Interview: Rachael O’Connor

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Rachael O’Connor shot to fame during her multiple outstanding performances on BBC’s talent show, ‘The Voice’. Her whirlwind experience on the show saw her receive mentorship from none other than international superstar and adopted national treasure, Kylie Minogue. 

The Drumsurn singer also spent time – a two and a half year stint – travelling the world with Lord of the Dance – Dangerous Games ahead of releasing her own music (with more to come) under management with A&P Artist Management. 

Following a weekend spent performing at Stendhal Festival – a stone’s throw away from her hometown – Rachael chatted with The Style Edit about the biggest lessons, her highs and lows and what’s next for Co. Derry’s very own singing sensation. 

When did you first fall in love with music?

I think I’ve always been in love with music. My Granda was very musical and we all grew up singing at family parties so it’s kind of just always been part of my life.

At what point did you know you wanted to pursue it professionally? 

When I was very young I loved acting and always said I wanted to be an actress. When I was around 11 I sang at a school talent show and loved it so much I just knew I wanted to do it all the time.

Where do you look for inspiration to spark creativity with your music?

Inspiration can come from anything and everything. I like to try keep it personal and relatable when I’m writing my own songs. I find the songs are always better when it comes from personal experiences.

How do you deal with nerves before a show? Do you have a pre-show routine?

I need to be left alone to calm my nerves. I don’t like being rushed or feeling stressed before going on so I tend to take a corner and focus on my breathing before I go on stage.

So far over the course of your career you’ve travelled to some amazing places, where has been your favourite?

I loved South Africa – the weather was great and I got to see so many cool animals on safari. It was crazy! I also love New York, if I could live there tomorrow I would.

You recently went on a European tour – what surprised you most during the tour? 

The European Tour was fun but super challenging. We travelled to a new city every day which meant waking up early, getting on the bus for 7-15 hours and then going straight into the show every night. I think the thing that surprised me was how much of the world was travelled in such a short space of time.

Between The Voice and E4’s Stage School, you’ve taken life on tv in your stride. How do you deal with the pressures of being in the limelight at such a young age?

I try not to think about it too much and just enjoy myself. That’s not hard as I really love my job but sometimes I can put a lot more pressure on myself than needed and when this happens, I find a day out with my mum or friends helps chill me out. A good laugh is all you need.

What’s been the secret to your success in the music industry so far?

I don’t think there is a secret. I’m very lucky to have done so much already but I still have a long way to go to where I want to be. I think the key is self believe and a positive attitude.

If you could perform anywhere in the world where would it be?

Croke Park! My own show, that’s the dream.

Spending time away from home while also pursuing your dream must be hard at times. What’s your secret to feeling good and picking yourself up again during those low moments?

At times it is tough but thankfully I have some amazing friends on tour and we all help each other in those bad days. And a FaceTime call home always helps too.

What does happiness mean to you?

Happiness to me is health for myself and my family. And success in my career!

What are your top tips for staying productive and getting the work done?

Just get it done! Do it now and you’ll reach the end goal quicker.

What’s been the most difficult part of your career to date?

The most difficult part I find, is not knowing what’s next. I’m a worrier and the industry I’m in is so up in the air that sometimes you don’t know when you’re next going to have work or am income but it always works out in the end.

There’s been a lot of talk of the music industry being a ‘boy’s club’. Do you think it’s harder for women to succeed in the music industry and how have you overcome that? 

I think times are changing. I feel women are taking over the industry. I mean look at all the successful and powerful female artists in the charts today. My management is also an all female team and I love it. I feel so inspired by them when we’re working on a project. I overcome it in the studio and on stage. No one can take away the great songs you write or your talent and performance on stage no matter what sex you are.

How do you wind down after a performance?

The adrenalin is so intense after a performance that an hour later I crash and get so sleepy. Some people are the complete opposite but I seem to need a nap after a performance…

Biggest role model?

My dad is a huge role model of mine. Not only is he the funniest person I know but he works so hard everyday and I never hear him complain about it. I admire his motivation and drive.

Who is your musical muse? 

Dua Lipa – I love everything about her!

You seem like you’re living the dream right now. What’s your ultimate career goal?

Yes life is amazing and I’m so so grateful but don’t forget, everything isn’t as sugar coated as it looks on Instagram. There’s been a lot of bad days and naturally, I’m sure there’ll be many more but the ultimate career goal is to release more original music, go on tour with my own music and win awards for my own music. If I could take over the charts too I wouldn’t be complaining.

What advice would you offer to aspiring female musicians?

Learn to take criticism as there’s plenty of it. Not everyone is going to be lovely. But no matter how many no’s you get, if you keep working hard enough and really believe you will eventually get a yes that will make it all worth while.

Niamh Crawford-Walker

Niamh is a freelance writer covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle articles. Her work has appeared in IMAGE magazine, image.ie and Emirates Woman. Niamh is also a blogger at niamhserena.co.uk and podcast host of Werkin’ On It.

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