Every once in a while an artist like Dua Lipa changes the face of pop music. At 22, she has made history by becoming the first British female artist to claim five BRIT Award nominations, after scoring three top ten singles, including the number one hit ‘New Rules’.
The Kosovo-born superstar, who shot to fame through YouTube, took home British Female Solo Artist and British Breakthrough Act. As a result, she now has some of the world’s biggest artists and producers queuing up to work with her, so you can only imagine how it must’ve felt for BIMM Dublin graduate and backing vocalist Ciara O’Connor to support her on tour recently.
Ciara, who graduated from BIMM Dublin with a BA(hons) degree in Vocals, told BIMM that the opportunity came as an unexpected surprise. Dua Lipa’s musical director had been looking for recommendations for backing vocalists. Ciara sent her CV and rehearsal video but says she had no idea this would lead her on tour with the ‘Be The One’ artist. Naturally, we had to ask our alumna about life on the road.
“This first tour with Dua and her team was such a positive experience,” she reveals. “I was delighted to discover that everyone on the team was just as excited to be there as I was, regardless of how many tours they had done or how many amazing venues they’d played. It was a real eye-opener of how important it is to stay grateful. Nobody takes their position for granted and that brings such an awesome energy.”
Of course, you don’t go out on tour with one of the biggest female artists on the planet right now without learning a thing or two on the road.
“I really enjoyed learning about the process of rehearsals for arena shows; we were in a large blackout shed with the whole team in the middle of nowhere simulating an arena stage with the risers and screens and lights and costumes, it was so much fun.
“As myself and the other backing vocalist are both singing and dancing on stage, I learned a lot about my body, through how it reacted to the pressure I was under and what helped or hindered my vocal-health and performance. A lot of the obvious things like diet, warming up, stretching and making good use of my downtime really made a difference.”
Having worked with a number of industry veterans and talented tutors during her studies, Ciara also explains how life at BIMM played a considerable role in her artist development.
She adds: “I certainly apply vocal techniques and disciplines I learned in BIMM to this job, especially vocal blend. I explored altering my tone and vowels a lot in the Styles, Studio Recording and Solo Performance modules and that has been a useful skill. Then, when it comes to networking, I can trace almost every job I’ve ever had in the industry back to someone I’ve met in BIMM.”
Also reflecting on Ciara’s success, BIMM Dublin’s Head of Vocals, Shelley Bukspan, told us: “It came as no surprise that Ciara was asked to join the Dua Lipa tour. In fact, it was more of a prediction that she would join a world tour as an artist at some point. It never seems real until you actually get that call. Ciara always displayed impressive and genuine work ethics which makes her not only a pleasure to work with but inspiring as well. She would be the one to come to class at 9 am, prepared and ready to perform after a late night gig.”
So, what comes next? According to Ciara, the plan is to keep performing, writing and working hard as a solo artist, backing singer and with her own group Akora. A return to BIMM could also be on the cards for Ciara, who also has hopes to continue teaching, having already been involved in multiple projects as an alumna and through BIMM Connect, which provides ex-BIMM students with exciting opportunities across the UK and Europe.
Photo by Christian Tierney