Sina Theil told David Hennessy about filming the video for her number one Christmas song promoting peace when a riot broke out on the Dublin streets outside and giving up her old life to follow her dreams in Ireland.
German born, Irish based independent singer-songwriter Sina Theil’s new single Let there be Peace (this Christmas) has already achieved a number 1 position in the main Irish charts (as well as country charts), even beating Dua Lipa.
When she was writing the song, Sina was thinking of Gaza and Ukraine and wishing for some peace there.
However when she was shooting the video in the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Dublin City centre, the recent Dublin city riot erupted outside and it became a song for Ireland also as she sang ‘let there be peace’ while the carnage and sirens could be heard just outside.
Sina told The Irish World: “Peace and unity have been at the forefront of our minds more than ever.
“I mean: Iran, Ukraine, Gaza.
“I really feel that this Christmas people just long for peace.
“The song itself really just came to me, it hit me like a freight train.
“Everything just felt so meant to be when it came to the song.
“I’m just so happy that it resonates with people.”
You were filming your video about peace when it turned into a war zone just outside..
“It was surreal.
“We were setting up and at some point, someone came in and said, ‘Oh, there’s been a tragic incident in the city centre where several people got stabbed’.
“Again, we had no information.
“We were at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is right in the city centre.
“I mean, it’s only 100 metres away from O’Connell Bridge from where really the brunt of everything was happening.
“And the priest came in and he said, ‘Look, there’s a riot outside, you can’t go outside’.
“I’m singing, ‘Let there be peace, let there be love’.
“And all of a sudden you start hearing the sirens in the background, a helicopter flying over the church.
“One of the crew was like, ‘Do you smell that? Smells like smoke’.
“It was just crazy.
“And in that moment, it just felt like we were singing it to the city.
“It just felt bigger than a video clip, it felt like we were this little bubble of peace, irradiating peace out into war torn Dublin at that minute.
“We’re sitting there in the church singing about peace, Dublin is going up in flames.
“It feels like people are meant to hear this message at this point in time.”
Late that night Sina was able to leave and drive home and it was only on this journey she saw what had transpired in Dublin.
“I had to stop just to look at what was going on.
“And when I saw the videos, my jaw just dropped: Cars on fire, buses on fire. The tram was on fire.
“There’s videos of a mob chasing a policeman, yelling ‘kill him’, and the policeman just running for his life.
“I mean when I saw that, I was just heartbroken.
“I couldn’t believe it and I was scared.
“I was like, ‘I need to stop looking at videos and I need to get out of here’.
“Because sitting alone in a car pulled over in a dark street, you just don’t know who’s making their way home from bashing up a few cars and assaulting people.
“So I was like, ‘Oh my God, I actually need to get out of here’.
“It was surreal. Very, very sad. Very unsettling experience, that that would happen to this gravity in Dublin City Centre.
“I was singing about peace, and literally all hell broke loose.
“I wrote the song having in mind Iran and the women and their fight for freedom there.
“I was thinking about Ukraine and Russia, Gaza, and it never really occurred to me that it would be an anthem for peace that would be so much needed in our own country.
“That just really brought it home to me and I think really just shows how important that message is.
“I think it just really shows that need for peace that we have in the moment, that moment in Dublin City Centre, smelling smoke in the church and hearing the sirens and the helicopter really made it evident to me that what we need most now is peace and an anthem for peace.”
You’re a foreign national, are you concerned that far right groups are on the rise?
“Well, I don’t think a country or society should be defined by the actions of those who shout the loudest.
“I have been received in Ireland with open arms.
“I remember I stood on O’Connell Street like Bambi, like Crocodile Dundee when he’s in the city and he’s like, ‘What is all of us?’
“That was me, including the hat.
“I hadn’t a clue.
“I came to Ireland eight years ago.
“I knew zero people in Ireland.
“I had zero money.
“I had never played a professional gig.
“I had no social media.
“I had all of the odds against me and the Irish just took me in as one of their own.
“Nobody has ever asked me the question. ‘Why is a German girl singing Irish music? That’s not right’.
“People ask me out of interest. They say, ‘Wow, how come you sing Irish music? How come you’ve embraced our culture so much?’
“But never once have I been doubted, never and that could be a natural thing to do, that people say, ‘How come she’s being successful singing our songs?’
“But never once has that happened to me, it’s all the opposite.
“The Irish people are so grateful. And they’re open. And they’re wonderful people.
“Me coming to Ireland feels like something that was meant to be.
“I just knew Ireland was the place for me.
“I just said, ‘Right, I’m going to move to Ireland and I’m going to give music a go’.
“Because since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be on the stage.
“But as I got a bit older, I started telling my teachers I wanted to drop out of school to go to acting school and study arts.
“And people said to me, ‘Oh, don’t do that. Oh, you have to finish school at least’.
“And then I just started doubting myself and I started doubting my dreams.
“I thought, ‘Maybe I do have to finish school. Maybe you shouldn’t just go after your dreams’, you know?
“And so I said, ‘Okay, right. I’ll finished school’.
“So I finished school. And what do you do after school? You go to college, so I did that too. I studied six years in psychology.
“And then what do you do after college? You get a job, any job, preferably a job that you hate. And that’s what I did, I just completely forgot about my dream.
“One day I just thought, ‘Life can’t be this. Am I gonna waste my life away? Because if I don’t leave this hamster wheel, I will be here forever and I will live with regret and one day I will tell my grandkids, ‘Oh, I was a great singer’. But when they say, ‘Oh, Grandma, why did you never do it?’ I’ll truthfully just have to say, ‘Because I never had the guts’.’
“So I said, ‘No, I refuse to live with regret’.
“So I quit my job. I grabbed one backpack, and one guitar case, only what I could carry and I just said, ‘Mum, Dad, I love you, but I’m gonna feck off to Ireland and be a musician’.
“It was really the unknown.
“I was terrified the night before. I was like, ‘What am I doing?’
“I was legitimately terrified.
“When things are meant to be, they’re meant to be.”
Sina would study music at BIMM.
“When I came to Ireland first, because I needed to somehow survive, I got a corporate job again which was the only thing I knew.
“And after one year of working a corporate job, and studying part time at BIMM, I really wanted to give it my all.
“I had to decide, ‘Am I gonna do this all in? Am I gonna put all the chips on the table? Or am I gonna do this as a hobby, part time, working something else?’
“So I said, ‘All chips in. If you want to do it, you got to do it’.
“So I just went busking full-time for a living and that’s all I did.
“I studied full-time at BIMM and I went busking. That’s how I got through.
“And I used to go with my bag of coins everywhere. It was funny, on a night out, you’d see me with two bags of coins.
“I shared rooms, whatever it took because that’s what it’s about.
“If you want to do something, you can do it.
“You just have to pay the price.
“That’s how it is.”
You have to pay the price… in coins in your case.
“That’s it,” Sina laughs. “50 cents at a time.”
Did you learn a lot about stage craft and entertaining from the busking?
“That was such a valuable experience.
“Sometimes I’ll get artists that are starting out asking me, ‘What can I do? I love singing, but I’ve only ever sung in my bedroom? How can I make a career out of it?’
“First thing I ever say is go busking because you will find out very quickly what you need to do, how you need to interact with people.
“You learn to concentrate because on the streets everything can and will happen.
“I’ve seen people get arrested in front of me, I’ve broken up fights, and everything and in between.
“I’ve been pushed, people have tried to assault me. Everything has happened, everything.
“But you learn how to concentrate so something could drop next to you, but you’re not missing a beat in your song and that is so important.
“When you’re a professional, you need to be able to focus and you learn all of these things on the street.
“I never used to look at the money that I got.
“If someone threw a coin in my case, I never used to look how much it was or I never used to think, ‘Oh, I wonder how much I’ve made’.
“My goal was always, ‘How many people can I make smile?’
“That was my mantra and if I got tired, if it was cold, if I got frustrated because nobody’s paying attention, I would always pull myself back to that goal and say, ‘Right, remember. That lady over there, she looks a bit worn out, she looks a bit tired, make her smile. Go’.”
It brings us back to the riots. You say you learned to play on the streets where anything could and would happen. You were able to keep doing what you were doing when a riot broke out outside..
“You’re absolutely right. All these things they really teach you to shut the world out and just do what you came there to do.
“And with the riots, I mean, those were my streets.
“I’ve been to those places countless times, those places that got burned down, that got smashed, that got looted, I know them.
“Because those were my streets that I used to walk up and down with my amplifiers and my gear and where I used to set up, so it was especially heartbreaking to see those streets getting taken over by those kinds of people.”
What is it about Irish music that you connect with so much?
“I feel that Irish music is very emotional.
“The Irish have a very, very strong history, a very tragic history as well.
“So I feel that out of that tragedy really were born the strong emotions of missing home, being displaced, the war, but at the same time, where there’s war and where there’s despair, there needs to be joy, there needs to be celebration.
“People need to forget.
“You probably remember Titanic, the scene where they go down under deck and what they have there is a big Irish celebration.
“And the funny thing is, this is on the Titanic which is about to sink.
“I think that really, really shows Irish culture in a nutshell, which is no matter how bad it is, somehow the Irish have their music and their song to pull them through the hardest times.
“And I really feel that that is why Irish music and culture is so vital, because it kept people alive.”
Are you in Ireland to stay?
“Ireland is my new home.
“I mean, nobody ever knows where life takes them and puts them.
“But I mean, at this stage, you can take me out of Ireland, but you can’t take Ireland out of me.”
You’re getting set for a big year of gigs for 2024 including many gigs with Dan McCabe.
“2024 will be the year when I’m making my American festival debut at Motor City Irish Fest so that is really exciting.
“I’m very, very proud and privileged that I have received Culture Ireland support as well.
“This week is a huge week for me actually because I’m in two major Irish publications.
“I’m part of the cover of the Irish Music Magazine which is very, very prestigious.
“And then I’m also part of the Irish Runner magazine. I do a piece on performance yoga for athletes.
“I’m also very passionate about fitness and wellbeing, positive thinking and how that can really enhance how the mind really affects the body and all these things.”
Your album Live at THT went to number three even beating Ed Sheeran, is that a proud moment?
“Very much so and especially because that album was my first independent album.
“That album was like my own story.
“It was made at a time where it seemed impossible.
“And in the end, I crowdfunded €16,000 within three weeks with my online following to make this album.
“And that is why that album is so special to me because it was only ever made because of the support and the kindness of the people.”
Will we see a new album soon? “It’s becoming that time again, because Live at THT Galway was released in 2021 so I think definitely for next year, a new album will be on the cards and this time an original album as well.
“Live at THT Galway features two original songs as well and then lots of Irish Celtic favourites but I would love to do an album that is entirely or mainly original songs.
“I do have lots of material. I mean more than what could fit on one album, but I will see what makes the cut in the end.”
Let there be Peace (this Christmas) is out now.
For more information, click here.
Look out for a show at Liverpool Irish Centre possibly next May.