The history of the popular Irish song “Galway Girl”

The history of the popular Irish song “Galway Girl”

Galway Girl is a song title that has been used by two different artists, Steve Earle and Ed Sheeran, for two different songs. Both songs are inspired by the city of Galway in Ireland and feature a love interest who is a Galway girl. But how did these songs come to be and what is their connection? In this article, we will explore the history of Galway Girl, from its origins as a folk-rock tune by Steve Earle in 2000 to its reinvention as a pop hit by Ed Sheeran in 2017.

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The Original 'Galway Girl' by Steve Earle

The first song called “Galway Girl” was written by American singer-songwriter Steve Earle, who recorded it with Irish musician Sharon Shannon for his 2000 album “Transcendental Blues”. The song is a folk-rock tune that tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman from Galway, who has black hair and blue eyes. The song also mentions some local landmarks in Galway, such as the Salthill Promenade and The Long Walk.

Who was the Galway Girl song about?

The song was inspired by a real woman that Earle met in Galway in 1998, when he was performing at the Galway Arts Festival. Her name was Joyce Redmond, and she was a local artist and dancer. Earle was married at the time, but he was captivated by Redmond’s beauty and charm. He wrote the song as a tribute to her, and gave her a copy of the demo tape. Joyce also played the bodhrán on Steve Earle’s version of the song, but it was unbeknownst by her at the time that the song was in fact about her. After the recording of the song the two never saw each other again, and Earle later divorced his wife and remarried another woman.

The popularity of the Galway Girl song

The song became a huge hit in Ireland, reaching number one on the Irish Singles Chart in 2008, after it was featured in the movie “P.S. I Love You”. It also became a popular anthem for Galway and its people, who embraced it as a celebration of their city and culture. The song has been covered by many artists, such as Mundy, Celtic Thunder and The High Kings. In 2016, Mundy and Sharon Shannon performed the song with thousands of fans on the streets of Galway, in what was dubbed as the biggest ever street performance of “Galway Girl”.

The 'Galway Girl' by Ed Sheeran

The second song, also called “Galway Girl” was written by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who recorded it with Irish folk band Beoga for his 2017 album “÷”. The song is a pop-folk fusion that tells the story of a man who meets a woman in a bar in Galway, and where she plays the fiddle in an Irish band. The lyrics describe their meeting and night out together.

The song was inspired by Sheeran’s love for Irish music and culture, which he inherited from his paternal grandparents, who were from Wexford. He wrote the song with Beoga members Foy Vance and Johnny McDaid, who helped him incorporate some traditional Irish melodies and instruments into the track. He also wanted to pay homage to Steve Earle’s song, which he grew up listening to. Interestingly, before his rise to fame and popularity, Ed Sheeran often performed on the streets of Galway City as a busker in his teenage years.

The popularity of Ed Sheeran's Galway Girl song

The song became a global hit, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart and number six on the Billboard Hot 100. It also received positive reviews from critics and fans alike, who praised its catchy chorus and its blend of pop and folk elements. The song has been performed by Sheeran on various occasions, such as on The Late Late Show with James Corden, at Glastonbury Festival and at Croke Park Stadium. In 2017, Sheeran released the official music video for the song, which was shot in Galway and starred Irish actress Saoirse Ronan as his love interest.

The song ‘Galway Girl’ is a testament to the power of music in its ability to connect people, celebrate culture and inspire creativity. Whether it is the folk-rock version by Steve Earle or the pop hit by Ed Sheeran, the song captures the essence of the Irish spirit and the beauty of the Galway region. Both songs have achieved worldwide success and recognition, and have contributed to the popularity and diversity of Irish music. ‘Galway Girl’ is more than just a song, it is a symbol of identity, heritage and love, and we’re very proud of our homeplace, Galway.