Northern Ireland

Joan Armatrading's opportunity for new singer-songwriters

Joan Armatrading
Image caption Joan Armatrading gave 56 upcoming singer-songwriter's the opportunity to support her on her most recent tour.

It is always a struggle for new singer-songwriters to get noticed in the industry but over the last few months Grammy Award nominee Joan Armatrading has been giving the next generation of stars a rare opportunity.

It is an opportunity that two young singers from Northern Ireland, who feature in an upcoming documentary, were lucky enough to receive.

"I've always been convinced that there are plenty of acts out there, solo artists and bands who are brilliant and they write their own music but who are not getting heard or at least not heard by very big audiences," Joan said.

"I thought I would like to try and help them," she said.

"I put out the word that I was looking for local acts, 56 of them to support me on the tour."

'Expressing emotion'

Two of those acts, Jason Clarke and Triona, who supported Joan feature in a new BBC Radio 2 documentary which follows their journey ahead of their performances.

Caitriona Carville, whose stage name is Triona, is 16, is from Teconnaught, outside Downpatrick, County Down. She began singing at an early age and performs in bars across Northern Ireland.

She supported Joan at her concert at Vicar Street in Dublin.

Image caption Caitriona Carville, aka Triona, was chosen by Joan to support her at her concert in Dublin.

Triona is from a large family, she is one of eight children and has almost 80 first cousins so family sing-alongs have become a bit of a choir event.

"My family were delighted when they found out Joan had selected me, they thought it was a great opportunity.

"I've been song writing since I was 14, it's in my blood, my uncles and my dad all do song writing, it's just a way of expressing emotion," she said.

Triona writes her own songs and has recently released her first EP which she has been distributing to local radio stations.

"One song I wrote was about my brother going away to Australia, because we are such a close family and I decided to write a song," she said.

"It's called Please Come Home and well it didn't really work - he got his citizenship not that long ago."

Triona's parents are closely involved in their daughter's career and both of them are helping her.

For dad William, helping Triona has given him a new lease of life.

"A lot of years back I was having a wee bit of bother with drink so I stopped drinking and to keep my head occupied I lifted the guitar.

"Caitriona was the only one who couldn't escape because she was in a baby bouncer and I think that's when she was programmed with music. Her wee foot was just going to the beat.

"Looking back I've seen both sides of life. I've seen the pain, the downside, the depression with alcohol. I thought my life was over. Well now it's good fun. I wake up every morning and I'm happy," he said.

"Her singing has given me a new lease of life, travelling with her, setting up her gigs and doing all the things we are doing together."

As Triona's career begins to blossom, it brings challenges as well. Joan offered her some advice ahead of the gig.

"Joan has been a great help, she advised me to keep doing what I was doing. Keep gigging and to have the faith.

"She was also giving me advice on contracts and management and the business side of things," said Triona.

Triona's mum, Caitriona Sr, has some concerns about her daughter being taken advantage of in what is traditionally seen as a very tough industry.

"I've spent 29 years raising my children and I don't give them up easy," she said.

Jason Clarke

Image caption Jason Clarke first met Joan at Anfield in Liverpool. He supported her at her concert in Londonderry.

Jason Clarke, 26, from Belfast, works for a soft drinks company and he supported Joan with his band at the Millennium Forum in Londonderry.

"I read online that Joan was looking for acts to support her. I've grown up listening to her and thought it would be an honour to support her," he said.

"She listened to every single entry and chose some to support her. She wanted to give exposure to new acts to her audiences, which are always sold out. She also released a compilation CD with all of our songs on it," he said.

Jason said the first time he met Joan he was surprised how much she knew about him.

"We met Joan initially at Anfield in Liverpool. I was at the catering van and out of the corner of my eye I saw Joan. She came straight over to me and said 'Hello Jason, I really like your songs', then she listed the four songs on my EP and she said she liked my music video. I couldn't believe it, she had such a genuine interest in me and my music," he said.

"She is very welcoming. When we got to Derry she came straight out to see me and chatted away, she wasn't one of these divas who hid away in her dressing room. it was like talking to your auntie."

Jason explained how his love for music began at an early age.

"When I was aged 10 or 11 at primary school I fancied this girl and she was in the choir so I thought I would maybe join the choir just so I could talk to her for the first time and from there I just started singing and the choir master saw something and asked me to do a solo in the school play that year. That's where it began.

"I went onto Methody and started writing poems and then turned them into songs," he said.

"Supporting Joan was a great experience. When she came on stage she was very kind and talked about how she liked my music."

Armatrading's Singer Songwriters will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on 11 February 2013 at 23:00 GMT. More information about the 56 singer-songwriters can be found on the Local Talent UK website.

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