Arts

Co Down teens Orlaith & Mollie pass on university to concentrate on rock music

From school jazz band to busking in Belfast, Dublin and London – where they're now through to the final of the Busk In London competition – talented Co Down teenagers Orlaith & Mollie look set for big things. Jenny Lee chatted to the pair about following their musical passion

Eighteen-year-old Orlaith Forstyhe and Mollie McGinn are planning to rock their way to stardom

HAVING just completed their A-levels, unlike most of their classmates Assumption Grammar pupils Orlaith Forsythe and Mollie McGinn aren't worrying about the 'dreaded' results day and getting the required grades for university.

Rather, the girls are focused on making their musical careers work and have spent the summer playing at various festivals, supporting some of Irish music's biggest names and earning an income through busking – in Belfast, Dublin and London.

Orlaith, from Dundrum, and Mollie, from Carryduff, bonded in their Ballynahinch school's jazz band. Both are multi-instrumentalists – having both studied violin and piano. Mollie has also achieved grade 8 in drums and Orlaith has completed her singing exams.

Mollie, whose father Bernard was a member of Tiberius Minnows and who currently sings in the band Finn McGinn And The Mudd Guards, explains how Orlaith & Mollie's blossoming success came about.

"When we were younger we sang individually, taking part in competitions like Scór. We became friends through the music department in our school and began busking together just over a year ago," she says.

While they both studied A-level music and sang classical and Irish folk, the girls' own taste of music was heavily influenced by sound of the past – from Abba and Prince, to Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin.

The 18-year-olds' talent was spotted last year when they were performing outside Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast. A surprise invite to support Flash Harry at a gig at the Europa Hotel Belfast followed. And after that gig the duo were asked to come back and support the band again at the Waterfront Hall.

Orlaith & Mollie, pictured alongside country star Derek Ryan, after sharing the bill with him at the Portaferry Festival in July

Quickly what started as "busking for fun", soon led to a career choice as the young women hope to emulate the success of the world's most famous former busker, Ed Sheeran.

Despite getting straight As in her GCSEs, Mollie, who sat A-levels in music, history and maths, wasn't interested in continuing her academic studies.

“I contemplated that a few years ago but decided I wouldn’t enjoy going uni and certainly wouldn’t want to do maths for the rest of my life. The music industry is difficult to crack but we are going to put our all into it,” she says.

And what did their careers teachers have to say?

“I think we ditched careers class,” they laugh.

“We did study well for our A-levels, but now we really just want to work hard at music," adds Orlaith, who took exams in music, Irish and drama.

The pair also weren't interested in going down the TV talent show route, revealing they actually turned down an opportunity to take part in The X Factor.

"We got scouted to attend The X Factor auditions but it’s not our thing. We just want to start at the bottom and get to the top and have control over our music," says Mollie.

Mollie & Orlaith Forsythe on stage, with Mollie's sister Mamie on drums 

As well as performing popular covers by the likes of Queen, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith, last year the 'rock chicks' released the four-track EP, Chains, containing new material they wrote themselves – and more original work is to follow, as is a possible name change, following Mollie's 14-year-old sister Mamie joining the group recently, playing drums.

With more than 5,000 followers on Facebook and over 8,000 views of their video for their single Wilderness, the girls have quickly developed a fan base. And their impromptu gigs have proved so popular, they've even had a run-in with the authorities.

"We brought Mamie up to Dublin’s Grafton Street last month and we made more money than ever before. We actually got moved on by the gardai on our first day in Grafton Street for attracting a crowd," laughs Mollie.

Rather than looking for retail or waitressing jobs to fund their musical ambitions, the girls say "busking is our part-time job".

“We still busk two or three times a week for money and fun.”

After spending last weekend taking part in Busk in London, playing to crowds at Wembley Park, London Bridge, Waterloo Station and Westfield Square – and earning themselves a place in the competition final on September 2 – the girls have another busy weekend ahead.

Tomorrow they will play at Party In The Park in Belfast's Falls Park, as part of Féile an Phobail, before heading to Tyrone to support More Power To Your Elbow at Gig in the Garden at Lissan House, Cookstown.

They are back on the bill at Lissan House the following afternoon – this time supporting country music star Nathan Carter.

The girls' fashion choices, as well as their music, make heads turn.

"We love 70s fashion and go to loads of vintage and thrift shops. There are a lot of funky, hippy shops in Dublin and Belfast," says the enthusiastic Mollie.

“I’d love to be able to make my own clothes in the future," adds Orlaith, who admits to being a huge ABBA fan.

"Abba, Cher and Madonna are our style models."

Meanwhile, their modern influences, in terms of music and style include American rock band Greta Van Fleet and all-girl pop rock group Haim.

Their message to other girls interested in a career in rock music is to "follow your passion".

"People have came up to us and say things like 'You are good at guitar for a girl' and 'Is that guitar plugged in?', but don't let men intimidate you. If you have a passion, work hard at it, nourish it and keep going," says Orlaith.

:: Orlaith & Mollie play at the Party In The Park, Falls Park, Belfast, as part of Féile an Phobail tomorrow (see féilebelfast.com); and at the inaugural Gig In The Garden two-day event at Lissan House, Cookstown which takes place on August 10 and 11 (tickets from Lissanhouse.com and Ticketmaster.ie).

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