She's one of Ireland's most promising pop artists, having recently worked with producers BloodPop (Lady Gaga's right-hand man), Burns and Rami Yacoub in Los Angeles.
You'll probably have heard her voice on a Virgin Media ad (that's her song, 'Mother'), or maybe you're already a fan of her soaring, anthemic songs; 'Falling' has been played a lot on Irish radio.
We met London-based Cork native Lyra recently and discovered that she's also a down-to-earth soul who's pinching herself at all the opportunities coming her way.
You were in LA recently - what was it like, working with such big names?
Like the first day, I was so shy. I was barely talking. I was so intimidated, but in a very good way. I just look up to them so much, they're amazing – and who they've worked with is crazy. And then come the second day, I was just like, 'Fuck it' - I just let it all loose and I was wailing around the room. They were like 'Okayyyy... she's here' *(laughs). And we wrote a song, which I still have yet to hear, but it's really good. And they're really interested in it, because it's something different – because obviously I sing in my Irish accent as well. So they were just excited to do a different type of voice, I think. It's an exciting project.
That must have been kind of surreal.
The engineer actually messaged me that night saying 'The lads are here. They're so up for doing an album with you, I've never heard them this excited about something before.' So gave me confidence in what I was doing, because sure, the music industry... you can be on a high one minute and next day you can be shoved in the gutter. So to hear from those kind of people that you're doing okay, I was like, 'Thank god. I might get another year out of it' (laughs).
How did that opportunity come about?
I think my manager Caroline [Downey] was in contact with their manager. He also has some connection with Calvin Harris, and I know that Burns and Calvin Harris are very good friends. They loved my voice as maybe even a feature on one of their songs, or they liked my writing so they thought about taking one of my songs and turning it into something, using my voice. So it kind of came about through that - and then he just asked to hear some my music. So when Caroline sent him one of my songs recently, he was like, 'Yeah, the guys want her in.'
You grew up singing in your church choir, yet you have such a striking solo voice – what was the attraction of signing communally?
I just loved doing it. I love arranging songs. Apple Music and other people have asked me to do covers - I love rearranging other things in my kind of style, like I did with the U2 song when I was on their album (she featured on the 'Joshua Tree: New Roots' album). And I think my love for arranging got me into that; helping people with their voices and not being the lead singer. Being the person who's helping somebody to get their full potential of their voice and giving them the confidence in themselves. I love harmonies – like, Enya is a massive inspiration. So I think that's kind of why I started it. My nan always used to go to that six o'clock mass - so it was kind of for her and for me. And to help girls to get a bit of confidence in themselves.
Your nan was a big influence in your life, right?
The first song that I wrote, 'Emerald', was about her. She was like, 'I'm not sure about that beat' (laughs). I came back [from London] to look after her, because she unfortunately passed away. It was a few years ago now – but it's one of the best decisions I made, to come how and move in and look after her for her last couple of months, because she was just amazing. 'Emerald' was about her, and I feel like that song was the song that really broke me. It's so weird how things happen; I massively believe in fate and stars aligning. Obviously, I was gutted to lose her – but it always feels like she's there when I sing that song. There's always a moment where I'm like, 'Don't start bawling your ass off crying'.
What were your other musical influences, growing up?
One massive person that I loved – and still do – I always listened to Michael Jackson growing up. Just the way he wrote songs and his performances, amazing. Sia is another big one for me, because obviously she only came out as an artist after being a songwriter for ages. So I think her songwriting and her range is just insane. Like when she sings 'Titanium'... I'm like, 'Fuck me, how does she do it?!' Like, she literally has lungs of leather, I'd say. And I always listened to Spice Girls and stuff like that – like, who didn't? I had the platforms, I had the rip-off Adidas pants. So they were kind of like, my people. And obviously The Carpenters and Enya, because my mom was obsessed – and Mary Black as well. Maybe that's where my dark side comes from (laughs).
You dropped out of your music course at university in Cork – why was that?
Yeah, I was doing music and I hated every second of it. It was very theory-based and I am not like the clever spark in our family - not a hope in hell. School was just not my thing; the only thing I was good at was science and music, and geography. So there was loads of the history of music, and I'm just just not really into that. I just wanted to write songs and sing songs. So then I just decided I'd have to kind of do it myself, because I didn't even know about the BRIT School. UCC was very operatic, and I can't sing like that. So there was nowhere really for me to go. I mean, like if music ever did go tits-up, I would love to come home to Ireland and open up my own BRIT School - that would be a massive dream of mine because I feel like we have so much talent over here.
You scrimped and saved to get the money together to fund your debut EP – what was the worst job you did?
I used to go into Tesco or Boots and try to sell things. One of them was baby food. I don't have any children, I didn't have any nieces or nephews at the time - so I was like, 'I don't know what I'm selling, but I'm selling it and I hope your child's not allergic to anything in here. Please buy it. I have 25 to sell.' (laughs) I've done that, I've done shampoo, I've done men's fucking razors – trying to flog them off to women being like 'It's great for shaving your legs. Just buy the razor, please!' I've stood in cinemas taking tickets as a promotion for Sky - and then Sky ask for my songs now, and I'm like, 'I fucking stood at cinema doors taking tickets for ye!' (laughs). But you have to do everything you can. I really wanted to release that EP myself. The guy who did it did it for a very good price, but when you're not making money on music and still trying to do it every day, you have to do those crap jobs.
You get a lot of comparisons to Florence Welch because of your big voices and the epic nature of your songs – does that bother you?
No, it really doesn't. And I know other artists that I hang out with, they're like, 'Oh, can they just stop comparing me to this and that.' And I'm just like, 'You know what? We're very lucky that our names are in the same sentences as people like that.' We both have very loud voices - I think that's another thing that's I'm not embarrassed to say. I have a voice that's very Marmite; you like it or you don't. I think hers is the same. I know some people who absolutely don't listen to it and some people who love her, like me – so we've got that in common, too: these loud, brash voices. We've big songs and we like the choir-y kind of thing. So I really don't mind it at all, I'm actually thrilled.
What's next for you?
I am working on album tracks at the moments and between London and LA, which is a very fucking cool thing to say (laughs). I actually get very lonely when I go to LA. I literally go for a drink on my own and I'm like 'Somebody talk to me!' But there is new music coming out this year.
Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?
I really, really want to be one of those 'evergreen' artists - that you could listen to my music in 20 years and still like it like it. If I never get played on Radio 1 in England – because there's only certain artists that do – but people are still listening in 20 years, I'll be thrilled. I'll be really, really happy with that. Like Enya, The Carpenters, Fleetwood Mac – and I do think Florence is an evergreen artist, as well. I think people will listen to her stuff in years to come because she's doing her own thing. I just want to be one of those timeless kind of artists. I don't know if I'll ever get there, but I hope I do.