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Fighting fire with Fya

Emerging Irish alt-pop artist Fya Fox told David Hennessy why she won’t be throwing her songwriting efforts into the fire, always being ‘a pop girl’ despite being classically trained and the ‘weird experience’ of being in Japan at the very start of the pandemic.

Armagh’s Fya Fox has been earning plaudits for her electronic pop with emotive lyrical themes. Tracks such as her debut single White Lies, released only last year and her current offering Body which is endorsed by industry magazines like Hot Press who describe it as an, ‘Irresistibly catchy tune, alt-pop anthem’.

She has certainly come a long way since throwing her songwriting efforts into the fire too scared to let anyone else see them.

Fya told The Irish World: “I was writing music but I was writing it on scrappy paper and then I would scrunch it up and throw it in the fire so nobody could find it.

“I think I thought my songs were cheesy or I was expressing something and thought, ‘Nobody can see this’.”
However, she would get over this in her teens when she shared her music to receive encouragement.

“I started going to local singer-songwriter nights. I started to show people my songs. There were a few people who said, ‘I think you have a song here, you can actually write’. It kind of just went from there.

“I really enjoyed the process so there will be no more scrunching the paper and throwing it into the fire.”

From the county of Armagh but near the Monaghan border, Fya was singing, playing music and even songwriting from an very early age.

“I was one of those annoying children that was always dancing and singing around the house and I think my mother was like, ‘We need to channel this energy somewhere’. My local teacher was a classically trained tutor so I actually went and started lessons with her and trained as a classical singer.

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“I probably would have started around the age of 11, 12 when I started songwriting. I was putting little melodies together but i don’t think they need to be dug up, I think they’re best left where they are.

“It was about 16 or 17 I started going to these nights and showing people what I was writing. The area that I come from is heavily invested in the Irish country scene. The music I was listening to and writing was more pop and alternative.

“My parents were big Irish country fans and they always wanted me to be singing Irish country and it always was included in my set. Classical singing holds a piece of my heart just because that’s what I trained as but it was always the pop scene that I was really drawn to. I think deep down I was always an alternative pop girl.”

A classically trained vocalist, Fya’s influences span from Banks, Lana Del Rey and London Grammar. Her debut single White Lies received favourable radio support across the UK and Ireland including a world exclusive from Radio One’s Gemma Bradley on BBC Across The Line.

The single also received praise from Irish tastemaker titles, Nialler9 and The Last Mixed Tape and was added by Hattie Pearson to the influential Co-op Edit UK playlist.

Completely different to the introspective first release, Body blends her vocals with R&B-infused pop.

The track has been added to the BBC Radio Ulster ‘Where Music Matters’ February playlist and been added to a number of prestigious Spotify playlists including ‘Fresh Finds’.

“Body is kind of a sad banger. I always say it’s like one of those tunes that has you on the dance floor giving it loads but you’re secretly crying at the same time.

“It’s kind of about heartbreak, getting over heartbreak and giving two fingers to heartbreak at the same time.

“I think we’ve all been there.

“It’s been a really really good and fun time making it and I hope people have been enjoying it.

“White Lies was a bit more mellow and had a darker side and with Body I did want to keep that serious electronic vibe but I still wanted people to be able to dance to it.

“It’s been a bit weird. Obviously I intended to release music pre-Covid and then Covid hit and I held off thinking, like everybody else, this was not going to be as long as it has been but held off and held off and then November of last year I recorded my debut single White Lies and I just loved it so much. I just said, ‘Look, I’m just going to put this out and see what people think. It was really well received.

“I had recorded Body as well. I’ve just been delighted with the reception. It’s hard as well because I can’t actually get out and gig anywhere live for anybody to really become a true fan. I’ve been really appreciative to all those guys who have been following and streaming and sharing my music. It’s been crazy not only releasing music for the first time but releasing music in a pandemic.

“That’s why I’m very humbled by the reaction and people following with my two singles. Because I did release those in the middle of a pandemic and nobody really knew who I was and I couldn’t really get to radio stations to form those connections. It’s been really nice that people have jumped on board and given their support.

“Fingers crossed maybe towards the end of the year I might be able to get out and gig a few live sets. That would be a dream.”

Who are Fya’s biggest inspirations? “I suppose I would have been a big Beyonce fan. London Grammar definitely was a key inspiration but I was always obsessed with Beyonce. You can’t really go past Queen Bee. Beyonce, Adele, Florence and the Machine: I suppose it was big voices that really, really inspired me. I used to be taken aback by their presence onstage and their vocals.”

It was in February last year that Fya travelled to Japan to play some shows. She says she saw people over there taking it all in their stride but being very careful. This made it jarring when she returned home to see people still behaving as normal.

“It was quite a weird experience. We literally flew home from Japan and then two weeks later Ireland went into complete lockdown. We literally just got back home. When we were in Japan people were constantly contacting us going, ‘What is it like out there? How’s everything going?’

“And to be honest their culture is completely different from ours. They’re constantly looking out for the next person and they’re very clean. That would be inbuilt in their culture. Even though it was quite a busy city there was sort of this calm. That’s what I was saying to people. They just got on with things with everybody and sanitising and wearing masks. They’re quite used to wearing masks because if they have a general cold they don’t want to give it to the next person. It was just a completely different culture and way of doing things.

“We had got into that routine of sanitising, washing our hands, wearing our mask. We had been doing that and then when we came home we were kind of like, ‘Why is everyone not doing this here?’ It was a weird transition. Everybody seemed to be behind here. We were like, ‘Why has nobody got sanitisers?’

“I think we thought it wasn’t going to impact us as much as it did.

“It was nice to get that experience because looking back now if we had been booked for any later in the year we definitely wouldn’t have been going.

“My last live gig was in Japan.”

Fya’s voice may sound familiar as before she had even released any music of her own, she was approached to sing on Irish TV adverts for Brown Thomas and Barry’s Tea.

“It was really nice to do that. A lot of people didn’t realise it was my voice. It’s nice because it shows a different tone to my voice. It’s nice for people to hear a different element.”

Body is out now.

For more information, click here.

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