Behind Blue’s eyes: Roots, records, and reflection

Jonathon Boylan speaks to singer-songwriter and Trinity student Oscar Blue about his growing fame and the pursuit of modesty in a budding musical career.

In the last few years, Trinity’s music scene has progressed from up-and-coming to altogether eclectic. With promising acts such as Cooks But We’re Chefs, Rónán Connolly, Étáin, and Eve Belle emerging, not to mention the proliferation of societies such as Dublin University Alternative Music Society (DUAMS) and Trinity Orchestra, as well as the notable platforms in which competitions such as the Battle of the Bands are held, there is a wealth of talent to explore. It is perhaps unsurprising that a campus steeped in artistic history would produce this level of skill, though the sheer volume of incredibly talented artists remains impressive.

One of the more accomplished musicians in Trinity, however, consists of Whelan’s, SoundHouse, and Indiependence main-stage alumnus Oscar Blue. Speaking to Trinity News, Blue recalls being musically inclined from a very young age. He added, “My sister was in a few musicals when I was younger, so that’s when I started singing. I was always singing around the house, Jack the lad, trying to entertain.” 

It wasn’t long before Blue’s youthful expressions of showmanship turned into a more tangible ability. “When I was ten or eleven I picked up a guitar for the first time. From there, because my Dad was a massive music fan, and particularly a U2 fan, he told me I should write my own songs, so I decided to give that a go. I just penned down all these little lyrics and stuff. It felt so right and I loved every second of it,” added Blue. What is immediately apparent about Blue is the depth of his natural talent. To be writing songs at the age of eleven did not seem to be all that impressive to him, though, in reality, it is quite a unique hobby for someone who hadn’t yet begun secondary school. 

“What is immediately apparent about Blue is the depth of his natural talent.”

Blue’s music has a distinctly traditional acoustic Irish feel, in both lyricism and instrumentality, so it was not surprising to hear that his main influences range from U2 to Dermot Kennedy. Blue admits that he often thinks of the Script, with whom he is “totally in awe.” Additionally, when the Trinity musician really started to write his own stuff around the age of 13 or 14, he “began to look up to the likes of Ed Sheeran [and] other singer-songwriters; people who were doing stuff similar to what [he] wanted to do.” Blue credits Damien Rice, Damien Dempsey, and Hudson Taylor, some of which [he] “remembers as Harry and Alfie, Paolo Nutini, Vance Joy. [He] particularly loves to look at Irish musicians and think, if they can do it, why can’t [he]?” It is clear from the affection with which Blue describes his influences that he feels a sense of kinship towards them. It represents an old cliché, to attempt to follow the path of one’s own heroes, but this is something which Blue is legitimately putting into motion, and to great effect. He discloses, “With Dermot Kennedy, for example, I remember seeing him before he even had anything on Spotify, so to see him go from busking on Grafton Street to selling out the 3Arena was really heartening for me.” This path in particular is one which Blue may feasibly follow in the not-too-distant future. 

Blue proceeded to discuss his first attempts to transform his passion for music into a career. Reflecting on his past exploits, he remarked that he had a “Youtube channel back in Clare, to cover all the pop songs which were local to the area.” He also “remember[s] the Original Rude Boys were playing a gig in Dolan’s Warehouse,” and “email[ing] the band’s manager asking for an opportunity to open for the lads.” After being accepted, he “remember[s] being absolutely terrified. They were all in the room for my soundcheck and I was so nervous. Once I got that, it kind of snowballed.” He then went on to open for Ryan Sheridan at a local festival. After that, he recalls that it “became easier to get more gigs.” At the age of 16 or 17, though, he decided to take a break so he could focus on studying for his Leaving Certification. Upon getting to college, he decided to focus on actual original music. It is obvious from this particular insight that Blue has the business acumen to match his unquestionable talent. He appears to be someone who has planned out his career meticulously, which has undoubtedly played a significant role in his success to date. 

Having accumulated such an impressive CV before even reaching college, Blue has only progressed throughout his time here. “I went to the US over the summer and toured around a bit. I was working as a doorman, but on the weekends I did a couple of gigs in New York and Boston. Before that, back home, I had one of the best days ever playing the main stage at Indiependence. Just after I released my single, MCD got in touch. They had organised two gigs for me earlier in the year at the Soundhouse and Whelans, and then they got in touch again for Indiependence. I was expecting to be put in some small corner of the festival, but when they sent me the information on the advance sheet that I was playing at mainstage, it was a really surreal moment. Playing on the same stage as the likes of Flynn, Wild Youth, Catfish and the Bottlemen, and Gavin James was an amazing experience. It really gave me a taste for it.” What’s most striking about this exchange in particular is Blue’s modesty in listing off such incredibly successful musicians. However, to him, it is just second nature. 

“Playing on the same stage as the likes of Flynn, Wild Youth, Catfish and the Bottlemen, and Gavin James was an amazing experience.”

Blue’s success has come not only in the form of playing gigs on main stages, but through a forum which is just as important for the modern musician: Spotify. In fact, in the last few months, his single Silhouettes accumulated over one million listens. When pressed in regard to this fantastic achievement, he maintained the same modesty held throughout the interview. “It was very cool. I was so surprised. It got added to a mellow morning playlist, which had like 360,000 followers. I remember one day it had about 11,000 streams in a day. There are some weird stories. I had a friend who got an Uber in San Francisco and the tune was playing, while another friend of mine in Lebanon also heard it! That’s the power of Spotify nowadays, it’s so globalised. It’s bizarre, but you kind of get used to it.” Blue’s international appeal is perhaps most evident in the fact that, according to Spotify, his biggest fanbase is in America. 

While Blue’s career seems to be growing at an exponential rate, he admits that balancing his music with college commitments can at times be stressful. He “remember[s] last year in particular [when he] put all [his] energy into the Soundhouse gig, which didn’t finish up until the 31st of March. After that, it was straight into college essays and exams. I’ve never felt like I was running on a hamster wheel as much as I did then, but I don’t see myself dropping out anytime soon. I can’t imagine not having the structure, or seeing all of my friends.” Plus, he adds, “it’s always important to have that degree in your back pocket!”

Degree or no degree, given Blue’s unique sound and already loyal fan base, coupled with his obvious business acumen and overall sensibility, it is fair to assume that his name is not one we have heard the last of. 

Jonathon Boylan

Jonathon Boylan is a Deputy Sports editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister Law student.