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Galway girl

Singer-songwriter Laoise told David Hennessy why her current single would not have come about had she not been receiving some therapy, how early trad sessions compelled her to be a singer and how she didn’t know what she had until live gigs came to an end.

Growing up in Galway, 22-year-old singer-songwriter Laoise played the fiddle from the age of 5 and performed in traditional Irish sessions at her local pub. During her teenage years, she started listening to the likes of Kate Bush and David Bowie.

It is these contrasting influences that possibly make her sound so unique. It is best described as electro-pop with infectiously catchy choruses.

She counts Stevie Nicks and Taylor Swift as other inspirations.

The Galway songstress has long been considered one of Ireland’s rising musical talents since she started releasing music in 2016. Earlier this year she was asked to join the Irish Women in Harmony on their Dreams single in aid of Safe Ireland.

However, Laoise told us that her latest single Healthy is an expression of herself like none of her work has been before.


Struggling with the frustration and isolation of lockdown, Laoise started to receive therapy. It was through talking to someone and getting thoughts and feelings out instead of keeping them inside that she found the headspace to start thinking about healthier ways to approach her music and life in general.

Laoise told The Irish World: “I sort of realised I was just accidentally appeasing a lot of other people in terms of, ‘Maybe if I do this, I’ll get this kind of a thing’. Once I kind of adjusted a lot of that I started writing stuff that I just really, really loved. I’ve always loved everything I’ve ever written but this is the stuff I really felt was coming straight from me.

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“Healthy probably wouldn’t have even happened had I not been in therapy which is cool.

“I just wanted to look at my thoughts in a different way. It’s hard to un-say something to a family member or a friend even though I’m as honest as I can be with friends and family. It’s a really cool place to explore thoughts. You might just want to say something about someone that you would never actually say to them and then actually question, ‘Why do I want to say this?’

“It’s affected my songwriting in a really positive way I think. I’ve always found songwiriting therapeutic but it’s nice to have another pair of ears on your deepest, darkest thoughts you would never want to expose to the world unless it is wrapped up in a metaphor in a song. Saying it as it is is pretty cathartic.”

Laoise explains why Healthy plays like a love song despite its personal meaning: “I’ve been in a really healthy relationship for the last couple of years and I wanted to touch on that in, ‘If I’ve been in that relationship for a while, why am I not in that relationship with myself yet?’

“Maybe everyone’s not in therapy at the moment, maybe not everyone’s on the exact same journey as I am but I can write it into a song that’s quite palatable but still makes sense to me and my life at the same time.”
Laoise grew up surrounded by traditional music. Having learnt to play the fiddle at the age of 5, she would regularly attend traditional Irish sessions at her local pub, and it was seeing what music could create that made her want to pursue it as a career.

“I would be sitting in trad sessions and someone would sing a song and then I was like, ‘Ohhh, that’s cool’. Because everyone would just go quiet. You know when you’re in a pub and you start hearing the ‘ssshhh’ that travels all the way to the back of the pub and you realise it’s because somebody’s about to sing. I just always thought that was so cool: ‘Wow, we’re all gonna pause for this voice’. That’s so spectacular. We’re all just, ‘Wow, we need to hear this voice’.

“I think that was a big lightbulb moment: ‘I really want to do that as well’. It took me a while to start doing this but once I did I just couldn’t stop.”

Coming from a family of musicians, music was a big part of Laoise’s life from very early on.

“I have such vivid memories of looking at the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album cover when I was five and my dad telling me the stories between all of them: ‘She went off with him and then they were together and they wrote the whole album while all of this was happening’.


“I thought that was so cool and I remember him showing me Kate Bush as well. When Kate Bush came onto the scene him and all of his friends were like, ‘Who is this?’ I just love somebody that just captures your attention like that. Both Stevie and Kate are so theatrical but they can make something so mundane seem like the biggest deal.”

It would be as a teenager that Laoise would start recording her own music.

“I worked one summer and I saved up enough money to buy a microphone and a little interface. I had a really old laptop that made a lot of noise so in the background of all these songs I was recording there was a hummm because the laptop couldn’t keep up.

“If I sit down with my guitar or I write or whatever, time doesn’t exist. ‘How is it 6 o’clock? I thought I just sat down at 10’. It’s one of those things that I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing. That was the moment I found that. I would go into my room and just record and mess around. I had no idea what I was doing but I was having fun and there was no pressure like, ‘I’m going to have to show this to someone tomorrow’. It was just, ‘What can I do today?'”
Laoise is still ‘fresh out’, as she says herself, of BIMM in Dublin where she studied songwriting and graduated only last year.

“I wanted to do songwriting because I’ve always just been so interested in the starting of a song. Of course you can bring in guitars, you can bring in drums, you can all of these things with production. I just love stories and a song that can stand up by itself without any of that.”

Laoise was surprised herself by the impact her debut EP Halfway made in 2016.

“We didn’t really know what we were doing but we were having fun. I didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. I kind of just thought, ‘I’ll put this out and maybe mess around with a different sound’. But I guess it made a bit of noise in the industry. I didn’t expect it to kick off that way and I think what happened then is I started overthinking how everyone was seeing me and then that started to affect how I wanted to present myself.”

Laoise has admitted to cringing when listening back to her earlier work.

“I’m trying to not be too hard looking back on myself. I did the best with what I had and it was a bit of craic. I’m not saving lives. I’m not a doctor. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself so maybe that’s why I listen back to something and go, ‘Oh my God, what is this?’ At the time I loved it. As a creative you’re always going to be your worst critic.”

Like every musician, Laoise has missed the live performance element that makes the industry what it is.

“You know when people say, ‘You don’t know what you have until it’s gone and all of that kind of craic?’ That’s exactly what happened. I would love nothing more than to just go out and even just sit in a sitting room with loads of people and play my guitar and sing.

“I love gigs. I love playing music. It’s so nice to see fans and to hang out with people and see the actual listeners but I notice as well that I was putting so much pressure on myself to make the shows the best. If and when we can come back to playing shows I feel like I might strip it down a bit in parts.

“I got to play Lollapalooza in Berlin and I wasn’t expecting people to show up at all but it was full and I was just like, ‘How am I in Germany? I’ve been here once and now there are these people here to see me?’ It’s weird to see people in real time singing the words back to you.

“One of the last shows I played was in Lost Lane and it was just lovely because it sold out. I baked brownies for everyone and I got to meet people afterwards, get some photos, sing some new songs. I think it was the first time as well I walked onstage feeling so prepared and happy with all the songs that I was playing and just that there was a crowd there. I would love to go back to that night right now.

“It’s so sad. I just really want to sing.”

Although she was in Dublin up until recently, Laoise has returned nearer to home. Having lived away she can now see her home place for what it is and has spoken in the past about her desire to capture the city of Galway and its vibe in music.

“It’s interesting looking at Galway now. You know when you grow up somewhere and you want to get our of there as quick as you can? You don’t see what you have. It was only when I would come back down from Dublin and seeing it with fresh eyes but this nostalgia because it wasn’t exactly fresh eyes.

“I wanted to capture that feeling of knowing somewhere but also not knowing the people there. I feel trying to capture the feeling of being on Quay Street on a nice, sunny Saturday would be a buzz.

“It’s so colourful and you want to honour that. You don’t want to get it wrong.”

Healthy is out now.

For more information, click here.

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