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lucky break Singer Loah says her career took off after Covid ruined her plan to move to the US

'I was planning to emigrate at the start of the pandemic and then look for all of those things in a different country.'

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Loah. Photograph: Zoe Ardiff

Loah. Photograph: Zoe Ardiff

Loah. Photograph: Zoe Ardiff

SINGER, songwriter and actress Loah, who will host Other Voices online this week, reveals how her career took off in Ireland after Covid scuppered her plans to start a new life in America.

Loah - real name Sallay Matu Garnett - enjoyed a hit TV show this summer when she teamed up with Una Healy to present and perform on The Heart Of Saturday Night music show on RTE.

The rising star, who grew up in Maynooth, Co Kildare, also landed a role in the BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney's first novel, Conversations With Friends, due for release next year.

"I was in studio the other day with Lenny Abrahamson [director] recording some lines for it," Loah tells Shuffle.

"I have a lovely little role in it as one of the supporting characters."

In 2019, Loah - who has an Irish mum and a West African dad - starred as Mary Magdalene in the London West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Loah, who co-wrote one of her ex-boyfriend Hozier's catchiest songs, Someone New, has a music career running in tandem with acting - and she's been juggling it all herself.

"Yeah, I don't have a record deal, although they're not that common any more, and right now I don't even have a manager or a music agent. I'm really independent, but not necessarily by choice," Loah reveals.

"I was planning to emigrate at the start of the pandemic and then look for all of those things in a different country.

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Singers Una Healy and Loah, who host The Heart of Saturday Night together. Photograph: Zoe Ardiff

Singers Una Healy and Loah, who host The Heart of Saturday Night together. Photograph: Zoe Ardiff

Singers Una Healy and Loah, who host The Heart of Saturday Night together. Photograph: Zoe Ardiff

"Things were going well for me here, but I wasn't able to take it to the next level and I felt quite frustrated with not being able to tour easily.

"I didn't have enough money and resources and I couldn't make it work.

"I make really unusual music anyway, and what I do is very niche, so I thought I would go over to the States with it.

"Then 'Lady Coronavirus' had other plans and I couldn't go. I was at a loss then, wondering what's going to happen to my career.

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"But I just hung in there like everyone else and kept working on creative stuff, and all these amazing opportunities came along at home in Ireland. It was kind of what I always wanted. I never wanted to leave."

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Una, alongside Loah, hosts the new show kicking off tonight

Una, alongside Loah, hosts the new show kicking off tonight

Una, alongside Loah, hosts the new show kicking off tonight

Loah had trained as a pharmacist at Trinity College and went back to work in a pharmacy when the pandemic struck.

"It was really good for my mental health and self-esteem," she says.

"At the time, all my plans were getting cancelled, like everyone else's, so I felt very glad that I had made the sensible decision to do pharmacy when I was a teenager.

"I worked very hard in a pharmacy for 18 months, and I kept doing my creative work. Now I'm back to doing art full time, and I've got to do all these amazing things that I never dreamed I would do."

Although they were teamed up by the producers of The Heart Of Saturday Night, Loah and Una Healy discovered that they had a great chemistry together, and they are now close friends.

The show proved to be a big hit with viewers and introduced Loah to a mainstream audience.

"There is something about television that brings you to a bigger audience," she reflects.

"It was lovely because I was doing something that feels natural and comfortable to me. I was just chatting about music and I was singing…and that's exactly what I do all the time. It was a really unexpected success and just felt so good."

Loah will host the new Other Voices: Home at the Guinness Storehouse concert, which will be streamed live next Wednesday and features artists such as Bell X1, Maverick Sabre, Pillow Queens, John Francis Flynn and Ryan McMullen.

- Other Voices: Home at the Guinness Storehouse can be viewed on othervoices.ie and the Other Voices social channels.

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