Ones to Watch 2017: Niamh Crowther

Stephen Keogh

A chilly Sunday evening can be enough to scare off the hardiest of enthusiasts, but in the dimly lit vicinity of Whelan’s main stage room, a modest crowd gathers. Without any introduction, a young woman ascends the stage. Dressed in all black with long brunette hair draped around her shoulders, she picks up her guitar and steps forward to the microphone with a smile and a squint to pick out familiar faces.

The atmosphere in the crowd is quiet with a hint of puzzlement. For those who aren’t familiar with Niamh Crowther, there is a wonder of where this will go. Singer/songwriter yes. But, will she re-invent the wheel?

Sure enough, Niamh begins her first song and throughout her 30 minute set, fills the ears of onlookers with one of the sweetest voices in the Irish small time today. Gradually, patrons of the bar area seep in to take a gander at the folkey 20-year-old as she soothes her way through the set list.

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Afterwards, Niamh agrees to a quick chat about herself and her music (as soon as she’s finished thanking a group Canadian fans who came to see her while in Dublin).

Niamh places much of her induction and baptism to music firmly in the hands of her parents as they both played in folk groups, “When I was a little toddler I got brought along to rehearsals where they [her parent’s group] would play Fleetwood Mac and Mamas and Papas with loads of harmonies and vocal stuff .” She said from this point onward, music ran in her and she always wanted to start writing herself.

She was also very keen to learn the instruments that her elder influences played, saying “I did piano lessons from the age of 9 and got a guitar one Christmas which I taught myself how to play. I always really liked poetry and rhyming and things in primary school so I kind of started writing and creating music when I was about 12.” 

She also cited the Irish Youth Music Awards, co-founded by her now manager, Dermot Lambert, as a big factor in her pursuit of music saying that it taught her a lot about how the music industry worked and going beyond just booking gigs.

Fast forward to the age of just sixteen and Niamh has fended off 15,000 other applicants to win the Irish Youth Music Awards that year. However, she isn’t afraid to admit that her confidence doesn’t come easily. “Even today I get really nervous getting up on stage, but I think it’s good to have those nerves because they help me to try more.” Niamh adds that she believes that the nerves only mean that you really want it.

She feels her mature and well-developed style is due to her early introduction to music which she again places in the hands of her parents, “from a young age I was singing along to the likes of The Beatles and the fact that I was into poetry and was always encouraged to read books so when I started writing I felt like I was ready to and not trying to figure how it works.”

As well as being the music connoisseur she is, Niamh is also studying full-time to become a primary school teacher in St. Pat’s in Dublin. Naturally, this results in a significant amount of her time being taken up as she explained, “I am incredibly busy. It’s hard but I love it a lot. First year was hard because I didn’t like it at all and I was thinking of dropping out because music is my passion and it’s what I love but I decided to stay in college.” She added that she does intend to take a year out after college and pursue music.

However, Niamh seems to be gaining momentum despite studying full-time. In September 2016 she released her self-titled debut EP which received critical acclaim from the likes of The Irish Times and Hot Press and gained national airplay as well as airplay on BBC Radio 2 with her single ‘Little by Little’, an honour to which Niamh remarked, “Yeah, they’re sound.” 

With Little by Little receiving over 1 million hits on Spotify, Niamh is definitely noticing a more international attraction. “I played in Islington over the Summer and a guy named Darren who always likes my stuff on Facebook and comments and stuff was there and came up to me after the gig to say hi. I didn’t know who he was at first, but then I recognized his name and he told me that he had driven like 50 miles or something to see the show. It’s a blessing now a days with the internet.” 

Most teens who come of age on their 18th birthday spend the first half of their birthday drinking as though prohibition laws are returning the following day, and the latter telling people that ‘they’re great’ and that they ‘love them’. Not Niamh. She was gifted with sharing a stage with Richie Sambora, former lead guitarist of Bon Jovi, at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. “I was on my Leaving Cert holiday in London and I got a call from my friend and he said ‘Niamh what are you doing on this date in July?’ and I told him ‘oh that’s my birthday, but nothing I think’ and he asked me did I want to play with Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi. I just paused and was like ‘eh?…Yes! Yes please!’ So yeah that was good.” She also counts Gavin James as another artist she’s performed with.

Niamh concludes our chat by telling me that she is currently working on new material and plans to have new compilations out by 2018 with hopefully a single out this year. In the meantime you’ll find her this Thursday at the Cycle Against Suicide at U.L. in Limerick.

You can subscribe to Niamh’s newsletter on her website at: http://niamhcrowther.com/

On Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/NiamhCrowther/

On Twitter at: https://twitter.com/niamh_crowther

On Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1pHC73iMK91QDP57r6yLmL?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open&play=true

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