Following the release of her latest EP Freckle Season, and prior to an extensive European Tour, we were blessed with an interview with singer, songwriter and YouTube extraordinaire Orla Gartland.
We talk about the new project, the changing stages of indie life, songwriting, being vulnerable, touring, Kate Bush, and plenty more. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hi Orla – thanks so much for the interview, I’m a big fan and loving the new EP! Just to set the scene a little – where are you right now, and how does it feel to share this project with the world?
Thanks so much! I’m in my room in London right now. It feels bizarre and a huge relief to have this project out there.
What can you tell us about this EP, what does it mean for you, and what prompted you to choose Freckle Season for the title?
I wrote these songs in the midst of a breakup and feeling ALL of the things. Writing felt cathartic. To me Freckle Season sounded like a cute, summery name for what was kind of a weird time.
In what ways has your creative process changed over time as your team and your fan-base have grown?
The way I roll things out has changed but the process pretty much remains the same. An idea for a melody or lyric will hit me when I’m out just doing boring life things, buying food or a bus somewhere. I’ll mumble it into my phone and head to my little studio down the road from my house to chase it down & flesh it out. Being able to demo myself has also changed the process a little, meaning I can produce ideas up as I write.
There’s a lot of delicacy on the project, but there are also some fairly big, rock-kissed moments. Was there a particular genre that first inspired you in the past?
I like ROCK-KISSED. When I was younger I had a pretty delicate, folk-y taste in music, it’s only in the last couple years that the heavier influences have kicked in. I really love St. Vincent and Mitski right now.
Is it important to you to lead with your own personal experiences when writing songs? Do you ever worry about appearing too vulnerable or sharing too much?
I worry about that sometimes, yeah. I’m comfortable with being vulnerable about my own feelings but with this EP I’ve been thinking a lot about the ethics of songwriting and specifically whether you should make lyrics a little more vague to protect the person they’re about.
How does it feel to be heading out on such an extensive tour, and what can fans expect from the upcoming shows?
I’ll be touring around Europe supporting Cavetown in April and playing my sets as a two-piece with my friend Pete. Anyone with a ticket can expect a couple songs to cry to, a couple to dance to.
Have you ever struggled with confidence issues or performance anxiety, and if so – what steps did you take to overcome this?
I definitely experienced performance anxiety and still do when I’m out of practice – I just played a lot of shows, which really helped. When you gig relentlessly you eventually experience all the things that could go wrong – forgetting lyrics, falling on stage, the tech & instruments failing. Once those things have happened and you survive it then heading out for a set on a new stage doesn’t feel so daunting anymore.
Was there a certain point at which you suddenly and genuinely believed that you were making it as a musician?
Numbers on a screen and play counts on spotify etc can feel so abstract, so often I forget in my day-to-day life that anyone at all actually knows or likes my music. It’s really only when I started touring and hearing lyrics sung back that I could process the idea of people actually connecting with my music.
What’s been something significant you’ve learned about yourself on this journey as an artist?
That people and their stories are endlessly fascinating to me. Whether I’m writing about an experience I’ve had, or a friend has had, or imagining how I’d react to a totally imagined scenario.. I just find it super interesting. If I hadn’t pursued music I would have loved to become a therapist.
Is there anything about the music industry you would change if you could?
It would be cool to see more women in high positions in management companies, publishing companies and labels. Also more female producers please.
Is there any advice you could give to indie artists who haven’t yet made the leap into promoting themselves or seeking out an audience?
People aren’t stupid – if you try to be anything other than yourself it just won’t work long term, people can just tell somehow. So by all means, create an artist project that feels perhaps like an extension of you, an embellished version of you – but keep it as true to your personality as you can.
What’s something about you that most people don’t know?
I can speak Irish. Well, Irish people won’t think that’s special, but I keep meeting people that didn’t know it was a real language.
What do you hope people take away from these new songs?
Although they’re so specifically about my experiences, it would be cool for people to relate them to their own. I’d like people to jump into the world of Freckle Season and feel those things with me – sadness, anger, loneliness, liberation.
If you could sit down to lunch with anyone at all, past or present, who would you choose, and what would you ask them about?
Kate Bush. I’d like to hear about her career, her music, her amazing brain.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Nope. Except maybe LISTEN TO FRECKLE SEASON.
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