This much I know: Musician Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh

I grew up surrounded by musicians. It was just what my family did.

I never thought I’d follow it as a profession, so I studied fine art - following in the footsteps of my grandmother, who lived to 100, making her the oldest National College of Art and Design graduate.

I discovered a sound studio on my college campus in Dún Laoghaire and, once I struck up a friendship with a sound engineer, that was it - I spent most of my time singing and recording. It was the late 90s, I was living in Rathmines in Dublin and spent those college years playing at many an after-concert session in a house up the road…

I’m an extremely type A Personality — I was really into this ‘having it all’ thing. That would have been me — until I learnt to go easier.

It was only after I did a masters in music at UL that I got focused on making a career out of music. I went straight from college into the band Danú, and spent the next 13 years touring extensively.

Much as I loved performing, I used to get literally physically sick with nerves. I puked my guts up for years. I’d say it took me 20 years to deal with it. My mother was an actress and told me about the Alexander Technique, which helped her, and which helped me too. Having my kids, and being told that stage fright is a selfish condition — as you are constantly just thinking about yourself and ‘what must other people be thinking about me’ — also had a massive impact. I did have a bit of a breakdown — from juggling too many balls in the air at the same time — at one point, but I actually see it as more of a breakthrough. I used to hold myself with such tension, but learnt to change my perspective.

My biggest challenge was facing life after that. Of trying to remain in the music business without being able to tour so much. I had very little confidence. I didn’t feel young anymore. I felt tired and finished.

I definitely believe in fate. So many things have just ‘happened’ to me — but I do think you need to be open to them.

Through a series of chance meetings and some amazing friends, I was able to make my own music and got the opportunity to present TV programmes. I just went with it.

I met my husband (Bill) at a music session. He plays a bit but works as an archaeologist and a folklorist. Our children are now five and seven.

The best advice I ever received is to leave your ego at the door. It is only going to get in the way.

My idea of misery is doing taxes and accounts.

If I could be reborn as someone else for a day I would be Maria Callas — she had the most amazing voice,

Music calms me because it occupies a certain part of my brain and allows me to channel my creative energy into something positive. I play a lot locally in Dún Chaoin, for pleasure, you never ever regret it when you finish playing. Just like going for a swim…

My biggest fault is that I’m too sensitive. I don’t have a thick skin.

I could live in the studio. I’m feeling the itch to make another album.

Ambition doesn’t interest me. Success is an interesting word — I am a worker and believe it is 99% perspiration. A bit of humility will take you very far in the music industry. It’s one thing to be talented, but you also have to be easy to work with.

I believe modern life is full of too much crap — unnecessary things we really shouldn’t have to deal with. I think people looked after each other better in years gone by.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. I’m agnostic, if not an atheist. I believe in nature and in people.

The trait I most admire in others is loyalty. So far life has taught me that it gets better as you go on.

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh is on a Music Network tour Jan 16 – 26 to Dublin, Drogheda, Letterkenny, Wexford and more – musicnetwork.ie/concerts


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