Root to the top


Fresh off the release of her debut EP, Orla Gartland sits down with Kevin Beirne to talk about recording a music video and the origins of her arch-nemesis

Growing up in Ireland, there is a clear path that many people follow for the first 20-odd years of their lives. For most, the natural progression after the Leaving Cert is to move onto college, and anyone who bucks that trend is looked on with suspicion.

For Orla Gartland, a singer-songwriter from north Dublin, the usual path just didn’t make sense. Although she describes herself as “a nerd in sixth year”, it had always been Gartland’s intention to pursue her musical dreams.

“I was the oldest child, so when I was four or five, my parents asked me if I wanted to play an instrument. I said I wanted to play the violin… I was under the impression that you held it [like a guitar]. In hindsight, I must have thought it was a ukulele. I must have seen it on Spongebob, or something.”

Despite this early setback, Gartland finally “pursued the original dream” at the age of twelve, as she took up guitar and then the ukulele. It would be a few years before she began doing gigs.

“When I started gigging, I was 15.” She says. “I found after a while that I was just organizing everything myself. I just began to get really frustrated with the fact that small gigs are in pubs; they’re not really keen on having 15-year-olds coming in and playing gigs.”

It was this frustration that led Gartland to uploading her first video to YouTube, a decision which seen her become one of the most popular young artists in the country.

She admits that, at the time, she viewed it as “just an alternative way to broadcast [my music] and get feedback.” Now, she boasts almost 10,000,000 views and over 80,000 subscribers on the website.

As she got older, she admits that there was a shift in focus towards establishing herself outside of the YouTube community. “I was reaching the age when people were taking me a little more seriously, and the first question any musician, or anyone, would ask was ‘What have you released? Have you released an album, or an EP?’ and I’d be like no, I haven’t released anything… I realised I wasn’t going to be taken fully seriously until I had something.”

In summer of last year, she released her first single, ‘Devil On My Shoulder’. Although she can laugh about it now, Gartland admits that a

“The night of release, I was really excited. I was there online, it was midnight and I was refreshing iTunes like ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m going to see my name on iTunes for the first time’, so excited.

“My whole family was there, and they’re just as excited. I was typing in my name and it was five past midnight and I’m starting to really panic… Something’s gone wrong. So instead of my name, I just type in the song name, and my name had been misspelled by iTunes.”

When she finally found her song, she realised that it was attributed to an artist called Orla Gartl. “It was just ‘Gartl’, the ‘and’ was gone… I was just staring at it… I didn’t want to promote it; the wrong name was on it. It charted in Ireland with the wrong name and I was just heartbroken.”

A year removed from the event, she says, “It wasn’t funny at the time, but in the end, I just began joking and I made Orla Gartl into this arch-enemy… It took us like a week to sort the name out.”

Gartland reflects back on the event as a learning experience, one that has helped her release her very first EP, Roots. Within a day of its release, it charted first on iTunes in Ireland, ahead of Lady Gaga and Eminem.

So far, two of the songs on the four-track EP, ‘Roots’ and ‘Clueless’, already have music videos to accompany them. Both involve Gartland as herself wandering around in an animated world.

This made things a bit difficult to shoot, although she admits to doing some training beforehand. “In preparation, I had watched all the Harry Potter behind the scenes things, because obviously when they’re casting spells, there’s nothing there. They had to train their eyes to look where the animation would be.”

The videos carry a certain charm that seems to flow through everything Gartland does, from her personable nature to the energetic EP. Roots undoubtedly represents a milestone in her career, and there’s no telling how far Gartland can go.

Orla Garltand’s EP, Roots, is available for download on iTunes now. Tickets are still available for her gig with Hudson Taylor in the Academy on December 12th and tickets are also on sale for her Roots Tour in February 2014. Visit for more details.