Interview With Brian Casey and Stephanie Rainey, first published in Downtown/The Evening Echo 2014-2-27

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The Le Crunch Apple of My Eye song contest, which awards Ireland’s greatest cover version of the year, has returned to the airwaves on The KC Show on Today FM after the overwhelming success of last year’s contest. With a prize fund of €10,000, it is a nationwide search to find the next undiscovered rising Irish star.

After listening to over 1000 entrants the judging panel, which includes Royseven and RTE star Paul Walsh along with songwriter Roisin O, announced their 10-act shortlist. That shortlist is now open to a public online vote at, and has two Cork representatives: Brian Casey from Bantry and Stephanie Rainey from Glanmire.

Both are songwriters in their own right and have been playing music for a long time, Brian (24) laid out his credentials “I’ve been playing music for years. I started playing the piano and guitar when I was about 5 and I’ve been playing around in bands in Cork and Dublin for the last six years. I was in a band for a while called Stone Throwing Youths, a grungy/alternative rock band, and now I’m in a band called Screenreader, which is more alternative meets electronic music. In the last two years I’ve started gigging acoustically with Andrew who is also the drummer in Screenreader. We’re both from West Cork so we play bars and venues around there, people might have seen us in places like De Barras in Clonakilty and The Mariner in Bantry, as well as Glengariff and Kinsale”

Stephanie (27) also has put in the hard yards, “I’ve been playing music since I was in school and I studied at the Music Management and Sound course in Colaiste Stiofan Naofa. From there I’ve met really good musicians and have kept writing a lot of songs”, but Stephanie has also incorporated other people’s material to her gigs too, “I’ve only started adding covers to my set recently, we do a very different version of  ‘Monster’ by Eminem and Rihanna; one of my favourite songs ‘Miss Ohio’ by Gillian Welch, and also the song which has made the shortlist for the competition a combination of Lordé’s ‘Royals’ and Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’. We made a video for that and entered the Apple of My Eye song contest. I’d avoided doing that for so long as my attitude has been if I’m going to do something like that I should push my own original work but then I decided if a cover helped raise my profile it’d help me when I release my forthcoming EP; if people are already coming to my YouTube channel they might listen to my other material”.

Brian has found playing covers has helped his own writing, “personally I like doing covers because you learn a serious amount, since I became a musician all I know has come from learning to play other people’s songs and it’s helped me with writing my own material, knowing what makes a good song work. I know about 90 or 100 songs that I can draw upon when I’m playing a covers sets, but what drew me to enter ‘Feeling Good’ was that my mam has this old piano and I recently got it retuned and I wanted to pick something that sounds great on the piano. I know the song so well but from playing the guitar. The day I recorded it was the first time I’d played it on the piano so I figured it out as I was going, I had to learn the lyrics properly too! Most people know Nina Simone’s version of the song but there is also another other well known version which Muse released in 2004, so my take on it is perhaps a bizarre mash up of the two – the soulful jazzy style of Nina and the heavier, rockier style of Muse”

Both singers have been overwhelmed by the reaction their cover versions have received, Stephanie continued, “the feedback has been great, initially I couldn’t believe it. Usually when you post stuff on Facebook you almost think you are annoying people, but this spread like wildfire. Everyone seems to really like it, like I knew it was good but we didn’t expect this. We’ve had strangers contacting us online, from all around the world. Apparently ‘Royals’ was the most covered song on YouTube last year, and our version got great feedback so it’s good to know we did well.”

Brian has also noticed the impact his involvement with the Le Crunch Apple of My Eye song contest has had, “the fact it’s on national radio on Today FM has helped, I’ve been getting texts from friends of friends giving me compliments and saying “I heard you on the radio”, even though I’ve had my own stuff played on the radio that was on certain shows or at night, this gives a different recognition when you are on primetime radio. If I can get a fraction of the people who hear me on this competition to listen to my own music it’ll be great”

While neither want to tempt fate both have considered what they’d like to do with the prize money, Brian explained that “my gigs are more guitar orientated for the practical reason that I don’t have a good quality keyboard, so I if won the competition one of the first things I’d do is buy a really good keyboard!”

Stephanie entered also the competition with a clear purpose, “if we win this it’ll make such a difference, the prize money would be pumped into my new EP. That’s why I entered, it’s such an expensive thing and there’s no money to be made in playing original music, it’ll be the difference between night and day if I won that money”

With the aid of a public vote, 5 acts will be chosen to perform at the National Final in The Sugar Club on 7th March which will be broadcast live on The KC Show on Today FM.

Votes can be cast at


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