The new city helped her rediscover her creative side, but she still writes in her bedroom sometimes to make the words flow freely. Getting inspired by the everyday life and the complexities of relationships, she crafts melodic indie pop; her single Walk Away was featured on the BBC Introducing, and Ruin Your Night hit over two million hits on Spotify in no time. Meet Sorcha Richardson, our newest Spotify crush.
She first started playing music when she was a child, and wrote songs for a while, but didn’t think of herself as a singer. The move from Dublin to New York inspired her to share her work and collaborate more – with delightful results. She started working on her first EP in 2012, and since then she’s released a handful of songs that become earworms for the music lovers, with Petrol Station and Ruin Your Night being her most successful tunes to date. We’ve asked her a couple of questions about her creative journey, inspirations, and channelling her experiences into music. Read the interview below!
When did you move to New York, and how did it help your music develop?
I moved to New York seven years ago. I had been writing songs for a while but I didn’t think of myself as a singer, so I never really did anything with them. I thought I’d move to New York and start a band – I played the drums – but instead, I got here and just started making demos of me singing them myself. Being in a new city where I didn’t know anyone was very freeing and took away a lot of the fear I had.
I studied creative writing in college which I think made me a better songwriter. I also started collaborating with a lot of people who made music that was quite different to what I was making at the time. My friend in college had a studio set up in his dorm so we would make stuff together. Then I met a group of friends who had a big artist collective full of musicians, photographers, filmmakers etc. I spent a lot of time writing with those guys in genres that were very far away from what I had been doing.
I think was all pretty instrumental in opening my eyes to different kinds of music I could make and write and getting comfortable with collaborating, too.
How did two different music scenes influence you as a performer?
I don’t know exactly. It’s hard to pinpoint how each city’s music scene influenced me, especially in the age of the internet. But I think working so much with other people in New who came from pretty different backgrounds to mine was really helpful.
The music scene in Dublin is much smaller. I always feel a really strong sense of community between the artists there when I go back, so it’s nice to feel supported by your hometown, too. Most of my first gigs and radio shows were in Dublin. There are some great platforms and people working to help promote Irish music which let me get some experience doing radio shows and playing festivals at a time when those opportunities weren’t as available to me in New York.
You worked on your music in your bedroom, then switched to the studio. I assume both environments contribute to your creative process differently – which one allows you to get more creative?
I still write most of my songs in my bedroom. I find that easy because there’s no pressure. It’s totally private and I can be pretty free and unfiltered in the way I write.
Working in the studio is like going to the playground. It means I get to play with all these instruments and toys I don’t have access to at home so I’m less inhibited by lack of equipment and can build better soundscapes for songs. Also, being in the studio often means I’m working with another producer who brings ideas and talents to the table that are different to mine. I don’t think either one lets me be more creative – it’s just different stages in the creative process that happen in those settings.
And do you start writing your music in your room as often as you did before?
Most of the time I write in my room. But I also write stuff in the notes section of my phone when I’m not at home. Every now and again I’ll be in the studio with another writer or producer and we’ll start something from scratch but I write in my bedroom almost every day so that’s still the #1 place where it happens.
I try to change up the process regularly. Otherwise, it can start to feel a bit static. Some songs start out as pages of lyrics, some as simple bass lines that I write over, some as guitar riffs or drum loops on Ableton.
You were noticed by BBC Introducing by Huw Stephens – Walk Away was the featured song. It sounds a little bit like a transition from your Last Train EP – still with that singer-songwriter, “a girl with a guitar” vibe, but a little richer sonically too. What made you pick that song for submission?
I actually didn’t even send that song to Huw. I think the guys at Across the Line on the BBC Ulster had been playing it and they passed it along to him. It was the week that it came out and it was the first bit of music I’d released in over a year so I think it just made sense for the Across the Line guys to send that one over. I had no idea Huw had even heard it until he tweeted that he was gonna play it on the show.
At the beginning of the year, you also took part in a live session for Across the Line on the BBC Ulster, playing Lost and Ruin Your Night. Are you planning to play for your audience in Europe and tour in the UK/Ireland anytime soon?
I’m hoping to be able to do that ASAP. I’ve played a handful of small gigs in Dublin over the last year but I want to do a proper full band show across and make it some places across Europe that I haven’t been able to yet.
In your songs, you set stories off to chilling, atmospheric music – what made you take your music in that direction?
It wasn’t really a decision I made it. I borrowed a friend’s bass guitar and took it home and spent a couple weeks staying up really late making demos. A lot of them were just bass and vocals so they had a darker feel than the stuff I’d written on acoustic guitar and I didn’t want to lose that when I took them to the studio.
Some of the single covers explain what the songs are about. You seem to derive a lot from your own experiences – how does that influence your lyrics, and how does your close circle respond to the songs when they hear it?
I used to write in a way that was much more ambiguous because I was trying to hide the thing or the relationship I was writing about. Somewhere along the way, I stopped caring so much about the awkward conversations that might ensue from being more honest in my lyrics. Every song is different too and deals with different stories. Mostly though, my friends get excited when they hear a story in them that they were a part of. They said they feel like it sort of immortalises some stories in from a night out.
Let’s talk about the single that you’ve released at the end of the previous year, Ruin Your Night. How did the song come to be?
The earliest demo of that was just vocals and bass and it was had the verse and pre-chorus with a half-written instrumental hook. I liked it but it didn’t really sound complete so the last thing I wrote for it was the chorus to replace the old one. I worked on it a little bit in the studio in New York but felt like I was hitting a wall with it so I went out to LA for a little bit and worked with Alex Casnoff on a couple songs. We made this version of it together in a couple of days.
On your website, in the Swim Out section, you say that you don’t want to just “sing at people” – you want your art to be a conversation rather than a monologue. It’s quite an interesting way to reach out to your fans – you are open, and listen to what they want to tell you. What have the responses been so far? Any new ideas?
I’d been getting messages for a while from people who were listening to my music and sometimes they’d send me really cool stuff that they were working on too. I always loved being able to put a face to some of the numbers on Spotify and Youtube so I just decided to put that note on my YouTube, so that people would be encouraged to reach out and say hi if they wanted to.
Since then I’ve had people send me music, poetry, paintings, photography, literature, documentaries. I think I’m going to work with one of the artists on some merchandise because I loved her stuff so much. It’s been really cool because it lets me feel more connected to the people who are listening to my songs.
And would you write a song based on your fan’s experience if they shared a story with you?
I don’t really have any rules about what I write about. So if I somebody told me a story and I felt inspired to write about it – whether it was a fan or not – then yeah, of course.
Who are your biggest inspirations – music-wise, but also when it comes to other areas of art?
This could be a long list but it includes Lykke Li, Arcade Fire, Beyonce, Lorde, The XX, King Krule, David Bowie, The Beatles.
If you took your phone out at this very moment and had a look at what you listened to recently, what would be your three most played artists?
Currently Sjowgren, Snow Culture and Pinegrove.
You’ve released a couple of singles and an EP – what are your plans for the future? What are you working on now, can we expect an album from you in the upcoming months?
Some new singles very soon, some more videos very soon, more live shows. An album sometime in the future, but not just yet.