a furry, she wildin’, but she’s great. Really great, just brings this automatic energy and it’s dope. Txmmy Rose, in my opinion, is probably the best rapper in this country. He’s so, so, so talented. Coolest guy ever. And then you have Daire Patel, who’s another Kildare native. He’s half Indian, half Irish and definitely can attest to that experience. He makes really good sad boy music, but not like sad boy in the kind of whiny way, but sad boy but like, Oh, this guy is actually a sad boy.

SHAUNA WATSON

Perhaps one of the most sorely missed aspects of Irish music are the festivals, buzzing with new acts to discover and random acquaintances waiting around every corner. Shauna Watson founded the woman-centred festival We’ve Only Just Begun, as well as an accompanying directory of women and non-binary people in the Irish music industry.  

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Shauna Watson: I could deep dive on this all day! In terms of talent and originality, the Irish music scene is the strongest it’s ever been. There are so many artists pushing boundaries and redefining the landscape of Irish music. However, I think the Irish music scene can be quite exclusive and gatekept at times and which makes it less accessible or penetrable specifically for marginalised communities. Some artists have to work much harder to be heard which is really sad because we are all losing out on some incredible music as a result. 

Having said that, there is hope in some of the movements for both gender and racial equality that we’ve seen over the last couple of years. The Black Lives Matter movement saw a lot of challenges to racism in the industry which was long overdue. And the gender disparity radio reports started a conversation in the mainstream about radioplay for women and gender minorities in Ireland. There are organisations and communities that have formed to connect, support and give a platform to under-represented groups but there is still a long way to go. 

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

SW: I would like there to be greater representation of women, people from diverse backgrounds and gender minorities across all facets of the industry – in board rooms, onstage, backstage, front of house, etc. There are so many things that need to be done to achieve this but there are two prominent factors for me. 

The first is for everyone working in the industry, regardless of gender, race or class, to realise that it’s our collective responsibility to make our industry more accessible to under-represented groups and not to be left to those groups to do the work themselves. Whether you’re the CEO of a music company, a runner at a show or the drummer in a band it’s up to the entire industry to level the playing field for everyone. 

The second thing I think needs to change specifically for the Irish music industry is for professionals to look outside their own networks and circles when hiring and booking talent. There is such a culture of hiring who you know to work on projects and when your inner circles lack diversity then your team is going to reflect that. We need to stop safeguarding opportunities and give people outside of our own networks a chance to at least be considered. Imagine how much more vibrant and inclusive our industry would be if we removed those barriers!

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

SW: Aby Coulibaly I am so excited about. The two singles she put out last year just stood out so much for me and her latest single “Long Nights” is on repeat. She’s cool and effortless and supremely talented. 

Kynsy is another artist who released some of my favourite tracks of 2020. If you haven’t heard of her I would definitely recommend checking out her EP released in January this year Things That Don’t Exist.

And of course Pillow Queens. Like a true indie band they’ve been grafting hard for many years and they’re finally getting the international recognition they deserve. 

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