Photo by: @billycahillpix
Background >>Watch video>>
I came from a very unusual background, very unstructured. I started out in a mother and baby home and went on to live in orphanages and foster homes and periodically with my family. I was living independently from the age of 15.
When I reached my twenties I met a girl who had applied to the Paul McCartney School in Liverpool and she said, “Oh you seem like somebody who should be there.” I was involved in music and the dance scene but I had no accreditations behind me, just a huge passion and a joy and a hunger for creativity. I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer a place like the prestigious Paul McCartney school. Why would they want me? She went on to tell me, “Sometimes if you just have raw talent, they’re interested.” So I went ahead and went for the audition, I got offered an unconditional offer which was incredible. I was just blown away.
I am a singer/songwriter/performer. I love to be working on new collaborative projects, I find this very exciting. I am also a published author.
I have taught dance and music and have worked within community groups. My creativity has helped me support my mental health and therefore advocacy. I like working with All Ages groups in the community, sharing music and sharing what music has done for me.
As an artist you’re not just somebody who’s on stage in front of thousands, you’re also somebody who can feel isolated at times like when you’re working in the studio alone. You’re a self employed, professional who entertains people, who has opportunities to have amazing conversations with people that lead you to places you never expected to go.
There are several young women in the music industry who are becoming household names at the moment. I said to them, “Just see me as a big sister in the industry, as someone who’s been around, reach out to me and feel free to ask me any questions.” I call it the Sisterhood with the girls I speak to. They teach me things too in conversations.
Mentorship >>Watch video>>
I would always advise someone starting in the industry to identify somebody within the creative world that you aspire to be like and reach out and ask them questions. “How did you get there? What did you do? What do you think I should do?”
I looked throughout my own life and I thought, “What would have made the difference for me?” I really believe in mentorship. I remember I performed once and a lady came up to me and she said to me, “Do you know who you remind me of? Mary Coughlan”. She said, “There’s something about your voice, something about the way you are”.
I spoke to my sister and she said, “Yeah I read her book, she actually reminds me loads of you”. So I read Mary’s book and I reached out to her. We emailed each other for about a year. Mary wouldn’t call herself a mentor; she’d be too humble, but she was. Mary gave me hope and she gave me understanding, and I thought, “If Mary can do it, I can do it.” Mary lends her voice to lots of great things so I thought “What can I do that she did?” Not just emulating Mary but being inspired by her, she was inspiring.
Refugee crisis >>Watch video>>
One of the moments in my life that was really striking and that will always stay with me, was a few years ago when the refugee crisis first really started to come to light. It was on the social agenda. There was an awareness – we were all speaking about what was happening in Syria.
I was approached by a theatre director who was putting a show together called No Borders and lots of writers and actors were coming together to highlight the stories of people who were refugees because at this point it was just in the media and there was that dreadful photograph of the boy washed up on the beach being shared everywhere. We were shell-shocked and wondering, what is all this about? What can we do?
I decided that what I could do was try and lend my skillset to the conversation. I collaborated on another song with a pianist and I wrote the soundtrack and the soundscape for that show. The show travelled all over the country where I performed at The Everyman and Smock Alley.
What struck me was when the show was finished in the Everyman, there was a lady who had come over with her son who had been involved in the war and had actually been taken hostage. She didn’t have very good English but her son spoke perfect English. She just held me so tightly after the show and said she wanted to cook me dinner and wanted me to come to her home. She asked me, how did I understand the sound of her soul? How did I understand how war feels in her heart? Even when I speak about it now it gives me chills. No contract I could ever get in life, no amount of money, could ever give me what that gave to me. That was just huge and it was gratifying because the question I always ask myself, “What can I offer?” For that one person to have been there and to have looked in her eyes and to have held her hand outside The Everyman in Cork and think, “Wow she feels like I could hear her soul. I’m an Irish woman who grew up in Cork and lives in West Waterford.” That’s the beauty of art.
Writing >>Watch video>>
A book editor reached out and asked to talk with me about my journey as an artist. He was kind of shocked to come across the revelations that I had come from the background I come from. A lot of people have been like that over the years. They often meet me and are surprised by the challenges that I have experienced throughout my childhood and early adult life.
I decided, what is the point of having these life experiences and not sharing them? I took the time to reflect and I wrote a chapter for the peer reviewed book series Mental Health for Millenials.
I discussed what it was like overcoming life’s obstacles for me. Finding my voice as a singer and writer and how it helped me find my voice as a person in the world. Songs are a reflection of your internal dialogues and reflections of what you’re seeing in the world and that’s what an artist is.
If anything I’ve been through could shed light on someone else’s journey, then that would be wonderful. It was an honour to be asked and it helped me to understand myself a little bit better. I’m currently just finishing writing another chapter for their next book that’s coming out in a few months. The company is an independent company in Ireland called Book Hub. You’ll find them in any library you can also get them online. There are lots of book stores around Ireland that are selling them: bookhubpublishing.com has the information and they’re very interactive on their own social media.
With the chapters I wrote for those books, I wanted to show that all of us can achieve – it’s just about finding the resilience within yourself and allowing people to support you along the way. Take a risk, an unasked question is always a no!
For more from Louise, keep an eye on LouiseBarryMusic.com
The Minding Creative Minds mentorship programme is currently running. The next round of applications will be open in the coming months. Keep an eye on our social media channels and website for updates.
Remember, if you’re a member of the Irish creative industry, you can talk to a counsellor free of charge at any time of the day or night. Simply call the phone number below.