The boho village is home to some of the country’s top emerging music artists and the community is doing everything it can to help them get started on the right note – successfully, writes Emma Connolly
BALLYDEHOB siblings, Molly, Matilda and Fiachra O’Mahony earned a place in people’s hearts over the dark lockdown days.
Their hauntingly beautiful musical performances from their West Cork home brought moments of solace and entertainment to people of all ages.
And for Molly, it was something that helped her fall in love with music again, and put her on a path which saw her release her critically acclaimed debut album The House of David at the end of last year.
Born in Dublin, she grew up in Ballydehob, and moved back to the capital when she finished school to study music and English at UCD.
Music had always been part of her life but in Dublin she started to turn heads as a soloist with acclaimed band Mongoose, which had success with albums in 2015 and in 2019.
The band, she said, has come to a ‘natural conclusion’ ... for now!
But the restrictions imposed by Covid which cut short her theatre course in Kinsale college, catapulted her in another direction, professionally and musically.
‘My relationship broke up then, too, so it was the perfect storm to send me back to my home place and my family. It was a turning point.
‘I had lots of grief to process and I found myself with more time on my hands than I’d had in years. And I was away from the clamour and pace of the city. Finally I had the space to really listen to myself and figure out what I needed to do,’ said Molly.
‘I’d become disheartened and cynical about the music industry in the year or two prior to Covid, and I was beginning the journey back to finding my love for music again. Singing with my siblings was a big part of the medicine and realising the album over two years was a very cathartic process,’ she added.
‘It was like drawing together numerous loose threads and knotting them into something firm and permanent. My twenties were emotionally turbulent, and though I wouldn’t take any of it back, I needed to feel like I was wrapping them up, and moving forward into a new, more rooted phase of my life. Making that album felt like drawing a line and closing a chapter. It’s also a monument to all the life lived in the time.’
She said she was delighted and proud to have it out in the world after ‘a big effort creatively, logistically and financially.’
‘It’s also a great feeling to be able to deliver it to all the people who sponsored it at the beginning when I was crowdfunding to get it made,’ she said.
She feels there could always be more arts funding on a local and national basis. ‘I wouldn’t have been able to make my album in the timeframe I did, without the agility award from the Arts Council I received. It’s so expensive, making a record. People don’t realise! There would be more art produced and less artists struggling if access to funding was easier ... simple as.’
‘I’m not a full-time musician. I know very few people who are in Ireland – it’s tricky. I’ve always done this and that to get by.
‘I got into landscape gardening over lockdown. That was a Godsend – being outside all day, getting filthy – it was very grounding.’
She’s not sure if Mongoose will perform again. ‘We’re all doing our own thing and happy to be doing so. However, we did regroup for a couple of shows in the summer, and our creative alchemy is still very much there. So, who knows? Maybe down the line, the urge will take us to make something together again. We’ve left it loose and open-ended.’
But 2023 is already looking packed full of possibilities for Molly, with shows and festivals lined up, along with plans to get cracking on writing ‘the next thing’.
We’re the best of ‘Budds’
THE story of how Julie O’Sullivan and Colyne Laverriere of the group Les SalAmandas met is well told by now. but it’s worth retelling – one more time.
Julie is a born and raised Ballydehobian who studied music in Cork School of Music. Colyne is from Hostun, a small village in the South of France, and moved to Ireland five years ago with no musical background.
Their paths collided four years ago when they started working in Budds Restaurant in Ballydehob.
‘Colyne started working in September, at the time I was in college so I only worked on the weekend,’ remembers Julie. ‘She was new and I was trying to be nice to her. I just thought that if I was her I would have appreciated someone looking after me.’
Colyne quips: ‘I’m a very proud and stubborn person. When I started the job I knew what I had to do and I dislike people telling me how to do my job. So when Julie was being all nice to me, I just thought that she was rude! I never thought we would become friends or even music partners!’
The duo have done more than that and last month released their first album, There’s A Sea Between Us to wide acclaim.
Their sense of achievement is astonishing, especially when you consider that four years ago neither Julie nor Colyne had so much as written a semi-quaver between themselves. When they listen to the album in its entirety, they experience, above all else, extreme pride, albeit grounded with modesty.
‘We just had a bunch of good songs and we made an album out of them,’ says Colyne without any fuss. ‘Some songs are very sad because like everyone else, sometimes that’s what we are, and some songs have very important lyrics but the music makes you want to dance.
‘Ultimately, it’s a good representation of who we are as people and musicians.’
And they insist it wouldn’t have happened without their ‘amazing community’ getting behind them.
‘From our first open mic night in 2019 to the launch, we have been supported by so many incredible people. Making an album can be a very expensive process.
‘We decided to do a crowdfunding to help us make it possible which can be tough when you are only starting and you are not really known outside your village.
‘But the people of Ballydehob made it possible for us. So this album is also their album,’ said Julie.
The duo also received a nomination in the Best Emerging Artist category in RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards 2022, which they said was ‘an amazing surprise.’
‘The day we got the news we rang each other with the same reactions asking “Is this a joke?”
‘For a minute we thought that we were being scammed!’ said Colyne.
‘It is very nice to be recognised as an artist. We felt like we belonged in the Irish music scene and that was an incredible feeling.’
After a great start to the year, they’ll be touring the album shortly.
‘Hopefully we’ll just be performing lots and writing lots and just take time to enjoy all of it.’
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