CORK singer Sarah Goodwin has dedicated her life to music, and now she has finally had her big TV break.
But when her big moment finally arrived, she faced a dilemma.
Sarah, from Ballincollig, is one third of the girl band Belle Noir, who got through the audition stage on Saturday night talent show The Voice UK last month.
However, the band had to choose their mentor when both Olly Murs and Sir Tom Jones turned around in their chairs. Olly, aged 34, rose to fame on The X Factor and Jones, aged 78, is a singing legend who is playing Live at the Marquee in the summer.
Sarah says their first choice was a surprise to most people.
“Everyone thought we would go with Tom because he has a similar style to us, but we actually went with Olly.
“We thought he would give us more contemporary song choices, we don’t want to be boxed into being an old fashioned vocal harmony group.”
Sarah, who also appeared in RTÉ talent show You’re A Star as a child, left Cork for London eight years ago, to pursue her two loves; media and music. In 2016, after years of juggling two careers, the singer “took a leap of faith” and made music her life.
Though she always had a love for music, Sarah had decided on a more ‘sensible’ path after secondary school and went on to study media and English in Mary I in Limerick.
She later completed a masters in journalism in Dublin.
Sarah, who is the youngest of five says: “There was always music in the house, my dad Gerard Goodwin conducts a few choirs around Cork and my sister Carolyn was in the band Fred, she plays saxophone and has toured with Bon Iver.
“I studied piano and clarinet and when I was younger I did a lot of performances in the Cork Opera House.
“I graduated from college around the time the recession hit. I knew I wanted to pursue music and work in media so I thought London would be a good option.
“I started out working in various different media jobs and gigging on the side. I worked as an entertainment reporter for Getty Images and as an online journalist for Smooth Radio.
“But eventually I built up so much work doing events and weddings that I decided to stop working in media and perform full time.”
Sarah has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, The Ivy, Kensington Roof Gardens, Quaglinos and Soho House.
She adds: “There is a huge market in London for corporate and private events. I made that my niche form the beginning; dressing up in old Hollywood glamour with my hair in a vintage style. I do a lot of 1920s events and Great Gatsby parties.
“Around the time I decided to pursue music full time I joined Belle Noir. The girls were having an audition and contacted me online to try out.
“We filmed a promo video and started doing cruise ships, and clubs around London. We have done international shows, performing in Istanbul and Italy, it’s been an incredible journey.
“Then, last year we decided to go for The Voice. We thought it would be a good way to get a bigger platform for the group.
“You actually go through three or four auditions before you get in front of the judges so the process started long before the TV audition.
“Being totally honest, you do always feel a bit worried about reality TV and we were definitely a bit guarded going into the whole process, but it’s actually a really nice show. It’s really female-led and there is just a great vibe on the set, which makes a big difference.
“You get the feeling that they want you to be good because it’s a respected talent show. Everyone goes out and does a good job.”
This wasn’t Sarah’s first time on a talent show. “When I was 16, I actually entered You’re A Star on RTÉ and got put into a girl group. We made it to the top ten!
“It was overwhelming at that age, I have such respect now for the young people on The Voice, they are really fearless.
“Doing it now when I’m a bit older, it’s almost more nerve-racking because there is more depending on it.
“But You’re A Star was great experience for this because I had been on live TV before.”
In the episode of The Voice UK a few Saturdays ago, Belle Noir performed Feel It Still by the American rock band ‘Portugal. The Man’ at the blind audition — when all four judges have their backs to the performer.
Although two of the judges, Will.i.am and Meghan Trainor, did not turn around, Olly and Sir Tom did — during the last few seconds of the group’s performance — signifying that they were interested in mentoring them.
“When you are singing you can’t see any reaction from the judges because they have their back to you,” says Sarah.
“Your heart does sink when they aren’t turning around.
“It was lovely to watch it back on TV afterward, to see that they were enjoying it. And it was amazing when all of a sudden two judges turned around and we had to choose between them!”
For his part, Olly later posed for a Twitter photo with the band and calle them “so different, so unique, stunning”.
Belle noir comprise Sarah, Jasmine Gur and Emily JP Young and take their inspiration from jazz, blues, soul, swing and bebop.
Their sound fuses classic and contemporary numbers, from Ella Fitzgerald to Pharrell Williams “and everything in between”.
The next stage of the The Voice UK will be a battle round in a few weeks’ time, where Belle Noir will go up against another of Olly’s artists, leaving him to choose which one to carry forward.
“We just hope that off the back of this experience we get to do theatre shows and some big gigs” says Sarah.
“We want to be able to sustain doing it full time.
“If you have enough work in one year to live, it doesn’t mean you have enough work to make a living next year.”
Sarah says there is a strong Cork contingent in London but she still misses home.
“It definitely gets a bit too busy sometimes and it’s lovely to come back and spend time with my family where there is a different way of life and people are so friendly.
“But London is great, there are so many different nationalities — if you are willing to work hard, it’s a brilliant place to be.”
A SECOND singer from Cork has also made it through the audition rounds of The Voice UK.
Elly O’Keeffe is being mentored by musical legend Tom Jones after impressing the judges and the audience with her performance of a cover of River by Leon Bridges.
The 31-year-old from Knocknagree in north-west Cork was delighted to see three of the four judges on the show vying to be her coach, and chosen Jones who is playing Live at the Marquee in Cork this summer.
Elly is now living in London but was involved in the Cork and Irish music scene from a very young age, singing in venues with her family band.
The Voice UK continues on ITV and Virgin Media 1 this Saturday.