Q&A: Sinead Coll
Originally from Omagh, the Belfast-based singer-songwriter (35) is a teacher by day and will be performing as part of The Lagan Sessions in the city this weekend.
You have quite an eclectic musical style. How would you describe your songs?
Some are quite folk-inspired, like Donegal. My mum is from there and is very sentimental about it, so that inspired me. Others are more country – My Own Way is about that expectation that you should get married. It's a wee anthem for people who don't tick the boxes and usually goes down well!
Others are more rock influenced, some are ballad-types and there's a few Bluegrass influences as well.
Do you draw on your own experiences when you write, or what inspires your music?
I lived in Australia for three years teaching English as a foreign language, and I used the Brisbane floods in 2011 as the inspiration for a song. I've also just finished writing about the Cambodian Genocide in the 1970s. I lived in Korea for a while and then went to Cambodia to visit the killing fields and the prison in Phnom Penh. There were photos of people who had been captured and one picture of a teenage girl really struck me. I used that as inspiration for a song.
You're from a musical family. Did that influence you a lot in developing your talents?
My whole family would be very musical and I would have been singing from a very early age. My dad's from Omagh and his brother, Brian Coll, was a big singer in the showbands in the 1970s. Growing up and having an album by my uncle in the house, I kind of felt it was possible to
become a singer.
You also have a local literary legend in your family too. Did this have a similar effect?
Yes, the late writer and broadcaster Benedict Kiely was my great-uncle. Before I wrote songs, I was writing prose and stories so, with the novels as well, there was somebody in the family who was a writer, so it made it look achievable as a career.
And what does your family think of your foray into the professional world of music?
For them it's nothing new, because I've always sung. I don't know if I particularly stick out to them! They've always been very supportive though.
Who would you say has inspired you musically and who do you enjoy listening to?
I like Declan O'Rourke and I really like a couple of Australian singers – Josh Pyke and Paul Kelly. I grew up listening to Nanci Griffith and Tori Amos too. I like the idea of artists inspiring each other and not being competitive.
You're planning on releasing an EP soon. What can we expect from this?
I've probably enough songs written that I could record two albums, but I'm hoping to do a five-track EP and want to use Trying to Be Brave (a rock-style song) as the title track. The other four songs would be about being brave in difficult situations. I've got a violinist and a cello player lined up, and a percussionist, and I'm on guitar and vocals.
* Sinead Coll performs at The Lagan Sessions in The Sunflower Bar, Belfast, this Sunday. For details, visit www.lagansessions.com Interview: Claire Savage