Why is Orla Gartland like this?

Amidst the carnage of the ‘UCD Power Outage of February 2019’, I managed to get a call through to Irish singer/songwriter Orla Gartland, who has just wrapped up the European leg of a tour supporting dodie, of YouTube fame. Orla herself also found her start on the platform, posting her first video aged 13, and it was through YouTube that the two became friends. While YouTube kickstarted their careers, Orla doesn’t see it as a viable option for up and comers; “It’s not what it used to be, I wouldn’t really advise new people to post on there anymore. There’s definitely a need for a new platform.”

Gartland took a three year hiatus from releasing music, coming back last year with new single ‘I Go Crazy’. This year, she released the first single from her upcoming EP, the relatably titled ‘Why Am I Like This?’, recounting her experiences with social anxiety. “It was a collection of stories I’ve saved over time,” she tells me. “I was on the Tube in London and I saw a girl crying. The Irish girl in me really wanted to go over to her and ask if she was okay, but I didn’t want to go against the London etiquette.” She references this instance in the song, describing how by the time she plucked up the courage to go and talk to her she was gone. The writing process, she mentions, took place over “a few sittings” and the song was initially “more wordy, with different verses.” The single precedes her forthcoming EP, due to be released in May, with the next single coming the first week of April. She describes the EP as a “concept piece”, in which the four tracks all tie in together to tell a story. “The promo shots have been done in like a yearbook style, kind of going with the theme of the tracks; a very specific time in your life.”

Currently on tour with dodie, Orla remembers the Warsaw show as a highlight; “Poland is off the beaten track in terms of European tours, they’re so grateful when you do play there that they want you to feel all the love.” The fans have been a highlight of all the shows so far, she tells me, organising surprises amongst themselves, such as all wearing party hats at a recent gig. They play Vicar Street on Paddy’s day, and Orla says the touring team are expecting her to provide big things with our illustrious nightlife. “They’re all Brits so they’re all asking me where I’m taking them! I haven’t lived in Dublin since I was eighteen so I’m struggling.” I suggest Workmans or Blackbird, but she reckons the tourists will want to go to Temple Bar, even if they do get robbed for a pint there. Either way, she misses Dublin for its nightlife. “I didn’t go out all that much, but I still miss pubs not closing before 11,” she laughs. “I also loved the Ruby Sessions in Doyles.”

Before her three year hiatus from releasing tracks, in 2015 Gartland was flying high with the release of her EP ‘Lonely People’ and the radio hit title track . When I ask her about why she took so much time away, she pauses before telling me about what made her realise she needed the break. “I was playing The Late Late Show, which made my granny very happy! But as I watched the clock countdown before performing ‘Lonely People’ I just felt like the song wasn’t me anymore. I felt like the project ran away from me and all I wanted to do was stop, while everyone else wanted me to keep going.” It was this feeling of dissatisfaction that lead to her deciding to step back and “take stock”, she says. “You have to live life to have anything to write about, and that’s what I decided to do.” While she continued to play live shows, particularly in a supporting role, she stepped away from recording her own tracks, instead learning how to produce, and becoming more comfortable in that role. “I didn’t think anyone would still be around when I came back.” she admits. She was wrong to assume so; ‘I Go Crazy’ has surpassed two million streams on Spotify.

Following the tour with dodie, Orla is embarking on her own tour of the UK and Ireland, supported by Tessa Violet. “I prefer playing smaller venues, even though that sounds like the convenient answer because we’re playing smaller venues,” she says. “It’s easier to connect with an audience that way; there’s not as much pressure.” She plays The Soundhouse, upstairs in The Wiley Fox, on April 11th (“Is it not called The Pint anymore? I really have been gone for ages!”)

Before we wrap up, I have time to ask her two all important questions. What five items would I have to burn in a cauldron to summon her spirit? A guitar, her journal, coffee utensils, sriracha sauce and her passport. As for her best dad joke? “What do you call a woman who stands between two houses?” Wait for it… “Elaine.”