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Leah McConnell: My granny encouraged my musical side

By Kerry McKittrick

Leah (28) is a singer/songwriter and lives in Carrickfergus. She plays live tonight at the Dirty Duck in Holywood from 8pm.

My best friends, Charlotte and Patrick

It's difficult to pick between them but I'll choose Charlotte Moore first. I used to work with Charlotte at the Henderson Group and we've known each other for six years. She's always pushed me to do things – she'd be at all my gigs even if no-one else was going and she consistently tries to push me out of my comfort zone.

In many ways Patrick Scullion is the same – he pushes me too. And, as with Charlotte, I met him through work. Patrick was the one who insisted that I apply for The Voice of Ireland. He told me to give it a go and see how it went. He also came down to the auditions with me and I think if he hadn't suggested it and pushed me to do it then I never would have done it.

My parents, Dawn and Roy

My mum and dad still live in Carrickfergus – mum works as a hairdresser in a hospital and my dad works for the council. I don't have any brothers and sisters. It's just the three of us and we're very close. My family is very musical; dad plays the guitar and was in a band in the Eighties, while mum sings and plays, too. At family gatherings the guitar is constantly passed around so everyone can sing a song.

My parents have always got my love of music and they've encouraged me to do more as they believe that I have the ability.

They were really supportive during The Voice of Ireland but the pressure while it was going on was incredible. My mum asked me at one point if I thought I could really handle it. If I have to do a special performance I will always sing songs to my parents first and mum is always brutally honest with me. During The Voice of Ireland she was up with me until 3am looking at songs to make sure I had the right one.

My granny, Anne

I'm also very close to my granny, Anne, who is my mum's mum. I've a lot to thank her for as she also encouraged my musical side.

When I was younger I would watch old musicals – the black and white ones – with her and we'd sing songs from them as she walked me to school. When I visited her every Friday, I had to sing and dance for her. I think my confidence has come from her.

Who I go to for advice

My friend Claire Davidson is very good at giving advice – I've known her since childhood. She will always tell me exactly what she thinks about anything – music, my love life and fashion. She's also great at calming me down if I start over-thinking something.

My mentor

I have two. One is my dad because he knows what he's talking about in music. And another person who has really helped me is a guy called Dee Hanna. He's boosted my confidence and puts me at ease.

Nothing is too difficult for him and we gig together quite a lot too. I find him easy to work with.

My secret crush is ... Hugh Jackman

He's just so lovely and gorgeous. I always loved him in Swordfish but I saw him on the Graham Norton Show recently and he seemed down to earth and quite funny. I would say he's the complete package.

My fantasy dinner party

First, I'd ask Zooey Deschanel. She's so fun, down-to-earth and creative. She can do everything – singing and acting. Next, I'd invite Glen Hansard, who played with the Frames years ago. He's an amazing singer and songwriter so I'd love to get the chance to talk to him. I'd also invite the cartoon character She-Ra, who was a childhood idol of mine. I'd talk to her about all her adventures. In fact, I secretly still watch the show. Finally, and because every dinner party needs a bit of banter, I'd ask the comedian Tommy Tiernan.

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