It started like this for The Lost Brothers: people didn't know what to make of their music. Was it a cross between The Everly Brothers and long-lost demo recordings of Simon and Garfunkel? Was it the illegitimate offspring of Woody Guthrie, Buddy Holly and Richard Hawley crooning from the crib?
Whatever it was, and whatever it has developed into over the past 12 years, those same people who were initially puzzled have, gradually, allowed the music in. If there's a lesson there for other musicians, then it is surely this: persist, persevere and never change musical direction to appeal to tastemakers.
"You have to have a certain kind of tunnel vision," says Mark McCausland.
"An almost stubborn approach. Ignore the guys at the bar telling you what you should be doing. If we listened to everything everyone told us, we'd be a 20-piece jazz fusion band singing on the Moon by this stage. It's enough to wreck your head"
Mark likens the aforementioned stubborn approach to "focusing a camera lens - don't let it go blurry, keep your vision sharp.
"Stay true to what it is you're doing and brave through the trends that come and go. Sooner or later people will start to notice. We now have a body of work to look back on and I feel really proud that we never wavered and kept true to ourselves"
"From the very start," adds Oisin Leech, "Mark and I had the wisdom of knowing that you've got to follow your heart as an artist. We'd both been on major record labels in previous bands. That had huge positives, but ultimately success was judged by the pressures of overnight success and not by artistic merit. If you make it by compromise, you'll never be happy, but we always knew we would find our audience one day."
Leech and McCausland have certainly been biding their time since they started in 2008. The title of their debut album, Trails of the Lonely, could be viewed as their default musical setting.
From then to their recently released sixth album, After the Fire After the Rain, they have stuck fast to delivering wistful, often mournful songs that make your brown eyes blue.
If the tunes weren't so firmly shaped and the emotions contained therein so close to the heart, you might think the musicians were on a bandwagon chasing after a gravy train. Yet, as with the very best of artists, there is truth at the core.
"I've no idea where the melancholy comes from," admits Leech. "Any time my mum or dad or sister sang by the fire of an evening, there was always this clash of joy and sorrow in the feel of the song.
"My dad sometimes sings 'Raglan Road', and it's the happy/sad atmosphere in his delivery of the song that I'm drawn to. Lost Brothers' songs are just another small part of the Irish song machine that promises hope and faith after all the tears."
"The best music for us is the stuff that finds that balance," adds McCausland in agreement. "Happy and sad. Light and dark. Fire and rain. It's in that middle ground - otherwise, there's an absence of calm and everything turns to chaos.
"That kind of sums us up and what we try to convey. We are searching for a peaceful shelter in the middle of the storm." Such is the increase in their profile over the past five years that Leech and McCausland are adding on extensions to their cottage industry.
While they effectively manage themselves, and all their music (over which they have astutely retained copyright from the very start) is released on their own label, their popularity has grown to the point where they can now perform at the likes of Dublin's Vicar Street (which they play on March 21, as part of their forthcoming nationwide tour).
Admittedly, they won't be upsetting Taylor Swift's Spotify statistics any time soon, but, says Oisin, that isn't the point.
"It isn't our intention to be on a continual rise to stardom, so-called. We don't write music to 'make it' because 'making it' means absolutely nothing to us.
"I'm just as happy to play to 2,000 people as to 20, and I really mean that because in 30 years' time, The Lost Brothers will still be singing.
"It doesn't matter to us if the venues get bigger or smaller. We once played a gig to one person - and a fight broke out! But that's another story…"
'After the Fire After the Rain' is on release via Bird Dog Recordings. The Lost Brothers tour Ireland from March 19-April 5, including a show at Dublin's Vicar Street on March 21. Full details from www.thelostbrothersband.com
Cork singer-songwriter John Blek recently released his fifth album, Embers, and in doing so consolidated his position as one of the most underrated tunesmiths in the country. He tends to theme his albums (in both a solo capacity and with his sometime band, The Rats) around various topics - Embers touches on the aftermath of a broken relationship - but it's the graceful, vibrant songs that always stand out.
Not many people had heard of this Co Galway songwriter until quite recently, but the release late last year of her first album, Bath Time (which made the shortlist of the RTÉ Choice Music Prize Album of 2019), introduced a singular talent. Fusing elegant and traditional folk balladry with hints of lo-fi and punk, the album is themed around women of history whose stories have been either disregarded, suppressed or amended.
A Wicklow-born singer-songwriter with a background in pharmacology and physiology (and with a degree in ethnomusicology), Mieke adheres to tradition and form in her treatment of contemporary folk, and her preference for old-time Appalachian music. Her 2019 debut record, Idle Mind, upped her profile somewhat with its subtle but steely collection of songs.
Perhaps the most useful example of how best to experiment with the folk idiom, Killarney's Ronan Kealy emerged about 18 months ago with a collection of songs that mixed humour, modesty and personality that was second to none. His debut work, Pull the Right Rope (also on the RTÉ Choice Music Prize Album of 2019 shortlist), was released to wide acclaim. You will likely enter Kealy's distinctive world, scratching your head in puzzlement - perhaps, even, bewilderment - but you'll leave it very much the wiser.