A Donegal woman who is among six acts bidding to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest says she hopes people can connect with the good energy of her song ‘Wild’ which is about courage and female empowerment.
Leila Jane Keeney grew up in Letterkenny, she is the daughter of renowned sculptor Christy Keeney and Sarah Keeney. She has been based in Dublin since moving there to study music in BIMM in 2015.
She recalled being “speechless” when she found out she was hand-picked for the ‘Imelda May Scholarship’ at the leading music college. Imelda May had chosen her as the recipient of the scholarship as she felt a strong emotional connection to her folksy blues inspired voice.
The former Loreto student then successfully graduated with a First Class Honours degree in song-writing.
With her student days behind her, Leila Jane now has her eyes set on Eurovision 2023. She is currently in the midst of rehearsals for the Late Late Show special on February 3.
Battling it out alongside her for a place in the semi-finals in Liverpool will be former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten and fellow Donegal musician Adgy, from Gaoth Dobhair.
Leila Jane’s journey to Eurovision fame started in October when she received an Instagram message from an Estonian songwriter, Liis Hainla, who stumbled upon Leila Jane through a YouTube video of her busking on the streets of Dublin.
Liis feel in love with Leila Jane’s voice and asked her to collaborate on her new song ‘Wild’ in a bid for Eurovision 2023.
In the message Liis had used the acronym ‘ESC’, Leila Jane laughed as she explained how she agreed to the exciting collaboration before realising ‘ESC’ stood for Eurovision Song Contest.
She submitted the application but only told a handful of close friends, she humbly told the Donegal News how she wasn’t very hopeful. So much so that it had completely slipped her mind until one afternoon when she was shopping in Tesco and noticed a missed call; she rang the number back and was almost floored when she was greeted by a producer from RTÉ.
Following the phone call Leila Jane’s life has been catapulted in an exciting new direction. She flew to Helsinki just before Christmas to meet with Liis and rerecord the track. She also had to pull together a last minute music video for ‘Wild’ before RTÉ announced the Irish contenders at the start of January.
The young artist described the last few weeks as a whirlwind; in the midst of the frantic flurry she decided to surrender to the gusts and “just trust the process”. This has fared well so far as “everything just seems to have fallen into place,” she added.
Mixing dancing and music has been an exciting challenge for Leila Jane, she has plenty of experience on the stage but this is her first time performing her music with choreography. So she has been busy perfecting her live performance, which has included rehearsing with a Canadian choreographer over zoom.
“It’s an uplifting song and the performance will be too,” she teased ahead of her Late Late Show performance next week.