Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Shauna's West End peril

Sunday Life speaks to the young Magherafelt-born star of Channel 4 reality programme Musicool who is more than happy that she didn't win a place in the show's final 10

Shauna Tohill knew the Musicool experience wasn't for her

Last month, London music moguls descended upon Lavery's Bunker in Belfast armed with a film crew. Their mission was to film local singer Shauna Tohill with her band Angelfall for a future documentary on Channel 4's T4.

At the time, the Magherafelt-born musician hadn't the faintest clue about the true nature of the programme, but when she was asked to go to London for more filming she jumped at the chance.

"I'd originally received an email from Channel 4 looking for applications for an up-coming music show - but it didn't say exactly what the show was," recalls the 19-year-old. "Anyway, I sent in an audition tape of me being stupid in front of the camera, they liked it and called me up to do a few interviews. I was totally clueless up until the final auditions as to what was going to happen on the show."

It might have been a secret more closely guarded than Colonel Sanders' special recipe for chicken, but when Shauna found out the show was going to be called Musicool and she would be isolated away from the outside world for three months, her heart sank.

"Basically, they left all 22 finalists in the dark until the very last moment. We were sitting in a theatre when all of a sudden Edith Bowman comes out from behind a curtain to let us know what was going to happen. It was a bit embarrassing for me though, because I didn't know who Edith was at the time and had to be told.

"When she said that the show would feature 10 people with an aim to write and perform an original musical in the West End I knew it wasn't for me."

After a series of gruelling interviews and workshops, Shauna was happy to hear she didn't make the final 10. Undeterred, the talented teenager is forging ahead making music on her own terms, with her band Angelfall.

"I've been making music with Grace Leacock (Angelfall's drummer) for about two-and-a-half years now.

"We initially wanted to be an all-girl band but it's hard to find women who are into playing music.

"It's weird, because it seems like there aren't many girls in Northern Ireland that are interested in it. Hopefully that will change in the future. We need more girls with guitars."

For Shauna, songwriting is in her blood and she grew up in a very musical family. Her uncle is legendary local producer Mudd Wallace (whose credits include working on Therapy?'s seminal debut album Babyteeth in 1991) and her mum, Maura Donaghy, has been performing as a backing singer for years and is now currently putting the finishing touches to her debut album.

"I'm actually singing backing vocals on my mum's album too," explains Shauna. "This is her first album on her own and I really want it to go well for her.

"I'm going to set her up with a Myspace account soon. After that, I'm planning to record Angelfall's first record in the summer."

Not content to rest on her laurels, Shauna has also taken on booking and promoting local club night F*Rock, which is dedicated to playing female-fronted music.

"I love being involved with F*Rock," she smiles. "Basically, I love supporting women in bands and hopefully letting people know about artists they've never heard before.

"My first big introduction to female singers was when I heard Avril Lavigne when I was younger. I love her. Her songs really opened my eyes and showed me that I could be in a band too.

"I'm always searching to hear more and more female voices. I think it's important."

Of course, in the male-dominated world of rock 'n' roll, sexism is always going to rear its ugly head, but thankfully the Angelfall front lady hasn't been on the receiving end too much.

"I remember this one time when Grace and myself were carrying our equipment into the town hall in Warrenpoint and these guys were saying something like 'isn't it cool to see the girlfriends carrying the band's instruments once in a while'.

"Once we told them that we were the band they apologised and looked very embarrassed. We haven't had too much of that sort of thing though, thank God. It would be probably be worse if we were an all-girl band."

With Shauna currently receiving all kinds of attention from the mainstream media due to her appearance on Musicool, it certainly looks like things are looking up for her burgeoning music career.

"To be honest, I don't have any concrete plans for the next year," Shauna concludes. "I'm currently on my year out, then I'll decide what I want to do.

"We're going to hopefully record our album with Mudd, play more gigs and see what happens after that. I want to learn more instruments and maybe make a solo album too - but I'm in no rush just yet."

› Musicool is on Channel 4 on Sunday mornings at 12.50pm.

› For more information on Angelfall check out www.myspace.com/angelfallband.

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