When Mairead Carlin sang Scarlet Ribbons at the Sons and Daughters concert last Sunday, it was confirmation - if needed - that Derry isn’t done when it comes to producing world class musical talent.
In an era where superlatives are overly employed and wrongly applied to anyone who auditions for a reality tv show, performers like Mairead are a rare and welcome breed. Her flawless and stripped back vocals have already been noticed internationally. In November, she supported Don McClean on tour and has already enthralled an audience of 80,000 at the England v Ireland rugby match at Twickenham last year.
Based in London since 2007, where she studied for her bachelor of music at Trinity College in Greenwich, Mairead said she felt privileged to be invited home to perform at the Sons and Daughters concert. Aside from her enjoyment of performing on the stage at Ebrington, the 23-year-old said being in the same company as musical icons like Phil Coulter and Paul Brady was completely overwhelming.
“To be among some of the greatest talents Derry’s ever produced was amazing,” said Mairead.
“Being able to watch them perform and see how they get ready and how they do things was a real privilege.”
Not one for namedropping, Mairead said some people at the gig had congratulated her on her performance but was reluctant to name names. Refreshingly humble about her talent, Mairead, the daughter of Marie and Hugo from Griffith Park on the Culmore Road, said she owed her music success to date to the commitment and dedication of her parents.
Her father Hugo is well known in local music circles as a member of the Trend Showband.
“My mother and father did so much for my sister and me over the years. They did absolutely everything they could to be able to provide us with the best possible opportunities in life. Before the days of mobile phones my dad would sit outside my music lessons, which would run on for hours at a time, waiting on me. They were never, ever pushy about anything and just encouraged my sister and I to do what we wanted. I feel so lucky that I grew up like that.
“I grew up listening to my dad play bass and there was always so much music in our house. My dad was always in the pantomimes in St Columb’s Hall as well and I went to the MacCaffery school of music so I feel like I had a really good musical grounding.”
The Derry singer credits her grandmother Margaret McCartney with giving her a rich musical heritage.
“She taught me so many songs so I have a lot to thank her for!” she laughs.
It was Derry producer Frank Gallagher - now Mairead’s manager - who first recognised her talent and has worked closely with her since, gradually establishing Mairead as a must watch newcomer.
With her feet still firmly on the ground however, Mairead said she is taking one step at a time and eagerly awaiting feedback from the release of her album, Songbook, which is set for a spring release date.
She’s already played an integral part in the beginning of the City of Culture year, with her rendition of ‘Let the River Run’ being piped out to the thousands who lined the banks of the Foyle during the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
“That was so, so special,” said Mairead. “My family and I were in the City Hotel and when we came outside and heard the song a big group of my friends were there, we all just hugged each other and cried. It was so so surreal to hear my voice like that!”
While she says she doesn’t get a chance to come home as often as she’d like, Mairead is hopeful that she’ll be able to take in a few more events in her home city during 2013.
“I will definitely be back a few times, I think it’s so exciting and I’m so proud to be from Derry. There’s so much talent that exists here.”
As for her own ambitions, Mairead wants to keep performing and is looking forward to releasing her album.
“I guess I’ll just see where that takes me,” she said.