Voice finalist Lucy O'Byrne: When I got into the studio all my nerves melted away
LUCY O’Byrne has commanded the stage on The Voice UK flawlessly each week but there was a time when the opera singer would hide under tables to avoid the limelight.
That may be hard to believe, after witnessing her semi-final performance last weekend – but for years it was the case.
The Dublin performer’s first stage solo came when she was just seven, in her local community hall in her native Baldoyle.
“I wore one of my mam’s old t-shirts as a dress with a beret on – but it was Les Miserables so it was appropriate,” she laughs.
“They had to literally pull me out from under a table and make me go on because I was so scared.
“That’s what it was like for every show for years, until I was about 13 or 14, they had to pull me out from under the table and push me on stage.
“I was so terrified even though I’ve always wanted to be a performer.”
Lucy (23) is poised and quietly confident as she recalls her early days as a performer sitting in the ‘green room’ in her parent’s stage school.
It is difficult to imagine that she ever suffered from stage fright. She says that once she managed to put her fears to bed she never had to worry about it again.
“In my bedroom, with the doors closed, I’ve been Barbara Streisand since I was five. But in front of people I was very, very shy as a kid,” she reveals.
“I guess something clicked with me as a teenager and I realised that the thought of never doing it is scarier than how you feel in the moment before you walk on.
“Ever since then I’ve thrived on it. I absolutely love it.”
It’s probably a good thing the talented singer managed to overcome her hesitation as the last few weeks have seen her take to the stage live on TV before an audience of millions.
“Being on live television is much more exciting and fun than it is scary,” she explains.
“For the quarter finals there was this huge build up, we had months off and it was really emotional.
“Everybody was really nervous and as soon as we got into the studio it just melted away.
“I mean this is what I wanted, this is why I moved [to London], to be a performer and here I am.
“I don’t think you can get a stage that’s as big as 11 million people – there isn’t a theatre or a stadium in the world that could compete with that.”
At home in Dublin Lucy has acted on stage in the Helix and competed in the Irish version of The Voice.
But the brave starlet took a leap of faith and left home last year in pursuit of the bright lights of the West End.
Between auditioning for roles she worked as an usher in London’s iconic Apollo theatre.
“When you’re working in a theatre and you’re so close to a stage but you’re not on it – it’s hard,” she explains.
“It was tough to stand so close to a stage and watch it every night, knowing that you can do it. You’re so close but yet so far away.
“I did auditions and I did do one show, but unless you are in one of the big-name productions or you’re recognised, it gets harder and harder to get a place.”
Those months were tough but they are firmly behind her now.
“The Voice has given me back my drive,” she says.
Lucy’s love of the stage is unsurprising as she comes from a talented family. Her parents Carol and Jimmy are both performers and her older sister Rachel is an accomplished actress.
It was always musical theatre that captured her heart, until she began to train classically in order to preserve her voice.
Her flair for opera came as a huge surprise for the singer.
“My blind audition was the first time that I had ever sang opera in public. It was casual, you know, just a few million viewers,” she says.
It was a brave decision to try opera in a show that is mostly focused on pop music but it has worked for the ambitious Dubliner so far.
“I think there is a perceived image of it that opera’s not really relevant or that it’s stuffy,” she says.
“I love it. I find it the exact opposite – I find it a really freeing thing for me and I wanted to share that.
“I’ve been getting an amazing response from people who say that they have never listened to that style before and now they do because of me. It’s staggering to think that I’ve done that.”
Since sailing through the semi-final stage of the competition Lucy’s life has been a whirlwind of photoshoots, recordings and rehearsals.
She’s also been taking advice from her show mentor, will.i.am, the Black Eye Peas’ rapper who has an unlikely soft spot for opera.
She is home this week for a short flying visit before this Saturday’s final and it seems as thought the whole of Baldoyle have turned up at the Song And Dance Stage School in the area just to wish her luck.
As she flits around the school posing for selfies with excited fans she seems tired but exhilarated.
“Honestly, my feet haven’t touched the ground,” she confesses.
On Saturday night it will all be over one way or the other but she hasn’t given it too much thought.
“I have no idea what’s coming next – I have no idea what’s just happened,” she says. “Whatever it is I’m sure it will be exciting.”
The final of The Voice UK is on BBC1 this Saturday night at 7pm