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Down girl band Saffyre manage to juggle music biz with motherhood

By Stephanie Bell

Performing is a real family affair for Northern Ireland’s hot new girl band Saffyre.

With guitars in one hand and nappies in the other the stunning trio of two sisters and a cousin has struck the right note in juggling their soaring music career with motherhood.

Partners, husbands, mums and dads are also known to pack the room when the girls — who have just signed a contract with a top management company — are rehearsing for their gigs.

Known until recently as Wildflowers, the talented trio who are all in their 20s and live outside Downpatrick, have exploded onto the local music scene in the past year with their unique Irish brand of American country music.

Describing themselves as “the Dixie Chicks meets The Corrs”, their sudden fame which has naturally evolved after a childhood spent immersed in a musical family, has taken all three by surprise.

Sisters Shauneen Doran and Maria Brennan and their cousin Emma Tokic started singing together at family weddings in their mid teens but had never planned a career in music.

Emma had studied to be a teacher, while Shauneen trained as a nurse and Maria worked as a classroom assistant but their natural vocal talent and incredible harmonies has seen their lives take off in a whole new direction.

The band has also struck a chord with young female fans who admire the fact that they are young mums who are enjoying successful careers and family life.

Emma is mum to Antony, seven, Anna, six, Mya, three and eight month old Mark while Shauneen has Cora, nine, Caitlin, two and one year old baby Hugh-Og.

Said Emma: “Our mums came from a family of 12 and we have about 60 cousins and I don’t know anyone in our family who can’t sing or play an instrument.

“When we get together as a family, every other person has a guitar and it is like a real music session so we have grown up with music and have been singing for as long as we can remember.

“We didn’t go out of our way to look for it, our music career has evolved very naturally.

“We started doing family weddings in our teens and at each wedding we could get two or three bookings and it just grew from there.

“It’s a real passion for us and we all love American country. Our friends would have been into dance and chart music but for us it was Shania Twain or the Dixie Chicks.”

A turning point for the girls came when after performing at a family wedding last year they were approached by local music producer Finbar McGrady who was so impressed by their harmonies and voices that he asked if they would be interested in writing their own songs to record an album.

Said Emma: “We had never written our own stuff before and it was a challenge for us. Within six weeks we had the backbone of an album.”

The girls went into the recording studio in Belfast and had their first album When The Sun Shines produced in the world’s home of country music, Nashville by well known

producer Aaron Chmielewski. Things have really taken off in the last few months as they shot their first official music video and were booked to support Amelia Lily and Nathan Carter in Newry in front of 4,000 people.

It was an interview and live performance on the Gerry Anderson Show on Radio Ulster which brought them to the attention of music industry heavyweights John Rogers and Peter Tolbot.

“We are just in the process of signing a contract with them,” said Emma.

“They heard us perform live on the radio and asked if we would send a sample of our music. They loved the sound and what we are about and we arranged to meet them and we just clicked as a team.”

The girls have now got five musicians behind them so that they can perform at top venues and have already lined up an exciting programme of gigs for the summer.

They are due to perform at this year’s Castleward Bread Festival in May which is being headlined by Van Morrison and will support Nathan Carter at the P&O Dalriada Festival at Glenarm Castle on July 14.

They also recently opened for Nathan Carter at the Olympia in Dublin.

The girls say they are indebted to their huge family circle.

Added Emma: “We are really blessed to have the full support of our families and husbands.

“It can be quite busy at times having young kids, but it somehow just works for us. The kids already are really musical so maybe they'll be the future band.

“When we're rehearsing at home the kids are with us and sometimes our other halves are there and our mums come along too. It’s great fun, and it doesn't feel like work at all.”

The girls have just launched a new website

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