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The female Irish artists on the cusp of stardom

When it comes to Ireland’s airwaves, fresh female talent is often overlooked, so Denise Smith looks at some home-grown performers who are mixing up the music scene


Limerick based rapper and singer Denise Chaila. Picture: Don Moloney

Limerick based rapper and singer Denise Chaila. Picture: Don Moloney

Don Moloney

Limerick based rapper and singer Denise Chaila. Picture: Don Moloney

The Irish music scene is heaving with fresh new talent, a sizeable chunk of which is female, so why are we listening to the same tired artists on loop? While some Irish radio stations consistently mine for new talent, there's no denying the lack of fresh female voices on the airwaves.

That became ever more apparent thanks to a new report that details the fact that the majority of Irish radio stations are giving little or no airtime to home-grown female talent.

PR company founder Linda Coogan Byrne analysed the top 20 most played songs on every Irish radio station from June 2019 to June 2020, and with a few exceptions, found that it was heavily dominated by male artists.

Dermot Kennedy's 'Outnumbered', Niall Horan's 'Nice to Meet Ya' and acts like Hozier, The Academic and Gavin James featured heavily across the board — but in many cases, female acts did not feature anywhere on stations' top 20 playlists.

While gender disparity might be alive and well, we're championing the Irish women who are blazing a trail on the music scene thanks to their soulful sound or electro beats.

Creating all-round bangers, here is the talent you need to watch.


Universal, the world's biggest record label, has shortlisted her as an artist to watch for 2020, which is no surprise thanks to the Corkonians irresistible melodies. With shades of Enya, Ariana Grande and Florence + the Machine, her unique blend of dark electric pop is entrancing.

Having opened for Gavin James at the 3Arena earlier this year, the rising star was heavily influenced growing up by the likes of Kate Bush and Lykke Li, while her first EP W.I.L.D. (which hit over one million streams on Spotify) was produced by Rupert Christie, who also worked with Kate Bush, Coldplay, and Aurora.

In what was a pinch-me moment, Lyra appeared on the 30th Anniversary rework of U2's classic album, The Joshua Tree — New Roots, alongside Irish heavyweights Kodaline, Gavin James, U2, and Imelda May, which shot to number one in the Irish charts.

Having also supported Dermot Kennedy on his tour, and played alongside James Bay at Live at the Marquee in Cork, superstardom is imminent.

Ailbhe Reddy

She may not be a household name yet, but Dubliner Ailbhe Reddy is already somewhat of a seasoned hitmaker.

Proving that there is an audience for her distinctive brand of indie-folk songwriting, her 2016 song 'Distrust' garnered critical acclaim and has been streamed over three million times on Spotify. In 2017 she was featured in season 15 of the prestigious RTÉ show, Other Voices.

The following summer, she was on many of the coveted UK festival line-ups, such as The Great Escape, Glastonbury, Latitude, London Folk & Roots and Cambridge Folk Festival. She is signed with boutique London-based publishing label BDi Music.


Describing herself as a vital new talent to watch, Soulé is just moments away from making a major international breakthrough and is leading a new wave of Irish electronic pop, hip-hop and R&B.





The fast-rising Dublin-based, London-born musician celebrated a Choice Music Song of the Year nomination for her debut single 'Love No More' and over a million Spotify streams of her latest single 'Troublemaker'.


Bringing ethereal, emotive folk to the mainstream, Bridie Monds-Watson (AKA SOAK), is on the cusp of becoming a household name.

The LGBT rights activist who hails from Derry, first picked up a guitar when she was 14 and quickly became one to watch among the endless stream of bedroom YouTube artists, thanks, in part, to her sweet, stark voice and intimate song demos.

Named as one of the youngest Mercury Prize nominees in 2015, at 19, she has already supported acts such as Sinead O'Connor ans The Lumineers, while even taking a trip stateside to perform on US host Seth Meyers' on his late night show.


This 22-year-old electro-pop artist from Galway is changing up the Irish music scene. Penning lyrics about relationships and heartbreak, the singer — who was nominated as RTÉ 2FM's Rising Artist of 2018 and has almost 3,000,000 streams on Spotify — is already a fan favourite on the festival scene thanks to her unique sound and charismatic energy on live sets.

The home-grown talent, who draws inspiration from David Bowie and Taylor Swift, says it best: "I write pop songs about my life so I can dance to them and feel better. I've always loved language and music, and how when combined, I find it can communicate how you're feeling about something or someone better than you could ever imagine. I also grew up speaking Irish and it made me notice the different ways people describe things, especially when it's personal to them.

"I've always been a little bit hesitant when it comes to speaking my mind, but when I write songs, I forget all about that.

"I'm obsessed with home-design shows and I really like pizza — once there's no pineapple on it, duh. My mind jumps between so many ideas all the time (can you tell?) and I guess that's why I love making music — I can put those ideas into a song and move on.”

Erica Cody

A social-media influencer in her own right, the alt-RnB singer, songwriter, and producer has become a regular on the Irish festival circuit. Introduced to an eclectic portfolio of music genres by her parents, Erica's love for music began at a very early age.


Erica Cody

Erica Cody

Erica Cody

When the rising star isn't performing she's modelling, acting and featuring on exciting big brand campaigns, whilst also using her sizeable social-media platform to be a role model for young people.

Lydia Ford

Among the crop of young people changing the sound of Ireland is Lydia Ford.

The pop artist, who is originally from Co Mayo, first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and has perfected her craft ever since. Featured on both the Ticketmaster and Hot Press "Hot for 2020” list, the singer-songwriter records, produces and releases her music independently, collaborating with producers in Berlin, London, Tokyo and the US.

Lilla Vargen

Born and raised in Ballymena, Co Antrim, Lilla Vargen is a definite one to watch in 2020. She was recruited as support on tour with Dublin singer Dermot Kennedy, and is adored for her wonderfully atmospheric, meaningful music.

Lilla released a five-track EP earlier in 2019, We Were Thunder, which was greeted with rave reviews.


Denise Chaila

The Zambian-Irish rapper, poet, grime and hip-hop artist, from Limerick, first broke onto the music scene in 2012, and since then, her star has been on the rise. Describing herself as a "pocket-sized dreamer with a planet-sized voice”, Chaila effortlessly blends Irish and Zambian culture with rap and spoken word.

The rapper released her debut EP, Duel Citizenship, in 2019, while also featuring on Cillian Murphy's BBC Radio 6 show.


Limerick based rapper and singer Denise Chaila. Picture: Don Moloney

Limerick based rapper and singer Denise Chaila. Picture: Don Moloney

Don Moloney

Limerick based rapper and singer Denise Chaila. Picture: Don Moloney

Her first album, Go Bravely, is hotly anticipated and Chaila was one of the musical acts featured in the series of remote performances during the COVID-19 pandemic, Other Voices: Courage, in May.


Described as 'the Irish Sigrid' and with a 'voice reminiscent of Florence Welch', ROE is the name adopted by Roisin Donald, the 19-year-old multi-instrumentalist from Derry that brought her unique brand of self-styled "Grumpy Electro-Pop” to the fore.

Blazing a trail for young female indie artists across Ireland, the UK, Europe and beyond, the all-round powerhouse has already performed on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury, while also being featured on The Only Way is Essex, Channel 4's Made in Chelsea and Netflix's Terrace House.

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