ROE looking forward to Guildhall homecoming this weekend
21 February 2019
This weekend the Guildhall's historic walls will be reverberating to the sound of some of the best music to emanate from Derry in recent years, as the very first Guildhall Beats Festival gets underway.
The three day event will feature a wide variety of music genres and will be headed up by local stars Ryan Vail, Elma Orkestra (Eoin O'Callaghan) and young up and coming music sensation ROE, fresh from her recent UK tour supporting N. Ireland favourites Snow Patrol.
The festival aims to provide a platform for singers and performers from a variety of backgrounds to both showcase their work and share their experiences with emerging new talents.
As well as some sensational live performances throughout the weekend, the programme also includes a series of interactive workshops, organ recitals and music therapy sessions exploring music culture from around the world, and the power of music on the mind.
One artist who is particularly looking forward to performing to a home crowd is singer songwriter ROE, who has been pretty busy in recent months. Not many performers can say they've held their own in front of audiences numbering in their thousands, but this young star has been doing just that - sharing a stage with Snow Patrol on their recent arena tour.
ROE – aka 19-year-old Roisin Donald – is now looking forward to a warm welcome in her home town and playing a more intimate venue in front of friends and family.
"I can't wait for it," she admits. "I haven't played a home show in ages so it's gonna be a lot of fun. I love that it feels like you know everybody in the crowd, and that everybody's up for the craic."
It will be a very different experience from playing massive venues such as the O2 where she had the opportunity to perform her own original brand of indie and electric-pop, which caught the attention of seasoned writers and musicians Gary Lightbody and Johnny McDaid.
"It was such a surreal experience and I loved every minute of it," she reveals. "It exceeded all my expectations. I played the O2 on my birthday, my family came over and the Snow Patrol guys surprised me with a cake when I got off stage. They got the whole crowd singing happy birthday - nearly 20,000 people - and that was INSANE. Definitely a highlight of the tour."
ROE has been performing since the age of 14 and has been enjoying a surge of success in recent months. Her single 'Closer to You' was selected as the signature track for Visit Derry's 'Discover Wall to Wall Inspiration' short breaks campaign as well as the BBC NI documentary 'Love in a Day'. She was also recently named 'Best Emerging Artist' at the 2018 Northern Ireland Music Awards.
As she enjoys the rewards of plenty of hard work, helped by her grounding in music performance at the North West Regional College, ROE is a passionate advocate of the local music industry. And she is very conscious of her responsibility as a role model for other young musicians.
"I started in music at around 14-15 and chose to head to music college – at the North West Regional College - instead of doing A-levels to pursue my career, which was really scary. It was an unconventional road to go down but I couldn't be happier that I took it. If I could inspire more young people to get into music and realise that it's something totally viable as a career that'd be really cool.
"I think in some ways I had to grow up faster than other teens. Instead of going out at weekends I was at home writing, practicing or away gigging - but I wouldn't change it for anything. I love what I do which is why I put that time in."
Roisin has found the support of a number of local organisations invaluable as she navigates her way through an increasingly competitive industry.
"With projects like the ones run by the Nerve Centre and Celtronic I think there is a lot of support in the city. It's amazing seeing all these bands pop up and not having heard of them before. There's been a wave of younger new bands in the past while and I think people here are really supportive of them.
"If there's one piece of advice I could give anyone starting out it's to just be yourself. I think it's always cool whenever people can relate to you through your music. Whether 'yourself' is a mad garage funktronica 7-piece band or an acoustic solo act, being true to yourself is a great thing!"
Although looking forward to a well-earned break at home, ROE is already impatient to build on the successes of the past year. "I'm in the middle of recording a whole load of new music that's coming out this year," she reveals. "There's a load of festivals like SXSW coming up soon and over summer. And I've got headline Irish dates in April which I'm super excited for!"
You can catch ROE at the Guildhall this Saturday when she shares a bill on stage in the Main Hall with local artists Aul Boy, Conor Mason, Ryan Vail and Elma Elektra.
You can find out more about the full Guildhall Beats programme and purchase tickets priced £15 plus booking fee at www.derrystrabane.com/guildhall Tickets are also available from Cool Discs, Foyle Street, for £15 plus booking fee.