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Feeling Twenty Two

Singer- songwriter Megan Nic Ruairí told David Hennessy about her debut EP, moving from Nottingham to Donegal’s Gaeltacht at 11 and the hard times of watching her mother battle breast cancer.

Donegal singer-songwriter Megan Nic Ruairí has just released her debut solo EP Made Of Sin following the most recent single Twenty Two.

Megan’s music is a blend of Irish traditional and contemporary sounds, combining love stories with themes of self-exploration.

Megan Nic Ruairí’s musical journey has been deeply influenced by her Irish heritage, a connection that shines through in her love for the Irish language and poetry, showcased as a member of family band Clann Mhic Ruairí.

After being born in London and doing some of her growing up in Nottingham, Megan’s musical beginnings in West Donegal as well as her participation in the Dublin-based alternative rock ensemble, BIG LOVE has shaped her distinctive musical style.

Her inaugural release Can’t Trust the Moon was released in 2020 with an EP intended to follow then but of course, COVID scuppered those plans.

However, Megan’s debut EP has been delayed until now with Megan taking the time to work on her sound before returning with the single, The Woods.

Following the success of her previous release, “The Woods”, Megan continues to captivate listeners with her unique blend of Irish traditional and contemporary sounds, weaving romanticized love stories with themes of self-exploration.

The most recent single Twenty Two explores the naivety of young love and the enduring impact it can have on one’s heart, even in the absence of concrete commitment.

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What inspired it?

Megan told The Irish World: “It’s not really about anyone in particular but it’s about that kind of young love and always anticipating someone to be better than they are sometimes, and how you can romanticise the situation.

“I think when you’re so young as well, you think it’s the be all and end all and everything.

“I think looking back, it is just part of like that young journey.

“When I recorded it, I wanted it to be a bit more of a reflection, so it’s about everybody and nobody and just that kind of young life.”

Twenty Two, like it sounds, is about being 22. Megan is now 28 which shows how long she has been living with the tracks in this collection.

“Absolutely, and they all come from poems and scribbles and things that kind of get revisited a long time after.

“My voice note app is just crazy.

“I had to buy more storage for my phone because there’s just so much going on in there and sometimes I don’t find them for ages and years later, but I suppose that’s a reflection on the track.

“It’s, ‘I’ll still have my eyes on you even when I’m not 22’.”

Made of Sin, the title track has similar themes, doesn’ it? That’s also about people behaving poorly..

“I wrote that song a good couple of years ago when I was living in Dun Laoghaire.

“I was just going through a little bit of isolation and coming to terms with the fact that I just really couldn’t understand how the people who worked so hard to be in my life could treat me so mean.

“At the time I’d be like, ‘Oh, do you think that I’m made of sin?’

“And again, it’s a reflection piece.

“I’m kind of releasing this now from a different place.

“Releasing all this from such a different place in my life, it’s kind of claiming back that power.

“I kind of wanted the whole EP to be a bit of a journey and have not two songs be so similar.

“So The Woods, which was my first single, that’s quite a big cinematic piece, and then Made of Sin kind of mirrors that as well.

“So they’re at the start and at the end, so there’s a lot of different things going on in the EP, which I’m excited about.”

Speaking of The Woods, the previous single, can you tell us where that came from?

“When I was about 19 or 20, I was diagnosed with PCOS which is a hormonal disorder in women.

“It took me a long time to get treatment and get any kind of help.

“And that song is completely about those struggles that I had at the time and kind of fighting with doctors and fighting with people to be heard.

“I think one thing to be noted about PCOS is that it’s commonly said that it’s about periods and it’s actually not, it’s a hormonal disorder and metabolic.

“It deals with your thyroid and most women who are diagnosed with it end up getting type two diabetes later in life, so there’s a lot more problems with it that people don’t realise.

“It’s also very much affected my mental health.

“I did want to tell people that I struggled with that with that song to create awareness.

“And I actually released it the same month as PCOS Awareness Month which was important to me and since coming out and talking about it, the amount of people that have spoken to me, it’s like the message came out and people resonated with it.

“I suppose that song is about just struggling with yourself and just wanting somebody to be on your side and take you on but coming from a better place now.

“It’s all that journey.”

It’s great that it’s got that reaction, I expect people are just glad someone is speaking about it…

“Absolutely, it’s a conversation and there’s no shame in the disease or in the syndrome, you know what I mean?

“It’s like the more people that talk about it, the more younger women who are going through it would be able to understand what’s wrong.

“It affects one in 10 women so the more people talking, the better.”

You’re a proud Donegal woman but you were actually born in London, isn’t that right? Can you tell us about your background?

“My mother’s from Mayo, my dad’s from Donegal.

“They met when they were 18, 19 and like most Irish people, they had to emigrate to London for work.

“I was born and Whipps Cross Hospital and then we moved on to Nottingham when I was about a year old, and I lived there until I was 11.

“Then I was going to start secondary school and Dad had always wanted to move back to Donegal and I think that was a good time for us to make the move. So glad I did.

“It was obviously very tough because I moved to an Irish speaking area so I had to learn how to speak Irish, but I completely fell in love with it.

“It came quite naturally to me which was great.”

That must have been a shock to come over with your Nottingham accent and then have to grasp a bit of Gaeilge..

“I was thrown in.

“I was very lucky, I moved to Ranafast and the school was incredibly small but a lot of the students I was related to in some way.

“I wasn’t really isolated in that way.

“I had a lot of people around me that I already kind of knew growing up, but it was when I went to secondary school that I kind of struggled a bit more because I wasn’t only learning Irish but I was learning everything else through Irish.

“But then I just completely fell in love with the language and became a fluent Irish speaker quite fast.

“Then I started singing in sean-nós and singing traditional music, so I’ve been in that world since I was quite young as well.

“I like to kind of have the two go hand in hand which is really important to me as a singer.”

You say you fell in love with the language, that would have been a long time before An Cailín Ciúin and this new resurgence in the language.

“I’ve definitely noticed a huge love for the Irish, especially amongst young people.

“There’s, as you said, An Cailín Ciúin and a lot of really cool bands referencing the language which I think is so important because we should be able to speak our native language.

“I think it’s really important, it kind of grounds us and it connects us to where we’re from.

“I record a lot in the Irish language but I think going forward, now that this project is released, I’d love to have the two kind of mixed in together.

“The likes of Hozier are doing it at the moment, and Fontaines DC, and such different varieties of music, so it’s become very, very cool.

“And especially with these movies and stuff, it’s class, and it’s such a beautiful language.

“It’s a shame if people aren’t picking it up and learning it.”

Another track on the EP is your version of The Waterboys’ The Whole of the Moon which you have Mike Scott’s blessing for. How did you get that?

“I actually released a version two years ago now.

“Mike Scott actually tweeted me just saying that he really loved my version.

“That was just crazy because I’ve been obsessed with that song my whole life.

“We were chatting back and forth and then a year later, my family- I’m in a band with my family and we were to support them but the gig didn’t happen because it was an outdoor festival and there was a weather mishap.

“But since then he’s been incredibly supportive and will kind of tweet me the odd time which is really cool.

“I just got onto him as more of a courtesy really.

“I was just like, ‘I’m releasing a song. I hope that’s okay’.

“And he was just like, ‘Absolutely. Let me know when it’s out. Send it to me’, and I was like, ‘Cool’. It’s mad.”

Megan would repeat her leaving cert but after finishing with school, would go on to study at BIMM.

“I released a track at the beginning of COVID, Can’t Trust The Moon with the intention of this EP coming out after, but obviously everything got slowed down.

“But I just kept writing and after COVID I was like, ‘I’m gonna try and do music full-time’, and I’ve been doing it full-time for the last two years now.

“So between my solo stuff and my family, I’m in a band called Big Love as well and I’ve been doing some bits for television so I’ve been working full-time in that world for the last two years which is brilliant.”

There’s a song on the EP we haven’t spoken about, See You Better. That one is personal as it was written when your mother was ill… 

“Yeah, so my mum had breast cancer a couple years ago and she was very lucky that it kind of got found very, very early.

“The doctor just really took care of her and really made our lives a lot easier during that time.

“But it was more after that, there were a few complications and stuff with her health and thank God she’s in great form now, she’s an incredibly strong person but I think I just kind of needed some kind of therapy for myself.

“I suppose it was therapy for me and more like, ‘I’d love to see you better, in better health’, but then it kind of changed to, ‘I’d love to understand you better and to see who you are as a person’.

“Because I think when you’re young you never really expect to look after a parent or that you would have to be the one that’s kind of their support network after them being yours your whole life.

“I think it was more kind of understanding her not as much a mother but as a woman, as a person.

“I was actually chatting to her yesterday because she’d read a piece I’d written about it.

“She was crying and saying I broke her heart, in a good way.

“Because we’re very, very close.

“It’s good for us to see the people that we love for who they are and be able to support them.

“I’m glad that song was recorded and on the EP.”

Delighted to hear she is better now but they were tough times…

“Yeah, it’s horrible and we were so lucky.

“I do feel grateful for that every time I think back on it, because some people aren’t as lucky.

“But we’re a very, very strong unit.

“We all just kind of really stuck together through the whole experience.”

How would you describe you sound?

“I think you can definitely hear the Celtic and the Irish influence.

“There’s definitely a jazz influence there and then folky atmospheric, it’s a bit of everything I think.

“But you can kind of sense the root of the Irishness, which I like.

“I think when we were younger, we were always listening to a lot of different music.

“Moya Brennan was a huge inspiration growing up and becoming friends with her when I moved to Ireland was mental to me, and she’s always been incredibly supportive.

“I kind of just pull bits off of everyone and everything.”

What was it like to become friends with someone like Moya Brennan from such a legendary band as Clannad? “(We became friends) through music, Moya actually runs a monthly open mic night at home called Club Beo.

“When I was 16, I played my own original music there for the first time.

“At the time, I was only singing Irish sean-nós songs and then she kind of gave me the stage for the first time to kind of work on my solo material.

“And then I became good friends with her kids and we recorded together years ago.

“We’re still really, really close.

“She just lives up the road.

“But yeah, it was really wild because I remember I loved the soundtrack for Robin Hood when I was younger.

“I just thought it was fantastic and then meeting her then it was just crazy.

“But she’s great. She’s super, super supportive.”

And Donegal is just so musical, isn’t it?

“Absolutely, especially where we’re from in the Northwest.

“We have Altan, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh is just literally across the road from my family home.

“Donal Lunny, Manus Lunny, Maighréad and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, and Moya Brennan, we all live close.

“It’s mad but there’s a beautiful kind of community there of musicians, and everyone really kind of keeps an eye out for each other and supports each other. It’s really lovely.”

There’s an incredible amount of well known musicians to have living in such a small locality, does that mean you never who you’re going to meet when you’re just getting a bottle of milk?

“A little bit,” Megan laughs.

“Yeah, you’d never know.”

Twenty Two is out now.

Made Of Sin is out now.

For more information, click here.

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