After impressing the judges and being mentored by Tom Jones on ITV reality show The Voice earlier this year, Elly O’Keeffe told David Hennessy she is ready to let people hear her own music, releasing her new single, Gold.
“It was unbelievable. It was one of the best things I ever did in my life,” well known performer on the London scene Elly O’Keeffe says of her appearance on The Voice this year.
Singing a beautiful version of Leon Bridges’ River, Elly got Tom Jones, Meghan Trainor and Olly Murs all turning to make a pitch for her with the Cork singer-songwriter choosing Tom as her mentor.
“It was amazing. I didn’t realise how much it would actually mean to me to get that validation.
“I’ve never felt nerves like it. I was like, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing here? This is intense’. But the minute I got the go ahead from the producer to start off, I went and I can’t really remember performing. All I remember was the crowd screaming at the end, standing up and going mental.
“I thought nobody turned for me because I didn’t hear the buzzer. You don’t hear it when you’re in the studio, you only hear that on TV, so I thought nobody turned because I didn’t hear it and I had my eyes closed. Then I turned around and there was the three of them facing me. I was like, ‘Oh my God’.
“It was amazing, a really proud moment.”
Elly progressed to a battle round where she sang Beyonce’s Halo and was eliminated despite doing the song justice.
“To be honest I was ready to go when I did. I just felt they were taking me down a route that I didn’t really want to go. I mean, as proud as I was of myself and as happy as I was of my performance of Halo, I was just like, ‘What are they doing making me sing Beyonce songs?’
“They scouted me to come on the show and I said, ‘No’. And they said, ‘We understand you’re an artist. If you make it to a certain level, you could do your own songs’. That’s why I started thinking about it and then the more I was in it, the less say I had. The best part of the whole show really was the blind audition and I think that’s because I chose the song myself and I was playing guitar. It was definitely the most effective performance, I thought.
“I’ve been playing music a fairly long time and I have built up a lot of people who have supported me for years and years. Being on The Voice reminded me that everyone is still there supporting me. I had forgotten that. That was a really important boost for me because it was just amazing to see how happy and proud everyone was for me.
“That was probably the hardest part of coming off the show. I didn’t actually care. I was grand. I was delighted to not be going through to the live shows but the only reason I was upset was because I was like, ‘God, people are going to be devastated for me’. And I didn’t want them to be.”
Nobody should be devastated for Elly as, since departing the Voice, she has secured management with a US company and this week releases her first single since her stint on reality TV. Entitled Gold, it is a song that means a lot to her and was written during her earliest days in London.
“I wrote it about a chapter in my life, a relationship in my life that was very painful when it ended. Gold was actually written about appreciating it once I was out of that awful heartache. It was just about appreciating a really important chapter in my life and being able to look back at it with gratitude and love as well.
“I wrote it about six years ago. I had moved to London and I was here about a month and then I was like, ‘I need to write a song’. And then I just sat down and wrote that one. It was literally the first one I wrote in London.”
Although there has been a shortage of live music due to circumstances, Elly has got the chance to play the song to a live audience.
“I was playing in Brentford just out in the garden in one of the local pubs and everyone was like, ‘Will you play the new single?’ And I don’t normally play my own stuff in the pub gigs because people like what they know. But they were all begging me for the song and then I played it.
“Everyone was like, ‘That was really beautiful’. I think it’s a different perception people have of me when I play my own stuff because I’m quite an emotional, intense sort of artist when as a person I’m quite bubbly and don’t really take myself too seriously.
“I’m definitely a ballad songwriter. I like a big, sad song. That’s where my comfort zone is. I’m really pleased with that song.”
Elly got an early start in the music business as she performed with her father in a family band that would gig all over Ireland from the age of 14.
From Knocknagree in Cork, Elly has been working for and looking for a break in the music business while playing with London-Irish band Contraband.
Elly also works as a part-time music teacher at a London primary school where her television appearances created some excitement: “When I was back in June there was a few of them coming up to me saying, ‘I watched you on the Voice all the time, Miss’. It was a great lift for them and I think it was a bit inspiring for them to see me on the TV going for it.”
Elly got the attention of some stars long before The Voice, sharing the stage with Mick Flannery, Foy Vance and folk star Paul Brady who said Elly is, ‘Earthy, passionate… deep and real in a world of musical confetti’.
“I supported Paul Brady at the INEC in Killarney and he’s such a nice man. He called me down after I did my set and he was like, ‘I don’t normally listen to the support acts but you sounded beautiful’. And I’d say we drank two bottles of wine. He invited all my family, we were there until four o’clock in the morning singing songs. It was a great night.
“I’ve done loads of support for Mick. He’s a good friend of mine from home. I did a load of support for him when I was in Cork and even when I was living in London.
“Foy Vance is a funny one because I’m a massive fan of his. A year and a half ago, he was doing a Christmas charity gig over in Greenwich. Onstage there was Foy and a piano player and everyone was getting up and singing a song and I just went up and I sang the Mariah Carey song with him. He was really sound. I was so nervous though.
“I went out and had a cigarette with him and he said, ‘You’re obviously a singer’. And I was explaining about what I’ve doing.
“He was like, ‘Yeah, just keep doing your thing. It’s not about that mainstream industry, it’s all about building your audience because that’s the people who matter, that’s the people who are ultimately going to be listening to your music’.”
The last time The Irish World caught up with Elly, she was doing an online gig in aid of Cork University Hospital to help them through the peak of the crisis.
“I did enjoy doing that. It really meant a lot to me to be asked. It was brilliant to be part of it. It was great to be part of it in such a dark time for people like all the staff there trying to keep things going. It was very hard for people so it was a great feeling to be able to do my bit.”
Gold by Elly O’Keeffe is out now with a video coming in the coming weeks.
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