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Elf and ‘appiness

Singer- songwriter Etaoin told David Hennessy about her new Christmas single, working with Jimmy from Picture This and being given her own imprint label.

Ealing- Irish singer- songwriter Etaoin has just released her own take of the Christmas classic, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.

A lot has happened since The Irish World last caught up with Etaoin last year.

Jimmy Rainsford from Kildare rock band Picture This reached out keen to get behind Etaoin’s music. Etaoin has also been working with Nottingham indie band London Grammar. She has also been approached by Cantus Domus, the choir who have worked with big acts such as Bon Iver and Damien Rice.

Growing up in west London, Etaoin Rowe learned to play from the late Brendan Mulkere, was a real ‘Fleadh baby’ and won many All-Ireland titles in many different categories making it clear she was a musician and songwriter of considerable talent from an early age.

And since she released her debut single Bedroom Walls in 2021, Etaoin’s music has been winning over a wider audience.

Inspired by acts like Taylor Swift, Dermot Kennedy and Ed Sheeran, Etaoin has been singled out as one to watch by Hot Press and Amazon. She has also headlined Whelan’s and toured Ireland in support of Beoga as well as touring as far afield as Germany, Italy and charting in Germany thanks to her music being featured on television there.

A definite career highlight for Etaoin so far is when she was put on a huge billboard in Leicester Square by Amazon Music after they named her one of their Ones To Watch 2022.

However, if all that wasn’t impressive enough, Etaoin has also been given her own imprint label by Universal Records. At just 27, she is a ‘label boss’.

Born in Ireland, Etaoin grew up between London and there with a mother coming from Kilmacthomas in Waterford and a dad from Roscarberry in West Cork and Killinick in Wexford.

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Her real name is Etaoin Rowe but her moniker for releasing music is simply Etaoin.

What made you want to do a Christmas song and what made you choose I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday?

“I’m a Christmas fiend.

“I feel like in another life, I was a Christmas elf.

“I feel like I do want one day to be a Christmas elf.

“I feel like I would fit that role.

“It’s almost embarrassing but I just love Christmas so much.

“I wish it Could be Christmas Everday is one of my mum’s favourite Christmas songs as well.

“It was actually Jimmy’s suggestion.

“Jimmy said, ‘You know if your mum loves the song and you love Christmas so much, we should release a Christmas song’.

“And I was like, ‘Oh my god, we so should’.

“And nobody had ever done like a stripped back version of I wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday.

“So we basically said, ‘Why don’t we do a slow, intimate version of it?’

“Because Christmas is a really exciting time for people like me who are Christmas fiends but also Christmas I feel like it’s a time when you miss people.

“It’s a really lonely time for a lot of people and I wanted to release something that was a bit more sensitive, and sentimental.”

You mention Jimmy there. That’s Jimmy Rainsford from Picture This..

“Earlier this year, I started working with Jimmy very closely.

“Jimmy messaged me and he was like, ‘I’d love to be involved long term, and just really get behind this’.

“So I’ve been working with him literally like this (very close).

“He’s kind of managing me a bit now.

“I released a song, I Hate How I Look in my Head and he produced that with my friend Dustin Dooley and he did the whole music video for it.

“I’ve (also) been working with the guys in London Grammar.

“Dan Rothman from the band reached out to me and was like, ‘I love your music. Would you like to do some writing together?’

“I was like, ‘Yes. Sign me up’.

“That has been amazing because I’m a London Grammar fan.

“It’s like when Picture This hit me up.

“I always loved Picture This’ music.

“There’s been some crazy developments.

“I got given an imprint label by Universal Records.

“It means I can sign artists and they can release through Universal now.

“Isn’t that mad?

“When they said, ‘Do you want your own label?’ I was like, ‘Are you sure that you want to trust me with this?’

“I called it Manic Pixie Records so now I own my own masters which is something I’m so passionate about because when I write, it’s a real kind of representation of your soul and your innermost feelings and things that you feel like you can’t say to people in normal day to day conversation.

“The thought of having my own label wouldn’t even have crossed my mind.

“I never saw that- I don’t think anyone saw that coming.

“This is definitely a big workload and a lot of hats to balance but it’s also really exciting because as well as being a songwriter and artist, I’m so passionate about finding new music and I want to be signing people and building something bigger.

“To have a label with universal is the biggest, most unbelievable privilege and I’m aware they don’t offer that to many people.

“It was such an honour and such a compliment that they trusted me and wanted to do that with me.”

Etaoin’s last release I Hate How I Look in my Head tackled the issue of body image which is close to her heart.

“It was a big moment to release that song for me because it’s so revealing and personal.

“I wanted to cover something that I experienced when I was younger when I felt insecure in my body, when I would look at a magazine and think, ‘I need to lose 10 pounds’.

“It’s very relevant to what a lot of young girls and boys, but especially girls, are going through at the moment with such a huge influx of social media and stuff like that: Expectations, comparing yourself to these Instagram models.

“Young girls go through eating disorders.

“Young boys think they have to have six backs and biceps.

“They compare themselves to such unrealistic standards that we see online everyday: Photos that are edited, that aren’t even real.

“I really wanted to write it because I feel like talking about body image and stuff like that is a lot better than it was but still in some way a bit taboo.

“I really wanted to write about something that’s uncomfortable to talk about.

“I went through it when I was a teenager.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, do I need to be a skinny model?’

“Young girls see all these things and they have these expectations and then they skip meals, and then they think, ‘Oh, I need to look like this’, and you don’t need to look like that.

“And I feel like people hold themselves to standards that they would never hold people they love to which is really sad.

“We’ve got another song coming out called Forest Fire in January.

“I wrote Forest Fire one night thinking about some boy who was actually a bit of a d**khead.

“He wasn’t actually a nice guy at all.

“Basically at one point I just realised, ‘This is going nowhere, maybe my friends are right. Maybe he is the devil’.

“I was a bit like, ‘Why did you treat me so badly for two years? Why did you get with my friends?’”

Is that what he did? That’s terrible..

“Oh my God, we’d be at parties and he’d be there trying it on with my friends.

“He kissed one of my best friends.

“But she’s not one of my best friends anymore.

“But he was a nightmare.

“He was massively commitment phobic like, ‘Oh, let’s just go with the flow’.

“I ended it but because he was in my friendship group, I distanced myself from the friendship group.

“I wanted to just put myself first because I felt like that whole situation, I really didn’t put myself first.

“But I really wanted to just put myself first and just take some time away and do what’s best for my own heart, and my own energy and my own soul.

“We’ve got a load of music coming out already done in advance, which is exciting.

“These songs are all parts of me: My feelings and my thoughts and my worries, and my fears, and my happiest moments and my saddest moments.

“So far I’ve only really spoken a lot about heartbreak in a lot of songs.

“I Hate How I look in my Head obviously covers body image, covers insecurities.

“Then obviously Forest Fire is about a heartbreak but also mental health and feeling disconnected from your friends and feeling like you just want to escape.

“Dead to Me is about the guy that Forest Fire is about.

“It’s like, ‘I hope your iPhone smashes, and then your car crashes’.

“It’s like me hoping all these things ‘because you’re dead to me’.

“And the last time I played it at a show, he was there and all of our friendship group was there and everybody just kind of looked at him but he took it well, I think.

“It’s always had such a great reception anytime I play it live because it’s obviously quite vindictive and so that is kind of a bit more light hearted but also kind of covering, ‘You did hurt me, I’m not okay with it and I can do better’.

“Then the one after that is called So Lucky.

“I went to school with this girl and if you didn’t want her, you wanted to be her.

“Everybody just thought, ‘She’s so popular. She’s so funny’.

“But actually she had a lot of mental health problems and she was really sad.

“I wanted to portray, especially nowadays with social media, you can look like you’re having the best time and you’re so happy but you can be literally dying inside.

“Everybody on social media wants to look like their life is amazing and they don’t want to cover the ugly bits of life.

“We’ve also recorded one called I Won’t Go Into It which will be coming out next year, whether it’s on the EP or not.

“It’s funny that the song lived in my voice notes for a while and then I was with Jimmy in the studio and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got this little thing, but I’m not sure…’

“And I played it to him and he was like, ‘I think that’s one of the best things you’ve ever written’. And I was like, ‘Oh, cool. So I guess..’

“And he was like, ‘We need to record this now’.

“We were in the middle of doing something else and he was like, ‘No, no, we need to record this right now’.”

You deal with body image in I Hate How I Look in my Head but wasn’t it hinted at in your very first single, Bedroom Walls with the lyric ‘if I was skinnier’..

“It definitely does refer to that.

“At the time that I wrote the first EP, I don’t think I could have written I Hate How I Look because it’s becoming more and more and more clear to me who I am as an artist.

“What I want to speak about are the uncomfortable truths and the things that aren’t comfortable to talk about.

“I want to not just sing about heartbreak, I want to sing about all the worries of life and there are so many things happening like young people with body image, parents getting older, people pass away, all these different topics.

“My friends used to know me before I released music as ‘happy go lucky Etaoin’, ‘life of the party Etaoin’ who dances on the table and then people’s perception of me changed.

“Instead of just coming to me being like, ‘Let’s go out’, people would start talking to me about the deeper things and strangers started messaging me on Instagram asking for advice or just pouring out their souls to me.

“I’m becoming more and more comfortable with being every version of myself.

“I think I used to feel like I could only be ‘happy go lucky Etaoin’.

“I am happy go lucky and I am emotional and I’m sentimental and I am silly, but I’m also hard working and creative.

“I kind of realised, like, ‘I’m allowed to be truly honest’.

“And just being honest to myself in the moment is when I want to be talk about emotional things and deep things, I can talk about freely and fluidly.

“And when I want to be happy go lucky, I can still dance on tables.

“I’m not one or the other and that’s been a great realisation, because I used to feel like I was ‘happy go lucky Etaoin’ and I was super emotional on the inside and nobody knew.

“I felt like nobody knew me. Whereas now I feel as if people really do, strangers who I’ve never met know me sometimes better than people I’ve known for years.

“Someone sent me a message the other day being like, ‘Your song Pale Damp Cheeks helped me through. My daughter passed away and I’ve been listening to it every day for two years’.”

I bet it means a lot when people respond to the music in that way…

“I’ve had people being like, ‘I was gonna kill myself and I listened to your music and I didn’t’.

“People’s parents dying and them saying that my music helped them through it.

“I remember there was a guy who was like a really bad alcoholic/ drug addict and he said that my songs had really helped him through his recovery which is amazing to know that I get to be there in some way, in spirit.

“That’s what I love about music. It’s like an immortalized version of your intentions that people can listen to and hear that over and over again and it’s so nice to be an element of comfort to people who you’ve never even met.”

We spoke about how you were very sick as a child spending much time in hospital.

Did you ever have to spend Christmas in hospital?

“I did, but most of the time they’d let me home just for Christmas day.

“I remember when I was in Great Ormonde Street and looking out my window onto the road.

“It was about 6am in the morning and I remember seeing a random girl with a briefcase, and she was clearly going to work.

“It was the Christmas period and I remember looking down and thinking, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are’.

“It’s so easy to forget that there are people in hospitals right now thinking, ‘I want to go home. I’m just dying to get out for Christmas’.

“And hospitals are such an intense place.

“Bless them, the nurses always do try their best.

“My mum was a nurse as well so I think that’s also why they probably let me home because I had my mum to kind of take care of me.

“But I did spend long elements in the Christmas period in hospital which is hard.

But I think that time in hospitals has definitely given me a different appreciation for living life to the fullest and appreciating everything that’s around you from the flowers to the air to the bees to the, to the birds, and trying to be appreciative of all the moments, even the bad ones because without the peaks and troughs, life wouldn’t be stimulating.”

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is out now.

The single Forest Fire is coming in January.

Look out for a new EP and a big support tour yet to be announced also.

For more information, click here.

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