Ahead of a performance at Electric Picnic’s Body & Soul stage this Saturday, State caught up with fast-rising singer-songwriter Ailbhe Reddy to discuss the musical ground she’s treading, how she goes about tying together her idiosyncratic style in the studio, and debut EP Hollowed Out Sea – which you can listen to below.
Hollowed Out Sea was your first collection release-proper, had you been writing for it since 2014?
Some of the songs on the EP, such as ‘Distrust’, ‘Coffee’ and ‘Keepsake’ were written around that time. Others like ‘Enough’ and ‘Somebody’s Daughter’ were actually written while we were recording. We spent about 7/8 months recording the EP so I had plenty of time to keep writing, I really wanted to make sure that everything we recorded was still fresh.
Some of the themes you explore on the EP are quite emotionally driven – do you think your art form relies more on looking inward than outward at external stimuli?
I definitely think that my songs are the result of external events that I have processed through internal examination. It usually takes me a few months to write a song about an event or a thought I had, because I spend months thinking about it before really being driven to write. So I suppose my answer is that it is a combination of both!
What drove you to up-the-ante so to speak in terms of your music making? Considering you had a relatively quiet output before the release of the EP.
I’ve only been playing gigs since 2013, so I guess I wanted to do things right with this EP. I didn’t want to rush and release something I wasn’t completely happy with. Darragh is an incredible producer so we spent a lot of time going over what songs would suit this EP. It’s hard to take the leap and really commit to something fully, so I wanted to be sure that I loved Hollowed Out Sea before releasing it. I believe in the songs contained within it so I want to push it forward as much as I can.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you go about writing and recording? Did your process differ in the two years leading up to Hollowed Out Sea, or has your craft remained the same?
I worked really closely with Darragh Nolan (my producer) on this EP, so I would usually send a rough demo to him and he would come up with ideas. I also worked really closely with a few other musicians such as Callum Orr, Katie Lynn, Benedict Warner-Clayton and Keith O’Reilly on a good few of the tracks, they helped with the arrangements. I’m really lucky that I know so many talented people who bring so much to my songs.
For me lyrics are always at the centre of the song, so my process hasn’t changed much in that I come up with the concept and lyrics before I have a melody to go on. However, my songwriting has developed as I write with a full band in mind, I used to only consider my vocal and guitar.
You’re playing Electric Picnic soon, how has the live stage affected how you perform? Do you find it more freeing as opposed to a studio environment?
I really enjoy both playing live and recording. Both afford you different freedoms in my opinion. I think so many aspects of a song can become clear to you in a studio that you would never see when playing it live, and vice versa. However, there is nothing more satisfying than playing to a receptive audience.
What has been the greatest show you’ve played so far in your career, and can you tell us why that was?
I have to say playing the Woodland Stage at Body & Soul this year was absolutely incredible. I thought that there would be a small crowd, but a swarm of people appeared when we started playing and were so attentive, it was the first festival I had played since 2014 when I was playing a stripped back acoustic setup so it was really enjoyable. The crowd were so energetic because it was the beginning of the weekend and I was absolutely elated afterwards.
Are you working on new material at the minute? If so, how are you going about it? Can you give us an indication of what it will sound like?
I’ve just started recording a new single with Darragh for release in the next few months. Hopefully I will be able to release this with a video as a whole project. I’m really excited about what we are working on!
With regards to how it will sound, I’m going towards a heavier sound, instrumentally. I think that my sound has developed a lot in the last year and I learned so much from recording Hollowed Out Sea so hopefully that will continue as I go on.
Beyond touring some of the remaining festivals in Ireland, have you plans to play further afield this year or next?
I definitely have plans to do a show in the UK in the coming year. However, after a busy summer I’m really looking forward to taking time to write and record new material.