Wednesday 17 January 2018

Michele McGrath on band Lir: 'For the first time I feel like this has all the ingredients to become something really good'

Michele McGrath tells Joanna Kiernan about life, love and starting all over again in the music industry

Michele McGrath and Joanna Kiernan in House
Michele McGrath and Joanna Kiernan in House
Michele in former band Industry
Cathal Pendred with girlfriend Michele McGrath
Girl band Lir

Michele McGrath is more than your average 'triple threat'. Yes, she can sing, dance and act, but she also has the titles of TV presenter and model on her CV.

With pop group Industry she succeeded in achieving three number-one hit singles and now Michele (28) is now making another bid for glory as one third of the new Irish girl group Lir.

"It's very early days at the moment, but it's going really well," Michele, who is perhaps more widely known for her modelling, explains over lunch in House on Dublin's Leeson Street.

The new group consists of some other very familiar faces too with Leanne Moore, a former You're A Star winner, and Kim Hayden, a contestant on The Voice of Ireland, completing the musical trio.

According to Michele, all the members have tasted rejection and failure in the past, which has prepared them for the steep, but exciting journey ahead.

"We're not 21 or even 18-year-olds who are dreaming of pop stardom. We are all very realistic and have all had our different experiences," says Michele. "So we are not under any illusions. We know how hard it is and how hard we will have to work - we have to write really strong songs and work with the right people."

Lir is currently in the recording studio and the girls have even spent time writing with singer-songwriter Paddy Casey. This time it's clear Michele means business.

"There is a definite plan for this year and we are currently in the studio recording original material," she reluctantly divulges with a grin.

"For the first time I really feel like this has all of the ingredients to really be something good," the Skerries native explains. "Especially with our sound which is kind of pop-folk music with a little bit of an Irish slant."

Michele isn't going to let the fact her former band Industry didn't work out get in her way this time around. She is, she tells me, older, wiser and that little bit tougher.

"Industry was so bitter-sweet because at the time I was striving so much to become a singer and that is all I wanted to do. So Industry came at the perfect time but there were a lot of things that nearly happened, but didn't at the final hurdle," she says.

"We went off to Sweden and to the UK and we started recording and shooting videos all over the shop - it was just the best fun," she says.

"It was such a good experience and we had success in Ireland, but it never went o utside of Ireland. We never released an album and these were all of the things we had been working towards, so that was disheartening."


For Michele, her successful modelling career (she was first signed to Assets and is now on the books at the Andrea Roche Modelling Agency) has always been more of a means to an end than a burning ambition.

"I never thought I would ever do modelling to be honest with you because I'm really short," she laughs.

"In any other country they'd send me home, but after I finished school I went on to study Media Studies in Ballyfermot and I had always done different gigs around Dublin, singing, dancing, acting.

"Then I got a job as the lead female singer in a cabaret show in the Canary Islands. It was over there I met a photographer and he asked me if I'd be interested in doing some shots. I just thought they would be great for singing, but they turned out relatively OK and I started doing a couple of modelling jobs then.

"It paid my way through my late teens and early 20s and gave me a lot of scope which meant I could sing, and I was lucky I was able to do what I wanted to do."

Michele is acutely aware of the stereotypes she and other models have to contend with once they attempt to branch out into another area of work.

"You get 'Oh she's a model, now she wants to do TV, now she wants to act, now she wants to sing' but this is actually what I have always done since I was a kid. Modelling was just something that maybe I gained a little more exposure in," she says. "And thankfully through modelling I got a lot of other opportunities."

As well as her musical passion, Michele is also currently indulging her love of television with a regular presenting gig on Irish TV.

"I'm really enjoying life," she says. "My friends and my boyfriend are like 'you are absolutely for the birds' but I love visualising things that I want to happen and I am a firm believer in what you put out to the universe comes back to you.

"I take things a lot more on the chin now whereas when I was younger I might not have," Michele smiles. "Some auditions you get, some you don't - it's not the end of the world, you just weren't what they wanted and that's something I have learned over the years in everything - modelling, acting singing - you are not going to be everybody's cup of tea and that's fine.

"If you spend your life depending on people, you are actually going to get nothing done because the majority of people are just out for themselves.


"I learned that pretty quickly growing up even with friendships or past relationships. Not everyone is thinking of you all the time and people do have agendas, but I am lucky in my life now that my circle is very small and I have a great family, I have the best friends, a lovely boyfriend, and the girls are great in Lir."

Michele has been dating UFC Fighter Cathal Pendred for almost three years, but is keen to protect their privacy by not speaking about him. All she will say is they are "very happy".

Pendred hit the headlines last year for rescuing a beached baby dolphin during a walk on Doonbeg Strand in Co Clare with Michele.

And it wasn't the first time the couple saved an animal. Their beloved dog Ringo came to them as a result of another rescue mission.

"We actually found Ringo," says Michele. "There was torrential rain and Cathal and I heard a cry outside of our apartment, so we went to look and saw him there soaking. We took him in and that was it, we fell in love with him."

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