Soulé - Ire­land’s next big thing brings an el­e­ment of hip-hop and elec­tron­ica to the na­tion’s mu­sic scene

With a Con­golese her­itage and a pen­chant for elec­tronic r’n’b, Dublin singer Soulé is be­ing hailed as one of the lead­ing lights of an emerg­ing scene in Ire­land, writes

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - GUINNES CORK JAZZ FESTIVAL - Ed Power

SOULÈ, an up-and-com­ing r’n b singer from Dublin, had never pre­vi­ously been to Elec­tric Pic­nic when she was in­vited to per­form across three sep­a­rate stages at Ire­land’s big­gest mu­sic fes­ti­val this year.

In a week­end crammed with bucket-list en­coun­ters, the most thrilling came as she found her­self nat­ter­ing with 1980s soul su­per­star Chaka Khan. The chart top­per had sage ad­vice.

“We were all back­stage and I got to watch her per­form – that was out of this world,” re­calls the Bal­brig­gan artist, who has be­come the toast of the Ir­ish pop bl­o­go­sphere with so­phis­ti­cated bangers such as ‘Good Life’ and ‘Love No More’.

“I told her I was in­spired by her en­ergy and vibe. As a fe­male she is what I want to be­come in the fu­ture. She said, ‘I’m so happy you were in­spired by me – just keep do­ing what are do­ing and you will go far’. That is go­ing to stay with me for­ever.”

Soulè’s par­ents are Con­golese and her mu­sic is in­flu­enced by Amer­i­can r’n’b (Janet Jack­son is a favourite). There has been an at­tempt to paint her as part of a new Ir­ish mu­sic scene, along­side rap­pers such as Hare Squead and Ja­faris (known for his sup­port­ing part in John Car­ney’s Dublin mu­si­cal Sing Street).

This per­spec­tive is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar abroad, where the no­tion of Ir­ish peo­ple mak­ing mu­sic that does not in­volve fid­dles, bodhráns or freck­led-faced maid­ens re­mains hugely chal­leng­ing.

The view­point was en­thu­si­as­ti­cally ex­pressed in a re­cent Bri­tish broad­sheet piece which her­alded the emer­gence of a fresh gen­er­a­tion of Ir­ish artists – with the not-so-sub­tle im­pli­ca­tion that, un­til now, Ir­ish mu­sic has amounted to lit­tle be­yond The Corrs or Daniel O’Don­nell. A young per­son who knows her mind, Soulè isn’t hav­ing it.

“I didn’t read that ar­ti­cle,” she says. “I re­mem­ber be­ing in­ter­viewed for it. To be hon­est I feel we are adding to what is al­ready there. In terms of rock bands and singer-song­writ­ers, Ire­land has al­ready had an awe­some scene. All we are do­ing is bring­ing another el­e­ment. There has al­ways been a hip hop and elec­tronic pop scene. What’s dif­fer­ent is that we’re get­ting more me­dia at­ten­tion. Me and all my friends have been do­ing it for a long time. It’s just that now ev­ery­one is fi­nally talk­ing about it.”

Soulè’s emerg­ing suc­cess is per­ceived as closely aligned to the ris­ing pro­file of Dif­fu­sion Lab, a “col­lab­o­ra­tive hub” of la­bels, stu­dios and mu­si­cians based at Welling­ton Quay in Dublin.

“I wanted to get some songs recorded,” she says. “I have a lot of mu­si­cian friends who were record­ing at the time and were in con­tact with dif­fer­ent pro­duc­ers, that’s how I got my foot in there.

“My first sin­gle was re­leased last year – the pro­ducer said, ‘it’s a great song, we should put it out’. There wasn’t a whole big strat­egy. I thought, ‘okay, cool let’s do that’. The feed­back was amaz­ing. I thought – ‘maybe I should do some shows too’. And now I’m here. It’s been cool.”

As a child in Bal­brig­gan, Soulè would sing along to the Spice Girls with her mother – and her ado­ra­tion of the cheesy quin­tet can be dis­cerned in her own mu­sic’s joy­ful, up­beat ca­dences. “I still love lis­ten­ing to them. I also lis­tened to TLC, Destiny’s Child, Bey­once. I was into all gen­res. My par­ents were al­ways very cool and sup­port­ive.”

Soulè has al­ways been a pre­co­cious tal­ent and went on stage for the first time aged 13.

“All my friends are into mu­sic, song­writ­ing, danc­ing – ev­ery­thing to do with the arts. I was in a youth club grow­ing up too. We did a lot of ex­cit­ing things to do with mu­sic. I was a teenager when I went on stage for the first time.

“Based on the feed­back, I thought it would be cool to do this in the fu­ture. I still wanted to go to univer­sity and stuff. Af­ter that, I felt it would be cool to record.”

WITH a de­but EP in the works, she is cur­rently toil­ing hard at build­ing her rep­u­ta­tion as live per­former. Hav­ing re­cently put in a storm­ing turn at the Sounds From A Safe Har­bour fes­ti­val she re­turns to Cork for the jazz fes­ti­val.

“That [Safe Har­bour] was amaz­ing – my first time in Cork. I am used to play­ing in Dublin so, go­ing to Cork, I was a lit­tle ner­vous. I didn’t ex­pect so many peo­ple to be there. The vibe was in­cred­i­ble – I re­ceived amaz­ing feed­back. I can’t wait to go back down to play Cyprus Av­enue. It’s cool that [the Jazz Fes­ti­val] has a lot of dif­fer­ent artists.”

She is pas­sion­ate about mu­sic – but there is a sense, too, that it isn’t an ob­ses­sion or how she de­fines her­self. Soulè stud­ied tourism and French at DIT and made sure to get her de­gree be­fore com­mit­ting to show­busi­ness full time.

“I’m chilled about the whole thing,” she says. “Peo­ple tell me that’s a very Ir­ish view. I’m al­ways think­ing, ‘Things will be fine, they’ll be grand’. I’m laid back and happy that ev­ery­thing that has hap­pened for me has come about in an ex­tremely or­ganic fash­ion.”

Soulè – whose real first name is Sa­man­tha – may have trod the boards since school. How­ever, she couldn’t be fur­ther from the stage brat archetype.

“What­ever hap­pens hap­pens. I’m go­ing with the flow – tak­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity as it comes.”

Watch this space. Soulè plays at Cyprus Av­enue Cork Oc­to­ber 27, as part of the Jazz Fes­ti­val

There has al­ways been a hip hop and elec­tronic pop scene. What’s dif­fer­ent is that we’re get­ting more me­dia at­ten­tion

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