Since September of last year, former Rothesay Academy pupil Rosanna O’Byrne has moved to the far reaches of Scotland; acquired her very own band; recorded a brand new album; played in her first Shetland Folk Festival, in which she was described as ‘bewitching’ by a national newspaper; and to put the icing on the cake, she’s getting married.
It’s been a whirwind year for the 25-year-old singer/songwriter who took a big leap from her home in Rothesay to settle in Shetland with her partner, Sean, and two children. Perhaps the biggest surprise for Rosanna - or Rosie, as she prefers to be called - is that her music career seems to have taken off, despite an attack of pessimism when she left the island last year.
“I was going to give up and get a normal job, just be normal, and Sean was over the moon. Then I told him I was going back to music,” Rosie laughs.
She credits the support she has received from Bute locals and an increasing online fan base for boosting her confidence and belief in her career.
“Sometimes you need a push, definitely,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the support I’ve had, it’s been mindblowing really. I was in a place before where I just wouldn’t do it, no confidence at all. People here are really kind, they’ve helped me a lot.”
Rosie’s debut album, Acoustically Me, in 2009, made her first mark on the music scene. She hopes to finish her follow up album, Home, this summer, but believes the two albums have very different tones.
“I’ve written a lot of heartbreak songs in the past but I’m trying to get out of that now. I was miserable before,” she laughs “I’m in a different frame of mind now. It’ll stay the same kind of music, but it’ll be happier.”
Rosie sticks to a country/folk style, but has a wide ranging musical taste and is open to introducing new elements.
“I’m going to try different things, more dance tunes, just give it all a bash. It’s no fun sticking to the same thing,” she says.
“I’ve been told I’m like Janis Joplin, Alannis Morissette, Eva Cassidy, there’s quite a wide range because I change my voice quite a lot and I change the style, but there’s not one category I put myself in.”
The internet has played a big part in Rosie’s recent success. Since playing the Shetland Folk Festival, rather than selling old fashioned CDs, she has seen an increase in her online sales. She has her own Youtube channel where she uploads music videos, and has a Facebook page in which she openly invites fans to contact and interact with her.
“It’s been mad - there have been people all over the world getting in touch through the internet, and over the months it’s been building, all through Youtube and pages on Facebook. It’s been a big help, it’s a good tool to have.”
After putting together a band in the last few months, Rosie plans to shift the focus from her studio albums to her live music and, keen to stay connected to Bute, is in talks with the organisers of the Tee in the Port event and the upcoming Bute International Guitar Festival.
As her new album title suggests, there’s nowhere quite like Home, and Rosie’s move to Shetland has lead her to grip her roots even tighter.
“The minute I get back to Shetland, I know I stay there but I’m always itching to come back and see everyone. I miss everyone here,” she says.
“I love Bute. It’s home.”
(By Angela Haggerty)