The former star of The Saturdays talks about going solo, motherhood and penning her debut album.
She was once part of one of the biggest girl bands in the country, now 35-year-old Una Healy is returning to her childhood roots and embarking on a brand new journey. She’s at her home in Northampton when she calls me, taking a break from promoting her debut solo album The Waiting Game, spending some time with her two young children and husband Ben Foden.
Best known as being one-fifth of The Saturdays, Irish-born Una’s life has always been filled with music. Writing her own songs since the age of 12 after her mum taught her the basic chords of playing the guitar, Una’s now getting the chance to pursue the solo career that she’s always dreamt of.
I had the time of my life but I’ve gone back to my roots of organic, folky music.
“I always wanted to be a singer/songwriter so I was doing gigs, I released my own EP and then I was in The Saturdays,” she tells me. “It was such an amazing opportunity for me I learned so much about the industry, I had the time of my life but I’ve gone back to my roots of organic, folky music.”
Released in February, The Waiting Game is a far-cry from music that fans of The Saturdays will be used to hearing from Una. A soothing blend of folk and country the album has been three years in the making. “I had that luxury of writing when I felt like it,” says Una. “All the songs are personal to me, but now I’m handing them over to the public and saying, ‘these are your songs, and you can make them yours.”
A gifted songwriter, Una teamed up with some incredible writers whilst penning the album including Grammy Award-winner Amy Wadge, who co-wrote Ed Sheeran’s number one single Thinking Out Loud and Una’s debut single Stay My Love. “She was amazing to work with, we got on really well,” she tells me. “I went down to Wales to co-write with her there, and then she came up to Northampton and wrote with me.
“We actually wrote Stay My Love in my living room; it was a melody that I had in my head, I played it to her and she loved it, we actually finished it in an hour. It wasn’t until we listened back to it that we realised it was missing something and we knew it needed to be a duet.”
The end result saw Una release the single with Sam Palladio, star of the American TV series Nashville. “I was so lucky to have someone like Sam,” she cheerily says down the phone to me. “He’s an amazing singer who’s starting to get his own music out there because he’s more well known for being and actor. He’s very busy continuing to pursue his acting career, but he has a huge love for music, it’s one of his other passions in life so I was so happy to duet with him, I love his voice.”
I don’t consider success as what number you are in the Top 50, it’s more that people appreciate and enjoy the music and want to come and see it live.
Una tells me that she wrote countless tracks over the years, some which she describes as ‘awful’ and tells me she’d “never play to anyone because you always write bad tracks before you get the good ones”, but it was important to her that she selected tracks for the album that she felt represented her starting her new journey as a solo artist.
“Even now I listen to some of the demos that didn’t make it onto the final track listing and think that some of them should have gone on the album. But then that leaves me the hard decision of wondering if I could swap out a song that I really love to make room for one of the demos.”
Being part of The Saturdays for eight years was a challenge for Una and her bandmates Frankie Bridge, Molly King, Rochelle Humes and Vanessa White. Alongside touring, promoting and recording, the pressure of trying to secure a top spot in the charts is something that they all had to deal with. I ask Una if she feels the same pressure for her music to do well in her solo career, but it’s quickly made clear to me that she’s not just in the business for the success, she’s just happy to share her songs with everyone.
“I just want people to make up their own mind on whether they like it or not. I’m not thinking about the charts, I just love performing. I don’t consider success as what number you are in the Top 50, it’s more that people appreciate and enjoy the music and want to come and see it live.”
As far as the response to her music Una couldn’t be happier. “It’s been so positive,” she joyfully says. “I couldn’t have asked for more amazing reviews, people are being really nice and it’s so encouraging for me. It’s very scary releasing an album, you don’t know whether people are going to like it, but so far so good.”
So, what does 2017 hold for the Irish beauty? With her year already starting off with visits to radio stations and a few headline gigs in London, Una tells me she’s hoping to return to Birmingham again after supporting American duo Maddie and Tae at the O2 Institute last October. “I hope to do more gigs and travel around,” she says. “I’d absolutely love to do my own tour again.”
It may not be easy juggling being a mum of two and a fresh career, but Una has reinvented herself as folk music’s hottest new act with an incredible career lying ahead of her.