Si's Sights And Sounds chats to one of the latest singing-songwriting sensations to emerge from the Inishowen peninsula
At nineteen years of age, Greencastle-based singer songwriter Laura Bonner, better known as Laura B, is causing a bit of a stir in the North West music scene.
Since she started singing, playing guitar and gigging in 2010, Laura B has performed at the Greencastle Regatta, the Clipper Festival and the North By North West festival alongside rising stars Little Bear. Recently she performed in Dublin, firstly at Whelans Front Bar on Monday July 9, and then on Saturday July 13, for the Tumbleweed Sessions in The Cobblestone.
Her growing popularity has led to her featuring on local radio stations and websites, and she has also been ranked as No. 1 in the regional singer-songwriter chart on ReverbNation.
Today, she continues to sing and play on both sides of the border, mainly in Moville and Derry.
We chat to Laura B about her musical past, present and future.
Tell us how Laura B came to be.
It sort of started when I was fifteen, maybe sixteen, at my sister's 21st birthday. Her friend had left his guitar for a little sing song for when they came home from a nightclub. My friend Melissa and I borrowed it, and we messed about in my room, making up silly songs.
At the time I was terrible. I had never played a guitar before in my life. But I enjoyed it, and that's what motivated me to teach myself how to play properly. When my transition year came around, I really started to get more involved with music. I hadn't studied music in school before then, so I knew little about the theory or anything like that. But I always loved to sing, and in transition year, my guitar playing was much improved, so I was able to back my singing.
I was very shy and never played in front of anyone. Until, that is, I joined a music organisation called "The Up Scene" which was set up to help young musicians gain confidence and play gigs. They held a couple of showcases in the summer of 2010, and that set me on the right track. But it was mainly in December of last year that I began to write my own songs and become more of a performer.
Did you always have a strong ear for music? Was it something that passed down through the family, or was it just picked up naturally?
Well, my grandmother used to always make up little poems and sing to my family and me when we were younger, so her talents may have passed down to me!
After transition year, I took up music for my Leaving Cert, and worked really hard, as everyone else in my class had done music the whole way through school and had gotten guitar, piano and singing lessons. I, on the other hand, had not gotten any lessons, so I just taught myself. My music teacher, Miss McGrory, did say to me on a few occasions that she couldn't believe how quickly I was excelling in the subject in such a short space of time. To her, it was like a hidden natural talent. And I guess it did come naturally; it just made sense to me. I enjoyed it, I liked learning about it, and I got an A in my Leaving Cert which I'm still really proud of today.
Has living in the Inishowen peninsula inspired you, and why?
In a way. It's a nice and peaceful place to live, a good place for reflection, which helps when I write my songs. However, my music and lyrics are more emotionally driven than from a designated place.
What other artists/musicians do you draw inspiration from, and why is this so?
My main musical influences would be Heathers, Hudson Taylor, The Lumineers, Maroon 5, Mumford & Sons and SOAK. I enjoy their lyrics and the general feel of their songs, taking inspiration from their guitar playing and vocal techniques.
How would you describe your music and lyrics?
Deep, personal, solemn and witty, with ironically upbeat vocals and guitar.
You've made quite a name for yourself in Derry, the City Of Culture 2013. Tell us more...
Well, through being in Derry a lot this year, due to university, I’ve met a lot of talented singer-songwriters like Susie Blue and Jilly St John. I've learned a lot about all the different music opportunities and festivals that Northern Ireland has to offer, thanks to them. Hence I've begun to put myself out there and get known to a wider audience. It was also great to be part of the North By North West festival.
What does the future hold for Laura B?
I plan to record and release my EP this year, get my music out to larger audiences and play at bigger events and festivals. You can keep updated through my band page.
This is a slightly amended version of an interview which originally appeared in the Inish Times on July 9, 2013. Photos courtesy of GC Photographics.