This weekend Derry performer Ciaran O’Driscoll will fight for a place in the semi-finals of The Voice of Ireland.
Whittled down to the final 12, the Pennyburn-born singer will be showcasing his unusual interpretation of Aha’s ‘Take On Me’, a song which has a personal resonance with him.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ this week, he explained, “This week I’m singing ‘Take On Me ‘ by Aha. Whilst the 80’s anthem is widely popularised for its upbeat and catchy melody I am completely dismantling the song and approaching it lyrically.
“I’ve come up against some criticism throughout the show so far, regarding how I express my vocals. Kian Egan especially feels that I don’t need to showcase my vocal acrobatics with every performance so this performance is more of a proposition to Kian and anyone who hasn’t embraced my ability to ‘Take On Me’ for who I am and not what people feel they can change me into.”
“That sentiment applies to most of my career as I’ve had so many doors closed to me for trying to justify myself artistically. I tried effortlessly for years to be moulded into a commercial aesthetic but it rendered me creativity unfulfilled, whereas now and through the show I finally respect myself and believe in my ability.”
Ciaran’s first steps into the world of performance happened very early on in his life, and he happily credits the rich cultural history of his hometown for encouraging him into music and drama.
“I’ve performed since I could speak and fortunately Derry is so rich with talent and musical tradition that I always found a performance outlet in town. Most prominently I am a proud alumnus of The Foyle School Of Speech and Drama where I was mentored by Sandra Biddle and began to sing correctly with Caroline Millar.
“With these foundations behind me I was fortunate enough to gain a scholarship to Birmingham Conservatoire of Music where I studied vocal and operatics before progressing to Rose Bruford Drama College in London.”
With such a solid footing Ciaran started to work in London and it was from here that he gained a chance to appear on the UK version of The Voice.
“I took my passion and honed my craft to pursue it as my profession working across theatre in London and including recording a brand new musical at the famous Abbey Road Studios.
“Any professional, even those with esteemed careers, will admit there are no guarantees in this industry. This was evermore apparent after my Voice UK audition.
“Over 33,000 people auditioned and we were whittled down to 100 for the Blinds which was an achievement in itself and I’ve firmly believed that anything worth having never comes easy, so whilst it was a slight knock back it was actually the boost I needed to transition into committing to music making full time.”
After the show, the 27-year-old made a life change, and after battling through the crowds of London, made the move back to Derry.
He explained, “When being creative it’s essential to have an encouraging productive environment and I felt I had gained all I could from London.
“I therefore chose to move back to Northern Ireland in August 2015 after nine years of being away. I’m thoroughly relieved I did and my quality of life has improved immeasurably but finding work in a smaller industry is difficult so I applied for The Voice Of Ireland in the hope it could be a catalyst for creative opportunities within Ireland.”
But even with a wealth of experience behind him Ciaran was still apprehensive.
“Given my precious Voice UK experience and alternative approach to the interpretation of my song I genuinely didn’t expect to get past the Blind auditions and with every stage I get through there is additional pressure to succeed not simply for me but the people who are rooting for me.
“The quarter finals is the first point in the show where public vote weighs in and those who get the most votes on their team secure an instant place in the semi-final.
“Whilst the south of Ireland may have a bigger population I’ve seen Derry people get behind events and people and when they do there is no stronger and more committed force. I’m so proud to call Derry home, regardless of where I may be in the world - it shaped my passion and I’ve always had such a warm reception when I come back. Therefore if I managed to get the public vote, for me it would secure that last missing piece of confidence I need to hopefully carry me through to the final.”
Looking back at the experience to date, the former Lumen Christi College student said, “The Voice of Ireland has been one of the most daunting yet rewarding of my career. I don’t focus on the ‘competition’ element of the show because I see the stage as my workplace and thus my job is to entertain.
“I genuinely want to act as a role model for those who have ever felt out of place or treated like social pariahs because they dared to dream.
“I don’t want to be a star nor will I ever chase fame. For me, it’s about respect and identity in a world where the insecure or easily led feel the need to fulfil others expectations before their own.
“So if I could give anyone advice I would share my personal motto which is - Never stop learning: learn to never stop.