Niamh Regan: The Low-Down

Niamh Regan is a singer-songwriter from County Galway. She has earned a reputation in her hometown, and nationally, for her beautiful vocals and lyrics. She is now working on her debut album. We got the low-down on her music, before she inevitably hits the big time!

In Niamh Regan, you’ll find a character and skill far beyond her years. At only 24, she has been captivating audiences around Galway and Ireland for a couple of years now. You will find many comparisons made between Regan and the prevalent folk artists of the past 50 years. At moments she reminds me of Damien Rice at his best, at other times she takes inspiration from Ben Howard or John Martyn’s use of crooning, fluctuating vowel sounds to give depth to her vocals. Josh Ritter appears to be an influence, also, with his ability to tell a story and create landscapes with vocals. Despite aspects of all these great artists being present, Regan is unique enough to be almost incomparable. This is the essence of folk music; collecting sounds and influences that are rooted in our past and creating new shoots of life.

Have a read below and get to know more about Niamh and her music….

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m from Kilrickle village in East Galway and I’m 24 years of age. I grew up in a house full of music and fell in love with traditional music from an early age. After school I did a BA in Music in the Irish World Academy, University of Limerick. Studying both the flute and guitar, I gained a wealth of experience. I would say my music and songwriting is rooted in traditional Irish music, sub-consciously or otherwise.

What does your music sound like?

It has been described by Cathal Murray of Late Date on RTÉ Radio 1 as “Galway’s answer to Laura Marling”. Other reviews from blogs and magazines have likened my guitar playing to Nick Drake’s and my songwriting to Richard Thompson. Everyone drops a different name/comparison, so it’s always intriguing to see what will come next. Sandy Denny, Norah Jones, Melody Gardot have also been mentioned to me at other times.

What are your plans for the near or distant future?

I’ve just started pre-production on my first album. I’ve been preparing for the past two years, so I am very excited to bring it to the studio now and work with some dream musicians. This year is all about getting the album just right and performing around Ireland as much as possible. Festival wise, this summer I’m really looking forward to playing Body & Soul and Knockanstockan.

What has been the biggest influence on your life and your music?

My family. They always nurtured my love for music and supported my musical choices. My Mum was a wonderful traditional player/singer and I think growing up, playing and singing with her and my brother is where it all started. I was fortunate to be brought to great gigs as I was growing up. Two that stood out, and really influenced my whole musical life, was a Martin Hayes concert in Loughrea and a Josh Ritter concert in the Druid Theatre. Both performances really opened my eyes, made me smile, brought tears to my eyes and set off the fire in my belly to perform my own music. I’ve been writing and performing music for the last 6 years drawing influence and inspiration from the likes of Tom Waits, Nick Drake, Nick Cave, Martin Hayes, Sarah Jarosz and Laura Marling.

What do you like about Galway’s music scene?

I love the warm community of artists I’ve come to know over the years. The part I like most is that everyone is rooting for one another; there’s an emphasis on camaraderie rather than competition among artists in Galway. Also there are some amazing characters and venues which facilitate and encourage original music in Galway like there’s no tomorrow! The folks in the Black Gate and the Roisin Dubh are particularly important in this. I’m not sure what could be changed and improved because I think you make your own luck most of the time. It’s not solely down to your location these days and, if you put in the time, Galway will serve you well as a musician. That’s what I’m feeling, and hoping, anyway.

Galway just has a special place in my heart. My view of Galway will always have a biased, shiny glow around it, maybe because I am a native.

What would be your dream gig?

A venue with a good piano, sound, lighting, comfy seats for the listeners and a warm welcoming vibe from the host. That sounds like the dream gig.

What is your favourite record of all time?

The Golden Oldies that will be forever in my heart are the following albums (I couldn’t just pick one!): Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan, Closing Time by Tom Waits and Broken Hearted I’ll Wander by Dolores Keane and John Faulkner

Where is your favourite place in Galway to grab a snack and unwind?

The Black Gate for sure. They have great coffee, food, wine and music. I also love the Secret Garden.

Niamh plays The Róisín Dubh on the 25th of May, supporting Mongoose.

Photos by Marta

Questions by Ado Lyons