Nach ihrem erfolgreichen Album-Debüt „Woman On The Internet“ sollte der Name Orla Gartland einem nicht mehr fremd sein. Die irische Musikerin veröffentlichte Ende August ihr erstes Album über ihr eigenes Label „New Friends“ und landete damit direkt in den britischen Top10 Album-Charts. Nachdem Orla Gartland letztes Jahr schon die selbstständig produzierte EP „Freckle Season“ releaste, folgt nun das lang erwartete, von Orla co-produzierte, Album. Dass Selbstständigkeit und die Mitwirkung bei allen kreativen Entscheidungsprozessen ihr wichtig sind, wird schnell deutlich. Von der Produktion bis hin zum Album-Artwork und den Musikvideos war Gartland stets involviert und hat mit vielen Freund_innen, wie Greta Isaac oder Nathan Cox, zusammengearbeitet.
Sie hat keine Angst zwischen den Genres zu springen und greift auf „Woman on the Internet“ unterschiedliche Stilrichtungen von Folk und Indie-Rock bis hin zum Pop-Punk ab. Das Album kombiniert elektronische Beats mit fließenden Pianosounds und verzerrten Gitarren miteinander zu einem einzigartigen Klang, der etwas für jeden bereithält. Es wird klar, dass die Produktion und die Songs aufwändig durchdacht sind und nur darauf gewartet haben das Licht der Welt zu sehen. Die messerscharfen und nachvollziehbaren Lyrics handeln vom Erwachsenwerden, Phasen der Selbstfindung und beschreiben Gefühle, die jedem von uns bekannt sind. Diese Zeilen sind jedoch keinesfalls klischeehaft, sondern sehr universell für eine Generation, die hin- und hergerissen ist zwischen den Unsicherheiten, die das Erwachsenwerden mit sich bringt und der eigenen Selbstsicherheit und Überzeugung, Dinge zu ändern. Damit erschafft Orla Gartland ein musikalisches und lyrisches Meisterwerk, das sich neben Größen wie Phoebe Bridgers, Sigrid oder Fiona Apple betrachten lässt.
Die bunte Mischung aus poppigen Grooves und selbstironischen, wortspielreichen Texten wird besonders an der zuletzt veröffentlichten Single „You’re Not Special, Babe“ deutlich. Die titelgebenden Worte richtet Orla hier an sich selbst, um sich zu beruhigen, sich quasi vom „Main Character Syndrom“ zu befreien, nicht allzu streng mit sich selbst zu sein.
In “Madison” beschreibt Gartland ihre ungewöhnliche und etwas drastische Obsession mit ihrer ehemaligen Therapeutin, was sich auch im Wortspiel des Titels „Madison“ und „Medicine“ abzeichnet. Im Interview erklärt sie, dass eine Aussage aus ihren Therapiesitzungen ihr besonders im Kopf blieb: Sollte Gartland ihre Therapeutin in der Öffentlichkeit treffen, müsse sie diese nicht grüßen, um unangenehme Situationen mit Freunden oder Familie zu vermeiden. Dieser Gedanke erschien ihr „one-sided and bizarre (…)”. “Even now if I was to pass her in the street with everything she knows about me”, fährt sie fort. Solche absurden Gefühle flossen mit in den Song ein.
Ein weiterer bemerkenswerter Moment ist „Left Behind“, die mit eindringlichem Sound aus intimem Klavier und überraschenden Synths die finalen Minuten des Albums einläutet. Orlas Stimme klingt verletzt und resigniert, wenn sie singt: „I don’t want you to go!“ Man mag ein Lied über eine gescheiterte Beziehung vermuten, doch hinter den Lyrics steckt noch mehr, wie Orla im Interview erklärt: „It’s about my housemate and best friend moving to LA.“ Wie der Titel schon verrät, geht es in „Left Behind“ vor allem um die Angst, allein gelassen zu werden; zurückzubleiben. Außerdem finden sich im Song ihre liebsten Zeilen des Albums: „An elephant is in the room, don’t look and don’t try to feed it. You always want me on your terms, you can’t have your cake and eat it.” Im Interview lacht sie über die etwas absurde Formulierung im eher ernsten Song.
In den ruhigeren Songs lassen sich deutlich die akustischen Wurzeln der Musikerin erkennen, deren größte Plattform einst YouTube war. Mit Coversongs und Demos hat Orla online ihre ersten Fans angezogen und startete einige Zeit später einen Patreon-Account, den Secret Demo Club, auf dem sie Demos, Q&A’s und Updates zu kommender Musik hochlädt. So weit Orlas Leben auch weg von dem der Zuhörer_innen scheinen mag, so fühlt es sich doch ganz nah an, wenn sie aus erster Hand über ihre Songs spricht und unfertige Aufnahmen und Ideen mit ihren Patreon-Supportern teilt. Nachdem sie mit 17 Jahren ihre Debüt-Single „Devil On My Shoulders“ veröffentlichte, entschied sie sich dazu, Irland zu verlassen und nach London zu ziehen. Dort lernte sie andere Musiker_innen kennen, wie z.B. Dodie, für die Orla zurzeit als Gitarristin mit auf der Bühne steht.
Wir sprachen vor dem großen Release mit Orla über TikTok, Therapie und über die Frage ob wir eigentlich nur die Kinder unserer Eltern sind. Hier könnt ihr das komplette Interview nachlesen:
First of all, Congrats on recording and soon releasing your debut album! How does it feel to release an album after so many years of making music? To go from an “EP-Girl” to an album artist? Was that a big step for you?
Yeah, it feels like going from being a bridesmaid to the bride (laughs). It feels good. It’s very long overdue and it’s a lot later than I thought I would have an album. At the same time it feels like the perfect time, you know? I think it took me a long time to figure out my sound and figure out what I wanted to write about and EPs and singles were a great way of doing that over the last couple of years. A great way of keeping my audience growing and doing things like finding my band and finding my producer and finding my team and all these little puzzle pieces that are the behind-the-scenes bits – they’re so important. So yeah, it feels good. I kind of wish I wasn’t releasing in a pandemic, but otherwise good.
Some magazines call you a “newcomer”. How does it feel for you? Do you feel like a newcomer with your album?
I know, it’s funny, isn’t it? At what point do you stop being a newcomer? I always remember… was it Bon Iver who won “Best Newcomer” at the Grammy’s a couple of years ago on his third album?!
You know, it’s like it’s so… There’s no start and end to when that term is. It doesn’t bother me at all. I think it’s quite traditional to think that the first album would be the first thing that someone does. So I kind of get where that train of thought comes from. But I think nowadays it’s very different. I think, well there’s EPs and mixtapes and singles and live albums and double-EPs and half-albums and whatever. There’s so many different ways of doing it but I think… yeah, it doesn’t bother me at all. I think it just comes from a traditional way of thinking of it. On some days I feel like a veteran and on other days I do feel like a newcomer. So it doesn’t bother me at all.
Alright, I get that. So, I’ve noticed the lyrics on your album were a bit more serious and different than on your other EPs. Would you say your songwriting and lyrics in general have changed or was that a conscious choice?
Actually it wasn’t really a conscious choice, but I think – they’re more serious in places, but I think they’re probably just a bit more honest and I think that’s kind of something I’ve tried to work on in the last couple of years. I think when I first started writing songs it was a lot of hiding behind metaphors to mask what I actually wanted to say. And so, I think in a way I’ve just become more comfortable with being quite literal with my language and being a little bit less guarded, I guess. So it’s not really a conscious choice but I know what you mean, definitely.
So, this album seems also to be a lot about yourself and also your mental health. For example, the song “Madison”… Can you tell us a little bit more about the song?
Yeah, so “Madison” is a song about my old therapist.
Oh okay, that explains it.
Yeah, her name is almost Madison, but I changed her name just in case – because we’re still in touch. Gotta do these things. It was about my first experience with therapy and how I became – I kind of exaggerate it in the song – but how I came kind of obsessed with this woman. Because she seemed like so cool to me and then she’s my therapist but I also wanted her to be my friend. And so we had a conversation very early on and it always stuck with me. She said “Look, if you pass me in the street, you don’t have to acknowledge me. You know, some people don’t want their friends to know they’re in therapy so if you see me and we’re out for brunch, if you see me inside the restaurant, it’s your choice but you don’t have to acknowledge me and I won’t acknowledge you, unless you start it.” And I just remember thinking that was so bizarre. I knew exactly why she said that but I was also like “how weird is that? That I would just tell you everything that’s on my mind and then I could just pass you in the street and not even acknowledge you?” And so me and my two friends that I wrote it with, we were kind of just riding with that and how one-sided and bizarre that would be, even now if I was to pass her in the street with everything she knows about me. I’m just imagining a world where I just keep my head down. It felt so funny to me. So yeah, I wrote it as kind of like a tribute to her and a tribute to therapy and what it did for me and how whenever I feel low again I’m always like: “Ugh, better give that woman a call again” (laughs).
Yeah, I get that. It also seems like you have a complicated relationship with your mother in the song “Bloodline/Difficult Things”. Do you think we are predestined to be like our mothers or parents or is it just something that you worry about a lot?
That’s a really good observation and thank you, that’s a really good question. Do I think that we’re predestined to be our mother? No, not necessarily. I was always fascinated when I was a kid with parents and other people’s parents. I don’t know what it was, but I used to be in school and I always used to volunteer for parent-teacher-meetings. I just used to volunteer to help at them. Because to me it was like the most interesting thing to see a set of parents walk in and then be like: “I wonder whose kid they are!”. And then you can see some people are exactly like both their parents, equally. Some are really like their Dad or like their Mom and some people have knowingly and deliberately rejected both. And I just always found it so funny. So yeah, it is about my Mum, but I don’t think you have to be like your parents. But I think it’s instinctive for me to have those traits and for a lot of people to have those traits but I don’t think you have to sit in them forever and be like: “Well, this is just how I am”, you know? I think you can also carve your own path. But I think really subtle things – like my humor is a very equal mix of my two parents and the way I tell stories is a very equal mix. And there’s a few things like that that are not necessarily personality traits that you write for yourself but more ones that are very in-built. And I think those things often do come from your parents, yeah. But not always. In my case, yes.
Okay, alright. So, from the album-making. Do you have any funny or interesting stories or memories?
Yeah,I mean it was such a nice experience. I basically have a studio down the road from where I live where I demo’ed everything. And that was a very solitary process last year that was very self-directed and I was playing everything, I was doing really late nights and not eating and just and… I was happy with what I was coming up with, but as a lifestyle, as an experience it wasn’t healthy or fun. And I also had my band, Pete and Sarah and also I got help from Nathan Cox who helped me write the songs and also came to play some instruments. So I had these three people around me, nobody could play shows, so everyone was – I think it’s fair to say about a lot of friends of music that a lot of mental health was dwindling last year. So, I was really set on finishing the album in a setting where everyone was there. So I went to a studio in Devon, which is really rural England and brought the band, brought the three of them and my co-producer Tom and we just lived there for three weeks. And it was funny, because I was a little bit bossy about how I wanted it to be. I really always wanted one of those white boards where you write the songs and take them off. And they were like: “Yeah, but it’s kind of like a waste. We could just write it on your phone.” And I was like: “NO.”
I actually get that.
“I want a white board. I’m ordering it now.” So, there was a lot of things like that where I felt I was just so… again, we could have finished it in London, it would have been a lot cheaper for me to finish it in London, but it wasn’t about that – it was about having the experience that I wanted. It was about going away, it was about a feeling, this really immersive “summer camp” – you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s literally nothing else to distract you. And I mean that’s not exactly a funny story, I guess it’s more just a wholesome moment. But the first time where me and the band played the songs in a room together, not everything was tracked live like a lot of things you would do the drums by itself and then the bass, whatever. But there’s a couple things we played all together. And those moments after a year of not playing shows were just… I can’t even describe the feeling. We were all pretty rusty but it didn’t really matter. It was so joyous and so simple. It was like: “Oh my god, this thing that’s been tormenting us all year – the fact that we can’t play music with our friends and now we’re getting this little slice of it!” It was just so special. It made me really glad that I did it that way. So the band were there for some of the time, then me and my co-producer Tom were there. We definitely went a little bit mad. He was like whittling spoons by the end. He was like making spoons out of trees… And I was like: “Okay…” He’s such a city boy, so I was like: “What have I done to this boy?” I think I’ve broken him. We made an album documentary that I’m gonna put out a couple weeks after the album comes out. And so much of the footage is him… me doing vocals and him whittling his spoon. We definitely went a bit crazy. But yeah, it was a really amazing place and I’m absolutely glad that we did it that way.
Yeah. So you have your Secret Demo Club on Patreon. How did that help you with releasing your own music?
Well, it helped massively. I mean it helped logistically, helped me afford to pay the band, to go to that studio, all of that stuff. I was at a crossroads earlier last year, where I was talking to my manager and I wanted to do a full-length album, we were both on the same page about that. But it’s quite a daunting thing to realize you wanna do cause it’s really expensive. I had done EPs before, but that’s kind of fine cause you do maybe one music video or two and you kind of… you know, it’s a very manageable amount of work for the level I was at. Realizing what I wanted to do was both exciting, because I definitely felt ready, but it was also like: “What the hell? How are we gonna do this?” And we came very close to signing a record deal and in the end I didn’t want to do it. Because it kind of felt in conflict with my secret demo club and with the way that I’ve done things so far. I was like: “I don’t want this for my debut, I just wanna do this exactly my way. I don’t want to be told what the singles have to be, I don’t want to be told what the music videos have to look like. I just wanna do it.” And again, it’s one of those things that’s quite scary for you to realize. Because in one sense it’s a great feeling, like “let’s do it on our own! I think we can do this.” And it’s also like you’re looking down the barrel of so much work. Because I think it’s obviously gonna be a lot more demanding of me than had I just signed and “Go, make me some music videos!” Everything that I dream up, whether it’s a music video or a photo or a piece of merch or a song and everything that I think of has to be executed by me and that’s why… But that’s also the best part, because it means that everything is a very undiluted version of me. Because I’ve had such a big hand. Yeah, the Secret Demo Club has been completely integral in that sense. Helping me to afford all the things and also just really encouraging. I think there’s a lot of, probably half of the album have been up as demos on there. There’s been a few that I’ve deliberately kept off. Because I also didn’t want a world where it gets to the album release day, this massive day that I’ve been waiting for for years and for everyone, the Patreons know all the songs and are all really attached to all the voice memo versions. So I’d say about half of them have been demos, but of the half that have been demos, like “Do You Mind?”, “More Like You”, “Madison”, … they’ve all been ones that people have been extra positive about. And it’s very hard when you write loads of songs to see the wood for the trees. It’s very hard for me to know which ones are actually good. So, it’s also been good almost like a survey over the last couple of years to see what people respond well to. For me, it’s just a case of following my own gut with some stuff and also being open to that and not doing too much of one or the other. I wanted to make an album that I was proud of and I didn’t want to just do exactly what everyone on there wanted. But it was a huge help and so much guidance came from those people, because I want this album to be something that they like. I want it to be something that they love! I have no idea how I would have made this album without Patreon and also I think the music itself would just be different because of that.
You also shared that you’re releasing your album by your own new label, “New Friends”. Is Patreon something that led you to that decision?
Yeah, totally. When you want to make an album or an EP or anything, obviously you have a choice whether you sign to a record label – which there are like big ones and small ones, all shapes and sizes. But essentially what they do in a nutshell obviously is that they pay for things and in return they usually own the music, they own the masters. And they have a big hand in the creative decisions – which is a really good thing if they’re on the same page as you, but I’ve seen so many friends go through it, where the people around them are not on the same page as them and they end up… My worst nightmare was releasing something that I wasn’t proud of. I didn’t want to be old and gray, look back on my first album and be like: “Well, that’s not quite how I wanted it to be, but I had to do this, because…” So, Patreon definitely made that possible and also just a lot of living very cheaply, keeping my overheads down over the last years, because I knew I would want to do something like this. And also a lot of favours from friends. I’m very passionate about paying other creative people properly, because I’m a creative person, so I’m not gonna screw anyone over. But at the same time over the years there has been – especially with this album – there’s still been people doing favours. Whether that’s someone helping me shoot a music video or an extra dancer or the band coming in just doing a bit extra. So that, you know. A mix with Patreon and I have a great manager called Claire who helps massively as well. And all these people around me that wanna help and they wanna be involved. A mix of all those things has made it possible, I suppose. But yeah, I called it “New Friends” after a song, an older song. And I just thought it sounded quite positive and happy and I think this experience has been so positive that I just wanted to give it a nice name that made me smile.
I like that. So do you have any plans for your label? Do you already plan on doing another album or signing other artists, maybe?
I’d love to. I think at the moment it’s just like a home for me. But I definitely in the future would love to sign people, that would make me so happy. And yeah I guess I am thinking about album two. It seems so bizarre to think about it, because I’m used to these phases being bookended by tours. And hopefully they will be. I’m meant to be touring in October, I play for another artist called Dodie who’s gonna be doing a lot of touring in the next couple of months. Hoping to come to Europe as well, next year. That’s been difficult – a perfect storm of Covid and Brexit is making that difficult for artists. But I do believe it’ll be worked out. Yeah, I’m definitely making plans for album two and demoing new stuff, but it feels so weird to have lived no life in between one and two to jump straight into it. It’s like there’s no well to draw from. So, I’ve been getting a lot of musical ideas together, but it’s such early days that I’m not really sure. But yeah, I’d love to sign people in the future and I’d love to sign people who for whatever reason don’t get lucky with the traditional labels. I think the internet has done a really cool thing for the underdog, especially TikTok, which to be honest it has taken me a while to get my head around TikTok. It was not my platform at first. But I think what I do love about everything on there is that there’s no… If anything is commercial and put together by a label, people almost reject it. What they love is authenticity, what they love is the really unexpected person. There’s a lot of much older people making music that I follow on TikTok, in their 60s and 70s. And they’re posting covers and people are giving them all these comments and encouragement, they’re waiting for it. I think that is the really wholesome side of the platform. I can’t imagine that happening anywhere else. But at the same time, the music industry is still… the traditional major label side of the industry is still very traditional and boring and signing people that look a certain way and are a certain way and are a certain age and make a certain kind of music and so… Although it’s a way off, if I was signing other people, I would love to give platforms to people that wouldn’t usually get it and hopefully the traditional music industry will have caught up by that anyway cause so much of it is so dated and silly.
But yeah, I’d love to. Are you a Phoebe Bridgers fan?
I mean, obviously it’s on a much bigger scale but what she’s done with “Saddest Factory” is so exciting to me. And I think that’s how you create scenes and collectives. I think that kind of thing has been really important for me in my career so far. Knowing people in London or from Dublin and having little pockets of friends when you’re a solo artist, it makes the whole thing so much lonely. So I would love to help create a scene or give that to other people as well.
Yeah, I love the idea! So, last but not least, this is not the first time we meet each other. I took pictures two years ago at a concert of yours. I asked you then to write your favorite lyrics on a poster. And I wanted to know: What are your favorite lyrics from your album now?
Cool, that’s a great question! This is really lazy but I’m just gonna look at them really quick, because it’s so funny how you blank on them when you don’t have them in front of you. Let me see what sits right. I was actually thinking about this the other day.
The last time you wrote “I think we’re gonna regret these haircuts” as your favourite lines.
Oh wow! That would have been really old, even two years ago. Wow, that was an interesting choice. I think it’s so silly, but there’s a song on the album called “Left Behind” and it’s about my housemate and best friend moving to LA and I’m like: “Waaaah, have a good time, but waaah! and I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself. And there’s a lyric in that that I always think like… It’s such a serious song and it’s the piano ballad and there’s a lyric in the first verse that’s like: “An elephant is in the room, don’t look and don’t try to feed it. You always want me on your terms, you can’t have your cake and eat it.” I just love the elephant one. I don’t know why, I think it’s particularly out of place in this song. I think that’s why I like it, cause it’s quite a serious song and suddenly I’m talking about this elephant. But it’s also very telling of… it’s something I’m trying to get better at and actually the whole album kind of comes back to, cause it’s pretty much this sentiment of the “Difficult Things” song at the very end. I’m so bad at speaking what’s on my mind. I’m so good at sitting there and letting it fester. It’s something I’m always trying to get better at, but it’s so manual. I like the imagery of the elephant in the room – “don’t look at it!” But also it’s still very true for me, that I can’t seem to address these things out loud at the time. Which is something I thank my mother for in the last song. Thank you for listening to the songs properly, by the way. It’s just nice to have someone actually understand them.
Text: Michelle Maurer