Sile Seoige: 'Recording an album would be a dream come true'
Sile Seoige tells Joanna Kiernan about learning to be thankful for each day and her musical ambitions
Life is very interesting at the moment for broadcaster-turned-singer and now actress to boot, Sile Seoige. She has just moved house, she is filming a new talent show series for TG4 and despite admitting during her audition for the role that she didn't 'really know how to act', Sile landed the part of Surfia in the latest incarnation of the sell-out musical comedy I, Keano.
"It's all go, it's very busy and I have just moved house and I am surrounded by boxes and bags," Sile smiles. "It's all happening at once, but they do say things happen in threes, or in my case, fives and sixes at the minute, but I am very thankful for it all."
"The producers of I, Keano have taken a leap of faith casting me, a person who hasn't had theatre experience before," she adds. "I am surrounded by the most incredible actors who have been doing it for years and then you have me; I went in as a complete novice, but also very aware that I am there to learn and I am giving it my best shot. So I'm having an absolute ball."
Though there were a few initial nerves, Sile has been enjoying this new departure and especially her big musical number in the show.
Music has always been close to Sile's heart, but the interest has taken something of a back seat throughout her broadcasting career - until of course last December, when she surprised many with the release of her charity single Maybe this Christmas, revealing that she has got a singing voice to envy any pop star. "I went into TV at 18, straight out of school, and I have just been working in TV and radio since then, so I suppose I haven't had the opportunity to do anything like this before really," Sile beams.
"But when I think back my school days, I used to run to choir practice any chance I had and I loved being involved in drama. I would have always loved to sing and people who know me well, know that I am the girl at the house party who will inevitably sing any auld song. Maybe that's the west of Ireland in me," she shoots a grin in my direction.
Sile believes it was her charity song that brought her to the attention of the I, Keano casting crew.
"If I hadn't done that, I don't think anyone would have realised that I could sing or hold a note," she explains. "I think that everything happens for a reason and one thing feeds into the next, so I feel very thankful."
Sile was never a 'sure thing' for the role of Surfia though, the I, Keano character, which is loosely based on the wife of former Irish footballer Niall Quinn, Gillian. In fact, she came close to losing it entirely.
"When I went along for the audition, I did exactly what you shouldn't do," Sile laughs. "The first thing out of my mouth to the director was 'by the way, I can't really act! But I love to sing'. So he looked at me and then he got me up to read it a few different ways and then said 'OK' and the usual 'we'll be in touch' thing. So then when I got a call saying they wanted to offer it to me, I was over the moon."
And Sile's performance has been receiving rave reviews, with the writers Arthur Matthews, Michael Nugent and Paul Woodfull all giving her their seal of approval. However, the critics were never of much concern to Sile.
"I am bowled over by the reaction really and I am trying not to get big headed in the process," Sile smiles. "When I was in rehearsals, I said that I didn't care what the critics thought and I still stand over that because while I'm delighted and over the moon that the reaction has been positive, if it hadn't been, there is still nothing that I could have done about that," she tells me. "There are people who are going to like what you do and those who won't, regardless of what you do or what area you are in, so you can't use up your own energy thinking about other people's thought patterns." egotistical
"That's not an egotistical thing. In fact, I think it's the opposite," Sile adds. "I think that is just being grounded in yourself, but sometimes people misinterpret that.
"I know I am deeply flawed as a person, but I am also kind of happy with that, you can only just do your thing and be who you are."
Actively adopting this attitude to life, in more recent years, has been a liberating experience for Sile. It has taught her to be philosophical about both life and work; and indeed when one door has closed, several more have always opened for the Galway native. And Sile's enthusiasm and sense of adventure is infectious. At some point in the future, she even hopes to release an album.
"Recording an album would be a dream come true," she tells me. "I would absolutely love to do it, but right now, I simply don't have the time to think about it."
"To do more music would be fantastic, regardless of whether it would be a financial success or anything," she adds. "I think, just for me, it would fulfil a kind of inner desire or childhood dream."
Sile's musical passion was strengthened even more in recent years, following her battle with thyroid cancer in 2012.
"I had surgeries and there was a risk to my voice because the thyroid gland sits so closely to your vocal chords, so I came through that and through the treatment and now I am very well and very healthy. I am probably the healthiest that I have ever been and it made me realise that life is for living and none of us know what is around the corner, so why live with regret?" she asks. "Why not do something with what you love?"
Sile has applied this philosophy most especially to her career.
"I am in a very enviable place at the moment where people are giving me opportunities to explore stuff that I really love," Sile tells me. "When you work freelance, you are on a job for a period of time and it ends and that is a part of life. You move on. It can be written about in a way like 'Oh she's got the axe!' or 'She's been sacked!' but it is just the nature of the work. I feel very lucky that I get the opportunity to try new things."
"When you are freelance, you are almost constantly in a state of reinvention too, because if you don't adapt and move and change, you will break; it's like that classic saying that 'there are no straight lines in nature' and so, if you don't bend with the trees, the roots will snap. You have to adapt," Sile adds.
"Times have been very tough for years and jobs that were once there are not there anymore, so in its own way, it has been traumatic, but it has actually been very good for me."
"They say that times of recession can be very good for the creative and artistic fields because people are forced, out of necessity, to look at other ways of doing things, and I understand that now because if I was still pursuing the same avenues work-wise, I probably would have had to leave," she says.
Sile has certainly been through some challenging times, in her professional and personal life - including the split from her husband, Glen Mulcahy, a TG4 producer she wed in 2005 - but her sister, Grainne, has also been a huge support to her.
"She's a really brilliant person and not just because she is my sister," Sile tells me. "We are best friends. We are probably closer now than we have ever been and I think that comes with age too and experience. Life is tough and even more so as the years roll on, I value the relationships in my life between my family and my closest friends.
"They are very important to me and I am blessed with having brilliant people in my life."
"I really love my work, but it doesn't define me," Sile smiles. "When the day comes and I am on my death bed looking back, I don't want to be saying 'well I had an amazing career, but no relationships of substance!' I'd rather be saying 'Well my career was OK, but didn't I have fantastic bonds with people?' That would be far more important to me."
Since her illness, Sile has also been practicing mindfulness and yoga. "I think the importance of gratitude is huge and it does straight away put you in a good mood," she explains.
"I have fully embraced my body more now than I have ever done before I was sick too. When you realise that you are actually walking around in the greatest gift that you will ever have, it is amazing and you should be absolutely so thankful for it; that it works!"
Síle has teamed up with GloHealth to raise awareness of the Lifetime Community Rating deadline on the April 30. For more information, see: www.glohealth.ie