- 17 Nov 21
As she returns with a new EP, Love & Light, Erica Cody reflects on a tumultuous year – which saw her becoming a prominent voice within the Black Lives Matter movement in Ireland, while also dealing with personal struggles of her own.
It’s been over two years since I last spoke to Erica Cody, sitting in a Dublin hotel on the eve of the release of her debut EP, Leoness. Blending ‘90s-influenced R&B with frank reflections on her experiences growing up in Ireland, the project marked her as a powerful new presence in Irish music, featuring lines like: “Where you really from? And darling, what’s your race? If you wanna know me, then please just ask my name.”
Just over a year later, the Baldoyle star would find herself at the centre of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ireland – once again sharing her personal experiences with the country, alongside fellow artists like JyellowL, Loah, MuRli, Denise Chaila and FeliSpeaks.
As she soon discovered, however, being in the public eye during such a highly emotional – and eventful – time was also having an impact on her mental health.
“I was in such a weird, vulnerable space, mentally,” she reflects. “There was so much happening last year, and so many different scenarios that I had to get myself through. It took a toll on me later in the summer, and then I was like, ‘Okay, I need to shut off for a couple of months – not leave the house and not do anything.’ I was trying to understand what I was feeling, but also what I had been subjected to.
“I think I saw more racism in a year than I did in my whole lifetime,” she continues. “It was a lot to take in. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, I never put myself out there to be an activist. I put myself out there to speak on my experiences, so hopefully the next person could relate. But after a while, I felt like I was being pushed into talking about something that made me relive trauma from a young age. It was a lot.”
During this tumultuous period, Erica felt she had to explore “a new sense of self” – an experience that eventually fed into the creation of her new EP, Love & Light.
“I’d never felt that way before,” she resumes. “I was going through anxiety and depression – loads of stuff that I didn’t know how to navigate. Last year, I didn’t feel like I was ever going to be in a place to even make new music. And then, before I knew it, I found myself in Wexford, working with Alex O’Keefe – who was not only my producer/friend, but almost like my confidante and therapist too,” she smiles. “It was probably the most cathartic creative process I’ve had thus far in my career, and the most fulfilling.”
As Erica reveals, with Love & Light – which features some of her most polished and confident tracks to date – she didn’t necessarily want to “delve straight back into the place [she] was in a couple of months prior.”
“I was still trying to work through that,” she elaborates. “I thought it would be too heavy for me to write about that experience alone. I’ve always written in a way that masks what I’m going through, so it can be relatable to other people in some capacity. That’s why I love music, because it’s so subjective. So it was about learning how to cope with my emotions, and deal with different people – and myself – in different situations. I was learning how to cope.
“That’s why, after each session that I had with Alex, I felt like I was finally letting go of something,” she adds. “But I was also doing it in a healthy way. Instead of it just being me on my own, I was able to have a sounding board to say, ‘Your feelings are valid.’”
The new EP’s title is a nod to Erica’s grandmother – who would tell her to “wish everyone love and light, when you want to be there for them.”
“I always had that title in my head,” she explains. “This is all about evolving, and going through what I was going through. Learning how to let go, but still love people from a distance. And learning to love myself.”
Although the EP ultimately came from a place of healing, Erica admits that a competitive streak still influences her approach to her work.
“That comes from basketball,” she laughs. “I’d be like, ‘I’m only as good as my last game.’ That’s come through in my everyday life and in my career.”
It’s a sentiment that seems to be shared by many emerging voices at the forefront of Irish music right now, though it’s a scene largely characterised by a strong sense of community.
“There’s such an eye on Ireland over the last couple of years – we can’t really do anything but evolve,” she nods. “Everybody is hungry for something. When they see the likes of Spotify and Atlantic Records doing deals with different Irish labels, that hunger turns into determination. You want to make something happen for yourself.
“I do absolutely want to break into new territories but your home is your home,” she adds. “I’ve always felt very strongly about connecting with my people and sharing my music in Ireland, and being a prominent figure in R&B here. We can still broaden our horizons, while still staying strong where we lay our roots.”
In addition to her solo career, Erica has forged connections with some of the other leading voices on the homegrown scene over the last year, through her work with Irish Women In Harmony – who are set to tour the country together in May next year.
“It’s going to be so special,” she enthuses. “We haven’t even been able to have a night-out, or hug each other, since we’ve gotten together. It’s mad. Obviously we have a great community, and it’s really empowering but it’s also really genuine, and that’s so important. To know you’re actually supported, and among women who go through similar scenarios that you do, is amazing. For so many years, we felt like we didn’t have something to be a part of, because we were nearly made to feel like there wasn’t enough space for all of us, and we were competing for spots – when it was actually the total opposite.
“When you first start, you hear things like, ‘Women are hard to work with’, or, ‘Women are divas’,” she continues. “I remember doing a couple of interviews about Irish Women In Harmony, and I was asked, ‘What was it like, having that many women on a project?!’ And I was like, ‘It was great. If anything, it was the greatest project I’ve been a part of, in terms of stress – because there was none of it!’ No bullshit, and no drama.”
Although she has big plans for a full-length project somewhere down the line, for now, Erica is soaking in the moment – as she unveils an EP that marks the beginning of a dazzling new chapter in her life.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d write it,” she reflects. “I’m still surprised I have it as a project, because I went through a lot mentally last year. But I feel like I’ve come a long way since having written it, and I’m really excited to finally have it out there, because it helped me get through a hell of a lot. If it can help at least one person, I’ve done something right.”
• Love & Light is out now.