Making their voices heard

The Whileaways (from left): Nicola Joyce, Noriana Kennedy and Noelie McDonnell.
The Whileaways (from left): Nicola Joyce, Noriana Kennedy and Noelie McDonnell. "I loved the way we could work together and get on so well,” says Noriana. Photo: Doreen Kilfeather.

Lifestyle – Galway band The Whileaways are capturing an increasing amount of national attention with their original sound and their newly-released third album has become a favourite of late-night radio. Judy Murphy talked to them.

Having to turn people away from their gigs because of a ‘house full’ sign is a new phenomenon for Headford folk trio, The Whileaways, but that’s what happened when they played Matt Molloy’s in Westport last month.  And they’re not complaining, as their third album, From What We’re Made, builds on the success of their 2016 release, Saltwater Kisses.

The three, Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce and Noelie McDonnell, say there’s “a feeling of momentum” about their music at present and they’re going to keep touring and performing to build on that.

Their campaign includes local shows in Kinvara and Portumna and one at the Clifden Arts Festival.

Wonderful solo performances, harmonies and backing instrumentation give the Whileaways their unique and special sound. Their songs, meanwhile, cover the gamut from upbeat to melancholy as From What We’re Made earns them a whole new group of fans.

Until now, the three had never regarded The Whileaways as a long-term project but things have changed, says Noelie, originally from Tuam, who’d carved out a successful solo folk career before teaming up with Nicola and Noriana. In fact, they’d all had been involved in other projects before circumstances brought them together professionally in 2012.

Nicola had been the singer with the internationally acclaimed folk band, Gráda, and Noriana was making waves as a solo singer-songwriter, who had collaborated with Dingle group Lumiere and Belfast fiddle player Maebh O’Hare.

Noriana’s 2011 solo album, Ebb n Flow, was the reason they came together, as she’d been invited to tour Australia and New Zealand and her regular band weren’t available.

The three knew each other from sessions around Galway and were fans of each other’s work, so when someone suggested they team up, they did.

They weren’t sure how it would work, because “we are all lead singers and all do the same thing”, says Noriana. But they needn’t have worried.

“We were together a lot of the time out there, with not much sleep and we got on! I loved the way we could work together and get on so well.”

While in Australia, they were offered a tour of Germany and went for it.

“The deal was that we had to have an album for Germany,” Nicola recalls. “We said we’d do one of original songs and we collaborated. There was no big plan. Things moved us along.”

They needed a name – and had conjured up some while in New Zealand, “in the back of a van”, Noelie recalls. The Wildlflowers won out for a time, but there was already another band of that name. The Whileaways had been an early contender, too, and it stuck.

“It came from a phrase about whiling away the hours. I liked it,” Noelie explains.

So did Noriana and Nicola, as much for the sound of the word as anything else.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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