- 09 Mar 22
Exciting newcomer Ocean Tisdall on Gen Z sensibilities and achieving emotional catharsis through music. Photography: Aaron J Hurley
From striking blue hair to the blue-eyed lovers mentioned in his lyrics - not to mention his incorporation of blues rhythms - Ocean Tisdall, it appears, has a certain colour on the brain.
Sitting calm and collected over Zoom, he has the poise of a veteran despite being fresh on the scene. Refreshingly candid, without much sense of formality, Tisdall isn’t afraid to be vulnerable.
With only two singles to his name, the 19-year-old Wicklow native is nevertheless well-positioned for stardom. Obvious nods to contemporaries like Billie Eilish, Troye Sivan and Alessia Cara give newcomers an easy jumping off point. A relatable Gen Z sensibility further enhances his appeal.
He speaks to Hot Press from his home in Wicklow, where he spent the majority of last year honing his craft. A stint in his great uncle’s abandoned cabin over lockdown created the perfect headspace for cathartic expression.
“It really gave me time to bring these scenarios at the back of my head to the front, and deal with them by putting it into music,” he notes. “Whenever you put out a song, it’s like the closing of a chapter. It’s really freeing.”
Tisdall’s new single ‘White Lies’ is nothing short of angsty pop perfection. It delves into the bitterness often caused by failed relationships, without dislikable venom on Ocean’s part.
“The song is basically about an ex,” he says. “I was going through a really hard time with this person who was constantly treating me like shit and lying to me. I was listening to Billie Eilish’s ‘Ocean Eyes’ a lot at the time, and she was just basically saying, ‘I keep falling for your blue eyes’. In this case, this person with blue eyes kept doing all these horrible things to me, but their eyes made me think otherwise. I kept falling for them.
“It’s about the breaking point at the end of a relationship, where the anger takes over your body to the point where you want them off the earth.”
With it’s all-too-familiar subject matter, smooth vocals and ear-worm melodies, ‘White Lies’ is definite candidate for radio play. But it’s more than just a hit-in-waiting. Growing up queer in rural east Ireland, the singer struggled to accept his identity in a homogeneous community.
Listening to other pop artists that were emboldened by their sexuality, particularly Australian/South African pop prince Troye Sivan, caused Tisdall to think of his identity not as an obstacle, but an inalienable aspect of his art.
“Growing up struggling with my sexuality and seeing someone like him being rewarded – people screaming his name, getting millions of views on his videos – I thought, ‘Fuck, if he can do it, then why am I sitting around being scared that my sexuality could hinder my career?’”
Tisdall further points to the likes of Olivia Rodrigo, Conan Gray and Tate McRae as influences, because of their shared Gen Z worldview.
“I feel like we’re going through a lot right now, a lot of social changes,” says Tisdall. “There are so many norms that are being thrown out the window. We’re trying to find our balance in this crazy world. Everyone always thinks of Gen Z as kids kicking up a fuss, but we have some of the most awakened and educated people coming up in the world right now. We see things that are wrong and we want to fight for change. It’s really inspiring seeing all these young people saying, ‘We’re sick of this shit’.”
Tisdall is excited for his audience to hear ‘White Lies’, which is also one of the first songs he wrote for his upcoming debut EP.
“It feels like I’ve been sitting under this song for a whole year,” he reflects. “It feels so old to me – I’ve heard it a million times – but giving it to the fans, it’s going to be their first time. It’s fresh air to them. I’m really excited to give it to my audience. I feel like my fans are the type of people that love a good violent song – a good screaming-at-their-ex song.”
“I just want people to feel something from it – whether they love it or hate it, I don’t want anyone to be in the middle.”
To get his music out to the world during lockdown, Tisdall started a YouTube channel, where he invited viewers to check out material, including his self-released first single ‘Broke Up With My Best Friend’.
From there, he went on to feature in Hot Press’ Young & Emerging series, another great showcase for his talents.
“It was the first show that I’d done during the pandemic,” he says. “I was so nervous for it, but it was really fun getting back out there. That’s where I sang my first snippet of ‘White Lies’.”
Ocean is looking forward to playing more new music for fans this year.
“When I get out there,” he concludes, “it’s all theirs.”
• ‘White Lies’ is out now.