Offaly singer impresses in early stages of 'The Voice of Belgium'
A 29-year-old singer from Tullamore is garnering impressive votes in the first stage of The Voice of Belgium.
Karen McHugh, who has been living in Belgium since 2008, auditioned online at the weekend.
It's the first stage of the competition but Karen's rendition of Radiohead's Creep is garnering significant votes with an impressive average of 6.4 from the combined show and public votes.
"I mostly auditioned as kind of a personal goal, I don't mind how it goes after this!" she says.
"I've been playing music here for the past 4 years, gigging in the bars, events in Brussels and around Belgium and starting to do a bit of recording for some songs, so this was something I thought I'd try out along with that."
Karen started playing the tin whistle at the age of 5 and graduated to piano before getting her first guitar for Christmas when she was 14.
When she graduated from the University of Limerick she decided she wanted to use her languages to headed to Belgium where she knew a few people already.
"I worked at the European Commission for a year and then the United Nations for another year, but I realised that music was what I really wanted to do so I decided to quit my job and focus on that," she says.
"So for the past 4 years I've been gigging around Brussels, sometimes the rest of the country, playing with other musicians - actually I started off joining some other expats who had formed Irish bands, none of them were Irish but they were great musicians!"
Since then she has played with Brussels-based Irish trad groups Smólach and Cluas and is now doing solo gigs - a mix of rock, pop, R&B and folk, across Belgium and Germany, as well as writing her own music. She also freelances as a writer.
She chose 'Creep' for her audition "because it's got a good melody line just by itself, and I had to sing a cappella without guitar for the audition."
The audition is the first stage of the process and they finish this week, by the end of which Karen will know if she goes through to do a live test. After that it's the blind auditions with the real judges.
"Each person who auditions is rated by the online audition tool, basically the computer probably checks that pitches are ok etc, but I think someone probably listens to them all anyway. I think the public vote helps a bit too, but I'm not really sure!"
She adds, "It's The Voice Belgique so it caters for the French speaking part of the country, including Brussels."