By David Hennessy
Andrea Begley blew everyone away when she stepped onto the stage on BBC’s The Voice to first sing Sarah McLachlan’s Angel. However, she stunned them once again when she revealed that not only could the judges not see her in her first blind audition but she could not see them and was unsure if any of the coaches had turned around.
Andrea was diagnosed with glaucoma at the age of five and has now lost 90 per cent of her vision. Music has always helped her through and being the niece of country star Philomena Begley, it was always something that was massive in her very own family.
Appearing on The Voice was attractive to Andrea as it provided the opportunity to be assessed on just her vocal talent. Unbeknownst to Andrea immediately after her audition, Danny O’Donoghue of the Script had turned around (along with Tom Jones) and was the coach Andrea chose to guide her all the way to victory in the show’s second series.
It was just before last Christmas that Andrea first auditioned and everything since has been a whirlwind, The Irish World asks if the 26 year old from Pomeroy has even had time to digest it all? “It’s starting to sink in now. I think my goal at the time (of the first audition) was: ‘Whatever happens, it will be a great opportunity. At least I’ll get to meet the coaches’. So I didn’t think beyond that point. I never saw myself winning or even getting that far in the competition. I just had the attitude of: ‘I’ll go along, try it out and just take it as it comes’ and I think actually that turned out in my favour because I didn’t set myself any target as such apart from the fact that every time I went out, I just tried to do my best. I definitely think it’s bizarre to look back on where I was this time last year to where I am now.”
It was a great year for Northern Ireland with Andrea’s fellow finalist Leah McFall coming from Newtownabbey and also Leah Totten emerging victorious in The Apprentice: “There’s no doubt about it, I think we kind took over this year. It’s nice to have really positive news stories coming out of the north.”
Although her win was just announced in June, Andrea is about to release her debut album The Message. It was important to strike while the iron was hot in order to not repeat the failure of previous winner of The Voice Leanne Mitchell who seems to have vanished without trace: “We definitely hit the ground running, we really wanted to try to get something out before Christmas to maintain that momentum from winning the show. I’m very proud of it and I just hope when it goes out, that the public sees the diversity in it and they enjoy it.”
So as not to disappoint her fans but also because they hold special sentiments for her, songs Andrea sang on The Voice such as Angel and My Immortal are included on The Message: “I love those songs and they’ve obviously got a lot of great memories behind them: Especially Angel being a winning performance.”
Other tracks may raise eyebrows such as a cover of Disclosure’s Latch: “I’ve kind of done that in a jazz style so it’s very different to the original. I think the essential thing was to make sure that the covers I did, I did my own version of so Love Will Tear Us Apart and Take Me On and things like that, they were very much done with my style and my twist on them.”
But most significant is the inclusion of Andrea’s self-penned title track with production from her former coach, Danny O’Donoghue: “(I’m) probably proudest of it actually out of all the songs. I like them all for different reasons but I think it’s probably my favourite above all.
“For me the song is really about sending a message that means something more than what’s being said, it’s reading between the lines and seeing more to it than what there actually is. Other people might find something different in it so it’s kind of open to the listener really. That’s the beauty of songs: That everyone then takes their own feeling out of it.
“Danny’s been a great support to me through the show and even now beyond it as well. I know he’s very much tied up with all things Script at the minute but he has left his door open if I need anything or have any issues, so I know he’s there if I need any advice and he’s very much supportive of me and it’s great to know you’ve got someone like that who’s supporting you. He listened to some of the other tracks on the album too and he really likes them.”
With Danny and Jessie J waving goodbye (to be replaced by Ricky Wilson of The Kaiser Chiefs and Kylie Minogue) as well as all change in the presenting team, The Voice will have a whole new look when it returns in 2014: “You’ve got people like Kylie on board and new presenters and everything so I think it’s going to be really exciting this series. It’s going to be different, refreshed and I think that’s good for the programme as well. Obviously Danny and Jessie will be missed but I think it will make for an interesting show.”
For the full interview, pick up the October 19 Irish World.
The album The Message by Andrea Begley is out on October 21.
The book I Didn’t See That Coming by Andrea Begley is out on October 24.
Andrea plays Ulster Hall, Belfast on November 3 and Union Chapel, London on November 4.
For more information, go to: http://andreabegley.com/.