Ahead of the First Queer Fest This Wednesday, We Talk With Featured Artist Niall Blaise About His Career

For some, it takes a while for them to develop an interest in music. For others, it was something which was always there. The mother of the Irish pop musician, Niall Blaise, noticed her son’s propensity towards music at a very young age.  “My mam even said when I was in the womb, literally, when she would turn on music, I would kick,” laughs Niall, while chatting with Post-Burnout.

And while some people’s interest in music can dissipate over time, Niall’s passion thankfully didn’t wane after parturition, and his mother’s love of music really did inspire him. “I’m originally from a small village in Kilkenny, called Graiguenamanagh,” he says. “I always knew that I wanted to do music. I grew up surrounded by it; I think my mother was always playing music around the house. I didn’t really come from a musical background.”

Explaining his range of interest, Niall says, “Growing up, I feel like I listened to a mix of absolutely everything; like, Bob Marley, Johnny Cash. [“Ring of Fire”] used to be my favourite song when I was younger, and I used to always sing it in the car when I was younger.” But a big moment which solidified his trajectory was when he first saw Lady Gaga on TV.

“I remember sitting on the couch, watching the Sky music channels, and, one day, Lady Gaga came on,” he says. “And I used to throw a tantrum when the song was over if we couldn’t switch to another station and find it again because I loved the videos and everything.”

With a versatile musical scope and an inclination towards popstar pageantry and decadence, Niall wanted to become a musician but didn’t know where to begin until he saw an advertisement for enrolment at BIMM while in his fourth year of secondary school. “I was like, ‘Oh, I want to go there,’ but it was kind of off the cards because I was too shy,” he says.

“Then, in sixth year, I happened to get a different music teacher. I used to play the tin whistle instead of doing vocals because I was too shy, and she was like, ‘I don’t really want you to do that for your exam. Like, can you sing?’ She was like, ‘Even if you’re bad, you’re going to get better marks.’ And I was like ‘OK,’ and I tried it, and she was like [Drops jaw] ‘Where have you been hiding?’”

Photo by Francesca Ford
Courtesy of Niall Blaise

After agreeing to sing in the Christmas play and getting rave reviews from the teachers, Niall’s confidence as a performer grew to the point where he decided to take a chance on BIMM, despite his guidance counsellor’s insistence for him to consider studying politics. But after putting Vocals at BIMM at the top of his CAO form, there was a bit of a snag.

“When I went to audition for BIMM, they were like, ‘The auditions are closed!’” explains Niall. “And we were like, ‘But I had put it down on the CAO. What happened?’ What happened was, BIMM actually forgot to send me the email and they were like, ‘The auditions are closed,’ and I was like, ‘Typical!’ [Laughs] […] I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I can’t go to college!’ But then they emailed me back, like two days later, being like, ‘You can audition now, but you have to do it in two days.’”

After passing the audition, Niall enrolled in BIMM and has been living in Dublin for the past two-and-a-half years. While Niall feels that support for pop music at BIMM is lacking, the pop scene in Dublin is going strong. “Some of the pop music I’ve heard in Dublin, I’m like, ‘Oh, I wish there were more!’” he says.

“I love the pop artists in Dublin. I think the pop scene in Dublin is really, really cool, and because I don’t have any music out yet, it’s kind of nice to look up to some of these Dublin artists and take inspiration from them, and kind of analyse what they’re doing that I could be doing, you know?”

Niall finds that the Dublin scene has advanced his experience, both as a performer and as a person, in a way that Kilkenny simply could not. “It kind of motivates me to see all the different, diverse artists in Dublin and the wide range of it,” he says. “Because, before I moved here, I didn’t have a clue. Did not have a clue.

“And, where I’m from, I can’t really dress the way I do here or, like, none of that is accepted, so to be able to come here, do the music that I want, and also be able to dress the way that I want, is a blessing, you know? It is the bare minimum, but it’s so nice and I’m very grateful to actually be able to do what I want now.”

As an openly gay man, Niall believes that, although there’s still a lot of work to be done, the music industry has slowly been becoming more inclusive to LGTBQ+ folk in recent years, and he feels fortunate to be starting his career now. “Years ago, people were told not to come out and, if they did, it was kind of a big power move for them to do that, which was so brave,” he says.

“But it’s great to see actual queer people getting signed while they’re out as queer, themselves, and it’s kind of lifted a bit of worry from me, of ‘Oh, where am I going to fit in in this industry?’ But then if you look at the music industry itself, it is very queer. It’s so queer! And most industries are: the TV, film industry, fashion, and music.

“Like, everything has a queer influence, which is great to see, and, even in Dublin, there’s so much more queer people everywhere, and it’s just such a big difference for me, living at home in this village to coming here and being surrounded by all these gay people. And I had no gay friends, growing up; I was the only gay in the village, as they say, you know? [Laughs]” He proudly states, “Dublin is my city!”

And speaking of queer music in Dublin, this Wednesday, the first edition of Queer Fest – a new showcase of various LGBTQ+ artists in the Irish scene, set up by fellow BIMM students – will take place at Upstairs at Whelan’s. The line-up includes the metal/alt-rock duo Shallo, the dance-pop artist Romeo Keane, the synthy art-pop collective Andromeda I, and Niall.

The poster for Queer Fest
Taken from Queer Fest’s Instagram Page

“I got approached by the organisers,” says Niall on Queer Fest. “And I think they had seen the advertisements for my headline [show at The Sound House in January]. […] I think they had seen that, because I had posters up in BIMM, as well. They said that they were planning this gig, would I be interested? And straight away – I didn’t have to have any information – I was like, ‘Yeah. I’m down.’”

Niall’s performance at Queer Fest will be his last for the next few months, as he finishes the current semester of college before recording music in May. On what to expect from his set, he says, “Half is originals, half is covers. I like to have it even because I feel when people can do a full set of originals and if there’s new people in the crowd, they can get bored very easily. […] I think you’re losing out if there’s no covers. It shows your versatility; you can do your own music but you can also recreate someone else’s song and do your own twist. I know I will be doing a bit of Kylie Minogue!”

After the gig (which he promises will be full of his energetic crowd interaction and theatrics) and the current semester, Niall will enter the studio to finalise some songs and release them as a series of singles before ramping up to an EP or an album, down the road.

Niall describes his music as being genre-less – incorporating everything from rock to dance to hip-hop to heavy metal – and features some Lily Allen-inspired sardonicism and humour, but sombre and slow tracks, too.

“I have a concept for an EP, and I have the name and everything ready,” says Niall. “We’re going into the studio for that in, hopefully, May, I think. […] I think it’s a perfect debut for me, personally, but I’m just trying to get there, sonically, with it. Mess around with it a bit more. Even the name of it, it’s perfect! It’s so perfect!” Enthusiastically, Niall concludes, “I’m ready. “That’s the next thing after this gig.”

You can keep up to date with Niall Blaise on Instagram and TikTok. Queer Fest takes place this Wednesday at Upstairs at Whelan’s. Tickets on the door cost €10 but you can purchase them in advance for €8 here.

Tune into today’s episode of POSTBURNOUT.COM Interviews… on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music Podcasts at 16:00 (IST) to hear our full discussion with Niall, where we go into further detail about everything discussed in this article, as well as his headline show “The Truth About Niall Blaise” at The Sound House, his early shows, his fear of getting sued by Leo Varadkar, gaining a TikTok following at age sixteen, and much, much more.

One response to “Ahead of the First Queer Fest This Wednesday, We Talk With Featured Artist Niall Blaise About His Career”

  1. I am and always will be so proud of my grandson
    I will always love him
    I don’t care if he is straight or gay
    He will always be my grandson ,whom I love and will love forever
    So proud of you Niall

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