Dublin-based singer-songwriter Ailbhe Reddy talks stage-fright, infatuation and her captivatingly honest EP Hollowed Out Sea.
“All of life’s worst decisions make the best songs,” says Ailbhe Reddy, taking a short break from her role as an administrative assistant to slip into her persona as Ireland’s most hotly-tipped indie-folkster.
The “worst decision” in question was Ailbhe getting high before a show and forgetting her own lines.
“That was a very early gig,” she laughs. “And I was so nervous that it seemed like a good idea. I’d never do that type of thing now.”
I imagine that Ailbhe would be hard pushed to forget her lyrics these days, considering she’s been playing her songs at festivals and live venues up and down the country for the last year. From the intimacy of Doyle’s Ruby Sessions to the sprawling outdoors of Body & Soul, Reddy’s enchanting serenades have been making themselves heard throughout Ireland.
And rightly so. Hollowed Out Sea was one of 2016’s unsung triumphs and found the fledgling folk singer tackling themes surrounding relationships and break-ups with clear, honest lyrics and a bracing emotional maturity. The lead single, ‘Distrust’, and its accompanying video propelled Ailbhe to a wider audience.
“‘Distrust’ is about the general feeling I had about dating in your 20s,” she says, “where you kind of go from person to person thinking you’re in love but not trusting yourself. The line ‘The time it takes to fuck this up / The distaste, distrust’ is saying that even if it a particular relationship wasn’t a complete waste, it always creates that feeling of distrust. I guess it’s kind of a cruel lyric, but it’s just how a lot of relationships work out.”
One of the most striking motifs throughout the EP is Ailbhe’s use of the “you” voice to speak to an unnamed second person. Having been told that every lyric she writes comes from honesty and experience, I try to tease out who the singer might be addressing.
“In the last track ‘Somebody’s Daughter’, I’m talking to my mother and my granny,” she says. “It’s a dedication to them. So that song and ‘Distrust’ kind of bookend the four songs in the middle, which are all addressed to the same person. They’re about someone who I’d been infatuated with for a long time and who I found myself writing about over and over; it wasn’t about a real relationship. The person in question found out I’d written these songs and actually really liked them (laughs). So it was worth something in the end!”
Along with the EP, Ailbhe had the honour of snagging top spot in a public vote to appear at Other Voices, cementing her place as one of the country’s most exciting emerging artists. I ask the singer what’s in store for 2017.
“Well I’m headlining the Sugar Club later this month,” she beams. “And I only just saw that there’s a huge poster of me on the front of the venue. I wasn’t expecting that at all so I’m really excited. I’ve also been working with Darragh Nolan from Sacred Animals and a bunch of other really talented musicians for my new material. I’m not really sure what shape it will all take yet. I definitely have enough songs to put together an album, but I don’t know if it will work yet financially. Either way, I’m going to release new music in the next few months and then I’ll see how it goes from there.”
Having showcased her latest single ‘Relent’ at the start of January, Ailbhe has already laid out, in unequivocal terms, that she can match the success of the previous year. We’re optimistic about what the next few months will bring.