LAOISE is the pop artist that we should be hearing all over the radio. The Inishbofin native creates incredibly catchy, well polished electro-pop gems that channel as much retro '80s as they do contemporary music. Her latest release, Mad is a 4-track EP that highlights everything that makes LAOISE so hotly tipped to be the next break-out, Irish star: emotive songwriting, atmospheric production, amazing vocals and bags of personality. Get to know more about the lady behind the music...
Describe your songwriting process.
I usually start writing my songs on piano. I want the song to stand up on its own rather than relying on the production to carry it. The only exception is the song “Mad” off my last EP. That was more of a challenge artistically. I co-wrote and co-produced the song with Sean Behan and Richy McCourt. It took us a year to actually finish because we kept getting new ideas and changing things. So that’s the only time I didn’t start writing on piano, but I’m glad we did it that way. If I’m sitting down to write, it’s usually because something has prompted me to. I like to mess around with the music a little bit first and then fit words into the melody.
Your music is so lush and detailed, do you just focus on songwriting or do you get involved in all of the other sounds?
I am a producer also. Sometimes when I get bogged down with the piano I'll move to my laptop and work with other sounds. When I was 16 I got obsessed with recording. I bought a microphone and I had this little home-studio setup that I thought was the coolest thing but in reality the laptop probably sounded like it was about to take off. I work with Sean Behan on every song, he’s like the other half of the LAOISE project. Together, we’ll work on everything down to the smallest detail. We like to make sure the music matches the content and the theme of the song. We were recently working on a song about panic attacks and we wanted the music to sound as though you are in a bathroom at a party, trying to calm down and just being engulfed by the music. I’m fussy as heck. But we’re all like that so it’s great. We leave no stone unturned. I love collaboration. It’s all about just having different energies in the room and learning somebody else’s perception.
Tell us a bit about your new EP, Mad?
It’s my favourite release to date. We recorded the whole thing with Richie McCourt. He’s a fantastic songwriter and producer and he’s so cool. I’m surprised we got most of the work done because all we did was laugh. When we sat down to write the EP I had very specific ideas in my head; the way the tracks go in order and run into one another. I would describe Mad as different colours representing different parts of a relationship. And all the primary colours on the wheel blend together. I was referencing a lot of heartbreak that I experienced a couple of years ago that I didn’t deal with properly and didn’t even know how to deal with! Every time I play those songs live I feel like I’m 15 or 16 all over again and it helps me heal.
What artists have been the biggest influence on your music?
It’s a mix between Stevie Nix, Taylor Swift and Kate Bush. I’m a big fan of Kate Bush’s theatrical style; the first song she released was her playing a character which is why she had that stunning tone in her voice. I love the direct, almost diary-like input that Taylor Swift puts into her songs. I love the mystery and strength of Stevie Nix.
You released an acoustic version of “Again” on Spotify that has over 1.7millon streams! Does this signal a change of direction in the future?
It’s amazing to see that. It’s really cool that people are listening to it exactly how it was written when I walked away from the piano on the first day. To receive that sort of love is kind of insane as a songwriter. I can’t really say whether it’s a direction I’ll go in. I wasn’t expecting to start making ‘80s Pop at the beginning and then it suddenly happened. But that makes absolute sense because half of the music I listen to is from the 80s. Lately, I’ve been writing songs that are more stripped back in terms of production but I wouldn’t say they are acoustic - just not as busy. The older I get the more I realise how important it is to keep things simple. Even in everyday tasks, I’ll often complicate things for no reason so I’m currently challenging myself to pare that back.
You’re just back from Primavera Sound in Barcelona. How was that?
That was so much fun! We were all pretty delusional because we were up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning to get the flight and then back home again that same night. It was really nice because we were playing in the city centre, just outside the festival park. It was a free show so people were able to just walk through and have a listen. There was a good crowd there because of that, a lot of people just wanted to see what was going on. You always think at these shows, “who is gonna hang around to see me?” but there were people there who actually knew the words to the songs which was amazing. We were told so many nice things after the show from people who enjoyed it so that was great. It was my first time playing in Spain which was great because my Godmother is Spanish so there’s always been a little bit of my heart there. It was in the sun, there was a nice breeze. Everything was great.
I saw you at Electric Picnic last year, playing to a pretty huge crowd. Did you get a good response from those kind of appearances?
Totally! We played a headline show in The Grand Social last November and when I got to meet people after the show so many of them said they saw me at Electric Picnic and wanted to come to another show. So it works!
What has been the craziest moment of your career so far?
It was probably last year at Longitude. Because it’s such a small bill, all the artists are in the same area together. If I was going over to grab a beer or some food, there were other artists like Kalid and Post Malone hanging around. Post Malone is just gorgeous, he’s a gentleman! So that was mad - being able to talk to some of my massive inspirations . A couple of years ago at Forbidden Fruit I was lucky enough to meet Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. That was incredible. Being able to meet these people and get some advice is amazing. It was absolutely inspiring.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome so far?
It’s been a challenge to not give up on myself. Only a week ago I was close to tears and questioning why I’m doing all of this. It happens very often. One day everything is going great and then the next day all of the adrenaline is gone and you have a dip. I’m lucky enough to be doing something I love but mainly I’m lucky that people care and are listening. I’m not just screaming into a void. I can’t fathom that people go out of their way to listen to my music and send nice messages.
What do you miss most about Galway?
I miss the sea the most. There’s a calm about Galway that I love. I’ve subconsciously learned to walk faster since I moved to Dublin. When I’m home I find myself rushing to go around people and then I have to ask myself where I’m hurrying to! So sometimes I need to relax and just take a deep breath.
What interests do you have outside of music?
I love art. I’m mad about colour; right now my nails are five different colours! I’ve recently started knitting again and I love it. At the moment I’m working on a rainbow-coloured tea cozy. I would really like to break it into band merch - maybe make finger puppets or something, if anybody would want them!
LAOISE will be playing shows at some of Ireland's best festivals this summer in Body & Soul, Indiependence and Kaleidoscope Festival before jetting off to Germany to play Lollapalooza in September. Her single, "Again", was nominated for an RTÉ Choice Music Prize. LAOISE recently released a four-track EP, Mad, to critical acclaim. Have a listen HERE. If you want to find out even more about Laoise, have a read of her previous interview for our Howya? section.
Photo by Christian Tierney