Alex Stephenson Dervla Trainor, Pop Star of My Dreams

I recently stumbled into this cute popstar at a night club while getting plastered witha few friends. After being charmed by her I wamted to learn a whole lot more about who she was and what this whole pop scene thing was all about. Due to my lack of any writing skills, I had wicked little Dervla Trainor sit down with SANS Magazine editor Alex Stephenson, pop culture guru, so he could sort things out.

- Michael Turnbull

Dervla has a less common name than most pop stars who call themselves things like Katy, Britney, Kelly, and Lady. (Or is it GaGa? Whatever.) Dervla’s name is of Gaelic origin, and it labels her as a poet’s daughter. To say this daughter isn’t a poet herself though doesn’t do her justice.

Born in Belfast, Ireland, Dervla Trainor moved to Kingston, Ontario at age 5, the same age at which she wrote her first song. And while the song may have been a simple, repetitive play on Happy Birthday, her path was already beginning to take shape, whether she knew it or not. She followed the standard path of any young person in a relatively small town: going to school, and then otherwise being bored as shit. After graduating from high school, Dervla moved to Ottawa to pursue a degree in psychology, followed by some requisite post-grad travelling before going back to Kingston and joining her father’s commercial real estate business. After a while on the job, Dervla found that she was spending the majority of her evenings on the verge of tears due to the state of her life. She knew she was financially secure, and that she had a job she could continue to do for the rest of her life, but she wasn’t happy. And, unlike many people in a similar position, Dervla decided to actually follow what has become her mantra, to “trust your instincts, and follow your dreams.”

“You don’t want to grow old and say, ‘what if?’” Dervla said to me, again echoing a sentiment that many people say, but few ever take action on. It took her about six months to make her move, but Dervla soon found herself in Toronto, with a drastically different life than the one in Kingston. Today she interns at a record label, a job she feels is almost like research for the career she hopes to one day have, as Dervla uses her business acumen to learn about what steps she needs to advance her music career. 

As she started out, Dervla’s former representation put her in a place she didn’t feel totally comfortable in as an artist, as they had a different image in mind for what she should be. The team tried to position her as a sluttier type of pop star; more Willa “I Want to be Bad” Ford than Mandy “Candy” Moore. Dervla wasn’t comfortable acting that way, nor did she feel like writing songs in that vein were what she should be doing. “I think you’re sexier when you are who you are,” Dervla begins, “When you’re comfortable in yourself.” And for Dervla, ‘being yourself’ includes some pretty lofty goals.

When asked about what the end goal for her career is, Dervla finds herself mentioning the little-known but omnipresent songwriter Kara DioGuardi. “She is who I aspire to be like, except I want to perform as well.” DioGuardi, perhaps most visible during the two seasons when she was an American Idol judge, has also written or co-written songs as varied as Christina Aguilera’s best single, Kelly Clarkson’s third best, and the only Hilary Duff song that doesn’t suck. And while Dervla, unlike DioGuardi, wants to still perform her versions of Ain’t No Other Man and I Do Not Hook Up, Dervla sees another aspect of DioGuardi’s career that she would like to try for herself. “She discovers people and launches them as well. If I could ever get to that point I would love to try and help other people.” But Dervla’s main goal remains her own music, which she continues to be excited about.

Despite a limited output to this point, Dervla is excited about what the coming months hold for her fans, both new and pre-established alike. After finding herself working with successful Toronto-based producer Arthur McArthur, who has produced for hip-hop artists like Rick Ross, Big Sean, and Drake. Dervla’s most recent collaboration with McArthur is her favourite song to date: Alive, a song they built together with the simple idea to make something inspirational involving a piano loop. Dervla’s next, as yet unrecorded, song is one she feels even more passionate about, one that she will be recording with McArthur in the near future. But as she continues her foray into the world of pop music, Dervla knows she’ll be running into obstacles both in the music business and the local music scene.

“I feel like if you’re in Toronto and you’re not in an indie band, they don’t even give you credit,” she says while lamenting how difficult it is to find a place to perform where she feels her music is welcome. “People always rip on pop... I feel like people in Toronto love to hate catchy pop. If you can write a catchy song that can get stuck in people’s heads, that’s a feat in itself. People don’t give it enough credit, I think,” she says while chuckling.

This statement is further illustrated by her choice for the pop song she wishes she had written: Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe. “It’s an epidemic! It’s just so catchy, and you never get sick of it. I don’t know what it is, I have no idea. It’s simple, but everyone loves it. So catchy,” she says as she gazes off into the distance, perhaps dreaming of an ideal version of her own future.

To say that Dervla knows how to navigate a conversation would be only slightly misleading. This poet’s daughter has plenty to say, and she wants to make sure you hear it all. She’s as passionate about her own opinions as she is interested in your own, a feeling that often comes across in her music. Pop music is often derided as simple music that uses overproduction to dress up the fact that the emotions in the music are simple. But the most simple emotions are also the ones most people can identify with. Dervla’s music certainly isn’t for everybody, but nothing anybody does will ever satisfy everybody anyway. What it is, however, is a collection of thoughts, emotions, and feelings that we can all relate to. If one doesn’t feel particularly attached to the music itself, they still can’t help but hear the passion, and the drive, behind Dervla’s will to connect and succeed. Time will tell whether or not she attains all the goals she has on her checklist, but what has already been proven is how much she cares about what she does. And in a world that often lacks for earnest feelings, hopefully that’s a good enough start.




Hi Tessa,Thanks for commenting! That was one of my fartvioe prompts, too. I have three sisters and I couldn't imagine what it'd be like to find out I had another one I didn't even know about! Best to you, Tessa,Debra

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