- 23 Aug 21
Indie-pop star Orla Gartland on her stunning debut album, forming her own label, living in London, and why she can’t wait to perform live again.
Despite using the internet heavily to her advantage for the past nine years, Orla Gartland craves in-person connection. The 26-year-old singer-songwriter has been busy promoting her eagerly awaited debut album through the underwhelming medium of Zoom, meaning that indie-pop artist Gartland can hardly register the fact that years of hard work will result in a full-length release on August 20th.
“Livestream gigs and remote interviews still feel so abstract to me,” Orla tells me from her Dublin family home, smiling. “Album promo is important not to shift records necessarily, but to make it feel real. It’ll feel more like a release week when I fly back to London for some in-store gigs. I’ll definitely be going to Tower Records with my dad just to hold the album in my hands, he’s my number one hype man so I want to spend a lot of that week with him.”
“I was talking to some radio presenter at some point who thanked me for sending them a postcard. I literally had no idea what they were talking about, but it turned out that my dad had been sending postcards as me,” Garland laughs, shaking her head. “He meant well but I obviously had to tell him to stop. There’s no point in paying for radio or PR when I have him.”
Orla has resided in London for the past six years, building up a devoted fanbase ever since packing up her bags the second she left school. Multiple EPs have steadily paved the way to her self-assured debut album; 2020’s ‘Freckle Season’, 2019’s ‘Why Am I Like This?’ and 2015’s ‘Lonely People’. Having previewed Woman On The Internet with punchy, versatile singles ‘Pretending’, ‘More Like You’, ‘Zombie!’, ‘Do You Mind?’ and ‘You’re Not Special, Babe’; the coming-of-age LP traces a messy scrapbook of honest, matter of fact thoughts from the mind of an astute musician.
Returning briefly to visit to her hometown, how does Gartland view the evolving music scene in Dublin since emigrating?
“I understand the Irish music industry so much better looking in from the outside. I had no idea what was going on when I was here. It felt like everyone who was getting opportunities had an uncle who worked at MCD or an aunt working for The Late Late Show,” Gartland tells me, having uploaded covers to her YouTube channel since her early teens. “I didn’t see a path for anyone who didn’t have family, you know? It’s strange having one foot here and one foot in London, but there’s still a lack of industry in Ireland. From an artist’s perspective, there’s tonnes of incredible talent but not a lot of managers, labels, publishers and booking agents. There are so many Irish acts living in London who don’t want Irish people to know.”
“I left because I was going to the Ruby Sessions and everyone was trying to be like Ed Sheeran. No offence to those acts, but’s just not me. It’s too monotonous. It was so hard not to be discouraged by that scene. Irish people don’t have narrow tastes but radio stations here seem to think that they do.”
The producer has since built a community around her across the pond, playing guitar for fellow 26-year-old singer-songwriter Dodie Clark. Both artists eloquently explore the dizzying highs and plummeting lows of your 20s with a blunt honesty and witty demeanour that breeds relatability.
“Most of my friends are in the music business, it’s just easy to gravitate towards people who get your lifestyle. It’s such a weird job, so it’s nice to be around people who understand. If you’re in a band with four or five other people sharing your experience, then maybe that’s enough. When you’re a soloist, finding people to be part of your little scene is crucial for sanity.”
“I’d love to have other people on New Friends in the future, but for now it’s just for me. I’m just a control freak, I didn’t want anyone else telling me what to do with the album!” Orla grins, referencing the spark which led her to create her own label as a home for Woman On The Internet. Some call it perfectionism, others call it creative control. Either way, the move paid off. With her online following amassing major streaming numbers, Gartland’s inability to tour this year seemingly hasn’t halted her momentum.
“Just having that one island of what I do for a living go down has been disorientating. I won’t take live music for granted again, even though touring at my level is just so un-glamorous. It’s mainly gross hotels and bad food. Not that I was ever a diva, but I’ll be willing to sit in a van for seven hours and not complain anymore. Give me 6am wake up calls and terrible Easy Jet flights any day of the week,” Orla adds, enthusiastically. The lack of human contact with her audience has been a tough loss, even temporarily.
“Most of the people at my shows have got that same sarky sense of humour as me. It’s so interesting, because you don’t get to pick your fans. You should be grateful for having anyone come to your show, but you can’t pick your demographic. They’re empathetic, and that’s something to be really proud of. It makes me quite emotional! I’m glad they’re such a nice bunch.”
“Between my gigs and Dodie’s, I won’t be home much for the first six months of 2022. I’ll need to make a second album at some point but I haven’t lived any life between penning the first and second. There has to be a shift of some kind. I’m looking forward to getting out of my domestic, monotonous life and seeing the world again. When you do that, the songs just fall out of you.”
Gartland utilises the figure of a “woman on the internet” in multiple album tracks as a guru-type persona, subtly pointing out a habit of younger generations of seeking advice and self help online.
“I like having some semblance of privacy, so I use the internet only for music, I’m really strict about that,” Orla says, pensively. “I don’t make the kind of music where people go digging into my personal life, thankfully. If you’re a pop star, people feel more entitled to that information - especially if you’re a woman. I don’t see myself in that space, nor do I foresee a life-altering level of fame happening to me. I just want to be like Enya and live in a castle! Imogen Heap lives in a converted lighthouse - she’s turned it into a studio.”
Coincidentally, Louis Walsh once tempted Gartland with a fast-track to fame.
“A couple of years ago I got a message from him, and I just assumed it was someone from home just pulling my leg. He’d heard me on RTÉ 2FM, when one of my early songs was playlisted. He wanted to manage me, but I didn’t think it was the right vibe. He said if I wanted a cheap, quick and dirty record deal in a few years, then to call him. The whole thing was like a dream.”
Gartland’s frank depictions of toxic masculinity, envy, self-doubt and imposter syndrome have been praised for their lyrical accessibility.
“I grew up in quite a closed off family. As much as I love them, they weren’t very communicative. They’re the type to avoid the uncomfortable and make sure everyone’s at mass on Sunday. Because I grew up in that atmosphere, it goes against my nature to be brutally honest in songs, but that’s exactly why I want to be an open book. I’m always trying to be more unguarded.”
Stream Woman On The Internet below:
Photo credit: Karina Barberis