This artist is proving there's two sides to every story...
By Michelle Newman
Through her music, singer and arranger Maria Greenan puts a unique spin on well-known classics. Maria says she has always had quite an eclectic taste in music and this variety can be seen on her recently released debut album, Alchemist.
“What I want to achieve from my music, regardless of the style, is the atmosphere. The producer that I work with, I’ve done all my work with him and our thing is to try and create a space and for it [the music] to feel really intimate,” Maria says.
“All of the tracks have the exact same feel, where you feel like you’re in the room. The songs are covers but done in a different way, the idea of completely transforming something.”
The late Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean is one such example. Maria says she was amazed by the amount of people who listened to the lyrics and ‘suddenly realised what the song was about.’
This change of perception brought about by her music, is similar to the way in which Maria would like people to see her and her capabilities in particular.
Maria was born with cataracts in her eyes which were operated on right away. She also had glaucoma, which is where the pressure in the eye wears away the optic nerve, but unfortunately this was not picked up on until much later.
“They didn’t get that until I was four or five, so by that time it had done four or five years’ worth of damage. That’s why it was so severe because the pressure was so high and at that point, the struggle was just to try and bring them down without the sight deteriorating so quickly,” she says.
Maria, who is registered blind but has a small amount of vision, says her mum and dad who are from Cavan and Monaghan respectively, were determined that she would continue to do everything she wanted as far as possible. She started piano lessons and went to a mainstream school but says she would change and adapt some things to make them a little easier for herself.
“I suppose it hindered me, but also I found ways to do everything. I was really stubborn [Laughs]. There was no way my parents were stopping me from doing anything, I was quiet pig-headed,” says Maria.
“I think as a child and as a teenager my big thing growing up was that I didn’t want to be identified by it. I probably always felt, ‘I need to do this really well.’ I suppose you just have a bigger point to prove than your average person maybe.”
And prove her point she certainly did. Maria spent much of her youth in London as she had a very good doctor there, but when she moved back to Ireland in her early teens she discovered a love for singing.
“We were living with my grandad then and I used to go into the sitting room, close the door and I’d be singing away, obviously thinking that no one could hear me,” she says, adding that once her dad encouraged her to get involved in a sing song at a local pub there was no stopping her.
“I sang Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy, that was my staple song and from then on that was kind of it. I was singing all the time. I won Cavan’s Got Talent when I was in college and that’s where changing well-known songs to suit me and my style of singing and playing started.”
Maria studied at the Dublin Institute of Technology but when many of her peers were making decisions about what their future careers would be, this wasn’t a choice she had to make.
“I never decided to do that, it was always just who I was. I was always going to be a musician and I think that’s a luxury,” she says.
Maria has used her platform as an artist to raise awareness about how people with disabilities are treated in Ireland and certain attitudes towards this. She hopes that by addressing this in a humorous way on social media, it will open up a more general discussion on the topic.
“I just wanted to present disability in a different way because people have questions and they should just ask. When people feel awkward and they don’t want to ask, that’s when situations start to be uncomfortable,” she says.
“It opens up that whole thing of just because you’re different it doesn’t mean you’re a subject for people. If you can laugh at yourself then other people are more comfortable anyway. Just own it.”
Time has given Maria the opportunity to look back a reflect on her younger years, allowing her to feel proud of all that she has accomplished thus far.
“Now that I’m older the reality is I did have a different time to everybody else, but I still managed to achieve everything. I think it’s important for people to be able to look at the situation and see that despite obstacles, if you have the determination you can achieve whatever you want.”
Alchemist by Maria Greenan is available on iTunes and Spotify