Winner – Sofia Singer Songwriter Fest 2018

It’s not always about what you think you know. It might in fact be just the opposite and what you need to learn. I’ve never spoken about my conversations with Noel Gallagher. Highly inciteful if very normal… but that’s for another day. This blog is a little bit about wrapping up a series of blogs from the End of Summer Tour of Germany (which I have been far too busy to finish)… but more’s to the point; about Sofia and a recent weekend in the Bulgarian capital.

Cradled by the majestic Vitosha mountain Sofia is a sweetheart. Old world charm crumbles at the seems yet is married to a modern and vibrant under current that bursts seamlessly. Layers of the past sit easily here. Maybe it wasn’t always so. Hidden behind the Iron Curtain, Bulgarians have sat with many different traditions over the years. Celts, Thracians, Romans, Byzantine, Slavs, Ottoman and Russian. My feeling is they’ve managed to weather the storm. A solid and calm culture by all accounts. This melting pot runs deep and it feels comfortable.

The Banya Bashi Mosque – Sofia

Music is vibrant here also. I was invited to the city to play at the Sofia Singer Songwriting Fest 2018 by the lovely and radiant Lilly Drumeva – O’Reilly. Anyone who knows this lady, truly, cannot but be impressed by her kindness, good will, talent (not just for music), her heart and passion. A true treasure and jewel on the Bulgarian scene.

As well as celebrating the craft of songwriting and performance, the twelve songwriters present were also contestants in what was to be a songwriter competition which ran over the weekend; with two rounds of qualifiers and one final. Now I know what you’ll be thinking here if music is your salt, your bread and butter. These two things don’t go together and may get some stick from the true grass-roots traditionalists. I get it! But I also see the other side. I chose to go to the Sofia Singer Songwriter Fest 2018 because I know the magic that happens when you hit the ground. It’s the people… and good things come. It’s fantastic exposure and for me it was a no brainer. It’s how I’ve always done it. Jump on a plane or a train and be fearless. And yes of course… scared.

The long and the short of it is – I won the competition. I am very happy about that reality. Not that I beat other contestants. It isn’t about that for me. I have my own line to follow and it has taken me here. It is about recognition for my craft. My music. My performance. My songs. It’s the package and if I am honest, a very nice feeling. This weekend that hard work and passion was recognised and endorsed by great people who love music. This brings me joy and satisfaction and I will be eternally grateful for that recognition. It means the world coming from your piers. It also means I can now wear those cool shoes I bought and be a little bit braver with fashion. He coughs!

With The fantastic Mr Steve Lowis & Vasko Gromkov – Photo by Peter Nicholson

I would also like to holler out to the people I shared the stage with. They are all incredible! Sadly I cannot write in all the names because a lot of them are in Cyrillic and my keyboard is already confused between Irish, English and German – explosion number two imminent. So to avoid exclusion you can find them here. I can safely say that I made very good friends in Sofia and I know how this goes. These friendships will last!

I want to say I am not adverse to competitions. I think they challenge you and in life this is a good thing. I recently presented a new song for a big international singer-songwriter competition. It is a song I wrote about the conflict in Israel and Palestine. A song of peace that was deemed too political. Figure that one out. But that’s where my heart is right now. No apologies. The last song I entered for the same competition called ‘Betty’ (Video coming soon), was recognised and shortlisted for the final; a final I could not make as I had tour dates to honour. Such is life in music. It swings in roundabouts. We march on.

S.bal back stage at Studio 5 Sofia – Bulgaria

So that’s the craic for now. I know I said above that I’d wrap up the tour blog here. But you know what… I’ve changed me mind. I will get back to finishing the tour blog tomorrow or when I get it off my long finger. He laughs!

To conclude – Last weekend I played in Germany. This weekend in Bulgaria (just gone). It was wonderful. On Friday I am off again to play at the Hut Kultur in Carinthia – Austria. An incredible venue on a magical hill with a lovely crew. Songs are the reason… but people even more so. There’s been sessions, songwriting, after show parties in Soho (you know who you are) and then “actual” concerts. More music than you could swing a stick at. It’s been a blurry blast and I love it. Thanks to everyone I’ve met in the maze. Sofia you are a lady. See you sooner…


I want to give a huge shout out and thanks to the Embassy of Ireland in Sofia for all their support not to mention the Sponsors for the lovely gifts (Jameson/Fator Muisc/AKG Inc). Thanks to Lilly, Valya, Angel and crew at the festival (photographers / videographers), Pavel, Hacho and all at Studio 5 Sofia. BNR (Bulgarian National Radio), BNT (Bulgarian National Television), Marjan Dzin and all at the Macedonian Cultural Centre, The best dressed Judges and of course my own trusty team at Sad Opera EntertainmentSabine, Jeff and Pasquale. Thanks also to Fusion Bags and Shadow Guitars/Reinhardt Best Acoustics.

Well done again to all the other writers/performsers.
Mo bhuíochas faoin gach rud
Grá agus grásta

Photo above with: Mariana Dobreva-Veleva and Lilly Drumeva. Mariana was last years winner 2017.

Right… I’m off to immerse myself in the balsamic glow of my own brilliance… He trips!