INTERVIEW: Andrea Begley

andreabegley1The Voice – a talent show where judges’ backs are turned, to fine-tune their listening, to make a decision solely based on vocals.

It may seem like a great place to start for any aspiring vocalist with any real talent. The BBC’s hit show The Voice played a huge role in the successes of Andrea Begley, 2013 winner. Partially sighted due to Glaucoma, Andrea went from playing at open-mike nights to the auditions right up to eventual victor of the competition to the delight of the UK’s public, despite whatever ‘controversies’ Will.i.am seemed to cause.

Today, ahead of the rest of her Northern Ireland tour, Andrea looks back on a successful debut release The Message and is looking forward to 2015 with excitement. We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with her about everything so far.

Firstly let’s talk about The Voice. Describe the moment you initially decided to go and audition.

“It was a bit of a strange set of circumstances really. I never had any massive ambition to be on a TV show as such. I had been gigging in Belfast doing the open mike scene for a couple of years and I was doing some covers and some of my own songs and they always seem to go down well with audiences but I suppose I didn’t really know how to progress from that point.

“One of the guys I knew  who ran an open mike in town had been contacted by the BBC to let him know they’d be coming to Belfast in the hope of finding some new talent for Series 2. He mentioned it to me and I was quite unsure at the start not really knoing if it would be the right thing for me to do. With much debate I decided to throw my hat in the ring and went along. Turned up 12 hours late for the first audition as I’d misread the time on the email and almost missed out completely as the team were closing up and heading out for dinner but they said they would see me briefly and so I sang a few bars of a song and it all kicked off from there!”

 Throughout the process how was it going through the stages?

“To be honest, it was tough, a lot of travel to London and back – must have been through Belfast city airport security so much I nearly had my own xray machine! But it was fun too and I have some amazing memories. I embraced the whole thing from start to finish because I never anticipated it going to the heights that it did. Every week was a bonus for me because I just gave it my best shot and knew I was up against some brilliant people who there would have been no shame in loosing out too!”

 Is it a process that you’d recommend to new singers?

“Personally, I got a lot from the show, I just enjoyed it for every second I was there and I think being in my late twenties probably helped. I didn’t have any unrealistic expectations and I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of critique and rejection regarding music in the past so I was fairly thick skinned. I’m not sure it would be the right path for someone who is very young and impressionable but if you have a practical approach to it and don’t let the hype get in on you then you can have a fab time and learn a lot.”

 From my understanding, you still keep in touch with Danny. What’s it like having him to talk to for advice?

“Yes, Danny worked with me last year on the title track of my album the Message and we still drop each other the occasional email. I’ve been congratulating him lately on the amazing success of the Script’s new album and I’m delighted for him. It’s reassuring to know that you’ve got him on side and supporting what you are doing. He is very much one to point you in the direction of hard work and dedication that’s how the Script made it to where they are so you can’t ask for better advice than that.”

andreabegleythemessageWe’ve interviewed Janet Devlin of X Factor fame in the past and she spoke about breaking away from the reality TV show status; is this something you can relate to? Being remembered as an individual artist and not just some contestant on a tv show?

“I think its critical really, people do tend to get caught up in the hype and watch you on a show and then forget your name once you are no longer on their screen every other Saturday night. I always knew the Voice was a platform and a step up in terms of profile etc but it doesn’t make you as an artist you’ve got to do that for yourself.

“I had done some of the ground work before the show with doing my gigs in Belfast and writing my own stuff but I’ve got the chance now to reach bigger audiences and grow my fan base because of the programme. All musicians know that there is nothing easy about the music industry, its tough out there but when you put a smile on someone’s face or hear that your own songs mean something to other people then its worth every hour of the hard work.”

 And of course talent runs in your family – your auntie Philomena Begley. Have you spoke much to her?

“[laughs] Indeed the Begley singing gene is definitely got a part to play in getting me to where I am today. As you say my aunt is a star in her own right in the local country scene and its certainly been great to have someone like that to call up when you need a bit of advice.”

 Your debut album ‘The Message’ released just over a year ago reached number 7 in the UK Charts. Did you take the reins with the song writing or did you collaborate with other songwriters?

“The first album was turned around pretty quickly after the show because I felt  I needed to get something out there for the audience that had followed me and supported me to win the Voice. As a result the album ended up being mainly covers of songs I’d performed on the show as well as other songs that I loved to listen too and felt I could put my own twist on. I had two original tracks on it both of which I’d written before the show.

“The title track of the album the Message was one that I worked with Danny in the studio on and he helped me make my original version into something a bit more radio friendly. I was thrilled with the final song and its definitely my favourite on the album. I’ve taken much more time over album 2 as it will have much more original material and I want it to be the best reflection of my own songs as possible.”

 You’re currently on a Northern Irish tour, kicking off in your hometown. How does that feel?

“It’s just brilliant to be touring at home and where better to kick it off than on home ground in Cookstown. I’ve had fantastic feedback so far from the audiences. I’m just loving having the full band behind me on stage and really enjoying the freedom to do as diverse a set of material as I want. I’m doing everything from Irish traditional songs, to songs I performed on the show as well as my own new material which has a folksy and jazzy sound to it.”

6 Dec Downpatrick Arts Centre

12 Dec Strule Arts Centre  Omagh

17 Dec Ardhowen Theatre Enniskillen

27 Dec Market Place Armagh

Are there any big plans for 2015?

“My main goal for 2015 is getting album 2 fully recorded and hopefully a series of live dates to follow it. I’d like to tour more in other parts of the UK and potentially Europe as well so lots to plan.”

Andrea Begley plays Downpatrick Arts Centre on 6th December.