9 Exciting Up & Coming Irish Artists

This year has been, for lack of a better word, atypical. Life doesn’t really run the way it used to. Most of us now work from home, students attend college online and sports are largely played behind closed doors. The Arts sector in particular has been restricted to the point of closure and forced online or out of business. But still Ireland’s artists persevere and it is important to recognise their efforts to break into a difficult market in an abnormal year. Here is a list of some of Ireland’s up and coming artists.


Ruairi O’ Connor

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This young actor, from Howth Co. Dublin, has been involved in a number of high profile productions, including, What Richard Did and The Spanish Princess. Having played real-life people before, such as the infamous King Henry VIII, Ruairi is no stranger to making a character his own. A skill he will need to play famed musician Buddy Holly in Bruce Beresford’s ‘Clear Lake.’ He was chosen to play the part after a six-month search to find an actor who could tackle the vocal range and musical aspect of Holly’s life. No mean feat considering Buddy Holly is often regarded as a pioneering figure in Rock and Roll. In 2021 Ruairi will also play the real-life role of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, the first known person to claim that demonic possession forced them to commit a crime. It’s set to be an interesting couple of months for this young Irish actor and we are certainly excited to see where he goes. 


Just Mustard

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Just Mustard is a five-piece band from Dundalk Co. Louth. Lead vocalist Katie Ball has been praised for her “atmospheric” and “distant” singing style and their debut album “Wednesday” was nominated for a Choice Music prize, in 2018. They have performed at high-profile events such as Electric Picnic, Body & Soul and Rock against Homelessness and were due to play at SXSW in Texas, until it was cancelled due to Covid-19. Their style is influenced by several genres, including post-punk, shoegaze and trip hop and they are currently writing songs for their highly anticipated second album. Normally, they would be subject to a heavy year of touring, however Covid-restrictions have of course changed that. But that won’t keep a good band down and no doubt will only spur them on creatively. When normality resumes and Covid is a thing of the past, if you’re given the chance to see Just Mustard perform I highly suggest you do. The eerily atmospheric nature of their music is best experienced in person. 


Denise Chaila

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This Zambian-Irish rapper’s debut EP was aptly named “Dual Citizenship,” which she has powerfully performed a number of times. Including in Dublin’s National Concert Hall and remotely for the Other Voices: Courage event in the National Gallery of Ireland. She addresses areas often considered uncomfortable with gravitas and dignity, never losing her style or her audience. Her debut album “Go Bravely” was released on October 2nd of this year and has been well-received by audiences and critics alike. The blend of soulful, jarring lyrics, mixed with humour and pathos have made her notable within the industry and it would be shocking if we did not hear more of what she has to offer.


Richard Flood

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This 38-year-old Dubliner, is well known to his Irish fan base from his turn as Garda Superintendent James McKay, in the crime drama “Red Rock.” But it is his role as the smouldering Dr. Cormas Hayes in “Grey’s Anatomy” that has catapulted him into international celebrity. Initially he had a recurring role on the popular medical show, however, he has since been promoted to series regular for the programmes 17th season. This is one Doctor you won’t mind having to visit. 


Amybeth McNulty

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Amybeth Mcnulty was only 15, with a handful of appearances, when she snagged the coveted role of Anne, in Netflix’s “Anne with an E.” This adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” auditioned 1,800 girls, before selecting Donegal based Amybeth McNulty. For three seasons she played the bright and imaginative Anne, until the show’s finale in late 2019 and since then has been cast as the female lead in thriller “Maternal” and as Áine in Colum Eastwood’s “Black Medicine.” Her time on the set of “Anne with an E” saw her win Best Lead actress at the Canadian Screen Awards and Outstanding Female Performance at ACTRA Toronto Awards. Aged 18, Amybeth McNulty is certainly making a name for herself in a difficult industry and looks set to be a versatile and hard-working Irish actress. 


Lee Cronin

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Lee Cronin is a writer/director from Dublin, whose short film “Ghost Train” won the Méilés d’Argent award. His debut feature film “The Hole in the Ground” opened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019 and featured critically acclaimed actors James Cosmo and Simone Kirby. The Supernatural Horror was nominated for several IFTA Awards, including a Best Director nomination for Lee Cronin. It was announced recently that he will write and direct a new film in the extremely popular “Evil Dead” franchise. It is titled “Evil Dead Rise” and creator Sami Raimi will reportedly stay on as a producer. With the international popularity of the cult horror franchise, Lee Cronin is sure to become a universally known name. 


Sarah O’ Connor

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In 2010 Dubliner Sarah O’ Connor placed second in a contest to find the next “Serena,” in an Irish run of “Fame: The Musical.” She went on to have West End roles in “Mamma Mia!” “Les Miserables,” “Evita” and originated the role of Imelda Quirke, in “The Commitments.” She has found further success playing Swing, understudy to Dawn and Understudy to Jenna, in the hugely popular West End production of “Waitress.” She was due to make her concert debut in March of this year, however Covid-19 restrictions delayed this. She has applauded the Aid given to the Arts and hopes it will sustain the industry, until Covid is a thing of the past. 


Patrick Gibson

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Patrick Gibson enjoyed smaller roles in critically acclaimed productions like, “The Tudors” and “What Richard Did,” before netting bigger parts in “Tolkien,” “The OA” and “The White Princess.” He was aptly given the Rising Star Award at the 2017 IFTA’s and with his involvement in the 2021 remake of the Swedish thriller “Before we Die,” he really is beginning to look like a rising star. 

David Keenan

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David Keenan is a young folk-singer from Dundalk, whose trajectory in life seems to be ever moving upwards. His emotionally vulnerable, yet mature lyrics, sung in a nostalgically Irish style, strike deeply and you hang on his every word. His 2020 debut album, “A Beginner’s Guide to Bravery,” sat at No.1 in the Irish Independent Albums Charts and led to a sold out concert in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. He has since signed with Rubyworks Records, a label whose past and present alumni include such icons as Hozier, Sinead O’ Connor and Mary Coughlan. His experiences of growing up in Dundalk and moving, with virtually nothing but his wits, to Liverpool, greatly impact his music and creates a unique expression of his style. Much like Just Mustard, David Keenan’s touring options have been limited due to the virus, but that special quality in his voice and personality, should be experienced in person. If ever you are given the chance. Without a doubt everyone keep your eyes on this particular performer. 


And there you have it, a guide to some of the up and coming Irish Artists, battling everything from industry knockbacks to Covid-19 shutting down the Arts. If this list proves anything, it is that Ireland’s performers won’t be held back from achieving their goals.


For other articles related to the Arts, please follow these links. 


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Laura Varley
Laura Varley

Laura is a graduate of NUIG, writes freelance and is an avid follower of Mayo football, the Arts and current affairs.

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