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Elly finds her Voice

Elly had three judges turn for her and chose Tom Jones.

Well known performer on the London- Irish scene Elly O’Keeffe wowed the judges when she auditioned for The Voice recently, choosing Tom out of the three coaches who turned around. She told David Hennessy about ‘the most nerve-racking thing’ she has ever done.

“It was crazy,” Elly O’Keeffe from Cork says of her recent successful audition on The Voice. Singing Leon Bridges’ River, Elly got three judges to turn giving her a choice of three coaches to choose as a mentor.

“I’m not used to that. You can do 2,000 gigs in your lifetime but you’re never going to be prepared for walking onto a stage like that with four chairs turned away from you in a studio with 500 people and about 1,000 cameras looking at you. It’s insanity really. It’s the most nerve- racking thing I’ve ever done.

“I can’t even remember performing, I was so nervous. You can be as confident as you like but once you are standing on that stage, you are the most vulnerable you’ll ever be and that’s the truth of it.

“I just went for it and you could feel in the studio everybody was with me, everyone was on my side that night, everybody in that audience. It felt like that anyway. It was an incredible experience.”

Although Tom Jones, Meghan Trainor and Olly Murs would all make a pitch for her, with Tom winning her in the end, Elly didn’t immediately realise herself that it had gone so well.

“I didn’t actually think anyone turned. When you watch the TV, you hear the buzzers when they press ‘em but you don’t hear that in the studio. I was so nervous, I just closed my eyes for five seconds and all I remember was when I finished performing, the whole studio was jumping up on their chairs, they went absolutely crazy. I just thought, ‘I’m out’ and I turned and saw the three of them facing me. That’s when I pulled that stupid face.”

Elly’s priceless stunned expression when she realised Tom, Olly and Meghan wanted her has even been turned into a GIF.

“It was just sheer relief to get that kind of recognition.”

Elly’s father was reduced to tears by the proud moment: “Apparently they left out half of it because he lost his life altogether when they turned. He broke down crying but they didn’t show that on TV. They were standing at the side of the stage and they went through every emotion with me.”

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Elly got an early start in the music business as she performed with her father in the family band that would gig all over Ireland from the age of 14.

“I think he was just so nervous and so emotional for me putting myself in that situation, in that vulnerable position to be standing in front of four mega famous people showcasing what I do. By the time they turned for me, he just broke down. He just couldn’t cope. He was just so happy to see me get that recognition after all these years.

“Dad said to me afterwards: ‘I’ll take that feeling to the grave with me. I’ll cherish it’. He was like, ‘I was never so proud’.

“They were all the same: My mam, my sister. It was an amazing moment.”

Under Tom’s tutelage, Elly is preparing for the battle rounds now where, if she shines in a head to head contest with another performer, she will progress to the live shows.

Elly has released solo albums and played with Contraband.

From Knocknagree in Cork, Elly has been in London for six years and has support from Father Murphy’s Ladies Football Club and Contraband who she has played with. She has also had support coming from home with Ray D’arcy and Cork radio stations interviewing her last week: “It’s been insane. I was blown away to be honest because it feels like I haven’t moved away at all the way they’re all getting behind me, they’re just so delighted to see me get through the blind auditions and working with Tom Jones.

“Contraband have been so supportive of my career and always have been. They’re my family now.

“The whole of west London (have been supportive). Every single pub I’ve played in for the last four years, they had the big screens down. It was like Conor McGregor fighting I’d say.

“Hopefully I can take my songwriting to another level and that’s the whole point.”

Despite seeming natural when chatting to the judges, Elly was so nervous she can’t even remember performing.

Elly also works as a part-time music teacher in a primary school and the Monday after her audition aired was a little different from normal: “The kids I teach, they’re so cute. I couldn’t come out of my music hall Monday morning. There were so many kids outside screaming my name. They all think I’m famous. I was like, ‘Everybody calm down, I was just on the TV for one night.”

So why did she pick Tom Jones? “I had it in my head that if I got Tom to turn for me then I would be going with him.

“I don’t want the show to change me too much. I’m trying to find a balance between how much I learn and keeping the essence of what I do naturally. I think I’m in the right hands. I think he has a good understanding of what kind of artist I am.”

Elly intended to get signed when she came to London but after years of working on it and getting good feedback, it just hadn’t happened which is when she joined Contraband and the Irish London music scene that has been so good to her.

Why did she decide to appear on The Voice now? “I kind of got scouted, I was asked to come on the show. They asked me was I interested and at the time I was like, ‘Ah, I’m not sure if those competitions are right for me’. I spoke to my boyfriend and he was just like, ‘What have you got to lose? I don’t know why you haven’t done this  years ago’.”

What would it mean to Elly if she won The Voice?  “I didn’t even think about winning it. There’s still a good few rounds to get through.”

The Voice continues on Saturday nights on ITV.

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