Monday 19 March 2018

'I needed to make my voice heard'

Conor William O'Brien

A RECORD contract is the Holy Grail for any aspiring singer-songwriter, but given the sheer mass of competition for that elusive prize, getting your name heard above the noise can prove the biggest challenge of all.

Bray-based songster Peter Whitford will be hoping to stick out from the crowd and make a name for himself over the coming weeks as he contests 'The Voice of Ireland' on RTE.

Peter was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he spent his formative years before his family relocated to Bray when he was thirteen, settling on the Southern Cross Road where (bar a few excursions overseas) he has been living ever since. He attended St. Andrew's College in Dublin before returning to his native Newcastle for University, but dropped out to focus on music.

He has been writing songs now for the last six years, citing artists such as Arctic Monkeys, The Beatles, Coldplay and The Frames as major influences on his craft.

'I knew I had a talent for hearing a good melody,' he says of his earliest songwriting ventures. 'I decided to pick up the guitar because I played both clarinet and drums to Grade 5 but couldn't write songs on either of them so taught myself guitar and got to writing songs.'

Attempts at forming bands in both Bray and Newcastle ultimately proved unsuccessful and so he started gigging as a solo artist, playing in venues around Bray and Dublin.

Attempts to progress his career via the traditional means of sending samples to record labels didn't pay dividends, and so Peter decided that 'The Voice' might be the best way to bring his music to the masses.

'I tried a lot of different routes into the music industry,' he says. 'I recorded demos and sent them off the record labels and radio stations and didn't really have any positive response. The way the musical world is going at the moment singing competitions are the best way to get heard.'

To this end, he headed to the Helix with high hopes but plenty of nerves as his big moment drew ever closer.

'I was really, really nervous,' he claims. 'You get a call to stand by the side of the stage and it suddenly hits you. I was terrified. But once you're on stage it just all goes away. I had the guitar in my hand, knew what song to sing and just went for it.'

Peter opted to sing 'Viva Forever' by The Spice Girls, an unusual choice that proved to be a prudent decision as his performance was well received by the panel of judges.

'Kian gave me a standing ovation. It was amazing. You never know what to expect with these things but it couldn't honestly have gone any better. It was just everything I'd hoped for and more.'

Despite Kian Egan's obvious admiration for him, Peter opted to go under the wing of Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan, feeling she best complimented his own strengths as a songwriter.

'I just felt she had the most experience as a songwriting artist which is what I want to be,' he says of the decision

And while he hopes to be in the competition right until the very end, he hopes come what may that the experience will ultimately prove a positive one for his career, allowing him to bring his voice and music to a nationwide audience.

'I'd like to hopefully make the final. I think there's so many great singers in the competition, there's definitely a few deserved winners. I'd mainly like to get exposure and get my name out there.'

Wicklow People