ÉCU wishes you a very Merry Christmas from the wet, blustery, but wonderful island of Ireland! After interviewing an independent singer-songwriter from these shores, ÉCU brings you an exclusive video of an ethereal Christmas song. Sallay Garnett is a 26 year old Irish Sierraleonean with a haunting voice who has worked with Irish musical groups such as Kíla, Discovery Gospel Choir and Anúna. Over the next three months Sallay will be relocating to New York and releasing a series of work for her new solo project – you get a sneak-preview here with her Christmas song!

GG: Tell us a little bit about your style… what music are you most drawn to?

SG: As a singer I adore jazz, it’s my first love. I had a jazz band (called the Jazzberries), but I’m not strictly a jazz singer. It was amazing doing huge gigs with hundreds of people with my band, and I love funk and soul. Now I’m starting afresh as an indie solo artist, and in the process of exploring my sound. I listen to loads of funk, rock and soul, so my music is a bit of a fusion.

GG: What inspires you to write and sing?

SG: Life. Sometimes the only way to get your head around life is to externalise what’s going on. The fun of singing and playing is also enough to write a song! I think music is very therapeutic – my whole life music has gotten me through both really difficult and really great times. There’s always a soundtrack to every part of my life.

GG: We’re all about independent filmmaking here at ÉCU and love music videos – what’s your favourite?

SG: Do you know what I love? Zero, by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs – which has gotten loads of awards. At that stage the band were really big, and they could have done a really flashy video, but its got the best indie sentiment of a video, its really humble, like they can’t actually believe they’re famous, they can’t believe its happening. I love that.

GG: What are the biggest obstacles facing singer-songwriters like yourself who are working independently?

SG: You do have to be more creative if you’re going to go the independent route. The internet is an amazing tool to reach millions, but you do have to be savvy and know how to promote yourself. Not everyone has those skills – I feel like I need to sit down with a tech expert and have them explain everything to me! The reason labels still exist is because they provide that help for people and help you get gigs you might not be able to get on your own. They can still promote you in ways that you couldn’t yourself without hard slog – as an indie artist you have to work constantly.

GG: That’s definitely a lot like indie filmmaking!

SG: Yeah, you have to push yourself the whole time! You need to show your gratitude all the time and reply to everyone and make contacts, and its a whole heap of extra work on top of the writing.

GG: You got to appear in one of Ireland’s very successful independent films ‘Once’, with Oscar-winning Glen Hansard, tell us a little about the experience.

SG: That was very unexpected and great fun, we weren’t really warned, we were just told to turn up to a dinner on Glen’s film set! I’m not surprised that the film took off – that evening during that pivotal dinner scene, there was such an electric, intense energy in the room. Everyone who sang was given this reverential tension, it was so exciting!

GG: Did you sing in that scene?

SG: No, I sang later, it wasn’t on screen. But yeah, it was wonderful, it was amazing that you could feel that something important was happening and you don’t know why, because the scene was just people sitting around having dinner, and it’s just this nice little story about two people. I would love to do more indie films, particularly about musicians!

GG: Do you have any advice for independent musicians?

SG: Just explore the way you create. As an indie musician today you don’t need to bind yourself to a genre, until you find your sound – there’s no pressure to keep writing songs in a certain way because that’s what sells. When you’re independent there are no boundaries, you’re free, so use that.

GG: That sounds really applicable to indie filmmakers too! Well, we hope to see you at ÉCU film festival 2013 in Paris, Sallay!

Gill Gillespie

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