The past two years have seen Derry singer/songwriter Roe go from relative unknown to playing in front of tens of thousands of music fans when she supported legendary indie rockers Snow Patrol on their 2018 comeback tour. With a debut album in the works, and mystery European festivals in the mix along with a support slot on the Ryan Mc Mullan Autumn tour, the rest of 2019 looks set to be super busy for the Wasted.Patient.Thinking singer.
Fresh On The Net caught up with the bubbly twenty year old and her manager of four years Liam Craig, ahead of her return this weekend to the world-renowned Dublin venue Whelan’s all-female We’ve Only Just Begun festival.
We talked close bonds, Gary Lightbody, and the importance of venues like Whelan’s and its now legendary WOJB festival to emerging artists like Roe.
What did you see in the young teenage Roe to make you take the plunge into full-time music management?
Initially I was helping her produce some songs with these incredible lyrics that just jumped out and hit me in the gut. I remember thinking “I can’t believe a 16 year old wrote this.” Some of that early stuff is lyrically still streets ahead of some of stuff that does crazy streaming numbers today. I was producing these tracks, and we were hanging out. I just started offering some advice on who and where to send these tracks to gain some plays, exposure, whatever. The management side of things essentially grew from that: I wanted to help get these incredible songs out there. Having been around bands and in the industry for some time, I just happened to know some people!
It’s obvious that you and Roe have an amazing connection, How important is that closeness to you, and how fundamental is it to Roe’s continued success as a rising star on the UK&I music scene?
“I don’t know if Gary and the guys in Snow Patrol will ever understand how grateful we are to them for the opportunity.”
For me it’s everything. Our close friendship enables us to stand each other, which in turn helps us to work with each other! I think we work really well as a team, and when we’re out schmoozing with the music industry bigwigs, we’re a good double act! I don’t like to put too fine a point on it because I like to believe (before the music industry made me a cynical grump anyway) that Roe’s talent as a songwriter and performer is so great that she would have been discovered somewhere along the line. Or, that through her own natural work ethic she would have gotten herself out there.
Roe’s career trajectory has been slow and steady. Was that always the plan? To play the long game to allow Roe to settle into her music and live performance?
Absolutely, from day one. We had a few basic principles early on: we wanted to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible, to always remember that there’s never any rush, and to always try to be fundamentally nice people. The amount of doors we’ve opened for ROE just by talking with people like normal humans is crazy. As for playing the long game, again 100%: particularly after some big early successes – Glastonbury, The Great Escape, some success with sync etc all within the first year of releasing her music. We could have made some really terrible decisions quite easily then by letting ourselves get ahead of ourselves but we stuck to our guns and managed it all pretty well.
How did those huge support slots with Robbie and Snow Patrol come about, and how important were they to both of you in terms of the future?
I don’t believe in luck because I think “luck” is the just the intersection of hard work, opportunity and preparedness. In this case ROE had busted her ass playing every show she could in 2017/2018. We worked hard on releases and the combination raised ROEs profile in Ireland considerably, earning her two nominations at the Northern Ireland Music Prize in 2018 (one of which she won). That was the hard work.
The opportunity came when Gary Lightbody gave a shoutout to all the nominees for Best Single (ROE included) and came across her music. Like the incredible human that he is, he saw the talent that she had an offered her a slot on Snow Patrol’s upcoming arena tour. The preparedness came when we took full advantage of that opportunity, and got ROE an amazing booking agent off the back of landing the Snow Patrol tour. The combination of all three factors created the domino effect that resulted in those other amazing shows: Kodaline, Robbie Williams, The Coronas etc.
The feedback was amazing, and of course it’s amazing to have her exposed to these huge audiences but there’s no rest. You have to follow up and take advantage of the opportunity, otherwise what’s the point? In all honesty, we can’t thank Gary and Snow Patrol enough for what they’ve done for ROE. Something that is so easy for them to do has been so completely transformative for us, and I don’t know if they’ll ever understand how grateful we are to them for the opportunity.
Roe is returning to We’ve Only Just Begun at Whelan’s this coming weekend. How important is Whelan’s to emerging Irish artists?
In a time when venues are closing left and right, it’s more important than ever. There aren’t many venues putting on established touring acts while at the same time making their stages available to independent and emerging Irish artists, and that’s super important. It’s also a wonderful career landmark for an Irish artist. We took such immense pride back in April in being able to say “we sold out ROEs first headline show in Whelan’s”.
“I also have to give a huge shout-out to the wonderful Shauna Watson for putting on such an incredible festival as We’ve Only Just Begun.”
It’s like a badge of honour and long may it continue. I also have to give a huge shout-out to the wonderful Shauna Watson for putting on such an incredible festival. Ireland is an absolute hotbed right now for emerging Irish female and non-binary artists, and in a world full of discussion around the gender gap in music, seeing a 3-day festival with a genuinely incredible lineup that just happens to be all female is nothing short of amazing and Shauna deserves all of the credit for making that happen.
The past year has seen Roe gigging venues, playing festivals, and supporting world-class acts, as well as going on her first headline Irish tour earlier in April. What does the rest of the year hold for Roe?
No rest for the wicked! She has to finish up festival season, including a support slot with The Coronas in Belfast, some European festivals in September that I can’t mention yet and hitting the road in the UK with Ryan McMullan in October. Somewhere in the middle of all that we’ll be finishing up and starting to do the promotional work for her debut album release which we’ll be announcing soon!
Where do you see the two of you in ten years time?
Well I’m about to have my first child, so I’ll have a ten year old which is absolutely terrifying…!
I can see ROE being one of the most sought-after writers in the industry at that point, still releasing her own music on her own terms and who knows, maybe she’ll start thinking about bringing a band on the road with her at that point!
“I learned a lot from the Snow Patrol tour. Things like not to get too stressed, and how to spot a good place for a nap.”
What made you put 100% trust in the fact that Liam was the right person to manage your career?
We clicked straight away as friends, and got on great with each other in the studio. Before the topic of managing even came up we had a really good, trusting relationship. Liam is like a big brother to me, basically family.
It was kinda funny and nice to know that we were both setting off on this journey into the music industry together with neither of us having a clue about what we were doing. When it came to my career, we both had the same vision of heading down the independent route and making sure that we had as much control as possible.
You’ve supported rock royalty – Snow Patrol, Robbie Williams etc. What lasting impact did those experiences have on you and were any of those relationships that you forged built to last?
I think the relationships I built with the guys in Snow Patrol are lifelong ones. They are just such amazing guys and it was an honour to get to know them. I learned so much from watching them perform and how they behaved on such a big tour. Things like not to get too stressed if things don’t go right on stage, and how to talk to a huge audience. That tour really helped my confidence on stage, helped me to overcome a lot of stage anxiety and taught me how to spot a good place for a nap. I still get nervous before shows but I don’t think I’ll ever be as nervous as that first show in Newcastle.
You have a lot in common with Sam Fender. Neither of you have fallen victim to waxing lyrical about your love lives in song. Does the success of artists like Sam and Lewis Capaldi, both known for their integrity, and retaining their individuality, encourage you to keep being Roe
Completely! It’s really nice to know that by doing the graft and keeping at something you love you will get somewhere. It’s reassuring to see artists like Sam Fender completely rocking it yet still being able to hold on to the vulnerability and hard truths that he believes in, even in the spotlight.
How important is it to you to write songs with meaning, that resonate with your fans and new audiences. Songs that capture both the imagination and attention with their lyrical depth and musical ingenuity?
When I write, I write for myself. It’s a way of getting all my thoughts down on a page instead of keeping them all jumbled up in my head. I feel like it’s necessary to be open and honest with myself in my songs because of this and because when people hear my songs I want them to know that it’s me speaking and not just another nothing love song.
If my music resonates with a listener, that’s amazing. I love hearing how my music affects them and how they can relate to the lyrics. And if it doesn’t make an impact, at least I’ve worked through an issue annoying my brain.
“Whelan’s is perfect for smaller acts just starting out and more established acts looking to put on a big headline show.”
You’re returning to We’ve Only Just Begun at Whelan’s this coming weekend. How important is Whelan’s to emerging Irish artists like yourself?
Whelan’s has been amazing for emerging artists like myself. They’re so supportive of up-and-coming artists and are always up for putting on a show. It’s perfect for smaller acts just starting out and more established acts looking to put on a big headline show. I’m so excited to play there again for We’ve Only Just Begun this weekend!
You’ve spent most of the past twelve-eighteen months gigging, touring and festivalling. What impact/influence has this had on your songwriting and musical performance?
It’s been a lot harder to find the time to write because of being away so much, but I feel like when I do sit down to write these days, I have a lot more to get off my chest. When it comes to the live show, playing so much has made it a lot sleeker. Liam and I are in the middle of working out some new songs to play live and adding more challenges to the setup. We have a running joke/not joke that when I get too comfortable with a set, it’s time to change it up.
Where do you see the two of you in ten years time?
Sitting down to make album no. 8, just off of a world tour with some massive act like The Killers, writing songs and co-writing for a load of awesome artists. Talking about how we’ve stuck working with each other for the past 12 years. The dream.
Roe returns to Whelan’s for the We’ve Only Just Begun Festival this Saturday 10th August. Tickets €15 per night, or €25 for a weekend pass. Full details on Whelan’s website. For more information on Roe and to hear more of her music go to Roeofficial.com