Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

RTE's The Hit: How Mark and Frances are hitting the high notes ...

A collaboration by two Lisburn songwriters has clinched a place in the final of RTE show The Hit. Roisin Delaney reports

Melody makers: Frances Mitchell and Mark Graham's composition, Who Do You Love, performed by Ryan O'Shaughnessy, has already reached Number 3 in the Irish charts

Two Lisburn songwriters are hoping that the title of a television reality show comes true for them later this month. Mark Graham and Frances Mitchell have won through to the final of RTE's The Hit on August 30.

But already they have gained some fame when their song Who Do You Love reached Number 3 in the Irish charts.

It was sung by Ryan O'Shaughnessy from Dublin who reached the final of Britain's Got Talent last year.

Although Mark and Frances have been writing together for three years, this was the first song they collaborated on and now they are hoping it will, indeed, become an even bigger hit.

They tell us of their quest for fame in the often fickle music industry.

Mark Graham (38) lives in Lisburn with his wife Julia and three sons, Jude (9), Harley (6) and Beau (4).

I started songwriting at a very young age while still at school. From the age of 13 I was learning how to play the guitar and by the age of 15 I had written my first song. I can't remember the name of it now but from those early days my passion for music grew and grew and I've never looked back.

I had never entered a competition like this before. Television music talent shows like X Factor were never my thing. However, I'm a passionate songwriter and that was my main motivation behind entering this contest which was for songwriters rather than performers.

I didn't have high hopes and said I'd just enter in case something came of it. Then in June, RTÉ made the first contact and it's been all go since then.

I sent a selection of songs to RTÉ and Who Do You Love was shortlisted.

Then it was up to us to film a live performance with myself and Frances and we sent the video back to Dublin. We had to go to The O2 in Dublin for filming and that was very exciting.

It was up to Brian Kennedy and Ryan O'Shaughnessy to decide which songs they preferred and which songs they thought would work best live and sound the best on the radio.

Ryan released our song while Brian picked Seán Redmond's song, Try, and it spiralled from there.

It was Ryan versus Brian. The songs were performed on the Bank Holiday weekend at the beginning of the month and there was a battle that week between Who Do You Love and the song Brian had recorded. Who Do You Love reached the highest chart position. That was a real boost to both Frances and I.

The final is coming up on August 30 and between now and then, I'm going to be in the studio working.

With the five songs in the final anything could happen. I do think the chart success has helped our chances in the contest. At this stage, I'm proud of how far we've come and whatever happens happens, it would be great to win the final but if we don't, we have come a long way and it was all worth it.

Thanks to the Northern Ireland Arts Council, once this chapter is over I'll be jetting off to Nashville to work on my songwriting.

I've been before but I'm hoping that this recent success might give me a boost in Nashville and give me the opportunity to work with the best team of songwriters over there.

It's a great experience to learn and develop my songwriting skills a little more, so there's lots to look forward to in the near future.

Frances Mitchell (21) lives with her parents in Lisburn. She recently graduated from university in Coleraine where she studied media studies and production.

I began writing music in our family's caravan in Donegal. We'd be up there and Dad would be playing his acoustic guitar. That's how I learned to play the guitar from watching him and messing around with it when I could. I decided I wanted to be able to write music so by the time I was 15 I had begun writing my own songs.

Music has always had an impact on me. As a child in school I played the oboe. I practised hard and completed up to grade five in my exams.

Then I decided I wanted to switch from the oboe to saxophone. But for writing music, I picked up the basics on the piano and I use that today when I'm writing.

I met Mark three years ago when I was recording with my band Everyday Super Heroes. I was frontwoman in the band but I felt the genre the band was playing was very influenced by rock and my music would be more in the areas of pop and electronic.

When I met Mark he was preparing for his new album at the time. We got talking and realised we lived around the corner from each other in Lisburn.

We met on Saturday mornings on a regular basis and initially I was going to help him write for his album. I think we gel really well as our music appeals to the same kind of audience but we definitely each brought something different to the table.

Who Do You Love was the first song Mark and I wrote together. Originally we set out to create an upbeat summer song that people could sing along to and that would work well on radio. We wrote the song in about an hour but obviously there are always parts you want to tweak.

The whole experience of getting on The Hit has been surreal. To be honest it had been so long since we wrote the song that I had forgotten about it. So Mark entered it along with a few of his own and when we heard it was shortlisted the only way was up as far as we were concerned.

Mark and I created a video of us performing the song live and then it was a matter of waiting. Each week we waited for the call to find out if we were through to the next stage. Then we heard we reached the final 30 and it hit home.

The personal highlights for me were meeting Ryan O'Shaughnessy and hearing that the song had charted.

I'm incredibly grateful to have been presented with the opportunity to work with Ryan and I love what he has done with the song.

It's important as a songwriter to remember that there's a clear distinction between writing for someone else and writing for yourself. This song was written for someone else to perform so I didn't get emotionally attached to it.

I recently graduated so for the time being I'm focusing all of my energy on my new band, Loris.

We're really just a group of friends playing music together. My boyfriend Tommy plays the guitar, a friend Chris is on drums and everyone gets on with it.

My mum has taken on the role of agent and she's helping me with promoting the band and my music and we're recording too so while we wait for the final of The Hit, that's my main focus.

e Ryan O'Shaughnessy (20) from Skerries in Dublin reached the final of Britain's Got Talent in 2012 finishing in fifth place

e He also appeared in the first series of The Voice of Ireland

e The youngest of three children, he is a singer-songwriter and plays guitar, piano and saxophone

e He played the part of an orphan in the RTE soap Fair City for nine years

e He is currently working on his first album due for release next month

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