- 05 Mar 20
Dublin singer-songwriter Lesley Roy has been revealed as Ireland's entry for Eurovision 2020, with the song 'Story Of My Life'. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting her 2006 interview with Hot Press.
Some artists will proudly tell you that music is in their blood, simply because their granddad played down the local along with the rest of the village. They certainly couldn’t mean it as much as Dublin’s newest starlet, Lesley Roy.
“I was onstage even before I was born,” she begins, speaking from her studio in Foxrock, Dublin. “My mam was touring when she was ready to pop, because she had to pay for it all. She was singing with her showband when she went into labour, so she had to stay on stage until end, when they whisked her off to hospital.”
Thus begins the story of Lesley, and it starts as it means to go on. Despite a turbulent childhood (an absent father, witnessing her mother enter into an abusive relationship when she was 10), at 19 she now focuses on the more positive aspects.
“It was tough but I wouldn’t swap it,” she insists. “I had the best start, not financially or balance-wise, but musically. It was like growing up in The Commitments. We always had musicians coming around and loads of instruments everywhere. There’s this photograph of me in my nanny’s kitchen where there’s just gear everywhere, and I’m sitting on top of a speaker. Rock n roll, eh?”
With such an upbringing, it was inevitable she’d follow in the musical footsteps of her mater, but few people could have envisaged how. Her brand of Kelly Clarkson-meets-Evanescence pop rock earned her a contract with independent Dublin record label Religion Music at 17. And now she’s just penned a worldwide licensing deal with Jive Records, home of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.
Of course, Jive have looked Ireland’s way once before with the similarly young Dublin female Laura Izibor. Is there middle-aged gentleman with a penchant for the Irish accent working at Jive then?
“I think it’s just a coincidence,” Lesley grins. “When I was over in New York, meeting all the different departments, they were like, ‘You know we’ve got Laura as well, from Dublin?’ I replied, ‘Yeah, I know, she beat me in a talent contest two years ago!’ We were both in the Jacob’s Song Contest, when I was about 16. She actually won that night. I was bitter for those two days, but not anymore!”
How was it that she initially secured Jive’s interest?
“We sent them a few songs, and on the back of them they flew over to see a showcase I did at The Sugar Club in Dublin. It’s almost an old-fashioned way of getting into music, because so much of it now involves the internet, and so it’s not often that you’d find someone who does the whole demo/showcase thing. I’m probably one of the last to use that method.”
And now that hands have been shook and contracts inked, what’s the next step?
“At the moment I’m writing songs for my first album with a guy called Rory O’Connor, who like me is from Balbriggan. We’re going to start recording at the end of summer. The songs are turning out to be a real mix. There’s some really rocky tracks, but there are others like this simple love song called ‘What You Don’t Know’.”
Does she use her absent father as subject matter?
“I haven’t purposefully tried to write about it, though I do write about similar themes like losing love. Obviously as a child it affected me at times, but you learn to forgive and forget, there’s no point in dwelling on it. And you only miss the things you once had, yet I never knew my father. But I had a close relationship to my grandparents and my mam, so that made up for it. And now I’ve got a really close set of supportive friends.
“I was talking to them about these last couple of months, and they told me: ‘We’re not as shocked as you are. As much as you were worried about it at times, we knew you’d eventually get there.’”
But her mother is the one it all comes down to.
“I owe it all to her,” Lesley states decisively. “She’s been in bands since she was a tot. She’d never force music on me, but we’d always have it on and I loved to hear her tell me the stories behind certain songs. I think it comes out in my performance, that it’s so natural and a real part of me.”
Rest assured, thanks to her dedication and talent, she’s already done her mother proud.
The first Eurovision semi-final is set to take place in Rotterdam on May 12, with the second semi-final taking place on May 14 – ahead of the final on May 16.