|Irish Musician, American Law Student Equal
By Kia Namin
In August, 2012, Irish musician Eoin Ó Súilleabháin
and American law student Andrea Laidman will be wed with celebrations following
in their respective hometowns of Limerick, Ireland, and Buffalo, N.Y.
When Laidman and other Mitchell Scholars were bused to Michael Ó
Súilleabháin's house for an end-of-the-year dinner, she recounted
she had no idea who musician Eoin Ó Súilleabháin was.
However, that quickly changed. "When I left his home with all the scholars
that night, I certainly knew that I had just met someone very special,"
Having majored in political science and peace studies at Notre Dame,
"where everyone becomes Irish sooner or later" she joked, Laidman admitted,
"I never sought to go to Ireland specifically, or explore my heritage there,
like so many Americans do." However, in 2008, she was one of the twelve
students who won a prestigious George J. Mitchell Scholarship through the
The scholarship, named after the former U.S. senator who was instrumental
in the Northern Ireland peace process, was founded in 2001. The education
honors are awarded annually to a maximum of 12 students to pursue one year
of postgraduate study in any discipline offered by institutions of higher
learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
It was at the culmination of her time studying anthropology and international
development at the National University of Ireland-Maynooth that the Ó
Súilleabháin household hosted the dinner where Laidman met
her eventual fiancé. "Eoin and I knew nothing of one another before
that night," remarked Laidman, now going into her final year of studies
at the New York University School of Law.
Though Ó Súilleabháin could have attempted to swoon
the American girl with a ballad, it was the fiancées' mutual enthusiasm
in their work with refugees that sparked a conversation. "While I love
Eoin's music, it was our other shared interests that brought us together
initially," explained Laidman.
While at Maynooth, she completed fieldwork among groups of UN Program
refugees living in Ireland. As the luck of the Irish would have it, Ó
Súilleabháin had recently completed a master's degree thesis
on immigration in contemporary Ireland.
So, instead of the ballad, he played on their shared interests to bring
on the first date. "Eoin invited me back to [Limerick] to attend a conference
that he was helping to organize. The conference was about 'welcoming the
stranger' in Ireland," reminisced Laidman.
After the conference, they employed a more romantic setting to realize,
as the founder of the Mitchell Scholarship relates it, they were "the same
kind of souls."
"After the conference, we went for dinner in a lovely traditional restaurant
in a tiny town, called Birdhill, outside of Limerick," said Laidman. "We
talked for hours and had a wonderful time together, but I was leaving Ireland
to return to the United States just days after-so I was not sure what would
The couple continued to hit it off and undertook the challenge of a
long distance relationship. In order to maintain their relationship across
the Atlantic, "Skype is the key," she insisted. "We often say we owe the
creators of Skype a huge thank you! We don't know where we'd be in the
days of only letter-writing."
The relationship isn't all keyboards and computer screens, though. When
they are together, the couple loves to cook Asian food and explore the
historic whether it's "medieval ruins in Ireland or museums in New York
Though the couple saves time for both leisure and work together, the
two have yet to work on the same project for refugees or immigrants. However,
they help each other constantly with their writing, Andrea proudly admits
that she has even "written a verse in a size2shoes song."
Size2shoes is the product of Eoin and his younger brother, Moley. The
band discovered their moniker thanks to a dwarflike American girl Moley
was seeing for some time. After the song "size2shoes" was written, their
father suggested that be the name of their group. "We thought, 'well, that's
quirky and weird enough for what we want to do - so let's go for it', and
it's no less strange sounding than Pink Floyd," assured Ó Súilleabháin.
Eoin and Moley were raised in an absolutely musical household. Their
father is Michael Ó Súilleabháin, a past Milwaukee
Irish Fest performer who is now a professor of music at the University
of Limerick. The duo's mother is the Celtic spiritual singer Nóirín
Ní Riain. As for the boys' acquiescence to music, it was all their
own choice. "The really amazing thing was that neither of our parents forced
any music on us at all," said Ó Súilleabháin.
In fact, Ó Súilleabháin studied philosophy as an
undergrad. Moley, however, was able to bring the beats to size2shoes, literally.
The younger Ó Súilleabháin, who studied ethnomusicology
and rap culture in Co. Cork, is renowned for his vocal beat boxing skills
that have landed him recordings with Bobby McFerrin.
The brothers have created music that has been categorized as inspirational
pop and have been compared to Steely Dan, Simon and Garfunkel, and an unplugged
Prince, though they admit Michael Jackson has had the biggest influence
on their style. "His songs are all about being positive and transforming
- can't get enough of it," Ó Súilleabháin emphasized.
The band has enjoyed popularity in its native Ireland, though Ó
Súilleabháin admitted, "The States is the place that we've
gotten our most support."
Though they have "no management or agent or anything like that," they
seized an opportunity to work with Russell Crowe who then sent his highest
regards to Steven Spielberg. The director's ears couldn't resist the joyful
melodies and asked if size2shoes might record a song for his new film coming
in 2012, War Horse.
Last September, the Ó Súilleabháin brothers traveled
to Castlecombe, England, to record "Only Remembered" by English composer
John Tams, "We still haven't gotten full confirmation that the song will
actually be in the movie, so lets hope it doesn't end up on the cutting
room floor!," Ó Súilleabháin said. Whether the song
is used in Spielberg's film or not, he intimated that just "to be recognized
by Steven as artists that he wants to work with, well, that was beyond
our wildest dreams."
Everything is still in the earliest stages of planning for the wedding
reception, but size2shoes will surely strum out a few songs to celebrate
what promises to be the beginnings of a melodious marriage.