Two of Ireland’s most exciting musicians. One Open Circle conversation.
We worked with Jameson Connects to create Open Circle. A platform where we invite two people to come together for a frank and open conversation about collaboration, creativity, and community.
Between recording new albums, touring Ireland and the world, and dropping immense music videos, it’s safe to say both Sorcha Richardson and SOAK are killing it – and both receiving huge amounts of critical acclaim while they’re at it.
It only felt right to sit these two rising stars down for a very special chat in Dublin’s iconic music venue, Whelan’s. Over a few Jameson Ginger & Limes, Sorcha and SOAK discuss their career trajectories, honesty in songwriting, and life on tour. Have a read of their full conversation below.
Sorcha: You started releasing music when you were very young, didn’t you? I remember when I first saw you on The Late Late Show when you were probably like… 14 or 15?
SOAK: Yeah, that was probably the first TV thing I ever did. That or Other Voices, which happened around the same time.
Sorcha: It sounds so intense! When I was 15, I had written loads of songs, but I had never sung in front of anybody. I was so shy about letting anyone know I wanted to do that. Writing music felt so vulnerable and personal. Back then, I remember seeing you and being so impressed that you had the courage to just do it. But maybe sometimes it’s easier when you’re young?
SOAK: Honestly, I was so excited to be making music that I didn’t really get nervy. It’s weird, when I was a teenager, there were times when I was so self assured, just breezing through life! And now I feel like the opposite. I’m quite nervous about everything I do.
Sorcha: Similarly, people always ask me how I moved to New York when I was 18.
SOAK: Was that when you actually started putting your music out there?
Sorcha: Yeah. I didn’t have a drum kit over there, so I couldn’t hide behind it any more. I started going to this open mic in the Lower East Side. I was so scared! But I also think it might have taken me longer to start performing if I was at home with people who knew me. I had to do it in a place where I could fail very privately – where it didn’t feel like there were any consequences apart from my own embarrassment.
SOAK: With this record, I’ve been a lot more specific lyrically than I’ve ever been. I’ve also been in a relationship for five years now, and it’s so intense to talk about that in your music. It was different when I was younger. Now it feels much more intimate, sharing that with the world.
Sorcha: Something I find hard is doing interviews where people ask you specifically about lines you’ve written.
SOAK: Are you honest? Because, I think about lying all the time. [Both laugh]
Sorcha: See, this album is different. The first album was a collage, a real mix of things about many different people. Some songs were written about people who weren’t really in my life any more, so it didn’t feel like there were consequences. With this album I’m writing about ongoing things. So sometimes, with interviews, I’m like… I said everything I said in the song, and that is as much as I feel like sharing. I don’t always know how to navigate it.
SOAK: I also feel like you shouldn’t have to. I really like Jeff Tweedy from Wilco and have read his books multiple times. He says in interviews, “I don’t even know what the songs are about half the time because I just sing them. It’s subconscious. And then they’re done. That’s as much as I have to explain and I don’t really want to go deeper, so I won’t”.
Sorcha: As a listener, I don’t always love knowing.
SOAK: I don’t want to know! I love the meaning you make for yourself. Because then it’s your song.
Sorcha: I genuinely don’t think people listen to our songs because they want to know about our lives. I think they listen to them because they bring their own life to it and they fill in the gaps. It’s just a weird thing to offer a lot of your own personal life in your music, but then want to protect it as well. I’m still learning how to do that.
SOAK: Have you played most of the songs from your new album live?
Sorcha: No, I haven’t. With this album, some of [the songs] are kind of challenging. It takes a while to get in the groove.
SOAK: It’s a fun learning curve, though. The first few shows don’t have to be perfect. Just go in with it with good intentions and it’ll be fun.
Then, SOAK and Sorcha began to discuss the music videos they both released this year, and the process of collaborating with fellow Irish creatives.
Sorcha: How was the process of making your music video for Last July with Ellius Grace? It’s beautiful, by the way.
SOAK: Thanks! I wrote out the whole treatment myself and came to Ellius and worked through the concept with him. My girlfriend is in it and we did it together. The video wouldn’t have happened without her. It felt quite true to real life, too, so when we were acting it was quite emotional. But it was also so easy, because I’ve known Ellius for a long time. It was definitely the most comfortable and confident I’ve felt in the music video world.
Sorcha: Sometimes music videos can be challenging because I often have a very visual in my head that accompanies every song when I’m writing it, and so videos can sometimes feel like I’m putting the wrong movie with the track. But the process of making the Shark Eyes video were two of the best days I had all summer. I got loads of my friends to be in the video and we threw a fake party. We filmed all day and went to Workman’s at midnight to shoot during live karaoke. That’s something I find about the process of creating stuff in Ireland – people are so accommodating and happy to help. There are so many talented people here to work with, too.
Sorcha: You shot the video for Purgatory in Howth, right? I actually have a song on my album called Purgatory, too. I think it’s funny because it’s such a different song to yours. I love how two people can have the same title but create something so entirely different. And I love how the song opens with you sighing.
SOAK: That was actually an accident, but we decided to leave it in.
Sorcha: It’s a great way to open an album. The last song on my album is called Smiling Like An Idiot, which is the title track.
SOAK: I love that title as well. It’s simple but really poignant. It feels Irish as well, in a way.
Sorcha: It’s something my girlfriend said to me in a joking way – “Sorcha, why are you smiling like an idiot again?!” I was like, that’s a good title, and I wrote the song. The song ends with my bass player, Joe, off mic being like: “[Sigh] that was awful.” And I go: “yeah, let’s do one more.” It feels like a cliffhanger.
SOAK: To be continued…
Sorcha: When I make music I try to think of it as capturing something as opposed to creating something. Less trying to make it perfect and more reflecting what happened that day when you were all in the room together.
Finally, the pair chatted about their upcoming tours and future plans.
SOAK: Your record comes out next week, right? How do you feel?
Sorcha: It’s so weird when you spend so long making something. It feels like it’ll never come out, and then all of a sudden it’s actually happening. I think it’s so exciting because it’s always like, what’s next? I also think it’s really hard to make music that I like, so whenever I actually make an album that I I feel happy with, I feel so proud of myself.
SOAK: I get that. It’s a genuine joy. Especially because the last few years have been so chaotic. I always try to remind myself to enjoy the process, celebrate my wins.
Sorcha: When you have that, you always feel like you’re winning. I try to tell myself, Sorcha, there will be a day when you’re not doing this. Do you feel similarly about your tour coming up?
SOAK: Yes! It’s at the start of October for two weeks. We’re doing some UK shows and some Irish shows. Tomorrow I go to New York to do a show with Pillow Queens, which I’m excited for. Any trip to New York is a good one.
Sorcha: I’ll have to catch your Dublin show next month. I’ll get a ticket.