IMAGE Insider Guide: Singer, songwriter and ‘Conversations With Friends’ star Loah opens her little black book
One of the country’s most in-demand artists, actors and all-around talents, Loah’s star power is only on the rise.
Loah, real name Sallay-Matu Garnett, is an Irish singer-songwriter, best known for her unique blend of Afro-folksoul music. Deeply inspired by both her Irish and Sierra Leonean roots, her music pays tribute to the merging of two distinct cultures and can only be described as a tonic for the senses.
Already collaborating on a number of exciting projects with other well-known artists, her body of work includes performances with both Hozier and Lisa Hannigan, as well as a feature role in the all-female collective, Irish Women in Harmony, too.
Returning to the frontline to work as a pharmacist during the pandemic, the singer has had a busy few months both personally and professionally. Also a mainstay on Irish television, she made her TV debut alongside Úna Healy as one of the co-hosts on the primetime RTÉ show The Heart of Saturday Night, following that up with a supporting part in the recent adaption of Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends.
We sat down with Loah to ask her all about her life in loves and take a peek inside her coveted little black book.
What was your most recent fashion/beauty purchase?
I got a beautiful, bright orange backless dress for summer from & Other Stories that I love! I think they blend great quality high street and more unusual, statement pieces really well.
What colour palettes/styles/designers are you interested in at the moment?
I love all shades of pink at the moment. I’m having a pink revival, I can’t get enough of it! Soft, hot, light, blush, rosey; any shade of pink there is, I want it. It’s such a bright, bold and beautiful colour that I under-wore for way too long.
Interestingly, the colour pink is more associated with the feminine in our Western culture, although that is changing, but in West Africa (my paternal side), bright colours aren’t gendered at all, so you often see men in pink suits which gives me life!
I have a gorgeous Simone Rocha x H&M dress with a pink floral print that I adore, it’s a bit more suited and booted than other items in my wardrobe, but I also love to lounge around in this pink velvet trackie that I bought in a random shop in Naples too.
Designers-wise, there’s such exciting stuff coming from Irish designers that I could solely live on an Irish dress diet right now! Helen Steele’s new collection is so extravagant and unique. Joanne Hynes, SML (though he’s based in London, his silk dresses are very *gasp*), Violet Ogden, Katie Ann McGuigan, Natalie B Coleman… I could go on and on. I work a lot with stylist Corina Gaffey and she’s really opened me up to so many amazing people. I do love some of the traditional big fashion houses like D&G (I’m sure you guessed that already – pink and florals!) and Missoni – I could live in their long-sleeved dresses. I’m also really into Sabirah by Deborah Latouche, it’s made-to-order luxury wear. Some of her dresses are living works of art.
Is there a new fashion trend that particularly excites you?
I love that satin skirts are back, and silk in general. It’s so divine and feels so sensual on the skin. More, more, more!
What beauty product/s can you not live without?
Image Vitamin C serum. I tried to stop using it for a while to see what would happen to my skin and I just come lovingly back, time and time again. It’s so healing.
Your favourite holiday destination/hotel (or a spot on your bucket list)?
I’m visiting Greece for the first time ever this summer and I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so excited about a trip! For a start, taking an actual holiday that isn’t work-related, is a big one for me. My partner is very supportive at making me rest! Aside from needing the break, I’ve wanted to visit Greece my whole life as it looks like a slice of heaven and I’m super excited to see all the ancient churches and visit the Revelation cave between glorious meals, wine and swims!
The last (fashion/beauty) gift you received?
I wore Helen Steele to the Oscar Wilde awards recently. She gifted me the outfit, and as soon as I was alone I pretty much burst into tears! I felt so gorgeous in the outfit all night and it was really special as it was my first LA show, so for me, it’ll go down in history as a fit to remember.
What’s your favourite city for shopping?
London for high street, Paris for vintage, New York for thrifting!
Can you tell us about one of your most treasured fashion items?
Yes. I have a black satin maxi by Karen Millen that my first boss in the pharmacy gave to me when I was still training. I’ve only worn it once and it doesn’t really make sense in my wardrobe anymore, but I’m never letting it go because it was the first time I ever had something I considered luxurious, and it was such a sweet and gorgeous gift.
Can you share a fashion-based Instagram account you follow?
Ib Kamara (@ibkamara) is the editor-in-chief of Dazed Magazine as well as a stylist himself, and his account is stunning! It’s largely African-centred contemporary fashion and works from Dazed and it excites me so much and is so inspiring.
A fashion piece you’d buy if money was no object?
A Gilbert Adrian dress. I hadn’t heard of him – or at least, I hadn’t realised those iconic dresses were his – but Jemima Kirke educated me recently and I’m all in. Except they’re definitely not for sale as they’re in museums!
What other artists do you look to for inspiration?
I’m making an album at the moment and I find myself returning to the peace and glorious construction of Sufjan Stevens’ albums, Moses Sumney’s first record, serpentwithfeet, Rina Sawayama, Solange. They’re my current modern inspos, but I love going back to Sade, Oumou Sangare, Joni Mitchell, Erykah Badu when I need my spirit lifted and to get back on track.
Any advice for aspiring musicians trying to find their personal style?
Try stuff! See what you feel comfortable in as well as what makes you feel like a million bucks. Your style will evolve as your life circumstances change and that’s what’s really fun about it. Your growth, other people and cultural shifts influence it, so just lean into whatever you’re feeling in any given moment and enjoy it like crazy because the only thing that’s certain is that it will change. Then stalwarts emerge over the years that you keep going back to which feels really grounding.
Do your fashion and music choices influence each other?
Absolutely! One feeds the other. If it’s a dreamy, floaty song, then I’m in crowns and angelic colours. If it’s fancy, I’m in gowns. If it’s festy, I’m in elaborate headwraps and if it’s folky I’m in floaty summer dresses or Arans. I love that they get to reflect each other so elegantly.
Tell us about the new video and vinyl release for “When I Rise Up”.
Our industry is about to change all over again. I feel the wild radical shifts of next stage digital a-coming. I’m here for it, but vinyl is always so special. The feeling and sound of that scratchy needle going on the black wax, right before the soul waves quietly invade your heart.
I’m printing it with the lovelies at Diggers Factory who have made this whole process so easy. When the minimum pre-order amount is reached, they will make the vinyl and post it to everyone who has ordered. As it’s a limited edition, get in there and order!
Taking an international approach to this project, Loah chose works by poets across Ireland, the United States and Sierra Leone. The seven-track collection features works from the 1920s set to music and created in direct response to our unique global existence and reflecting the continuity of folk storytelling throughout the ages.
As for the video, Your World is a dreamy poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson that I adored writing music to in the middle of lockdown, back when all we could do was dream, feel, sleep, repeat. It gave me this feeling of soaring above the world and it’s been so gorgeous to actually enjoy real-life soaring since! Travelling and seeing family and friends and all the stuff that makes our world worth being in.
We wanted to capture that feeling of finding freedom inside yourself and sailing away on the wings of the imagination! I feel like director Bobby Zithelo captured this so well and all the performers are visions of beauty and grace and feminine freedom! It was an unbelievable amount of good craic getting transformed into these fantastical versions of myself (the creative team were just so fab) and living and moving from the dreamworld. Take me back!
The new video for “When I Rise Up” is out now with a limited-edition vinyl release scheduled for October of this year. Pre-order costs €28 and is open now.