Laoise, pronounced ‘Leesha’ if you’re as bad at Irish names as I am, has released her video to accompany last week’s single release ‘Gravy’. Brought up in Galway but now living on a tiny island off of the western coast of Ireland, the song is from a forthcoming EP.
Laoise has said:
“I used to find it difficult to write songs about loving someone, unless it was unrequited of course. I guess I used to think it was a little cheesy, but I think that was just an excuse to circumvent courage; it’s so much easier to write a song about someone who’s hurt you, because they’ve already hurt you. It’s harder to write a song about loving someone so much that they still have the power to hurt you. That’s why it was so cathartic to give into that feeling and shout it out in the chorus anyway.”
Like so many people, this artist has relied on music to comfort her during national lockdown. Unlike many people, Laoise has been in therapy to help her find new perspective outside of music to help navigate her thoughts and emotions. After taking the decision to move away from the mainland, her and long time collaborator Sean Behan have settled by the beach and it has given this exciting young artist new impetus.
I was lucky enough to chat with her about the song and life in general and I hope you enjoy what this inspiring young woman has to say:
EP: So, ‘Gravy’ is out, exciting news. I love it, it’s got a really upbeat melody which is always good these days but it seems to mask some very sensitive lyrics. Would you say that is a musical representation of your personality, deep feelings slightly hiding behind an upbeat exterior?
L: Actually, that would be a great description of my personality. With ‘Gravy’, obviously it’s talking about a relationship and trying, knowing that there’s a lot of pressure on it. Lyrics like ’I don’t want to sink the Titanic’ mean I don’t want to lose something that’s really important right now. I’m definitely a hyper active bubbly person at times but I wouldn’t necessarily say it would mask my sensitivity and my overthinking side. I think it just goes with it but I like that.
EP: When I first listened to the song I was initially struck with the melody and the hook but I think that’s always the surface of a song that you absorb first. Then, as I listened to it more, I got underneath the skin of the song and the lyrics are very personal, very sensitive. The video is very personal, very happy but there’s a lot going on with the whole package. As an artist are you conscious of having to get both of those things across when you write and sing?
L: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve always been the biggest fan of pop music and I see song writing as a challenge because I want to make something that will make people feel good, that they can get up and dance to, but I also want to say something. Without sounding disrespectful, I’m never going to bash songs that say ‘whoop, let’s go to the club’ because that’s just as valid. If you want to go to a club and have a good time that’s just as valid as sitting down and having a meal with someone and having a big chat about your day. Everything goes hand in hand but I’m not really a club goer so I’m not going to sing about those things. I do like to have a bit more depth and meaning in my songs, probably because I’m such an overthinker and if I don’t get those things out of my head, they’ll stay there and get bigger and bigger and so, it’s a fun challenge to be able to write songs that say something but also have fun in them.
EP: So, do you find it a cathartic thing writing songs. Does it help you deal with your emotions, with any conflicts going on under the surface?
L: Absolutely, I think more so in the last year. I’ve been in therapy for the last year which has been a great way to shift my perspective on a lot of things. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in thinking something without getting caught up in the realisation that you are not your thoughts. Without having that realisation you’re in a bit of trouble, but often times, when I’m writing a song, I’ve probably processed what I’m singing about a good bit before I put it into words because it’s quite difficult to move things out of the imaginary and into words unless you’re literally sitting down to do that which is, for me, sitting in therapy, journaling and writing. So, when I’m writing, I’m probably writing about something that I’ve thought about a lot and I’m trying to squeeze it into three minutes or so. The songs at the moment are acting as mental reminders to myself so with ‘Gravy’ I’m saying things don’t have to be too serious. Even though there are moments when things are heavy, they don’t have to remain heavy. With ‘Healthy’ (a previous single) that was the realisation of that. With the song ‘Movies’, which is also on the EP, I watched so many movies growing up and thought that things had to be super dramatic, everything that you did had to be momentous and kind of etched in stone and stuff. It’s nice that my songs turn into little reminders to myself but also, when I put them out, and people say that they helped them understand something about their past, I really love that.
EP: That’s a great benefit isn’t it. Not only are your songs helpful for you but they are actually helping other people, when they listen to the lyrics, deal with things that are happening to them. A problem shared is a problem halved, I guess.
L: Absolutely, another thing that I’ve been thinking about recently is the fact that I’m probably so much more like everyone one else in the world than I thought. When you’re watching movies I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of main character syndrome not realising that everybody else might be experiencing very similar things to what I am. It’s not that everybody has the exact same life as I do, it’s more that we all feel things the same way. We are all humans; we are all these creatures. Something that helps me and brings me a lot of comfort is remembering that we are just a bunch of cells that somehow came together and now we exist and isn’t it really cute that we can make music and go to the beach and go swimming, or get excited about baking. We are very cute creatures when you think about it and it’s nice to think about it that way.
EP: Do you think one of the silver linings of the pandemic and the subsequent lock down is that it has enabled people to embrace their own emotions a bit more and enjoy the people they’re with 24/7. Also, that we might have become more comfortable with our flaws and the things we thought were problems that we were going through alone only to realise with a lot of the music released, a lot of the social media content from the people we follow, that there are lots of people struggling through the same insecurities, the same problems, whatever walk of life, wherever we live?
L: I think being in the same place every day is going to give you that. You don’t have the distraction of the world and things changing every day. I mean, for me, I’m out on a small island off the west coast of Ireland and I’m literally looking out over the beach at the moment. I live right on the beach so I’m so lucky to be here. Just seeing the beach change every day is my way to ground time moving, but the fact is that we’re all at home at the moment and there might be things that we didn’t have the chance to think about before or really digest or to dig deep into. It’s really nice to see we are all experiencing the same kind of things. Obviously, there are people just dying to get out but there are really two sides of me. I’m excited to go back out into the world but the little introvert part of me is delighted with all of this. It’s a real mix but it’s really nice to see the humanity coming out in people because there’s no other way to communicate or represent ourselves other than at home and its very nice to see that everyone is doing the same thing; it’s comforting.
EP: So, you said that you’d moved to a small island off of the coast of Ireland. Was that a conscious decision as part of your therapy, your self-examination, to move and do you think that has inspired you as a person, as an artist, being that close to the natural world?
L: Yes, in terms of a conscious decision, yes. I was ready to move to London and I was going to try to live there and see how that affected my song writing. I was ready to move somewhere and so it’s funny I’ve ended up in the complete opposite in terms of where I live with just about 100 people here. In terms of my therapy, it has actually helped a lot because this is a place I used to come to when I was younger. I spent a lot of my summers here with my parents and it’s fun to experience something that you lived through and to come back to a place that you haven’t been in a while and see it through your new eyes as a twenty-four-year-old looking at it as I would have looked at it as a twelve- or thirteen-year-old, looking at things that haven’t really changed and have stayed the same, and it’s been nice to be back in nature. I love the city; I grew up in the city in Galway and I love the busyness of it. I’m only in my twenties so I like the busy life but it’s given me a moment to breathe and with my song writing it changed a lot as I have no other distraction apart from my mind. So, I’m digging deeper, I’m writing songs based on my strong emotions being personified. That’s been really fun. I wrote a song recently called ‘Needy’ and that’s from the perspective of my needy self and how she, because I’m personifying her, would be so needy, texting somebody three times in a row and then saying ‘oh sorry, my phone’s not working’ and having a bit of fun with my emotions. I don’t think I would have gotten there if I wasn’t in this quiet place.
EP: As an independent artist, do you like the fact that you have complete control over your sound and production?
L: Yeah, oh yeah. On my bad days I think it would be so much easier if I had somebody to organise everything, but I’ve never had to fight with anyone over my sound and that’s the biggest perk of doing it my way. I couldn’t imagine somebody coming in and saying change the lyric, change the bassline, unless it was a producer, a songwriter I was working with. It’s fun because you put on a lot of hats as an independent artist; sometimes you’re A&R (artists and repertoire), sometimes you’re something else. You have to work with your ego and put on a fake hat and pretend you’re something else just to get the job done but I think having that creative control can be a burden sometimes and extremely liberating other times depending how you look at it. I have to reassess sometimes in order to make sure I’m not just making decisions based on if people are going to like it.
EP: So, do you write all of your music or do you collaborate at all?
L: I write all of my music but I do song write with other people. Anything that I’ve released I’ve had the production on as well because I often start an idea on my own and bring it to someone. I work extremely closely with Sean Behan and everything I’ve released he’s had a huge hand in and he’s also my boyfriend which is funny and sweet. Initially, I was actually quite scared by that because it was quite common for people to tell me to be careful and not ‘Fleetwood Mac’ it, but I think there’s also something quite sweet because we became friends because of music. I met Sean when I was 16 and I didn’t have anyone who was as obsessed by music as me. We would send each other demos from each other’s rooms. We were so obsessed with music and we ended up falling in love afterwards. I couldn’t imagine writing with someone else because it’s so funny being in a room with someone who just knows exactly what I mean the second I say anything but then we also ask ourselves ‘are people going to get that?’ Sometimes we might just leave something in because we both just get it and it’s our little secret. It’s nice to have that with someone, it’s great.
EP: So, is being someone’s ‘Gravy’ one of those things (laughing)?
L: (laughing along) Yeah it is! You know it’s funny, but think about your dinner, There’s mash, meat if you eat meat, there’s veg and all these things that are fine on their own but put gravy on the top and it’s perfect (laughing); it all just comes together. Like what I’m trying to say in the song is that I don’t need gravy but when you have it, it’s so good.
EP: it’s just the icing on the cake….
L: It’s the icing on the cake with gravy on the plate, yep!
EP: Have you always known exactly how you wanted to sound. Your music now reminds me a little of Christina and the Queens or like a band I love called Fickle Friends. I guess coming from Galway, initially you might have been influenced by more traditional music?
L: Growing up in Galway I played the fiddle as well, played Irish Traditional music with my parents and would have sat in pubs and sessions and watched other people play and join in with them. I always loved the fact that when somebody would sing the whole pub would go quiet and people would want to listen to the song. It was so cool. When I started writing and trying guitar and singing myself, it was extremely folky, but it was fun because I was always listening to the charts and pop music and then trying to put my own spin on it. What changed everything for me was getting Logic software; I thought ‘oh my God, this is it’. It was then that the music part changed for me but the honesty of the lyrics, the story of the song and trying to make sure the lyrics still carried the song remained. I try as much as I can, unless I’m really into the production of the song, to try and sit down and play a song that I’ve written from start to finish on guitar or piano because I want it to stand up on its own. They’re my roots, that’s what I’ve grown from but the fun part is I can make pop music wherever I am and I want it to sound huge, I want it to sound epic because I can and that’s the challenge of blurring those lines and saying something and making something that you don’t have to think too much about. We are in such an exciting time to be able to make music wherever you are and be able to make it sound that big. We don’t need big, massive studios anymore and everyone can have that equal opportunity to play around.
EP: Growing up, who were your musical influences?
L: Loads. My Dad introduced me to the greats. Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, and that led into my Stevie Nicks obsession and my sister was always listening to whatever was new because she’s a couple of years older than me. I remember her getting her first tape which was Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ (laughing) and then traditional music came from my Mam’s side and so it was all over the place. When I was ten or eleven, I was using YouTube to develop my own taste. It still is all over the shop, I’ll happily go downstairs and do the dishes and listen to Country then move into Rap. It’s always been all over the place but that’s what makes it fun.
EP: I guess, if you look at someone like Taylor Swift, she’s moved from Country to Pop and then, with the recent releases, almost back towards folk…
L: Yeah, and she’s always been a huge influence on me for that. She’s played around and hasn’t been scared to test where she can go but what I love is that at the core of it is just good song writing.
EP: There are some really exciting artists coming out of Ireland at the moment with you, Megan O’Neil, Catherine McGrath and Pete Gardiner. Is there something in the water in Ireland that makes for good song writing?
L: We are such a musical Country; we always have been. Even where I am right now, music is one of the biggest things on this island. It’s what brings people together and its free. Someone can teach you a song and you’ll have that forever and I think we’ve had a lot of things taken from us as a nation but you can’t really take music from us. Music is a gorgeous thing to hold on to and I think that’s why we gravitate to it all the time. It’s really interesting to watch, especially within the trad scene, the passion and the love for it; people would stay up all night singing songs. It’s gorgeous. I’m still processing how I view Irish people and how we need music but it’s just in us, you can see that it’s something we’ve always held onto and really used to get through hard times.
EP: Its part of the DNA…so what are your plans for 2021?
L: I’m not booking any dates at the moment because I’m a planner and so, in terms of gigs, I don’t want to organise something I can’t do. I’m dying to get back to playing shows so when we can I’ll be doing that as soon as I can but right now it’s just been nice to write and to process what’s going on in the world and try to connect with people in that sense. Also, I have an EP coming out on February 26th so that will have ‘Gravy’ and another two songs. I’m excited and grateful to have something to do every day, it’s been hard sometimes. When it gets to night-time and I have to go to bed I’m like: ‘do I have to go to sleep and have to wake up and do this again?’ so I’m concentrating on having a purpose.
EP: It’s important to make the most of the small things we do and try to get the most joy we can from them.
L: Exactly, even just making a coffee and trying to be mindful of how exciting it is. Divulging into the small pleasures is where it’s at right now but that’s Ok.
EP: Well, I love the song and I wish you lots of luck with it and the forthcoming EP.
L: I’m excited to see where it goes and to see how people bring it into their lives if they like it. Thank you.