Highly rated emerging Derry singer-songwriter ROE told David Hennessy about her new single and EP, why she feels it is a new day for Derry and Northern Ireland and how the recent Dreams cover has brought her into a community of creative Irish females working together.
Clash Magazine say acclaimed twenty-year-old multi-instrumentalist ROE’s music as, “Delicious pop music, it’s infectious and charming in all the right places.” Hot Press say her sound is, “Sassy, streetwise pop with a voice that’s reminiscent of Florence Welch.” Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, which she has performed and toured with, says she is, “An extraordinary artist.”
The highly rated emerging Derry songstress has just shown a different side to her sound- which has been described as ‘Grumpy electro pop’- with her upbeat latest single Marco.
ROE, real name Roisin Donald, told The Irish World: “This song is a bit different to everything else I’ve written. I feel it’s a step in a new direction for me musically and it’s cool that the audience follow me. It’s a bit more indie and the reaction to it has been class so far. It’s really encouraging that people like it so I’m buzzing.”
The performer releases the EP Things We Don’t Talk About on 21 August: “It’s a bit different and a bit wonky like Marco and I’m really excited for people to hear it. The whole concept is that it’s about issues that we don’t normally have conversations about, hard topics and just things that affect us all but we don’t really want to say to anybody. Mental health and personal issues and stuff like that.
ROE has already toured with major bands like Snow Patrol and Kodaline, performed at Glastonbury and received multiple nominations for the Northern Ireland Music Prize.
How has lockdown treated her? “It’s been a massive adjustment really. I would have been gigging about now, we had loads of shows booked and everything. Then to just be home when the dates are coming up when I’m meant to be somewhere is really weird. But do you know what? It was nice having the time to spend with my ma and da. It was nice having an uninterrupted period to hang out and have game nights and chill.
“I’ve been writing away and there has been a lot of new music to come from it. I’ve been doing a lot more collaborations with people over zoom.”
One collaboration was when ROE joined Irish Women in Harmony for the recent charity Dreams cover. Like RuthAnne told us some weeks ago, ROE says the project has birthed a community of Irish females working in solidarity.
“It was incredible to be asked. I love doing things like that because, first of all, it’s for a good cause. It was for Safe Ireland and then on top of that it’s created this massive community of Irish women musicians which is amazing. We all have this Whatsapp group and we chat in it all the time. It’s a really nice thing to come out of this. It kind of feels like we can do anything at this point. It’s a really nice thing to be a part of and I feel like it’s definitely going to grow and not only with the musicians that were involved in that Dreams cover, it’s going to reach out to women across Ireland. I feel like it’s the start of something massive.
“It’s weird because a lot of the musicians and artists involved I would know to see them or I would know from gigging and being at the same festivals but it wasn’t until doing this collaboration that we have been chatting and there has been a real sense of community behind it.
“It takes something like this I think where we’re all involved for a good cause to bring us all together and I just find it amazing that it didn’t stop there, we didn’t just do the collaboration and that was it. It’s a continuous thing, we’re still supporting and showing love for each other.”
This August ROE will play Stendhal Festival in Limavady. It’s a festival she has played at for the last three years although this year’s festival will have to be socially distanced.
“I’m so excited to do an actual real-life gig. I think the cap is 500 and it’s usually something like 5,000. I am so excited to get back to doing what I love.
“I love doing massive gigs like that but I also love doing the more intimate gigs and especially Stendhal because it feels like a home festival to me, you walk around the field and you basically know everybody there to stop and chat to and say hello.
“There’s some gigs that you just never forget and Glastonbury was one because it was my first festival playing in front of people and it was just really, really exciting. Then Body and Soul a couple of years ago was in the middle of the woods at midnight and there was a big massive crowd and everyone was singing back my words, the lyrics I had written. That was just insane. Then selling out Whelan’s Upstairs was mad as well. Things like that you always remember as a musician, I think. I’m sure there will be a lot more memorable shows down the line as well.”
ROE has toured with big names like Snow Patrol, Kodaline and The Coronas.
“The Snow Patrol tour was a particular highlight because it was a big arena tour. It was amazing being on tour with them because they are such nice guys.
I was terrified when I was told I was doing it because I had never played arenas before but everybody was so lovely. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and never take for granted.
“Doing shows like that was really heart warming and really supportive of the fact that I am doing this as a career and it’s nice to have that recognition from people who have been so successful at what they do.
“Gary Lightbody has given massive donations towards helping emerging artists and Northern Irish artists in particular. They’re really, really supportive of home grown talent and just want everybody to get the start they need. They’re such lovely guys.”
ROE has been the voice of a UK-wide advertising campaign to promote her home city and says Derry has a strong music scene and has been boosted by having a successful Channel 4 comedy about them.
“I feel like Derry is a real up and coming city. Because of our past, mental health is a massive topic around here. The suicide rate in Derry is so high and it’s terrible but I feel like having those issues in the city makes the artists here really aware of that and really aware of history and the music that comes out of here is so heartbreaking and amazing.
“Music is at the heart of the city I think and it’s really sad because there’s not a lot of venues around here but I feel that makes us closer as musicians.
“I love Derry Girls. It’s one of my favourite shows. I feel like having stuff like that is really encouraging and class because people know where you’re on about whenever you say you’re from Derry now.”
Does the singer-songwriter feel like this is a new day for a Northern Ireland that is moving on from its past? “Definitely, there’s a lot of history here that has been obviously political but I feel like as generations go on that Protestant/Catholic rivalry isn’t so apparent anymore.
“I feel like it is like a new day. People are more accepting of who you are whether you’re gay, straight, Catholic, Protestant, it doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t matter. Young people here are a lot more aware of that and a lot more accepting of people. I feel it’s definitely a positive new day.”
The British government has announced £1.57 billion will be injected into the arts and culture industry that has been hit badly by the lockdown with all entertainment venues closed for many months.
“It’s definitely the start of something. The UK has never had funding for arts through the government so it’s a good thing that they’re suddenly acknowledging that and acknowledging that the arts is a massive industry and that you can have a career in it. They should be supporting it as much as every other sector.
“It’s a good start but we definitely need more support government-wise. People still don’t really see the arts as a viable option as a career so I think with the money that the government has granted the arts, I feel like it’s a good start.
“We have been hit really hard alongside a lot of other industries. I think a lot of musicians rely on the PRS and IMRO and because there hasn’t been any venues open or there hasn’t been gyms or saunas open, the music is not getting played as much and it has been a massive hit for musicians but hopefully we get the support that we need and will come out of this on top.”
She releases her latest EP next month. Will we see an album from her in due course? “Possibly, I think that will be the next thing down the line. I’m working on it at the minute. Not right now but eventually.”
The single Marco by ROE is out now.
The EP Things We Don’t Talk About is out on 21 August.
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