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Sweet music

Singer- songwriter Saibh Skelly told David Hennessy about her new EP, learning her trade busking on the streets of Dublin and proving wrong a teacher who told her a music career wasn’t realistic.

Saibh Skelly started busking on Grafton Street at the age of 14.

Her very first guitar was gifted to her by family friend Wallis Bird.

She would learn her trade and go on to sign a record deal before she completed her Leaving Cert.

She released her debut EP Undercover Heartbreak last year at the age of 17.

Now having just turned 19, she is releasing her follow up Saibh x Five. But while Undercover Heartbreak was made up exclusively of covers, this will feature her original material such as the singles So What?, Grow Up and Superficial which has just been released.

Saibh told The Irish World: “We kind of got the idea for the song Superficial from social media.

“We were seeing a lot of pictures of celebrity couples online and then we would see that they’d split up and stuff and we kind of started to talk about the idea of things looking a certain way online and then not actually being like that in real life.

“We decided to write this song about things being superficial and not actually being the way they look.”

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The new single follows So What? which is Saibh’s version of an unashamed love song, something she didn’t think she would ever write.

“I was kind of cringing at myself sitting down to write a love song.

“I’d always said, ‘I don’t want to write a cringy love song. That’s not really me’.

“But I realised that’s the way I was feeling and I wanted to write about how I felt.

“I was kind of just like, ‘Who cares if it’s a cringy love song, that’s the way I feel like so what?’

“The song is about me meeting somebody very early on and being like, ‘Oh my God, I really like this person’.

“I actually thought I was crazy writing such a love song so quickly.

“But it seemed to turn out pretty well, because I played that song for the person it was about and I’m still with him.”

The coming of age single Grow Up was the first taste of Saibh’s forthcoming EP.

“I think the only thing that we can all relate to as a collective is not being ready to grow up.

“I was just about to turn 18.

“We literally Googled, ‘What can you do when you turn 18?’

“We picked out some of those things that you can legally do when you turn 18 and we put them in the song.

“But it’s also about you can do those things and it’s great but it also comes with a responsibility and I don’t think anybody is ever really ready to grow up.”

Saibh has since turned 19 with her birthday on 21 March.

“Last year I was turning 18 on 21 March.

“I was a little bit disappointed to be honest with you because to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day my family and all were going out drinking and I was four days off being able to have a pint of Guinness in the pub for Paddy’s Day.”

How have you done with that list of things you can now do? “I think I’ve done most of them.

“The only two things I think I mentioned were dyeing my hair blue and piercing my nose, I don’t think those are two things that I will ever do.

“My mam’s been given out recently because I’ve gotten a few tattoos and that’s the second line in the song so that’s one thing I definitely did tick off.

“I’m trying to get my driver’s license so that will be hopefully ticked off by the end of this year.”

Saibh has already had support from the BBC and is looking to gig this side of the water before too long.

“Hopefully after this song and the EP comes out, I’ll be able to gauge whether I have the following to go over because I would love to go over and play a few gigs all over the UK, particularly obviously in London.”

Saibh was recently featured on Fanning at Whelan’s on Virgin Media One.

“That was amazing.

“I was really excited to have gotten that opportunity actually.

“I wasn’t too sure if Dave would even be there on the day that I was filming, because they hadn’t really clarified whether it was going to be an interview or just a performance, so I wasn’t really expecting too much.

“So we went and Dave was there, of course, and he’s a very, very lovely man. He’s so welcoming and I got to have a pint of Guinness with Dave.

“It was really cool to get to have a little talk with him.”

Dave Fanning has interviewed everyone. The Beatles, The Stones, Lou Reed, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Did you ask him some questions? “It would have been great to kind of get all of the gossip out of him about who he likes interviewing and who he doesn’t like maybe.”

Would you be a fan of Guinness then? “I wouldn’t really have drank it (but) they handed me a pint to take a photo with.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t really…’

“And they’re like, ‘No, just take a photo, you can take a sip if you want’.

“I took a few sips of it and I’ve kind of grown to like it ever since.”

Releasing her second EP, Saibh has come a long way since busking on Grafton Street.

“I was about to turn 15 I think when I first went busking,

“And once I started I just did not want to stop.

“For me as a 15 year old, even getting the money from it was great.

“I was delighted: I could buy my own clothes.

“But it was more of the social aspect of busking that I think kept me in it and still does to this day.

“The buskers of Grafton Street are some of my closest friends.

“When I got to meet the buskers on Grafton Street, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing. It’s a real community’.

“It’s brilliant. I always kind of hope that I can keep maybe busking every now and again.

“It’s something that I really enjoy doing so I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

“But I’ll always stay in touch with all of those other buskers.

“Busking really taught me to just enjoy what I’m doing.”

It was late last year that Saibh got to tour with pop star Lyra.

“That was brilliant.

“Getting to meet Lyra was amazing because she is so cool.

“I was a little bit nervous with the tour coming up because it’s a lot of shows all in a row.

“I hadn’t done that much performing in such a small space of time.

“I was just weary about whether I get sick or whether I kind of get a sore throat and I wouldn’t be able to perform or something or just be overtired and wouldn’t be able to like perform at my best every night.”

But it would not be usual for Saibh to be nervous about her performing.

“I don’t really get that nervous because I just want to be able to enjoy my own performance.

“But Lyra was quite nervous and she was like, ‘How come you’re not nervous? You’re getting on stage by yourself. I have a whole band up there with me and that’s what makes me feel better. How do you do it by yourself?’

“That was kind of funny for me because I’ve seen her on stage and she’s the most confident person ever on stage.

“You would never, ever think for a second that before she got on that stage that she was a little bit nervous.

“That was a real inspirational moment for me, I think, to see her get up on stage even though she was nervous.”

Shows may not make Saibh nervous but she admits she does get a bit apprehensive about some of the school appearances she has been making where she goes to talk to young girls and impart some perspective.

“I’ve recently started to go around to schools.

“I think the most nerve racking thing for me is going into an all girls and have to stand in front of those teenage girls and having to be like, ‘Hey, I’m Saibh’.

“But I’m going in to give a mental health and motivational talk, as well as playing my songs and kind of getting to know the kids.

“But for me being able to go in as an 18 year old girl into a school full of younger girls, and be able to be like, ‘Hey, this is how I got here and this is how you can get to anywhere you want to by just having the positive mindset’, it’s just amazing.”

Saibh’s school visits took her back to her own school only a couple of years after she left where she had a meaningful meeting with a teacher who had little faith in her musical ambitions.

“I was nervous for that, to be honest with you.

“The last few months of school, I had already signed a record deal so I wasn’t really paying attention in school because I was so focused on the start of my career.

“I wasn’t very good at English and my English teacher wasn’t a big fan of me.

“He was like, ‘Are you going to go to college? What are you going to do? What are you going to do if you fail English?’

“And I was like, ‘Oh, well, I’m hoping to do music. I’ve signed a record deal’.

“And he wasn’t very nice about it to be honest.

“He was kind of like, ‘Ah, be realistic. That’s never gonna happen’.

“When I recently got to go back into my school, I met that same teacher again and he came up to me and he shook my hand and he was like, ‘I’m sorry for saying that. I was wrong’.

“And he’s a very stern man so to hear that man say, ‘I was wrong’, and congratulations on everything you’re doing, that was probably the best feeling I’ve ever had.

“He asked me for a CD and he asked me could I sign the CD.”

While Undercover Heartbreak was made up of covers, Saibh x Five has all been written by Saibh.

“It’s definitely a lot more personal to me.

“I think it’s a little bit more daunting.

“I’m hoping now that we’ll get as good of a reaction as we did.”

Saibh also hopes the EP’s title will help a few people out with regards to saying her name, which means sweet in Irish, correctly.

“We have realised no one can say my name.

“Nobody can. I have quite an international following online and nobody can spell it, nobody can pronounce it.

“Even people in Ireland still can’t pronounce my name and it’s an Irish name.

“So maybe by putting this title it will kind of teach people to pronounce my name.”

The single Superficial is out now.

The EP Saibh x 5 is out on 21 April.

For more information, click here.

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