Interview: Maria Healy

Nina Ristivojevic

February 6th, 2024

When you think of an Irish trance producer, the image of hard, techy, and acid styles likely comes to mind. However, once you hear her name, your thoughts should shift to pure uplifting and tech trance. Maria Healy stands out as one of the most exhilarating female artists in the trance world today. Renowned stages such as Subculture, Luminosity, Dreamstate Liberation, Cream, Rong, and others have witnessed her performances, leaving a lasting impact. Artists of great repute like John O’Callaghan, Paul van Dyk, Armin van Buuren, Giuseppe Ottaviani, and Sean Tyas were amazed by the quality of her productions, leading them to sign many of her tracks to their labels. It was no surprise when she received a well-deserved nomination for ‘Best Female Trance Artist’ at the IDMA awards in 2019.

Maria Healy’s Irish essence shines through, evident in the prevalence of faster, harder sounds in her tracks. However, the true enchantment lies in her skill to create uplifting, melodious masterpieces intertwined with these pulsating beats. It’s this emotional touch within her tech-trance production that truly sets her apart, making her a standout in the bustling trance music community.

It would’ve been crazy not to chat with Maria before her performance at last year’s Luminosity festival. This lovely woman and super talented artist shared with me her appreciation for different kind of sounds and true passion, positive mindset and persistent attitude that that got her to where she is. She couldn’t forget mentioning her biggest support. For Maria, being a female DJ isn’t an advantage. But if you read the whole interview you will find out a lot more about this and few other topics.

Nina: Being invited to perform at this incredible venue for the 5th year in a row must be an exhilarating experience. How does it feel to return to this amazing venue and have the opportunity to showcase your talent once again?

Maria: Yes, I’ve been a part of the Luminosity Festival in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, and now I’m back again. It’s my favourite festival of the year, and I’m really excited to play again. The best thing about Luminosity is the crowd it attracts. People from all over the world, not just Europe, come to this event – from Australia, America, Argentina etc. The support from UK and Irish fans is always amazing. The festival’s atmosphere, setting and location make it the best experience!

Nina: This time around, you will be performing at the Classic stage in the Sunset Area. Can we expect your set to be slightly different from last year? You do incorporate classics into your performances, will this set feature a selection of timeless tracks as well?

Maria: Honestly, when I was asked to do a classic set, I wondered if it meant I’m getting old (laughs). I’m passionate about both new and old trance. Going back to my roots and making a full classic set is a challenge, especially with the older tracks’ quality. I’m actually really buzzing and I’m not playing one of my tracks at all. Someone on Facebook asked if I’ll be playing my recent remix of BT’s “Godspeed.” I said no because the set is focused on classic classics, not just regular classics. It features all old tracks, and I’ve had a great time delving into the archives to make it. I’m really excited about it.

Nina: It’s evident that your style of trance music leans towards the uplifting side, which resonates strongly with your audience. However, I can’t help but wonder why you haven’t focused on a more intense and aggressive sound like many other Irish DJs.

Maria: Well, you say that, but I’ve always started with harder tracks, maybe two tracks at the beginning. I actually have a tech trance tune coming soon on Subculture, which is pretty exciting. I do love tech trance, but uplifting is definitely my preferred style. I also enjoy progressive music. Last year, I got to play at a harder event, so I delved into harder trance, which wasn’t off the table for me. That’s where it started for me – playing hard house. It’s been a journey – slower, then faster, then harder. But it’s still in me. And I think my first track tonight is 143 BPM. So it’s a banger! (Laughs)

Nina: Reflecting back on your early years, around the age of 15, when you first developed a strong interest in trance music, can you recall a specific moment or experience that made you realize, “This is what I want to do, this is meant to be my life”?

Maria: I remember it vividly – Lisa Lashes at Godskitchen. She was the first female DJ I ever saw behind the decks. At that moment, I was looking up at her, thinking, “Wow, I want to be like her.” I decided right then that I wanted to be on this side of the dance floor. It took some time, but here we are now.

Nina: In 2009, you had the incredible opportunity to discover the magical island of Ibiza, and you made a promise to yourself that the following year you would perform there. Miraculously, your dream became a reality! When it comes to setting and pursuing goals, what do you believe is the main key or essential factor for turning your aspirations into achievements?

Maria: That’s a great question. I believe self-belief and confidence are important, but honestly, my passion for music has always took me in the right direction. I’ve been that excited DJ stalker, knocking on doors and asking for gigs. I’ve never been afraid of rejection; instead, I turn it into motivation to find another way. My journey hasn’t been an instant rise to the top like some DJs. It’s been a steady curve, and I feel like I’m at my peak now. I’m loving the journey, and I believe it’s only going to get better from here.

Nina: Keep believing and it for sure will! Now when discussing influences and the key individuals who have made a significant impact on your career, it’s worth noting the role that Subculture has played in your journey. Can you shed some light on the individuals or labels that have had the greatest influence on your development as an artist?

Maria: I started as a clubber in Ibiza, and Vicky Devine from Judgement Sunday gave me my first shot at a residency for her night Ultraviolet. I met John O’Callaghan, and he asked for a guest mix. I had no idea how to record one, so I sent him a distorted mix, and he said it was fine. I was amazed! I was so young! I didn’t have a clue. I just wanted to DJ everywhere. He invited me to play at his Unfold album launch party in Dublin. From then on, he encouraged me to produce. He’s been a constant supporter, a guide. There are so many names I could mention but if I need to pick one, to this day, John O’Callaghan is still my hero.

Nina: What a lovely story and a wonderful person, John O’Callaghan! Speaking of directions, looking ahead to the future, where do you envision yourself in 10 years? Is music still a crucial part of your life?

Maria: Absolutely! (Laughs) I’d love to have a family someday, but I plan to DJ until I can’t!. I want to keep playing here as long as my fingers and legs work. I have no intention of stopping; I can’t imagine not DJing. Despite the politics and challenges, I try to stay out of them. I find this job incredibly fulfilling. I just love what I do.

Nina: The passion that reflects itself. But, have you considered exploring and experimenting with other genres of music apart from trance?

Maria: Honestly, my DJ journey began in Ibiza where I played house, techno, and a bit of everything. A friend suggested I put my stamp on trance, which was tough because I was getting many gigs. However, it turned out to be the best advice. I stopped playing a mix of genres and focused on trance, turning down some gigs to stick to my preferred genre. But to be fair, the older I get, the harder I play! (Laughs)

Nina: In addition to the previous question, does being open to various sounds and exploring different styles nurture creativity? I’m asking because many trance artists and die-hard fans tend to stick to their genre and may not be as keen on exploring other music styles.

Maria: It’s interesting because pop songs often draw inspiration from trance. You can hear it in newer pop melodies. Personally, inspiration can come from anything – classical music for example. My partner listens to a lot of progressive tunes, or even a popular remix could be a trigger. Funny story, the idea for my “Godspeed” remix started when I saw a girl on TikTok playing it in her kitchen. I hadn’t heard “Godspeed” in a while. So, I decided to remix it. The story goes, I was doing a set, downloaded “Godspeed” from Beatport, found it hard to mix, and thought, “I need to do a remix of this.” That’s how it happened.

Nina: So you are a woman. A woman in the electronic dance music industry.

Maria: I knew a female question was coming! (Laughs) OK, let’s go, let’s go there!

Nina: The landscape is for sure changing, and more women are breaking through and making their mark in the industry. While it is true that the industry has traditionally been male-dominated, I don’t believe that women are generally afraid to enter the scene. The underrepresentation of women, especially in certain genres like trance, stems from a complex interplay of factors rather than fear alone. What is your opinion?

Maria: I’m not entirely sure about the answer. If you look at other genres like techno and house, there’s females are dominating, especially the techno scene. I’ve been part of the trance scene for nearly 15 years, and there are very few females make it to the top. It’s not about gender; it’s more about the incredible talent of other artists who rightfully earn those positions. I don’t feel entitled to special treatment because I’m a female. I acknowledge my place in my career, and if I were a male at this level, I’d accept the same. The trance scene is challenging to break into, and I might stay at this level until, you know, some people drop off (Laughs). Then I can take their main slots (Laughs).

Nina: Could you please provide us with insights into your upcoming travel destinations, scheduled gigs, and any projects you would like to share?

Maria: No albums for now. I’ve got two tracks coming out on Subculture and two originals on the way too. There’s also a new original set for Activa’s compilation in July. Super excited about all of it. On the gig front, I’m pretty booked up until around October. Being busy is great, and I hope it keeps going!