Divide & Conquer

Irish band Beoga has been the focus of much attention over their recent collaboration with Ed Sheeran. Áine Freeman hears from UL graduate Niamh Dunne.

Husband and wife team and UL graduates, Niamh Dunne and Sean Óg Graham, have had a hectic few months of late. Since the announcement that their group Beoga would feature on two tracks on Ed Sheeran’s third studio album Divide, their media profile has gone into orbit.

For Limerick woman Niamh, who is both classically and traditionally trained, her interest in music began at a very young age. “I was given my first fiddle at the age of four. My sister played at that stage and I was chomping at the bit to get a go myself.”

Hailing from Caherconlish, the Dunne family are steeped in music and Niamh’s father, Mickey, is a well-known piper. “I am massively grateful that I was given every chance to be a musician right from the beginning. It’s all down to them [parents], their efforts and commitments.”

When we first met Ed, we were like ‘Oh my God!’ because he’s so recognisable but after that, it was just like getting to know a fellow musician really. He was great craic.

Niamh completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Irish Music and Dance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in UL, crediting it as “the time of my life”. It was during her co-operative placement that she joined Beoga and she has been working and touring with the band since.

Beoga’s fifth studio album, Before We Change Our Minds, was recently released to critical acclaim. “It’s probably the album we are most happy with to date. After 14 years on the go, we are probably more comfortable and confident in our instincts,” notes Niamh.

Their collaboration with Ed Sheeran came about “naturally”. Fellow musician and friend of the band, Foy Vance, had played some of Beoga’s tracks for Sheeran when they were on tour. He was so impressed that he asked them to be involved with his new album.

The group spent some weeks at Sheeran’s recording studios in Suffolk. “We had a few beers and just hung out and it was just very relaxed. When we first met Ed, we were like ‘Oh my God!’ because he’s so recognisable but after that, it was just like getting to know a fellow musician really. He was great craic,” Niamh commented. She said Ed is “the real deal”.

“He’s a talent unto himself and is massively productive as a musician and performer. He has tapped into something creatively that people can relate to.”

Beoga co-wrote Galway Girl with Ed, with speculation abound that Niamh herself was the inspiration behind the track. While Niamh herself laughed off such rumours, stating she is a true Limerick woman, the track does feature one of their own pieces, Minute Five. The band also features on the number Nancy Mulligan’s.

We’ve had a lot of people approach us and it’s a great position to be in. Hopefully, it will bring our music to a larger audience.

Niamh described the style of music as “folky in a sense, probably because of the nature of our instrumentation and style of playing but it’s very much an Ed Sheeran sound. It’s got his style and substance with a flavour of Beoga in the mix”.

Beoga has been thrown more directly into the public eye following the announcement of their collaboration. “We’ve had a lot of people approach us and it’s a great position to be in. Hopefully, it will bring our music to a larger audience.”

Niamh’s profile took another boost with the announcement that she and her family would be honoured for their contribution to the music scene in Limerick, with a special reception to be hosted by Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon.

The band is determined to make the rest of 2017 as successful as its beginning. “We are recording again this summer, so it’s an exciting time for us. Keep an eye out for lots more touring and music in 2017. Onwards and upwards,” she concluded.

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