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From a soggy corner of Derry with a track record in producing great artists, say hello to newcomers Silhouette
Colin Carberry, 14 Jun 2010
Magherafelt may not strike you as the best lift-off spot for a career in pop music. But travel back in time to Bryson's Bar in the mid-Noughties and you'll find a crowd of kids forming bands, attending gigs, and dreaming up grand plans. General Fiasco and Duke Special started off there – as did Shauna Tohill's Silhouette.
"We weren't taking things too seriously,” says the singer-songwriter. "We were all in bands and playing in each other's groups. We were young and everything was so much fun. Magherafelt is a great place. There's a big group of rockers in the town – and, with a venue like Bryson's, there's always loads of live music. Then you'd people like Peter Fleming and Paddy Glasgow being really encouraging. It's a real little hub.”
Tohill's youthful front-row presence at most of the gigs taking place in her hometown was entirely predictable in light of her family background. Not only are her parents both respected local musicians, her grandmother, Eileen Donaghy, was a well-known folk singer (credited with having recorded the definitive version of "My Lagan Love') who enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic.
Yet while it's no shock to discover she inherited the family's musical gene, it's still a bit of a surprise to find out just how early on it manifested itself.
"I wrote my first song when I was eight,” she laughs. "Alvin and The Chipmunks had a song called "Rock and Roll Chipmunks' and it was all about a Chipmunk forming a band with his brothers. I said to my sisters, "why can't we do that?' and went upstairs and wrote a reply to it. It was actually alright. I might play it even again sometime.”
Thankfully, in recent years, Shauna has drawn inspiration from other less animated sources.
After moving to Belfast following the break-up of her band Angel Fall, she picked up session work with the likes of Joe Echo and Cat Malojian. More significantly, though, her early days on Lagan-side saw her make the first tentative steps in dreaming up a compelling solo persona.