About Siobhán

This is a bit of a ‘whistle-stop’ introduction to who I am, based around my music history. I have more deeper writing about myself (and some of the things I’m interested in) in my personal blog, but the tone is much heavier and emotional.

My name is Siobhán, I’m 48, transgender, Queer, vegan, neuro-divergent, and I’ve been a musician most of my life. I like to consider myself as a performer, I love playing for people, I am interested in creating more immersive, often interactive experiences with my creativity. I love diversity.

Music is a fundamental part of who I am. It keeps me together, it’s constant, it’s stable, and it connects me with the world around me.

I highly value creativity in general. As well as music I am very keen on other forms of artistic expression, including video production, photography, set design, and lighting.

Where I am now

I recently lost my home in Oxford, where I’d lived for 40 years, and I have moved to Brighton & Hove because it’s a safer, more diverse and vibrant place for me to be. Currently I am of no fixed abode, and being new here I’m trying to spend more time socialising, meeting people, and getting to know the place better.

Due to my situation, most of my music equipment is at the moment, in storage elsewhere. I arrived here with my bags, my mandolin, a small keyboard, a small drum, a few other bits of percussion, and my iPad.

Much of the time now, my musical creativity happens through wandering around playing my mandolin, and at open mic sessions. I also spent quite a bit of time lying around in bed programming music on my iPad (which sometimes I use for backing during live performances).

Where I started

I am primarily from a rock background. I grew up going to small gigs in often smokey pubs and clubs. The first instrument I started playing was drums, at about the age of 6 or 7. Then I picked up keyboards, initially a bright orange Bontempi fan powered organ, which I used to make pretend ‘radio shows’ on a reel-to-reel tape machine. Then in the mid 1980s I had a few second hand Yamaha and Casio keyboards, which I connected together via midi. I began using the basic sequencing functions on the keyboards, to programme drums, bass, some chords, which I recorded onto cassette. Later I expanded to a 4 track tape machine. I was also a fairly skilled human beatboxer!

As a teenager I got into heavy rock and metal. I started playing bass guitar, which became my primary instrument for many years.

The 1990s

During the 1990s I was part of Oxford’s music scene, which was mostly centred around Cowley Road, probably the most famous band around initially was Ride, two of the members went to my school. I was around at the time when members of the bands On A Friday and The Jennifers, formed Radiohead and Supergrass respectively.

In 1992 I was briefly a member of a band called Flite 118. This band had been formed by the former lead singer and guitarist of Rubgy band The Darkside, also one time Spacemen 3 drummer, Nick Hayden.

During the 1990s my music tastes expanded significantly, and away from the standard heavy rock stuff (though my love of early Black Sabbath has remained constant). I got very much into what was sometimes called “Trip Hop”. When Portishead’s debut album, “Dummy” came out, a friend gave me a copy on cassette, and I probably played it every day. I used to have a range of rather mismatched speakers for listening to music, including a pair of car stereo speakers placed behind me, to get a kind of pseudo-surround effect. Listening to music was a special moment, where I’d place myself in the centre of the sound, enjoy a cup of tea, smoke and get immersed in the sound. Trip Hop and ambient music, like The Orb, were great for this, but also one of my favourite bands to get absorbed in, was Ozric Tentacles. I hitchhiked to Glastonbury festival, jumped over the wall, and spent days wandering around in the blistering sun just discovering new music. I saw Rage Against The Machine at the height of their fame, wandered right into a crowd of tens of thousands of people, on one of the hottest days of the year, and as they came on, it started to rain.

I was a member of many bands, I put myself out there a lot, collecting numbers from adverts in music shops, calling people up and going for auditions.

I joined a folk band, which became a ‘Celtic rock band’. There was a big Irish (theme) pub scene back then. We played various gigs, some of them more authentic Irish venues, in England. In the mid 1990s I made myself No Fixed Abode to go and play in Norway for a while, then came back and a played a few gigs in Scotland. I slept in a van with a broken window, on the streets of Aberdeen, in February (as I had very little money).

I continued to do some more of the experimental side of music during the 1990s. Using midi keyboards, drum triggers, and an Akai Sampler. Then one day, I found a complete computer, a PC with monitor, keyboard, mouse and about 5GB of storage, lying in a skip in the street. So I took it home, installed some free software, and started making music on a PC (still recording on cassette though).

Siobhán in the 21st Century

For a little while at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, I was quite dormant musically. Then I started looking for bands to join again. I got together with a guitarist who was very ambitious and very much into the bands like The Warlocks and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. This kicked off my being most aligned with, for years, the psych rock, psychedelic rock, and shoegaze music scene. The band I’d formed with the guitarist I met gained some seemingly serious interest with the corporate music industry, including Island, and Fiction Records. None of this came to fruition though, mainly because of internal fighting with the band (almost literally, as guitars were thrown across the room and so on). The bands I was in became the ‘go to’ support act for some venues, including Oxford’s The Zodiac (where Radiohead recorded their video for ‘Creep’). It was an exciting time, but also very stressful, a learning curve that I don’t necessarily regret, but certainly don’t want to repeat.

Finally though, thankfully, out of all of that, a band evolved where (mostly) we all worked really well together but sadly that ended in 2009.

I felt it was essential to continue playing. I had no band, and had mostly been a bass guitarist all those years. So I decided to enter into being a front person. I teamed up with a friend, and formed a psych rock duo with her on drums and me on bass guitar (with 2 amps and a load of effects to fill out the sound) but crucially I moved to being a vocalist. Initially I played on my Spacemen 3 and Loop influences, as well as the many psych rock bands that were popular at the time. We started gigging, getting fairly well known and liked. We played Truck Festival in 2011 and some really great gigs. We started getting some industry interest, but mainly PR companies. Then my friend decided to leave, and I expanded the band to a 3 piece. It became quite a different sound really, but still excellent. The band kept going for a few years. During that time I formed another band, also aligned with the same scene, but this time with a more deliberately 1960s psychedelic rock and ‘Doorsy’ vibe.

From about 2012 onwards I started doing a few solo live shows. At one point mostly with a bluesy acoustic guitar sound, and a cassette backing tape I’d prepared.

Out of the ashes

In 2016 I decided to launch my solo career properly. I had by that time expanded the number of instruments I play greatly, and outside of the bands, mandolin became my primary instrument. My intention was to make myself small but have the ability to make a big sound. I wanted to gain independence from being in bands, to be able to rely more on myself. So I worked hard on creating a set up which was mobile. One in which I could jump on public transport and go anywhere with. I suceeded in this, by using a loop pedal, my mandolin, some hand percussion, and a small keyboard.

I called my new solo project, “Fire Healer”.

The name Fire Healer was taken from the name of a song I had with one of my old bands. It had been, as usual, a jam. At that point, when creating songs, things were improvised, including the vocals, but actually I did what is sometimes called “mouth music” or “speaking in tongues”. So I didn’t neessarily sing real words. When listening back to a jam, I thought I heard the words “Fire Healer” come out of the music, and so I built on that.

Fire Healer is about new growth, out of the ashes. I wrote some pretty basic lyrics about a character called Fire Healer, that was within me. Fire Healer is she, and I am her.

At first, due to my terrible perfectionism (I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder as well as Borderline Personality Disorder, C-PTSD and being neuro-divergent), I spent days working on a set of songs. I got it working, just about, but I was always on the edge. I was on the edge for the week before a gig, working very hard on getting my set ‘right’. I was on the edge before the gig itself, getting overwhelmed by cables and pedals and so on, worrying about my set. I was on the edge during the gig.

One day I got on stage and my head completely shut down. I was stood in front of the audience who were waiting for me to start. Looking at everyone, and then starting to panic. I was alone on stage, there was no one there to play a riff to remind me of what the next song sounded like. I had to do something though.

At that point, I did the only thing I could. Improvise.

I let go, had faith in my ability to create music, and I just played. The thing is, no-one noticed I had improvised the entire performance. People came up to me afterwards, thanked me, and I think I remember at some point someone asking me about my lyrics, quoting some of my words back at me and asking me what they were. I think I told them “I don’t know, you tell me, I just made it up!”.

From that point onwards, I mostly gave up on rehearsing actual songs for gigs. I worked on my set up, getting the sound I wanted, evolving it, then I’ve just got up on stage, and started playing. It’s become a lot easier, because though I have no songs strictly, I have rhythms and scales and sounds that I know well. I have some words I can sing about. Normally about nature, trees, water, the sea, rivers. Actually, at one gig I sang the menu of the café I was playing in, much to the audience’s amusement.

Another great thing about improvising, is that I feel like the connection between who I am, emotionally, and my art, is more direct. I am not restricted or confined by expectations of structure. There is less ‘in the way’ between how I feel, and my self expression. Though I would like to get back to doing more structured performances, but perhaps a balance in there. It also means every performance is a surprise to me as much as it is to the audience.

2020 vision

2020 came along, and like for many people, put a massive spanner in the works! But, additionally I was struggling with my mental health. I’d spent years trying to get recorded music out, doing the recordings at home, mixing and so on, but utterly failed to complete anything. I felt incredibly bad about it, about myself. One of the main reasons was that I hated hearing my vocals. Everyone but me loved my vocals. I would spend a huge amount of time and effort mixing the instruments, everything sounded amazing, but I avoided the vocals because I didn’t want to listen to myself. When I tried to add in vocals, I imploded and had to stop.

I then, after a very long journey, came out as transgender. This is a whole other long story, but the important thing here is that it changed the way I view myself. Perhaps the biggest realisation was that I had always felt like my voice was fake. I loved the act of singing, it felt powerful, but if I listened to my voice, it felt like it wasn’t really me. So I started to work on changing my singing. I really considered adapting old songs, even the style of the band I was in, even tried singing some differently, and some new ideas. Ultimately though I was going through a very difficult time, I needed to let go, and sadly that meant the end of that band.

With Covid, lockdowns, no chance of gigging anyway, I was pretty much forced to not perform, to not do something fundamental to me, during a time when I probably most needed it for my well being.

What I did instead, was more live streaming. For the most part, I stopped singing though. I made myself a ‘stage’ for the camera, with my music equipment for it, permanently set up. I dressed my stage with Indian mandala wall hangings, garlands, bits of material.

I was incredibly lonely. Living alone all through lockdown and more, with mental health problems. I rarely went out of the house for months on end. My only connection with people was mostly online. Doing the live streaming was difficult, partly because of being trans and struggling with dysphoria and being on camera. It took a lot of effort to do, and really felt unfulfilling. It was really nice to have a small audience, but apart from the odd Zoom gig I started do, I couldn’t see anyone, and there was no-one there with me.

The streaming gigs dropped off. My life got a lot worse for many reasons and kept getting worse for about 3 years.

2020 just kept going

Between 2018 and 2020 I went through very intensive therapy. After the therapy groups ended, I lost my support network. I lost had lost my 22 year long relationship, I had quite a tumultuous time with some other relationships, delved into non monogamy and got hurt (but I think I learnt a lot from that). I came out as trans (and kinda lost myself but found a new me, or perhaps the old me I’d lost a long time ago). I lost my elderly cat, I lost my mum to cancer, I lost my Dad because of his narcissism. I lost my team at work due to redundancies. I then lost my position at work, struggled with work and I lost my job and my income because of my very poor mental health.

I then lost my home. The house I’d been living in for 15 years, and 4 of them on my own, was sold. I lost control of it all before that. I was reduced to practically living on my own in one room in the house, nicely decorated as it was, with all my instruments around, but also literally killing me due to damp and mould.

In December 2022, I started giving away some of my posessions for free, including music equipment, to just get rid of things and make it easier and cheaper to live in my impending new life. The rest, apart from a few basic things I could carry, including my mandolin, was to be placed in storage, where it currently remains.

The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

On January 23rd 2023, I left my house in Oxford for the final time, with a heavy wheeled suitcase and ruck sack (mostly full of clothes), plus my mandolin in my hand, and I got on a train to Brighton.

I arrived in Brighton on my own, barely knowing anyone, with no home of my own. So here I am. Still I have no home, I’m staying temporarily in places, but what I have begun, is a new life. I have managed to get out and meet lots of new people, I have something of a social life, which I have not had for years. I am still very lonely, but I connect with people.

I connect with people, because I have my music.

Album release: The Rise Of The Seventh House

The Rise of the Seventh House is my first full album release under the name Fire Healer. It’s now available for download on Bandcamp, and streaming on major streaming services.

Really though, this album is a 35 minute collection of older recordings which I decided to release largely out of frustration with myself for not getting any new music out there. A couple of the tracks have been released as singles previously but the bulk of it has mostly been sitting around, looking neglected for years.

These entirely instrumental recordings are by no means indicative of where I am now, or even who I am. Rather than a traditional album, it feels to me more like publishing a journal of unfinished musical feelings, but then, this is pretty much how I create music anyway.

All of the tracks on the album, started with me getting up one day, catching a moment of inspiration and motivation, getting the spark of an idea, recording it, then spending the rest of the day layering instruments on top of each other. Then, after some mixing and mastering, I seem to just walk away from it and can forget it even exists, until one day I go through my back catalogue of this stuff and decide it might actually be listenable and worth putting it out there.

I feel uncomfortable about promoting my music, especially these recordings. Partly it’s because the tracks feel incomplete, partly because I struggle with presenting myself and these tracks are an expression of me, and partly because I feel really bad about not having released stuff that I’ve worked on with others who have invested their time and creativity. Largely the reason for that, is that it normally involves my voice, and it’s normally been me doing the production and I that means spending lots of time focusing on myself through my voice, which can result in some painful feelings.

The thing is, I feel, and have felt throughout my life, unseen and unheard. Yes, I can be very visible, I can write a lot of words, I can perform in front of hundreds of people on stage, but this is performance. I think most people perform to some degree and that is ok, but there’s some conflict within me, maybe between my struggle to know who I am, to be authentic, and actually just being, just putting myself out there and perhaps seeming a bit messy, incomplete, and vulnerable. I both want to be seen, and hate being seen. I love it, and hate it. I love being seen and heard because I love making music, I love being creative, I love to express myself. Ultimately, it can feel truly powerful. I hate it because I fear rejection, or fear being hurt, it feels exposing because generally in life, I’ve been one of these people who is so scared of not being understood, and heard, that I am a terrible perfectionist, always trying to control things and make them happen in a way that leaves no room for criticism. It’s an impossible task though. The result is that I get what I think I want, no criticism, because I don’t put anything out there to criticise, but it always means I don’t get what I do want, to be seen and heard. The fear in me wins, it consumes all, and I self sabotage, render myself feeling powerless.

On the other hand, it hurts me to know that I’m getting older and there’s little evidence of me and my expression of creativity, or efforts out there. It’s like a weight around my neck, but it’s also a cross that I bear, and none of this is good.

So, here I am. Or rather, there I was. Because what I really need is, to let go.

Here is my release.

The Rise Of The Seventh House

The first track on the album, is the title track. So, why did I call it that? Part of me would like to give you some interesting story featuring Astrology or some mystical stuff, but the truth is, I can’t really remember. I think I just needed a title, and for some unknown reason, The Seventh House popped into my head and so I researched it just a little and then couldn’t think of anything else, so I just went with it. The way I create music, is often contradictory to the way I try to do everything else (including actually releasing music), things just happen and I go with it.

I think The Seventh House is the house of relationships, perhaps specifically romantic relationships, partnership (traditionally marriage).

The track itself, feels to me to be a bit moody, intense, perhaps a little chaotic, relentless but done with love and passion.

Yes. I did deliberately put those last two paragraphs together.

As with everything else on the album, there’s a kind of musical theme that I start with, guided by whatever form of music I’m in the mood for at the time, and also guided by whatever instruments I’m most into on that day. In this case, the musical inspiration is a slightly different one, because I was deliberately trying to recreate the vibe of a some songs produced by a couple of bands I’ve been in over the years. I’ve then added in some acoustic mandolin, and backing vocals (which is also unusual for me).

The lead instruments here are acoustic mandolin and electric guitar. This is all backed by drums, percussion, and bass guitar for the rhythm section, plus some blues harp and backing vocals for atmosphere.

Somewhere Along The Road

I think during this phase of my life, I was particularly into that early to mid 1960s (or even late 1950s perhaps) sound. It kinda surf/garage and perhaps blues rock influenced. The pace of the track felt to me like motion, like going somewhere, well actually, maybe going nowhere, just going, and so I think that’s where the title came from.

I think there might be slightly annoyed bee trapped in there somewhere as well.

Instruments are electric guitar (using a slide), drums, hand claps, bass guitar.

The Ghost Has No Chance

I felt like there was something a little creepy about this one, so it ended up with a title to suit. The pace is a bit lazy feeling too, something of a haze going on (at least in my head, but then, that’s normal).

Instruments are organ, electric guitar, drums, and bass guitar.


I don’t even know if that’s a real word but there’s a reason for it. I originally produced this piece, for a friend called Al. Al had introduced me to The 13th Floor Elevators, and so I did something with a bit of a vibe of the Elevators, and several other bands of the time. Also some of the early tracks by people like Link Wray have titles like this.

Al, levitation, elevator. Yes. There we go.

From Out Of The Sun

The lead instrument here is my four string electric mandolin. The inspiration is very clearly, King of The Surf Guitar, Dick Dale. It’s Mandosurf. Although I felt later it could be a little faster perhaps.

I have wondered if I’ve even ripped off the melody, but it’s basically influenced by the eastern melodies that Dick Dale was known for.

Instruments are electric mandolin, organ (Farfisa sound), drums, and bass guitar.

And The Rain Came Down

I like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

Instruments are blues harp, bass guitar (with fuzz effects), and drums.

On Through The Clouds

I think I just got up one day and started recording something simple, meant to be atmospheric, taking the approach of not doing a full traditional drum sound and using a drone riff through some effects on the bass guitar as the main instrument.

Inevitably it kinda ended up like a bit of a clone of Pink Floyd’s Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun.

Instruments are drums and bass guitar.

Zither Blues

My girlfriend at the time had brought a fretless Austrian guitar zither, which some people might call a table harp. It’s basically a flat thin curved shaped wooden box, with a hole in it, and some strings stretch over it.

I was walking home from work one day and started wondering what the zither would be like played with a slide. When I got home, I didn’t have a proper slide, so I found a glass candle holder, used it on the zither, and this is the result.

Last Night I Cried In My Sleep

A true story. Sadly.

Instruments are organ, bass guitar and some percussion.

Technical Specifications

Basic Requirements

For most electric performances, the following basic requirements will be work for me:

2 quarter inch jack inputs (into mixer or PA from iPad audio interface, 1 left panned, 1 right panned).

1 XLR input (into mixer or PA from microphone. Centre panned).

2 mains supply sockets (I can do it with none though if I have enough battery power and sacrifice some effects pedals or run them off battery as well).

Optional Requirements

I am normally travelling on my own potentially on public transport. So it would be really helpful if I could have provided, the following:

A Microphone stand

A Keyboard stand

My equipment

Electric or electro-acoustic mandolin, classical guitar, or bouzouki (goes into one channel of my iPad audio interface).

Percussion microphone (goes into the other channel of my iPad audio interface).

Vocal microphone (may go into a vocal effects pedal then into a mixer or PA amp, or directly into the mixer or PA amp if there’s reverb on it at least).

IPad + 2 channel, stereo Audio Interface (acts as my mixer for instruments and for some keyboard instruments)

Small Bluetooth midi keyboard controller (paired with my iPad for playing various instruments).

Small Bluetooth midi pad controller (paired with my iPad for switching channels, switching effects on or off, adjusting parameters of instruments).

Small Bluetooth midi foot pedal board (paired with my iPad, for looping triggers).

Hand percussion (various, can include snare drum, darbuka, triangle, tambourine).

Physical footprint

Normally only about 3 metres by 2 metres maximum I think.

Musical influences and inspiration

Most of the time while at home, I love to listen to recordings of the sea! I find the sound of the sea calming. When I am not listening to the sound of nature, my favourite way to listen to music, is through my collection of vinyl records, which I play on a nice turntable which was made in 1976. I also still listen to music on cassette, using a tape player which is a year older, and made in the same year I was born, 1975.

Sometimes I find it difficult to chose something to listen to, because some music can have a very significant emotional impact on me. I love a whole range of genres, including roots reggae (particularly dub reggae, which I also enjoying making), Jazz (I’ve been getting into late 1960s and 1970s Jazz recently such as Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders), and Latin American music. The music from perhaps my formative years, the 1990s, I still listen to a lot. Probably my all time favourite act from that era, is Portishead (Beth Gibbons is also one of my favourite singers). I also enjoy Massive Attack, Tricky, Leftfield, The Orb, Morcheeba, Everything But The Girl, Ozric Tentacles, Chemical Brothers and loads more.

I grew up with the pub rock scene, with covers bands playing mostly late 50s, 60s and 70s songs. I love Surf music, and I love the blues, including the 1960s blues rival artists. I am found of the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac, there’s such beautiful feeling in the music. I do also love the Stevie Nicks era, Rumours of course, is a classic album, actually, I even like some tunes from Tango In The Night.

My favourite singer is Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins. Their music, and her voice is gorgeous. So full of emotion.

Another artist I love to listen to is Curtis Mayfield. He was such a gifted, beautiful artist and the string arrangements on the early albums take his music to another level.

There is so much music out there that I deeply love. When I play though, I tend to improvise and just let whatever I feel, come out!

Who is Siobhán Sarelle?

My name is Siobhán Sarelle, I’m 47 and I currently live in Oxford, England. I am queer, transgender and I use the pronouns “she/her”. I enjoy being creative, including with music, video production, photography, art & graphic design.

I am a musician. I love to improvise with hypnotic, tribal rhythms. I sing and I am self taught in playing many instruments including mandolin, Greek bouzouki, acoustic & classical guitar, bass guitar, drums & percussion, piano, keyboard and synthesisers.

I love authenticity, emotional intelligence, empathy and kindness, independence, creativity, sensitivity, compassion, honesty, passion, affection, good communication, intimacy, safe spaces.

I feel my emotions very intensely, it gives me my creative edge and my passion, but it can also be very exhausting.

I’ve had a very intensive journey with my mental health, including spending 18 months with a Therapeutic Community specialising in what are often called “Personality Disorders”. It was a huge step to take, gaining awareness of my feelings and unhealthy defences, exposing my vulnerability to myself and others.

Through my therapy and lived experience and through listening to others, connecting with people, authentically, I’ve worked very hard, and learnt a great deal about myself and my relationships.

For the last couple of years, I have been living on my own in the midst of a pandemic which started shortly after I left the Therapeutic Community (and lost my support network). Life has felt incredibly difficult. Sometimes it can feel like I’ve gone backwards, but actually I haven’t lost what I’ve learnt. I’ve been overwhelmed and it feels very hard to find my way out of the storm sometimes.