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Home / News / Cork star Lyra on her new era in music: ‘I feel naked’

Cork star Lyra on her new era in music: ‘I feel naked’

Ahead of the release of her new single Chess and debut self-titled album, we caught up with Cork singer-songwriter Lyra to discuss her “new era” in music.

A fresh-faced Lyra, off-duty and relaxed in a grey crewneck sweatshirt, is beaming at me from her car as we speak over Zoom ahead of the release of her new single and debut album.

“I’m doing so good. Like I’m so happy it’s unbearable!” she says. “I’m loving life right now, I couldn’t be happier.”

The singer-songwriter has a lot to be excited about. The last time we spoke was in 2019, she had just been signed to a record label and had released her phenomenal single Falling. The future was looking rosy for the Cork native.

Little did we both know what was lurking around the corner.

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“At that point when we were talking, it was about to start going for me,” she reflects. “I was really at the cusp of things, we’d just done the first ever sold-out Irish tour, the album was getting done and then obviously we went into Covid and the pandemic.”

Lyra spent the next few years of intermittent lockdowns “trying to be present online”.

“But I’m not great at social media, TikTok and all of that, so it didn’t really work for me, more against me,” she says. “For the year after that, I just had to bring myself back to getting my face out there, getting people familiarized with me again.

“Then I was like, right, it’s time now to completely finish this album and give it to the people! So that’s what I’ve been doing and it feels weird that it’s happening now.

“It’s actually coming out. It’s very surreal. I feel naked, all of all my babies are about to be sent into the world and I’m scared!”

It’s an emotional time, with the singer saying she’s “a ball of tears and a mess” every time she posts about the album online.

“My sister’s Iike ‘are you ok, hun?’ And I’m like, no!” she laughs. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I just keep crying every time I see anything to do with the album. But it’s just a massive step, the first of many.”

Lyra, born Laura McNamara in Bandon, Co Cork in 1993, released her first EP W.I.L.D in the summer of 2016. Her music, inherently cinematic in nature, has since been featured on a host of TV shows including Love Island, Grey’s Anatomy, The X Factor and The Only Way Is Essex.

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The singer says she thinks people will be surprised by the direction her new music has gone in.

“It’s a developed sound, I’ve grown a lot as a woman and an artist, which has massively influenced the album,” she shares.

Her hot-off-the-presses single Chess, the first from her upcoming self-titled album, is a sultry, unstoppably catchy number that makes full use of her powerful vocals. Lyra describes the song as “a first date, before you go on a relationship with me and get the full album.”

The track is about the start of her career and the “mind games” played in the music industry.

“Let’s put it as blunt as it is – it can be very much about what you look like, you are compared to other artists at the time, wanting you to fit in this box. I just got a bit sick of it,” she shares.

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“I was like, you know what? Enough is enough. I’m not going into any box that anyone wants me to go. I’m going to write a song. The lyrics are pretty straightforward – ‘Would it make a difference if I was the same sex, being born a woman makes it harder than you know’.

“It is harder. It is just a bit of a harder road for a female at the moment.

“There’s other lyrics in it – ‘Innocent and blind. You like them young. You only want the pretty ones.‘ That is how I felt at that time. I felt like I wasn’t being accepted because maybe I wasn’t as good looking as other artists that they [record label executives] were looking after.”

The singer has previously spoken about her struggles with an eating disorder early in her career as she tried to fit into a certain image that was projected onto her. After a lot of work and focus on healing, Lyra has broken out of that mould and the negative feelings associated with it.

“I’m not saying that I woke up in the morning and I was like, this is me, f***ing accept me!” she says with a theatrical hair flip. “It took me a long time and it took a lot of breaking myself to put the mould back together to who I truly am.

“That’s one road that I went down that I massively regret. I try not to be too hard on myself about it, but you know I am, and I don’t like that I’ve done that to myself and to my family,” she continues.

Lyra says it took a long time and a lot of “breaking myself” to become the artist she is today

“I also tried to change my voice, or I tried not to speak as much when I’m on stage or, trying to speak, as they said, ‘properly’. I was so miserable. It wasn’t something that could be a long-running career.”

Happily, Lyra says she feels like she’s in “a new era” now, after a lot of big life changes “relationship wise, friends, my professional team around me, my support network around me – I’ve had to change a lot of things in my life in order to get here.”

“I feel like I’m like bursting out of my shell,” she says. “This is my true starting point, this is the true me, the true sound. It’s almost like my new beginning.

“This is my beginning as an artist who I have worked so hard to be, and I’ve just been very lucky to have a team around me now that accepts me so much for being me, for my sound, for the way I am as a person, off stage and on stage. I feel like now is the time that I can really show people who I am.”

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Although she is undoubtedly ambitious, creative and hard-working, Lyra says her main hope is just to “stay in the music industry and write songs I love”.

“Even like I say, on Chess –I don’t want the limelight. I just want a fair fight’. I don’t give a f*** about the limelight!” she says with passion. “I don’t care about being a celebrity, that side of it doesn’t really bother me.

“I would love to be able to stay in the music industry, creating music that I want to create, being the artist I want to create and be able to live that. That’s it for me. That’s me making it.”

There are more surprises in store for listeners when her debut album is released in April.

“You also have the very first ballad that I wrote, which was a heartbreaker for me to write, and I wanted to share that vulnerability.

“People can find out a bit more about me through my songs, which is something that I love. And it’s something that I always will do as an artist because I think it’s very important. And obviously, I put in some songs that you can dance to!”

“There’s a lot of songs where people will be like ‘she is wild’ and I’m like, yeah, I went wild for a while and it’s there. It’s out in the open!

“Dad don’t listen to track number nine!” she adds jokingly.

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There are two sides to Lyra, the focused, “business-like” Lyra who beavers away in the studio, writing and recording music, and the self-possessed, Lyra we see take to the stage, invariably decked out in some sculptural masterpiece of an outfit.

“I go into a different world. I’m not even just a different person, I’m on a different planet,” she says of performing. “I’m on planet Lyra, with everyone having a great time. It’s so much fun.”

Irish audiences will get another chance to see Lyra perform live when she goes on a 22-date tour this February.

“When people come to see it live, I feel like they’re expecting one thing, but maybe they get something different,” she says. “I get messages on Instagram saying ‘I was expecting you to be completely up your own arse but you’re so nice when you’re on stage’. I’m like, I think that’s because I’m actually a nice person, I just look a bit posey on Instagram because it’s pictures!

“It’s nice for me as an artist to break that barrier of, she’s the artist, we’re the viewer. No, we’re all here together because I wouldn’t be standing on this stage if you weren’t standing in the audience, because otherwise, I’d be singing to no one!”

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Lyra’s incredible stage presence is bolstered by her beautiful costumes.

“I’m getting a few custom-made outfits,” she shares. “I’m here now in my tracksuit jumper, but when I’m on stage, I just love wearing something that makes me feel fantastic and I just love being able to dress up. I’d love to wear those clothes all the time, but people would be like, are you alright hun? But I would!”

Things are hotting up for the charmingly down-to-earth singer.

“I’m so excited for myself, I think I could f***ing die!” she says.

Lyra is so excited “I think I could f***ing die!”

“But I’m trying not to hype it up too much. Obviously, yes, I would love my album to go to number one in Ireland, who wouldn’t? But I’m trying not to think of things like that because if it doesn’t happen it’s OK.

“I still created an amazing album, I’m still going to be extremely grateful. Those things would be lovely as the cherry on top. I don’t want to disappoint myself, I just want to enjoy, it, and I really am.”

Lyra’s new single Chess is out now, and her self-titled debut album is due on 26 April.

Tickets for Lyra’s 22-date Irish tour, which kicks off in February, are on sale now.

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