Morgan MacIntyre of Saint Sister: ‘I can’t sing without making shapes and casting spells’

Life Lessons: Morgan MacIntyre, one half of singing duo Saint Sister, her biggest flaw, best advice and her motto for life

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your life?
Over the last few years I've worked hard on trying to manage pre-gig adrenaline rushes and on-stage nerves. At the beginning, the panic was overwhelming. I'd be backstage wishing for the show to be cancelled, hoping I'd get sick, or that some other emergency would disrupt everything. The stress of it all would wind me up for weeks and I had serious thoughts about whether it was healthy to put my body through all that just for a few gigs. At the moment, it's all a little more settled. Breathing exercises help, but mostly it's practice. I started moving my hands on stage as a way of hiding the shakes. These days, I can't sing without making shapes and casting spells.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
In the beginning stages of Saint Sister, my mum advised me to split absolutely everything with Gemma 50/50. We've applied that logic across the board, and it's been immeasurably helpful. Because of that ethos, it has never felt like we're competing with each other. Whether it's within a song for writing credits, on stage for attention, or in the studio for creative freedom, we're only ever elevating each other. It's a kind of rising tide lifts all boats mantra.

What is the worst advice you have ever received?
A close friend of mine suggested Gemma might not be interested in joining forces with me. I think he was trying to protect me against her hypothetical rejection, but I'm very glad I ignored him and asked her for coffee instead.

Is there a moment that changed your life?
I found my first year or two in college quite difficult, and really struggled settling into Dublin. Getting a job in my college's student cafe was a big turning point for me. I met some of my closest friends there, so many of whom are musicians and creators and were so generous with their time. My last years of college spent playing and singing with those guys were so pleasurable, and ultimately incredibly informative. Nearly everyone was in a band, or making art in some way, and it was through playing with them that I figured out what I needed; a bandmate and a partner.


Who do you admire most?
My sister, Orla. She is such a loyal friend, incredibly smart and has a wonderful way with people. Over the years she has taught me so much about friendship; how to support people, how to care for them. I feel very lucky to have her in my life and be so close to her.

Who is the biggest influence on your career?
My mum, Sharon, has been an incredible influence on me. When I was young she would sing to us all the time, inspiring a lifelong obsession with lyrics by pointing out the most beautiful words and singing them line by line so I could learn them all. For a long time she was the first person to hear anything that I wrote, and even now I send her everything I make to get her take on it before anyone else.

Is there a practical thing you do to help your personal development?
I read as much as I can. I find it very calming, especially on tour when everything else is in flux.

What is your biggest flaw?
Indecision. I often paralyse myself with a tremendous fear that I'll make the wrong decision about everything. Nothing is too small or big for me to dwell on and stall over. I'll agonise about what to order on a menu, seek out everyone's advice and feel terrible if it turns out to be the wrong choice.

What is your worst habit?
Turning casual conversations into quick-fire interviews with incessant questions. Also hoarding.

What are you most proud of?
The strong relationships I have in my life with my family and friends.

What is your motto for life?
Give yourself half a chance – instilled in me every day by my dad.