My Weekend: When the gigs stopped during the pandemic, I realised how much singing meant to me

Singer, nanny, and psychotherapist Muireann Holly talks about gigging, weekends in Kerry and power of music
My Weekend: When the gigs stopped during the pandemic, I realised how much singing meant to me

Muireann Holly who performs with 'Fist of Pure Emotion'.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a nanny by day, a psychotherapist by night, and I’ve always been, and will always be, a working musician, as long as I continue to enjoy it.

Singing has for ever been a huge part of who I am and I was lucky enough to ‘sing for my supper’ full time, from the age of 18 up until last year.

Muireann Holly on stage.
Muireann Holly on stage.

I’ve gigged all over with cover bands and original artists alike, but my favourite project, power-ballad power band, Fist of Pure Emotion, finally made a comeback recently at Cyprus Avenue, Cork. Guitarist John Boyle and I got together in 2016 to assemble a band to play our favourite power ballads, rock anthems, and guilty pleasures of the ’80s and ’90s and, as it turns out, we’re not the only ones who want to sing Bonnie Tyler and Meat Loaf at the top of our lungs on a Saturday night.

I’ve also just started rehearsing with a band called ‘Notions’ and we’ll be debuting this December in a pub near you. I live in Rochestown with my fiancé, Anne, and, all going well, we’ll be getting married in June 2022.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

Anne is from West Kerry, so when I’m not gigging, we spend our weekends there. This time of year is perfect for quiet nights by the fire, either at home or in the local pubs and that, along with a nice meal and my beloved’s fine company, suits me just fine.

Lie-ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

Since transitioning into daytime work, I’ve learned that I’m a morning person through and through. I just never had the chance to try it when I was gigging full time.

Weekdays, I’m up at 6.30am to head for a run before work at 8. I hate every minute of it, but love the mood boost it gives me.

I love a bit of a lie-in at the weekends, though. There’s nothing like half waking up, thinking you have to be somewhere and then remembering you’re free as a bird to snooze for a while longer.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

Obviously, when I’m gigging it’s usually at weekends, but I’m a lot stricter with my other work. Being a psychotherapist, boundaries are of the utmost importance, so I try to mentally park my work as much as possible when I’m off, so that I can properly recharge. I think we are all better at our jobs, whatever those jobs are, when we’ve had time to relax and decompress.

Muireann Holly with band, Fist of Pure Emotion.
Muireann Holly with band, Fist of Pure Emotion.

If money was no object, where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

Well, if money was no object, I’d be whisking Anne and myself off to Edinburgh and staying in the Balmoral, a hotel I’ve eaten in, but never quite had the funds to stay at.

I’ve been to Edinburgh three times and never had the same experience twice, as there’s just so much to see and do. Whether you’re climbing Arthur’s Seat, exploring the museums, and higgledy piggledy streets, enjoying a whiskey by the fire or a drag show at CC Blooms, there’s always a great atmosphere and mighty potential for craic!

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

Apart from West Kerry, where I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of my time, there is literally nowhere like Gougane Barra.

Since spending an incredible weekend there for my brother’s wedding in 2018, every time I go back there it feels like I’m coming home. The Gougane Barra hotel is a hidden gem with incredible views, a relaxed atmosphere, and wonderful food.

Walking through the front door feels like falling off the edge of the Earth into total relaxation mode. I recommend the Stag Stout, from 9 White Deer Brewery; best stout in the world!

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

Of course! As much as I can, I try to meet with friends to have a chat and a bit of craic.

During lockdown, it was incredibly difficult to be away from family and friends and I really feel I’m making up for that now.

It’s made me cherish time with family so much more and it has made times with friends a lot more craic.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

When the gigs stopped during the pandemic, I realised how much singing meant to me. It’s something I indulge in a lot more now that I don’t just think of it as part of my job.

I remember giving it loads singing a few Celine Dion songs in the kitchen one night during lockdown, longing to be back on stage with Fist of Pure Emotion, no doubt. It brought me so much comfort to feel the power of the music moving through me.

As a spectator, I’ve always been a fan of Munster rugby. I’ve been going to matches with my dad since childhood, so it’s a lifelong passion! I’ve always loved that there is a place for people of all sizes and abilities on the rugby pitch. There’s a beauty in the physicality of rugby that really excites me, too. I can’t quite explain it, but rugby and music seem to comfort and excite me in similar ways.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter, do you have a signature dish?

Entertain, for sure. I love to cook and my go-to for an occasion would be a beef Wellington. Cooking up some beer-can chicken on the barbecue in summer also seems to go down well.

I’ve become a dab hand at cocktail making in the last 18 months, needs must! If you could call it a signature dish, I make a pretty decent frozen watermelon margarita.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork. Where are your go-to spots for coffee/lunch/special meal?

The small-plates menu at Jacques, on Oliver Plunkett Street, just keeps getting better and better. Lunch or dinner, there’s always a good atmosphere, the staff are a delight, and the food is top quality.

I love trying new dishes there and attempting to recreate them at home, but nothing comes close to the real thing.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

In comfy clothes, enjoying a roast dinner or a takeaway, while chilling out in front of the TV. Taking it easy, before diving head first into another week.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

6.30am for the dreaded run. But by 7.30, I’m delighted with myself!

Check out Fist of Pure Emotion on Facebook, or @FOPE_BAND on Instagram for videos and updates.

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