Rising Star: Irish singer Saibh Skelly

Pic: Adam Heffernan

Saibh Skelly is living the teenage dream. She went from busking on Grafton Street to performing on The Late Late Show.

She’s released her latest EP this year and things are just going from strength for the Dublin-based singer.

When VIP Magazine catch up with her, she couldn’t be more excited to tell us about her stardom plans.

Pic: Adam Heffernan

Hi Saibh, let’s get right into it. Tell us how you got your start in the music world.

I started busking when I was 14 just about to turn 15. I was singing cover songs on the street and I would post on social media and on Youtube. I started to slowly gain followers and when I hit about 10k subscribers, I realised that it was actually going really well. Then a record label reached out to me and I signed with them just before I finished 6th year. So I’ve been signed with them for the past two years and I’ve just been writing songs with them since then. I finally started to release music recently.

When you started busking could you have imagined it would bring you a record deal?

I didn’t have much a clue what was going to happen. I saw other young people busking on the street and I thought if they can do it, so can I. It was a hobby at the time, I like playing music. So why wouldn’t I go out and play it for other people? I started to make a little bit of money off it as well and it was a lot of money for a 15-year-old to be making doing something they loved. It was something more chilled out at the start. But when I started to get followers and record labels reaching out that’s when I realised this could be something I did full-time.

Pic: Instagram/Saibh Skelly

How did you fall in love with performing?

I was in a stage school when I was younger. I used to sing, dance and act when I was younger. I was in pantomimes and stuff. I wasn’t a very good dancer. I wasn’t a very good actor either. I knew I wanted to sing and that’s what I wanted to focus on. I did that for years up until I started busking. I picked up guitar then because I wanted to busk on Grafton Street and you can’t use backing tracks. If I wanted to be self-sufficient and be able to fend for myself that’s what I had to do.

You hadn’t even done your Leaving Cert when you got contacted by a record label. What did your family think about that? 

I think they thought I was a little bit crazy thinking this was something I could do. The music industry is a really, really hard industry. You have to be very, very lucky, not even talented, to make it work. My family are very supportive. If it didn’t work out I can always go back and do something else because I’m still young. I was given a really good opportunity and I knew if I didn’t take it then I might not get another opportunity. It’s been going pretty well so far.

Pic: Adam Heffernan

But they’re all very supportive, clearly…

Some people, older people I suppose, think that the only way to do anything is to get good points in your Leaving Cert and go to college. But things have changed a little bit and there are loads more options. Most of my friends and family are really supportive.

You mentioned hitting 100k subscribers on Youtube. It must be mad to know so many people are falling you online.

It’s strange. It’s weird to look at the numbers online. It feels like it doesn’t really mean anything. But when I get to meet those people in real life it becomes a reality. It’s hard to remember that those numbers on Instagram and TikTok are real people. It’s weird to meet them because that’s just one of those numbers. It’s crazy. It’s great to meet people who have been following me from the start.

Pic: Adam Heffernan

You recently supported Hozier and you’re a big fan. What was that like? 

It was crazy. When I first got the call I was so shocked. I never even considered that would be an opportunity that I would be given. I had tickets and I was so excited to go to it. I couldn’t believe it when they asked me to play at it. I didn’t think it was real until I got there and played my first song. Getting to meet Andrew [Hozier’s real name] was amazing. The people who were at the gig are real Hozier fans and they were so welcoming to me. If I was expecting Hozier on stage I don’t know if I’d want to listen to anyone else. I got such a great reception and I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.

And you had your sold-out Whelan gig too…

All I want to do is play my songs live. Especially now a lot of them have been released. I love playing live gigs. It’s so much more immersive to listen to a song live than on Spotify or Youtube.

Pic: Instagram/Saibh Skelly

Who is your biggest inspiration? 

Ed Sheeran. I know he is a big one for a lot of people. But he made me want to pick up guitar. I saw him in Croke Park and he gets up on stage in front of thousands and thousands of people just by himself and his guitar. He has no band to support him. That’s amazing to hold a crowd by yourself. I picked up guitar to be self-sufficient and play music by myself. I didn’t want to rely on anybody else. It’s got to be him.

Your first EP was released last year. It went into the top 10 charts, how does that feel? 

That was crazy for me. We recorded the EP just to see how it went. It was all cover songs and I was just happy to record songs I liked. But when it charted in the Top 10 I was shocked. It’s unheard of for an EP of cover songs to get into the charts. To see my very first collection of music do so well was amazing. It gave me more confidence in writing my own songs and releasing my own music. I knew there would be people there to support me.

Pic: Adam Heffernan

It’s no easy feat, especially as a woman. We know that men dominate the Irish airplay charts.

For me, being such a young, female, Irish artist it’s important to show that I’m doing pretty well so far. I want to show people that you should keep going even though it’s usually men who get that response. Even if I can inspire a few female artists to not let that stop you from doing what you want to do.

You must have been so proud of that. What is your proudest achievement? 

Everything I do I’m proud of. Even the smaller things, like releasing my first original song probably means the most to me. That might be my biggest achievement. But getting to record and release my original music even if there’s not that many streams on them. That’s what I’m most proud of. It’s a hard thing to do to write a song that’s emotional and true to you and share it with people. Those my songs are some of my deepest thoughts and to put them out for anyone in the world to hear is a hard thing.

It’s like publishing your diary when you share music. Is it nerve-wracking? 

It’s a hard thing to think about. Anyone who isn’t a musician probably wouldn’t say the things I say in my songs to anyone in real life. I was a bit nervous at the start. Particularly when it came to releasing my EP. I was a bit anxious at the start. I didn’t want people to think I was cringey. I didn’t want to be a teenage girl writing cringey love songs. But at the end of the day, that’s how I feel and I’m not ashamed of it.

We talked about your achievements, but what would you love to achieve in the future? 

I don’t like to think too much about specific goals because I don’t want to disappoint myself. But if I could do a tour of Europe, maybe the world, and sell it out. I’d love to stand on stage and have people sing my songs back to me.

Before we let you go, what’s next for you?

My EP just came out but I have a lot more songs to come out soon. I have a lot of things in the works. The EP is just the start of it.

Saibh Skelly’s EP SAIBH X FIVE is out now and she will play her first all-ages headline show at the Academy 2 in Dublin on Saturday 20th May

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