COMING FROM a family steeped in music, the soulful, Clare-born, chanteuse Síomha, grew up on a diet of musical greats, with the sounds of jazz, trad, folk, and soul creeping in and leaving an indelible mark on her musical tastes and influences.
She started playing guitar at age 10, but it was in her teens, while attending high school in the south of France, that she first took up jazz guitar, after a chance encounter with an Italian gypsy who taught her the manouche gypsy jazz style. The chords and sounds of jazz fascinated and inspired Síomha, and she began to craft her own songs.
The next few years saw her travelling, with music as her compass, soaking up the sounds of wherever she found herself. She visited the American musical meccas of Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, and Austin. In late 2016, she felt an innate draw to return to home shores and phenomenal years have followed, including slots at festivals such as Electric Picnic, Clifden Arts Festival, Doolin Folk Festival, and Dingle Folk Festival. She has played support slots for Joey Dosik (Vulfpeck ), Moxie, Wyvern Lingo, and is a regular special guest with Paul Brady. Síomha’s song ‘July Red Sky’ garnered more than 1.7 million views online, and was recorded and performed live from the edge of The Burren.
“My life has always revolved around music,” she tells me. "When I went to the States my whole trip was planned around hitting the music hotspots like Memphis for blues, New Orleans for jazz, obviously, and Nashville for country. It was second nature to me to be always chasing music. New Orleans definitely lived up to my expectations; Memphis and Nashville have changed a bit and are very touristy. I know a lot about the history of the places so that didn’t really matter; just the fact I was there was important enough for me. New Orleans definitely resonated with me, it’s got so much going on.”
Síomha recounts her musical upbringing. “I got all that from my dad," she says. "He is a traditional Irish musician, he plays the accordion, but he was also a huge music fan so when we were growing up were always listening to gospel, blues, jazz – even when we were very young and didn’t understand what it was. From about the age of 10 I went through a Beatles phase which was followed by a Joni Mitchell phase and around 16 I got hooked on jazz.
'When you make music with your friends there is a different bond there, when you are sitting in the rehearsal room, something special can happen'
"I learned a lot from my dad about jazz and its history, it is so broad. Being a singer myself, I was taken a lot with singers like Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald. I’d have learned as much as I could from listening to them. I also loved the songwriters; the Great American Songbook had a huge influence on me, the likes of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, I was listening to a lot of those as a teenager as well. I listen to every kind of music, from Irish trad to various American styles of music.”
Having returned to Ireland in 2016, Síomha quickly put together her current band with Martin Atkinson (keys ) and Cein Daly (bass ). “I’ve known them a lot longer than I’ve played with them,” she reveals. “When you make music with your friends there is a different bond there when you are sitting in the rehearsal room, something special can happen. When I got back from Canada I decided to make music again. I hadn’t made a lot of music there because I had a job working in an office and took a break from it which gave me a nice perspective. When I came back I wanted to give it another go and I formed the band at the end of 2016. The minute I started after coming back everything started working on the right way, I had been trying to make it work since my twenties but it wasn’t really happening.”
Speaking about her upcoming gig in Monore's, Siomha said: “My set in Monroe's will be all original material. My background is primarily in live music so I’ve put together a really solid live set over the last couple of years and the songs of mine that are online are all live also – like 'July Red Sky' that we did in the Burren. That was done in one take so what you see in those videos is a good indication of what you’ll get in the show.”
Síomha plays Monroes, with special guest Tony McHugh on Wednesday December 19 at 8pm. Tickets are €15/12. Síomha is also having a a kickstarter fundraiser for her debut album which she is recording in America next year: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1327315427/siomha-debut-album?ref=5u8dlw