We caught up with Irish singer songwriter LAOISE on Zoom to talk about her bright new song “Gravy,” as she looks forward to the release of her upcoming EP Healthy on Feb. 26. The Galway girl grew up surrounded by traditional Irish music, a world away from the pop driven, shiny tracks that she currently releases. Take a look to find out who she’s been listening to in lockdown, what it felt like for her to consider quitting music altogether, and much more.
Congratulations on dropping your latest single “Gravy” — how did the song come about?
That song started in my bedroom like two years ago, I was sitting on my bed and started looking through some drum loops and started messing around. I easily could’ve gone downstairs to the studio and recorded this properly but I was just not arsed. Sometimes, I don’t know why! I just make things harder for myself. I was recording the vocal into my phone and then sending it into Logic just so I could hear it. Sometimes that kinda helps because then I won’t be so precious about it. I had the verse and the pre-chorus and I kinda just wanted it to be a song that says, “Hey, I know I’m tragic sometimes and that I’m a lot, but I’m not going anywhere and I don’t really think you are either, like, we good. This is nice.” I was listening to a lot of HAIM at the time, which I think was influencing it. But I just couldn’t get a chorus, so I brought it into the studio with Sean Behan and Richey McCourt. We started building up the track a little bit differently to what it was on the demo and started having loads of fun and shouting the words out pretending that we were at a beach party with coconut bras and just not taking things too seriously.
The idea for the word gravy didn’t come up until the end. I sometimes use a rhyme dictionary just to see if it spurs a new idea and we were looking for something to rhyme with crazy. I said “I love you like gravy” as a joke and Richey literally turns from the computer and goes “that’s brilliant.” It was just a bit of craic just like that! At the end of the song I was like c’mon let’s get a party going, let’s all huddle around the mic, so it sounds like there’s loads of people but it’s really just us screaming “I love you like gravy” probably like 300 times and layering it.
So, it wasn’t written about a crazy obsession with gravy…
No [laughs], I was thinking about the metaphor. You don’t really have gravy on its own, you have it with your dinner. But when you think about your dinner, your veg or meat or whatever you eat are all fine on their own but bring gravy into the situation and it’s so much better! It just adds to it. So I think it’s a really sweet metaphor in that sense of like someone isn’t your whole plate of dinner but they add to it.
I had a sneak peek of the music video for the track — did you have fun filming it?
Yeah! I knew I wanted to capture moments, like I’m on a small island on the coast right now and there’s only like a hundred people living here so it’s been a really nice place to be in lockdown and just in terms of a new breathing space to write and everything. I just sort of wanted to capture moments with Sean that I would want to look back on in five years time. I didn’t necessarily go out of my way and say “we are going to make a music video out of this and it’s gonna be great.” I think that’s why I love it so much because it’s just us messing around with the camera. It honestly felt like getting a camera when you were young and you’re playing around with it. We got to use a really nice camera just to document our lives and have things to look back on.
Who have you been listening to in lockdown?
Absolutely Taylor Swift because she’s given us two albums, the queen. I’ve been really enjoying those albums. I’ve kinda been back and forth between old albums that I used to listen to as a teenager so I’ve been listening to the Torches album by Foster the People. I was obsessed with that album and kinda still am, I think they’re amazing. Mark Foster, who is the lead of the band, is really interesting to listen to because he used to write jingles so I just love how every part of his songs are hooks.
On days where I’m feeling a little bit lost and not very grounded, I’ll listen to a lot of Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, and Stevie Nicks just to feel something familiar and nostalgic. There’s also been a lot of great Irish music, one of my favorite albums to come out of Ireland in the past few years is Sorcha Richardson’s First Prize Bravery.
I’ve been listening to songs for fun instead of analyzing them and wondering how I can recreate it, which has been nice. Sometimes it’s easy as an artist or even just as a songwriter to listen to something and go “OMG that’s amazing, why didn’t I think of that?” or “how can I do that?”
Your track “Healthy” is a funky song. What was the inspiration behind it?
I started writing that at the start of the first lockdown and at that stage I had been in therapy for three months, I was reframing a lot of words and their meanings for myself, “healthy” being one of them. I was asking myself what is healthy and am I being healthy. I was thinking about how I wasn’t drinking enough water, not eating enough fruit and didn’t know what I was doing. So I started to think about it a bit more and realized that healthy even has the word “heal” in it. Sometimes what you need in your life is hard to figure out, especially coming into your early 20s, which I was, I only turned 24 last week! You’re told so many things growing up and all of a sudden you’re an adult and it takes a minute to calibrate the fact that you can do what you want and think what you want and that you’re not just handed things. It’s not like in school when it’s just like “here you go.” I was one of those people who thrived off of being handed something and trying to do a good job with it.
I was just thinking about all those things and how it can be applied to life and relationships. I started writing “Healthy” when Sean had written the bass lines for a track. Melodies come to me first and I knew I wanted the lyrics to be a long-winded stream of consciousness. It’s also about starting relationships and how they can feel kinda odd sometimes and your gut is trying to tell you something and you don’t realize it sometimes until it’s too late. But sometimes if your gut isn’t telling you anything you’re kinda like, “I guess this feels healthy?” you know. It was based around that.
You recently considered quitting music altogether — what was it like to be in that space creatively?
Crap! It feels crap honestly and I’m sometimes in and out of that still. It’s hard when you have a lot of hats to wear all the time and trying to imagine a future situation of whether someone will like the song or is somebody gonna get this lyric. I realized that was happening because I wasn’t listening to myself, that also kinda ties in with healthy overall. I was asking myself “What do you need?” I’ve been trying to listen to myself more. I love music, I always have and I’ve always been drawn to it. But it’s when you start trying to acquire a status so that you can do it as a job, that’s where it gets really tricky because you’re trying to gain the approval of other people.
Even as a teenager, I think we all do that. You wear what your friends are wearing, you laugh along with a joke because you don’t wanna be that one left out and be different. I think once I realized that that’s what I was trying to do, I was stuck in this teenage idea of wanting everyone to like me. It’s funny because I know logically, I’m not gonna be everyone’s cup of tea — no one is! Those down days I had made me realize that I could do anything: I could quit, I could not quit, I could keep going, I could keep exhausting every aspect of this type of a career because I can and it’s fun. Something I’ve also realized is that it’s a job and you’re not going to love every aspect of it sometimes. I’m taking things day by day and today I’m obviously on a buzz because I just released “Gravy” and everyone seems to like it, so you have your days.
I’m a big fan of the songwriter Emily Warren. I think anything she touches is amazing. Same with Caroline Ailin, she’s an amazing songwriter. Obviously he’s massive, but I’m really loving everything that FINNEAS is doing. He’s just so exciting, even the fact that he’s the same age as me it’s just so exciting to see his ability and it’s really inspiring.
There’s also so many amazing Irish artists. I’m really good friends with Tim Chadwick but I’m also one of his biggest fans and anytime we’ve written together I’m always so in awe of how quickly he pulls an idea together.
Live music has been paused over the past year but what is your favorite performance you’ve done so far?
I think it would have to be my headline show in Lost Lane back in November 2019. It was one of the last full-band shows that I played. There’s something so special about playing a headline show because I’ve played so many shows where I’ve been given the opportunity to present myself in front of an audience that don’t know me like support slots and festival slots. There’s just something so sweet about hopping on stage and knowing people really came for you and it’s so cute. It felt like a little party, I loved it at the time but God if I could tell myself back then to be like, “Girl, this is gonna be one of the last shows you’re gonna play for a long time, take it in!” I would.
What’s next for you in 2021?
Well I’m releasing my EP on the 26th of February! I’m really excited about that. It has another song on it that is quite the opposite to “Gravy” and it’s very raw and it looks at a lot of emotions that I think a lot of us have been feeling. I know from talking to friends that everyone feels like they’re not doing enough or making the most of the pandemic, which is a load of shite. It’s a song that talks about that feeling of being like, “Oh my God I’m so paralyzed in every decision that I make because I feel like it’s going to change everything.” It falls into the whole being in your 20s thing again and I’m really excited about that song coming out with the EP.
I’ll also be writing a lot. I’m trying to work to get a big batch of songs together and to create some sort of body of work after the EP. I really really don’t know what else I’ll be doing and to be honest I don’t think anyone does. There’s some sort of comfort in that. I’m still enjoying therapy and taking things day by day, staying connected with people and hopefully I will be able to play a show sometime soon.
Lastly, where’s your happy place?
I don’t know if I have found it yet. I’m trying to think of something and nothing is coming to mind. I have happy moments and obviously I love being on stage and I love being in the studio. I don’t know if I would necessarily say that they are definitely my happy places though because they’re challenging and I really have to look inward and work through stuff to really get what I want from them. So yeah I don’t think I’ve found it yet and it probably won’t be until I’m in my mid-30s, then I’ll know where it is!