THIS YEAR has been a good year for Sandra Coffey. Not only did she oversee the successful first running of Galway’s Oscar Wilde Festival, she also released her debut album, Morning Zoo, featuring eight self-penned songs, to considerable acclaim.
On Saturday December 7 at 8.30pm, Coffey sees the year out with an intimate performance in the Town Hall Theatre studio where she will be joined by Aidan Curran on guitar and Anna Falkenau on violin.
Originally from Athenry, and a classically trained soprano, Sandra previously worked as a journalist, including a stint at the Galway Advertiser, before pursuing a career in music.
“I’d been dabbling in making this decision for a while,” she tells me. “I loved the variety in journalism and no day was ever the same but I knew there would come a time when I wanted to devote solely to music. A lot of this was down to not wanting any regrets in life, to just go for it and keep my fingers crossed that it might work out.”
I enquire which singers she would cite as personal influences. “I grew up listening to a wide variety of music from classical to soul to pop,” she replies. “Singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone. I think those influences have come through along with Amy Winehouse, Adele, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young who are also huge influences. I was also a massive Michael Jackson fan growing up!”
The songs on Morning Zoo fall into the soft-rock/pop vein and show off Coffey’s voice to fine effect. ‘Silhouette’ was partly inspired by attending an NUI Galway lecture alongside Martin Sheen. ‘A Hot Water Bottle is no Substitute for a Man’ evokes the heartache and pain of an expired romance, while the confident ‘Mascara Girl’ is all set to ‘get what she wants’, but what of the album’s title?
“It blends the notion of how mornings and life in general can be a bit of a zoo and it is how we cope with our zoo-like existence, ups and downs, and learning to reap the most from things,” says Sandra. “I feel the songs reflect that. You just never know what news you are going to get when you wake up in the morning. A death in the family or an accident to someone you know and it turns that day on its head.”
Sandra has also received some mentoring from Eurovision winner Paul Harrington.
“He was lovely to work with and very encouraging,” she recalls. “I always remember him telling me not to be afraid to use the power I have in my voice but to recognise it, get familiar with it, and use it wisely. He warned me that success wasn’t going to happen overnight, if it happens at all. I know it isn’t going to be easy and it’s a long and very tough road to make anything happen. But to be successful in anything requires time.”
For her Town Hall gig, Sandra will be singing material from Morning Zoo, plus some cover versions of songs she has long admired by other artists. She mentions a few of her choices;
“Bob Dylan’s ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’ is a favourite of mine,” she says. “I’ve only recently started to incorporate Dylan into my live set and this is one I really enjoy doing. The Beatles’ ‘All My Loving’ is one that we do in a different way to the way people normally hear it but it has gone down well. I try to do covers a little differently. I’ll also be doing an Andrea Boceilli song, ‘Amapola’ -I can’t fully leave behind my classical roots!”
Tickets are €8/5 and are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie