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Niamh: An Old Soul

Niamh at MoPOP's Sound Off! 2019

The first thing that strikes you about Niamh (pronounced Neev) is her voice. Clear and effortless, with an impressive range, the singer-songwriter’s self-proclaimed best instrument easily fills a room, carrying the listener away to a land of reverbed guitars, airy harmonies, and jazz-influenced rhythms. Her music runs the gamut from sweet and thoughtful ballads to soul-infused rock complete with distorted vocals.

Niamh calls herself an old soul, and I believe her. No matter the song, she expertly weaves styles together as if she had been present at each genre’s birth. So, kick back and have a listen. You’re in good hands.

You can see Niamh at Sound Off! Semifinals #2 February 16.

What does being part of Sound Off! mean to you?

Niamh: Pretty much everything. I’ve been super stoked to be a part of this since last year when I heard about it from friends. When I auditioned, I was not too sure if I was going to make it, but the moment [MoPOP Program’s Producer] Robert called me — that was whole moment for me. It was kind of like coming up for a breath of fresh air. It’s really cool to be a part of such a community.

Niamh at Sound Off! 2019

What artists are currently inspiring the music you create?

Matthew: We all study like jazz at school. So that’s a big influence on all of us. Maybe not in the specific music, but as people and as musicians. For me personally, I listen to a lot of funk and neo-soul and R&B.

Niamh: I’m pretty much like everywhere in the music industry. I like everything. Anything I can get my hands on is a huge influence on me. Current artists are probably Billie Eilish, you know, her kind of vibe. I’m very much into old soul, so Sarah Vaughn for jazz, and David Bowie, Prince, Queen, The Beatles, all those big bands are pretty much what I live on.

Sound Off! artist Niamh and her band

Trent: I come from a jazz background. I’m going to school from trombone, so that’s kind of what I do during the day. I picked up piano again, so I’ve been really working on keys, doing that again.

So, just a lot of jazz like Theolonious Monk, with a very cerebral kind of way of thinking [through] music. Jiggs Whigham for trombone, Miles Davis, you got to get the big ones, Coltrane with Giant Steps. Yeah just very cerebral kind of music.

2019 Sound Off! artist Niamh looks over her shoulder

Why do you make music? How does it make you feel?

Niamh: I think I speak for all of us when I say that music is kind of our lives. I grew up with my dad being [a] guitarist. He’s obsessed with guitar, and he’s been playing rock since he was 14 years-old. My mom use to be a sound engineer for really big bands at the time, [so] I kind of grew up in that industry. I do music for myself, but I also do music to make my parents proud [laughs]. Music is my life. Music has been my kind of savior since I was very young. So, I like to give back [laughs] a little bit.

Portland musician Niamh in Sound Off! 2019

What do you hope to achieve through your music?

Niamh: Friendship.

Matthew: I mean. Yeah.

Niamh: Building together, growing together.

Matthew: Yeah.

Niamh: Having a good time. I think Sound Off! is a great opportunity to bond with fellow musicians in the industry. Especially these guys. I think [Matthew and Trent] are super amazing and talented musicians, and I’m so grateful to be performing with them. I think we are all going to grow collectively as artists and as people, and that’s what I look forward to, you know?

Niamh and her band having a good time at Sound Off!

If your music were a fruit or vegetable, what would it be and why?

Niamh: That’s the scariest question you’ve asked me. I don’t know. Probably an apple, but like it’s been sitting in the sun for a little bit. No. I don’t know. I like pomegranates. Thank you [gestures to imaginary crowd]. Pomegranates are cool. I think that’s my answer.

Niamh plays Sound Off! Semifinals #2 February 16. Get your tickets right here.

Photos by Nate Watters.

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About the author

Adrienne is a writer and editor from Seattle and is MoPOP's Content Wizard (patent pending).

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