Irish Christian artist sets her sights on the Grammys

Irish Christian artist sets her sights on the Grammys Grammy award nominee and Spirit Radio presenter Victoria Johnston is looking forward to the awards on March 14. Photo: Glen Byrne
Ireland’s ‘next Enya’ tells Ruadhán Jones how her faith and music have always been intertwined

“I’m a true believer that God can accelerate our plans quicker than we can possibly imagine through prayer. He has raised my expectation of what he can do through me and my music,” says Victoria Johnston. She is as well placed as anyone to make that statement – her debut singles, Tar Liom and You Are the Peace, have been shortlisted for the Grammy’s in the Best Song category. At the start of the new year, she was already seen by many as being a successor to Irish singer-songwriter Enya.

But as the Spirit Radio presenter and musician tells The Irish Catholic, her success didn’t come from nowhere. Self-managed and self-promoted, Victoria says a lot of hard work went into the launch of her solo career – hard work and prayer.

“I had the songs ready from 2019 and I’d always planned to launch the debut singles in 2020,” she says. “It was the 13 March, that was the release date. No one could have predicted the pandemic would arrive in 2020 and Ireland went into lockdown the exact same day I released my debut singles. I’m just really thankful that they went to number one and did so well.

But I was really just praying on what God wanted me to write, what He wanted me to release, what would bring people’s hearts in hearing the music closer to him”

“It was a bit of an unusual day to release them. But obviously that was part of God’s plan and it’s been really pleasing to get feedback about the support the songs have given people under lockdown. If I can be doing that for people, I’m doing my job right with music.”


Victoria knew for some time that she wanted to pursue a career in music. How that career might look exactly, she was less certain. At the start of 2019, she explains, she spent a lot of time in prayer, seeking guidance as to where she would go next.

“I was really kind of praying in terms of song writing and composition what I should be writing and what God wanted me to write,” Victoria says. “But I was really just praying on what God wanted me to write, what he wanted me to release, what would bring people’s hearts in hearing the music closer to him. It was really through a lot of prayer that Tar Liom and You are the Peace came about and the arrangement of that.

“I got a fabulous introduction to Denis Woods, who’s a Grammy nominated producer who has worked with the likes of Clannad. I think that collaboration was a really good match. I always say he helped me bring them from an acoustic arrangement that I might sing at church to a 3 Arena, big stadium sound and arrangement. I’ve really enjoyed the collaboration process with him. I’m a firm believer that through prayer and God putting the right people in front of you – for me that was really special.”

When asked if Enya is a conscious influence on her work, she considers it for a moment before responding: “I suppose anyone in Ireland has probably grown up listening to Enya’s music. But I never have an agenda, with my song writing it’s really just what musically and creatively comes out of me when I sit down at the piano. It’s just a style that comes out of me that ends up suiting my voice. The arrangements, being Irish, have that Irish element to it, that Celtic element or world sound, but there’s also a lot of classical music and pop music influences as well stemming from my classical music background.”


Music is in Victoria’s blood, going back at least to her great grandmother, and the female line all the way down have a classical piano background. At the age of nine, Victoria entered the Royal Academy of Music and that set her on her way. She went on to study at the DIT Conservatory of Music, before completing a masters at Trinity, where she also sung with the chapel choir. In a sense, this brought her back to her roots.

“From a young age, I grew up singing in my church’s junior choir and through that I suppose it was my first introduction to choral singing,” Victoria explains. “Church music, I just love it. One of my earliest memories is my mum playing all the hymns in the church hymn book which I would have grown up listening to and I think the influence of that is for sure in You are the Peace.

“I love singing that in churches and the acoustic, but obviously with the pandemic there’s a lot of live performances on hold. It has been a strange time, releasing my debut singles and there’s no opportunity to sing them live in the gorgeous churches and cathedrals around the country.”

Faith continues to have an influence on her music, and vice-versa: “Certainly my faith influences my music, in terms of lyrical writing,” she says. “I always pray before I compose a new song, praying that God will put into my heart and my musical output what will connect with people. So yeah, definitely my faith influences my music.”


Speaking about the role it plays in her faith-life, Victoria says, “I think there’s such power in music and I really feel through worship, through singing worship and through song that it can be a really strong form of prayer in itself. I feel really close to God when I sing and when I try ground myself in the performance singing to him. Because you know that’s what it’s all about, he’s given me this incredible gift that I’m extremely grateful for.”

I just trust that God will keep putting the right people in front of me, the right opportunities in front of me”

For Victoria, there are three great passions in her life – faith, family and music: “Yeah, Faith is number one. It comes first before all the number one singles! It’s my faith first, my family and my music – I couldn’t do without any three of them. It’s been a really huge part of my life from a really young age.”

For Victoria, as for many other performers, 2020 has been a year without an audience. Among her hopes for 2021 is a return to live performances – and, perhaps, recording her first album.

“I’m working on a debut album – I would like to record that this year, but I would like to release it when live music is back,” she says. “I’m keeping my head down, writing, writing, writing and enjoying that process and the time we’ve all been given. I just trust that God will keep putting the right people in front of me, the right opportunities in front of me. I’m just really excited about what he holds for me in 2021.”