Mairead Emfada Biog Continued
- Song Writer & Lyricist
- Soundscape Artist
- Visual Artist
Raised: Mc Colgan clan. Born: Letterkenny, Inishowen, Co. Donegal.Ireland.
was born into the beautiful rural countryside of Co. Donegal Ireland.
Her mother was/is a house wife and church sacristarian and her father
a carpenter/joiner/contractor(he also used to be an amature boxer and ran a boxing club with his mates and brothers over the border of N. Ireland).
But somewhere, and somehow, between singing gealic folk songs in muddy potatoe fields to entertaining
the babysitter with dramatic performances of ' Hound Dog', 'All Shook
up' and chanting 'Ave Ave' to the giant statues of the Virgin Mary... Mairead
found her gift... (i.e. a set of golden tonsils! ).
From the age of 8, if little miss M wasnt at school that is, she would spend her days working on her Grandfathers
farm! (Gathering spuds, bailing hay, helping lambs and strings of pigglets be born into the big bad world!!!).She was a child slave!:)
As a child at primary school teachers picked up on
her gem singing voice and other creative talents such
as poetry & short story writing etc...and submitted
her to represent the school at the Feis, local music
concerts and take lead vocal in the church choir.
She penned her 1st song at the tender age of 10...
and sang it out as a wee Brigini (Irish Brownie) at
a local community hall. This was the moment that she
decided she wanted to sing forever...
First Studio Experience
By the age of 13 she had already written numerous
songs & just over a year later after a visit to a
professional recording studio she had a demo recording
of them. To the humble Mairead... this was already
the dream come true.
Yet feeling determined to let the world know of her
existence she entered/reached finals and won many
singer/songwriter competitions.. all judged by media
folk: TV presenters /DJs/writers & I.M.R.O. (Her folks
bungalow is coming down with the trophies and certificates.)
Not to include the
odd Karaoke she did as a child (under 16),
which she done to entertain for mum.
School was painful for Mairead, for her heart burned
with ambition. She wanted to run off to London/LA/New
York or to achieve her dreams but she had no financial
support to depend upon... and so ignoring her heart
she followed her head instead and remained at school
to complete the education. It was difficult to study
in a small three bedroomed mad house, she shared a
room with two other sisters. Sneaking off to the chapel
next door to sing/play the organ and write ballads
& teeny pop songs was Mairead's escape.
She was caught by the parish priest a few times singing
bizarre things... he'd make her go to Confession.
Art School: University
After achieving hard earned good grades (hon's) in
her leaving exams she was offered a place at Art School
and BA (hons) Art/Design Degree at University in Belfast.
Excited by this opportunity she accepted the offer.
(13 miles walking a day!)
During her art student years Mairead earned her supper
by singing old bluesyjazz & soul covers in piano bars
etc (better than waitressing!).
As an art student she also sang/jammed in the student
unions in temporary bands mostly made up of other
fellow artist-musician students she met while attending
She also got a job singing backing vocals in various
studios and continued to develop her song writing
Theatre - Dance Company
After Uni she moved back home for a short while. She
then took up a job at a theatre company in Derry as
stage/costume designer but ended up being employed
as a performer instead after the directors discovered
her singing/dancing talents.
At the same time she attended a music business course,
a City & Guilds sound engineering course and worked
as a dancer/PA vocalist at night.
Some of her performances included singing at Belfast's
famous Kings Hall.
First Official Release
Mairead entered a competition with a recording of
one of her live performances and it was her voice
performance alone that won a record release (funded
by Larry Mullen,U2). She got to choose the song for
the release so she chose "Addiction" which she had
her share in collaborating. It was released in Ireland
& N.Ireland to all major record stores, received great
reviews in music mags (Hot Press), radio airplay (including
Radio 1, 2FM Dublin) and was also discovered and included
in the sound track of an Irish feature film... often
broadcast by RTE Television.
Some of the CDs found their way to the ears of record
company 'A&R' who started ringing up asking if she
have enough songs ready for an album release?.But
it was all too scary for the unmanaged songstress.
She was on a creative roll... she already had a winning
recipe but being thee perfectionist ... she felt the
songs she had already penned at that stage just didn't
make her "proud enough".
Touring with 5 Piece Instrumental Band: The
Instead at this point she joined a 5 piece Capri band
as lead vocalist and started touring the country...
gigging every night from the smallest pub to the largest
music hall. The sets were two hours long most nights!
They won a funded record release and received healthy
music reviews, got radio & MTV airplay.
The band was a funky-jazzy- rocky fusion..(but to
Mairead... it eventually became more and more like...
The music just didn't feel right. But as part of a
touring band she obtained the ultimate live gigging
This experience was valuable to her but she was living
someone else's music dream... and she wanted out.
Fans of Mairead the solo artist longed for her to
go back to doing her own thing again.
Eventually she flew off to London in some desparation...
with endless boxes of lyric sheets and demos taking
up most of her luggage. She had nothing....just this
painful ambition and need to achieve her goals. It
didn't matter that she had no money and nowhere to
live...she would survive.
In London she found the odd vocal session work from
place to place, doing backing vocals etc but found
this degrading. But being homeless for a while meant
most of the time doing backing vocals for free just
so she could sleep on the recording studio sofa. At
one point she had 3 low paying jobs while trying to
focus on writing/recording new songs. She'd finish
one job, grab a sandwich, catch a train, make a connection,
catch a bus and start another job!.
She then got a well paying office type job which bored
her almost to death.
London was a bit of a culture shock for her.
Her sister (who lived in Sheffield at the time) on
one occasion travelled down to visit ... and shocked
to see how skinny she'd become... begged her to forget
For Mairead who is 5 foot 8 inches tall, at the time
was just 7 stone in weight. Unhealthily underweight
for her height.
It was a combination of trying to remain creatively
inspired, those survival jobs and the sheer stress
of keeping her music dream alive.
She was burning up energy that she just couldn't spare.
Eventually a friend from Ireland based in Glasgow
at the time drove down to London, threw her belongings
in the car and headed to Scotland.
Shortly after moving to Scotland she got invited to
sing on BBC's TV music show "The Beat Room". Mairead
decided to perform one of her self written songs "Mr
Rocket Man" filmed live at the Garage, Glasgow.
She continues to perform live PAs where she is based,
in clubs such as Glasgows Sub Club,The Arches, Nice
N' Sleazys, Oran Mor etc etc
She also does the odd more intimate accoustic performance.
Her shows consist of covering some of
her old fun favourites (e.g. Motown influences, MJ,
Stevie Wonder etc)
mixed with her own material. She is a true entertainer
who believes in putting
on a real show..."it's all or nothing" she says! She
is aware of the visual aspect of her shows.
Some unplanned more earthy performances include her
improvising one of her songs along with legend reggae
master Dr Alimantado....
"Dr. Alimantado passed her the mic & away they went
... it was a soulful experience & a lovely way to
end to his show. Beautiful."
She left Dr. Alimantado asking over & over on stage
(& off...) " WHO IS THIS GIRL???!!!".
(And Bill filled him in later).
She has also more recently performed lead/guest vocals for various funk
band. Mostly because she just loves to dance & play the funky
role from time to time. (She blames her funk addiction
on Bootsy Collins, especially as he once pointed a
finger at her and said "Yo girl, you know... you is one REAL funky chick!!!!").
Through her reputation as a performer Mairead recently secured and supported acts such Miss Dynamite, Kubb,
Goldie Lookin' Chain, Lisa scott Lee and so on.
As a vocalist and lyricist she lent herself to various local funk outfits, including Mosa.
Unknown to the band at the time she had invited a few A& R to the gigs
on a few occasions but they all said the same thing "ditch the band".
But Mairead liked the funk band and stayed around another while.
M: "when you work along with a group of musicians
they sorta become your family, your bros... you feel a certain amount of loyalty".
According to Record Companies there's just not a big enough demand for Jazz-Funk Bands. Record companies are commercially minded.
Nevertheless, in time Mairead got bored of soley playing the funky role as she enjoys other genre of music just as much.
Gone Solo again:
Today Mairead continues to write songs for herself
and for other singers as well as write/perform lyrics for
top record remixers & producers.
Being a former Sound Technology student, over the last 7 years Mairead has built
up a recording studio along with her partner for their own projects.
M:"Together we now rent out the studio to other bands as we are in debth for all the studio equipment we
have invested in over the years... but it will eventually pay for itself...
We prefer having our own wee recording studio, especially as I've always prefered to work at home.
It suits the way I create. "
Mairead also has her own music publishing company
may hear some of he tracks on a number of Irish feature
Since moving to scotland she's attended various music,
marketing & business courses and she
recently graduated with a degree from the University
Mairead believes "it's important for musicians (especially
singers who are also Song Writers)
to keep on top of the business side of things. Not
many musicians make much money, so a bit of
songwriters PRS royalty is always welcome.
M: "There's just far too quick-buckers out there who
PRETEND to have your best interests at heart,
but remember... the devil is a charming man!".
"Well that's what my music lawyers tell me anyhow. You can
end up with your soul all torn apart
by hyenas with green teeth & nothing more
than greedy money signs in their eyes!:) I talk from
bad past experience, it makes you harder about it.
So now I just keep all my eggs in a bullet proof
basket... a legal basket!:). It helps to have an uncle
who just happens to be a lawyer, free legal advice yippee!"
Apart from Music Publishing and the Recording Studio to earn a living Mairead
paints and sells her own Artwork/paintings/sketches
and sells art prints. She also creates and manufactures handpainted
fashion accessories, clothing and soft furnituring/furnishing accessories under her own designer
label 'Emfada'. Mairead also teaches Art & Craft at
her Visual Arts Work Shop Programmes. These Work Shops
help homeless teenagers,
various other groups and young people in need of creative
inspiration and hope for the future. She also works alongside the local
police and social workers to help teenagers find other interests in life such as Art & Music rather than drugs as recreation.
Mairead also does graphic design for flyers and the occasional promotional work for
music events & clubs.... (but only for DJ friends
who run club nights).
M: "I'd love to do my own Art every minute of the
day, but like everyone else...
the mundane struggles of life survival gets in the way.
I want to do music all the time but I gotta work like everyone else ".
So is there a future for M...?
M: "But what is 'Future'?"
Mairead tries to live in the moment as much as possible.
She has been offered various record/publishing contracts
as a solo artist over the past couple
of years but she would rather make a right move or
none at all. Instead of going down a potentially soul
destroying 'commercial' root Mairead's always prefered
freedom. M: "I need to be free to enjoy my life and
my art. I just dont see the point on signing contracts
that lock me down
and cramp my creativity. I am a bit selfish in that way.
And as there has also been times when I have got my hopes
up for nothing and that is painful.
"Now I think musicians dont
really need a 'record' deal today, because we have
the internet if we want to get it out there.
We also have distribution. However record companies
do have a power of mainstream media/advertising. Which
means more people can learn to know of your work.
But internet and
technology is still developing fast and the Artists
fight back yeehaa!". "I've always been aware that
my own commercial shelf life and how it is diminishing
year by year by year, but I've dealt with that a long
time ago and I try not let my fear of my own personal
failures destroy the natural flow of creativity. It's
easy to get hung up with equating success with certain
achievements. ALL I KNOW IS THAT I WILL NEVER STOP
BEING CREATIVE may this be singing, dancing, writing
songs, making music, acting or visual arts. I love
life and it's more important to me that 'I' am happy...
happy with what I'm doing, happy in my creativity.
And 'yes' it's true that I have been lost in own creativity
all these years. Success for me is completing pieces
of work, and feeling good and then feeling proud about
it. I'm not ashamed to say that my faith has often
kept me alive when I've had nothing else. For me... success
is producing something that fills me with joy and
a sense of mystery."
"I hate it when people ask 'do you want to be famous?
or do you want to be a star?" etc etc. It's patronising
'Star' is just some fickle fluffed up Hollywood thing!The
whole 'celeb' thing... uh???? "And that 'Big Brother'
TV show is so odd! I dont understand it!!!!? I mean...
why the hell would ANYONE on earth want to watch someone
else living THEIR lives?? I mean... HEY... GET.....
A..... LIFE! Time is life... and life is too precious
just to sit around on our butts watching someone brush
their teeth!!. For believe it or not... WE are NOT
gonna live FOREVER!" "I think the only advantage of
'fame' as an artist might be that people can access
and recognise your 'WORK'. There's a chance people
might listen more intentitivly to what I have to say.
Speaking as an Artist however, a bit of Recognition,
Respect and Appreciation once in a while for what
we DO is always welcome. Because artists like to share
their Art, for people to hear or see it. That's half
the inspiration, sharing it." "Today all I can say
is that I am a confident experienced performer. Over
the years I have toured with and without a band doing
gig after gig after gig with 2 hour sets night after
night... sometimes 2 to 3 gigs per day (night)...
so I know hard work as a Performer. (This is why when
she puts on a show, she often wears red boots to hide
the blood for she sings and dances until her feet
bleed) M: "Nothing worse than having to dance on with
blood pouring out of raw stingy blisters and know
you have another hour to go!But when you have faith
in a 'project' you are doing it makes all the pain
worthwhile. For some reason...the show MUST go on!"
But now I rarely do a show just for the sake of it,
especially if I dont have full faith in it. I've already
done all my learning. You reach a certain point in
your creative life when you think... mmmm I'm just
not going to sing down the tiolet anymore. That's
how it feels when you do a gig and are getting no
satisfaction from it. And also if you ain't getting
paid and there's no record to promote then unsatisfying
repeative gigs are utterly pointless. It becomes energy,
voice and time wasting... even if you do love performing".
And WHO really knows what the future holds? But looking
back I've had some great times and met some amazing
artistic people along the way including some of my
music idols." M: "As I said before..."ALL I KNOW IS
THAT I WILL NEVER STOP BEING CREATIVE be this singing,
dancing, writing songs, poetry, making music, acting
or visual arts".
M: "Though some days I do think that maybe I shoulda been a heart surgeon after all."