Donning a bright pink blazer and bathed in glowing stage lights, Grace Foley delivers the final notes of Elton John’s classic ballad Your Song. The judges and contestants of Ireland’s Last Singer Standing show are visibly moved upon hearing her rendition, which is dedicated to her then four-month-old daughter, Anna. The November 2021 performance may have only lasted a few minutes but that was all it took for this “very proud County Kerry woman” to touch everyone’s hearts.
Foley, who lives in Killarney, is proud of her heritage. “I am Irish through and through, as far as I am aware.”
Although she may not have grown up in a musical household, the songstress was surrounded by “a family who supported me, no matter what.” That love, paired with the mentoring of her teacher, the late Aine Nic Ghabhann, as well as Virginia Kerr at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, helped Foley to unleash her gift of song on the world.
“That and John Travolta,” she chuckles. “I think I was singing since I was in the womb, but the movie Grease started a lifelong obsession with music. I was born with music in me, and people like my parents, Aine, Virginia, and John Travolta just helped to bring it out.”
Foley was just 13 years of age when she met Aine, who helped her to recognize her unique sonic textures.
“My voice is dark and engaging and goes right to the heart. Because of my classical training, there is always a touch of a ‘classical’ sound to my singing, but it is fused with a more contemporary sound, with hints of Enya and Annie Lennox.”
And though Foley fits in the “Classical Crossover” genre – a style that fuses classical and contemporary melodies, made popular by the likes of Josh Groban and Katherine Jenkins – her rich, smooth vocals have allowed her to carve out a niche all her own.
Along with her technical prowess, Foley’s ability to connect with audiences makes her unique. It is, she notes, one of the biggest rewards of doing what she does.
“Be it people in an audience, people who are grieving, or other musicians who I have worked with, and who have become lifelong friends – music connects people.”
In an industry that makes it challenging for independent artists to thrive, the satisfaction that comes from successfully putting on a show, recording an album, and connecting to listeners makes the difficult moments worthwhile.
“It is a constant juggling act. There are days I want to walk away from it all, but I always pick myself back up and remember that this is all I want, so I have to keep going.”
Foley’s ambition to continue singing is fueled in part by her having lost her voice at one time in her life. “Back then, I promised myself that I would truly value my voice, were it to ever return.” That epiphany morphed into a newfound sound which, she hopes, will bring comfort to those “in their darkest hours.”
While she sings for many people, there are a few specials fans that Foley always keeps in mind. “My husband has been an incredible support. He believed in me when I didn’t, and I want to do him proud. Now, we also have our little girl, Anna. Early on in my pregnancy, I promised myself that I would not only tell her to follow her dreams, but I would also show her.”
Foley has enjoyed many career highlights over the years, with each resulting in new revelations about who she is as an artist.
“Winning my first big music competition at the age of 16 made me realize I wanted to do this forever. Returning to singing when I was absolutely terrified made me realize I would never give this up. And, of course, a real highlight was recording my EP Unleashed, which was really when I started to find my own voice.
“And singing on national TV for my daughter was the moment I realized that I wasn’t doing this just for me anymore. I want to be a strong role model for her. She will always see me work hard and pick myself up when I am knocked. I sing from a place of love, and I sing for love.”
Foley is currently promoting her recently released Christmas EP – A Time for Christmas, Vol. 2. She will also continue to perform her new show, Women of Note.