'I don't know how far I will go in the competition or where it will take me - but I'm going to enjoy the ride'
To quote the great Tom Jones Knocknagree singer/songwriter Elly O’Keeffe gave millions of people, who tuned into last Saturday week’s ‘blind audition’ on The voice UK, “something special”.
Indeed, her stunning version of Leon Bridges song ‘River’ galvanised viewers, the studio audience and, perhaps most importantly, three of the four strong judging panel on the show.
The following Monday after the show aired London-based Elly, who teaches music at St Raphael’s Primary School in Northolt, was given yet another rapturous reception when she returned to work – this time by her excited pupils.
“They had all watched the show and when I arrived back at work I was met by 50 or 60 of the children outside the door. They were cheering and singing – it was just amazing. I’ve been getting loads of messages from parents and the school has been brilliant, giving me time off to take part in the auditions and the show. I have been so lucky to have such support,” said Elly.
“The support from back home has also been just amazing. I’ve been blown away by the message of support. It’s like the whole country is behind me.”
Elly admitted to The Corkman that while accepting the invitation to take part in The Voice UK was possibly one of the best decisions she has ever made, it did take a little persuading at first.
Elly, who has recorded and released a critically acclaimed album and two equally well received EPs said her initial reaction was “I did not really feel it would be my kind of thing”.
“When you have been writing, recording and performing for a few years there is an initial sense that you have gone past that kind of thing. I suppose you feel more serious about things and that TV shows like The Voice may not be the right vehicle for you,” she admitted.
“The people from the show said come along and give it a go, see how it felt and then make a decision. In fairness, my boyfriend Patrick was behind the idea from the very beginning. He kept saying it was a massive opportunity to show people what I can do and how good I am – his words, not mine,” she laughed.
Elly went through two rounds of preliminary auditions and interviews before being told last September she was among a select group of 100 from more than 22,000 hopefuls to make the grade.
Although well used to playing live gigs on the vibrant London music circuit, Elly admitted that taking part in the blind audition in front of the cameras and a studio audience of 500 people was “the most nerve racking thing I have ever done.”
“When your are 18 or 19 you have nothing to lose. But when you are 31 with an album and two EPs under your belt its different, I suppose it feels a lot more serious when you have worked so hard over the years to forge a career in the music business,” said Elly.
“I felt that at this stage in my career I know my craft and what I am capable of. If none of the judges turned around it would have been a huge disappointment. I mean, where do you go from there?”
Elly said that as her performance went on the noise from the packed studio rose to an almost deafening crescendo.
“I just closed my eyes and kept singing. You block everything going on around you out and just go for it. That said, it would be impossible not to be moved when the audience in on its feet cheering. Its hard to put into words the buzz that gives you and I remember thinking to myself even if none of the judges turn around, this had been an amazing experience,” she said.
As it transpired Elly need not have worried, with three of the judges Tom Jones, Meghan Trainor and Olly Murs pressing their red buttons to face her.
“To be honest I did not even realise at first that any of them had turned around, because, unlike on the TV, you can’t hear their buzzers going off in the studio. When I realised that not just one, but three of the judges were facing me it was the most incredible feeling,” she said.
The decision as to which one to go with was an easy one for Elly.
“I had actually thought of this beforehand and felt that Tom’s style would be best suited to me. That he would best realise what I am about and what I want to do. While I respect Meghan and Olly for what they have done, they are more pop orientated than I am,” said Elly.
“Tom made eye contact with me throughout, which convinced me I was making the right choice. What you did not see on the TV was him saying ‘we have heard you today Elly, and can hear the years of experience and hard graft in your voice. I knew then that he is a sincere man and realised what I am about. I am a singer and a songwriter, he got that.”
Elly said that she immediately hit it off with Jones, describing him as a “lovable rogue with a big personality. A warm, funny and big hearted man.”
“I am now busy preparing for the next round with Tom and his team and just loving the whole experience. They are not simply telling me what to do. It’s a case of us all working together to showcase what I can do on the stage. Tom has been just brilliant in this whole process and I have already learned so many news things. Its been fantastic,” she grinned.
“I honestly do not know how far I will go in the competition or where it is going to take me. But, I’m going to enjoy the ride.”