NIYL pictured above is Limerick bred and Dublin-based. Picture: Fiach O’ Neill
10 Questions with Limerick singer-songwriter NIYL
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Ann McDonald
Renowned Irish artist NIYL (formerly known as Nile St. James), marks his return under a brand new artist moniker and celebrates this relaunch with his debut single ‘The Heretic’ – set for release on January 28, 2022.
Previously known for his soul-funk singer-songwriter based music, NIYL makes his return with a new sound, new look and fresh approach to his craft. A familiar face on the live circuit, he’s opened for the likes of Gavin James, Hermitage Green, and Wyvern Lingo, as well as appearing on stage with Dermot Kennedy and the RTE Concert Orchestra, Rufus Wainwright and iconic live performance as lead vocalist with National Geographic Live in Concert ‘Symphony for our World’. Hailing from Limerick, this is an artist who mixes a unique blend of soulful vocals and lush, ethereal instrumentation to deliver a powerful, cinematic-like catalogue of original works. A lyricist who draws inspiration from the landscapes of the Wild Atlantic Way, NIYL writes as a means of catharsis, channelling emotions through word and song, calling on elements of nature to be pillars for each work, inspired by the greats before him like Wilde and Yeats. No stranger to media, his previous work has been championed across Hot Press, Spin 1038, GCN, Joe. ie, IMRO, and more, and has developed a loyal following through appearances at the likes of Ruby Sessions, Doolin Folk Fest, Live on Air and Go Tobann.
What was your childhood like and where did you grow up?
My childhood was great. My earliest memories would be growing up in Woodview Park, Limerick. I was an absolute brat. I had a wild imagination and lived in a fantasy world – for better or for worse. I remember one time my dad Peter, who is a plasterer, left his trailer out the front of our house and I saw an opportunity for a rollercoaster ride. Living on top of a hill, my neighbour and I somehow managed to get the trailer moving and the next thing you know we were steamrolling down Rosturra Crescent – the two of us loving life. I was killed for that!
Where does your love of music come from?
Music was around our house a lot, dad was in Sammy Benson’s marching band and Mom was an Irish dancer so we were flat out with music. Through doing school plays and things like that I discovered I liked singing and as I grew older, music became my release and singing and writing became a passion and a therapy. Singing allows us to express emotions in a really raw and cathartic way. You can tell when I’m in a bad mood if I am roaring the house down but it always works
Do you have any musical inspirations?
Yeah, I have a broad list of people I draw inspiration from. When it comes to harmony and my own voice, my former voice teacher, Maire Keary Scanlon really inspired me. Maire introduced me to so many incredible works by the likes of Eric Whitacre and Karl Jenkins when I was part of Limerick Youth Choir – I still remember the first time listening to ‘Sleep’ and being awestruck by it. Maire is an incredible mentor and an absolute treasure – she helped me to really hone in and understand my voice and I don’t think I’d sing the way I do now without her mentorship.
What have been some struggles in getting to where you are now?
So, I think pursuing any artistic career requires sacrifice, but throughout Covid, it has become quite clear to see that the infrastructure in Ireland makes it very difficult for artists to be secure in their careers. Along with the droves of other creatives, working full-time as an artist making original materials is just not sustainable or realistic and it is down to the attitude that those in power have towards the arts and how they treat the industry as a whole.
Being an artist and working towards becoming a full-time musician is hard going. For me, it was mentally taxing to be on the main stage performing to a festival full of people one night and then the next day return to waiting tables. A lot of artists and creative struggle but it is important to know that there are services out there that can support creatives such as Minding Creative Minds.
Can you tell us anything about your new music?
Yes, so I took a break from releasing and gigging sets for a while because I wanted to figure out what exactly makes my soul jump when it comes to music. I allowed myself the time to create, write and experiment with sounds… which has brought me to my new release ‘The Heretic’.
I’ve moved away from the funk/soul outfit and drawn from my love of big cinematic orchestrations and harmony, ‘The Heretic’ is the first of the collection of songs that I’ve written. The track sits in a space that is full of dramatic melodies, lush string arrangements and a heap of emotion. The song dances between moments of vulnerability and resentment. We have all been through situations where we are blinded by love and the journey of this song is to show that we are not alone in this struggle. We have all strived to fully remove ourselves from a toxic situation and start anew. We have resent the time wasted but as time moves, so too does the healing.
You can pre-save ‘The Heretic’ now on @Spotify! The track will be out on January 28th! ?
— NIYL (@NIYLmusic) January 11, 2022
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I think one of the best moments in my career so far has been performing as a soloist for the National Geographic Symphony for our World. It was an incredible experience and performing in Limerick made it all the much more special.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring singers?
I think all singers should experience some form of training so that they understand what they are actually doing with their voices. A good foundation will help you accentuate your unique traits and ensure you have the endurance to perform tours and big shows. Gemma Sugrue is a brilliant coach to follow on Instagram – she does super insightful videos and isn’t afraid to have the craic!
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
A Limerick gig is on the horizon for sure and I am hoping to release another few songs this year! I am living in Dublin now but there is always something so special about a gig in Limerick.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I’d like to have an album out and be able to comfortably tour around Ireland and maybe a bit beyond. Who knows! As long as I get to make music I am happy and if I get to make a living out of it I’ve hit the jackpot.
And lastly, what do you love most about Limerick?
What I love most is the mischief of Limerick – maybe it is the company I keep but there is always a bit of brazenness in the air and I love it.
Limerick has that wonderful contrast of a beautiful landscape with a bit of wildness thrown in. I love my Saturdays in the Milk Market and peeking through the windows of Ormston House. The feral shouts of a couple’s public disagreement on Cruises Street and a coffee from Rift. I love a gig in Dolans and dinner in the Curragower.
To buy & listen to the track go HERE
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