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Sophie’s choice

Dublin singer- songwriter Sophie Doyle Ryder spoke to David Hennessy ahead of her debut London headline show which is also her first headline show anywhere outside of Ireland.  

Rising Malahide pop star Sophie Doyle Ryder plays her first headline London concert at The Courtyard Theatre on Thursday 11 May.

It is Sophie’s first headline concert anywhere outside of Ireland but it is perhaps apt that she comes here first of all as it all started for her here in a way as she penned her very first singles around London.

Sophie has long been drawing comparisons to international stars like Ariana Grande and Anne Marie while The Irish Sun have described her as, ‘Ireland’s answer to Rihanna’.

She is also signed to the same agency as Billie Eilish.

Since she released her debut single Mood in 2019, Sophie has rapidly established herself as one of the most hotly tipped pop artists in Ireland.

She released her debut EP Beginner’s Luck last year and has been named ‘One To Watch’ by many Irish media platforms such as RTE, Spin 103.8 and Sunday World among others.

Sophie told The Irish World about her upcoming London debut: “I’m really, really excited for it. I’m so happy.

“London is so exciting to be performing in because of the buzz with the music in general.

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“I’m just so excited to be there.”

It was in Croydon that she actually wrote her debut single Mood in 2019, and the follow-up tracks Enough and Too Much.

“I love it over there.

“I liked Croydon.

“I think I was 16 when I went there and I was a bit scared to be honest because I heard mad things about Croydon but it was grand.

“I was like, ‘It will be grand, I’m with my dad’.

“My dad is like 5’ 7”. He’s not the tallest man or scariest man in the world but I was like, ‘I’ll be fine’.”

Sophie has just released her new single Happier which placed very high on spotify UK playlist New Music Friday UK and was RTÉ 2FM’s track of the week.

“When it came out, I was shocked,” she says.

“It’s a really special song for me because I think it’s really different.

“It kind of relates back to Enough: You’re happy on your own, don’t need somebody.

“The chorus is ‘no more co-dependence’.

“In the past my mam would tell me ‘you’re too co-dependent on that person and you feel like you’re gonna die when they leave and then your whole world’s gonna end’, which is true.

“When I was 16, I had a meltdown over a boy.

“Now I look back on it I’m like, ‘Oh my god: So stupid’.

“I think it’s important especially for young girls to kind of grasp the idea of it but I know when I was young, I wasn’t really listening to the lyrics of songs. I was just kind of singing them.”

The message of female empowerment and independence is one that runs through Sophie’s work.

“I like feeling like I can do things on my own. I can’t wait to get out and get my own house and everything.

“I love living with my mam and dad, but I can’t wait to have my own house and have my own music space and not tell people to shut up because I’m trying to record, or shut up because I’m doing an interview.”

Sophie reveals she could see herself leaving Dublin for somewhere like London.

“I think I would just be wasting my life away if I stayed here.

“I love Dublin, love Ireland, love everything about it.

“I adore it.

“Hate the education system and stuff.

“I don’t know if I want my kids to be doing the Leaving Cert and everything.

“I just can’t really see myself here in the long run.

“It’s a dream to kind of get out of here really.”

And she has loads of time.

It is easy to forget that Sophie is still only 20 years old.

“I sometimes catch myself being like, ‘Ah, I haven’t done enough but then I’m like only 20, I’ve done so much. It is a bit hectic.

“But I love it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I would pick this over anything any day, even though it has me up to my eyes.”

Sophie has always known she wanted to be a singer, from when she was singing karaoke on family holidays in Spain or recording a CD of Adele covers when she was 13 or 14.

“I was 13 when I wrote my first song maybe.

“Actually my stepdad owns a company called Vision Media and he did my first CD for me.

“I went and recorded loads of Adele songs in his little studio.

“It was so fun, I think I was 14.

“That definitely gave me the spark but I took it seriously at 16.

“My granddad’s moved it (the CD) into every car he buys now and he still has it, he loves it but I hate it, I think it’s so bad.

“I hear it and I’m like, ‘Oh my god I wasn’t a good singer back then’.

“I don’t think I was at all and I’m like, ‘Why did people tell me I was?’

“Somebody was lying to me, I think.”

The Irish World gets the feeling that Sophie would still like Beginner’s Luck to be considered her debut EP. Her grandad may love that CD of covers but Sophie herself wouldn’t mind smashing them with a hammer.

“They can’t see the light of day,” she laughs. “Only my Grandad and that’s it.”

Sophie was studying at BIMM, the revered music college in Dublin but has deferred for the year.

“I’ve taken a break.

“I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do in September yet.

“It (music)’s something that I love doing.

“I definitely want a degree.

“My mam wants me to get a good degree ‘just in case’.

“I’d love to be like a teacher if I wanted to make my own little music school or something.

“That’s what I tell people when they ask me my plan B but I definitely think that I’m really enjoying doing the music right now.”

So is it studying music formally that you’re less sure about? “Yeah.

“When I was in secondary school I studied music and I always found the theory side of it really difficult.

“I just can’t sight read music for the life of me which might come as a surprise to some people, but I just cannot do it at all.

“I’ve such a passion for the performing side of it.

“People in my family say I’m a bright button but I don’t really think I am.

“I can’t grasp it for some reason.

“I can grasp the really basic things but at college level I found it really difficult definitely.”

I don’t think it has anything to do with you not being bright, not everyone learns the same way.

Do you think it could be you’re more of a self taught kind of person?

“Yeah, I think I am because I self taught myself piano and everything when I was young.

“I think when I just teach myself things, it’s a lot easier.”

At BIMM Sophie found a supportive circle that is behind her and her music with even lecturers of hers showing up to her gigs. She didn’t find people so supportive at secondary school.

“It’s such a supportive group in BIMM.

“I still have a nice little community from BIMM that would support me and like my stuff, listen to my stuff, share my stuff.

“I got along with every lecturer in there, every single one of them was so nice and it’s not something I expected coming out of secondary school.

“I didn’t really get along with many of my teachers.

“They all thought that I was a crazy girl who wanted to be a singer and I’d never actually do anything about it and that I would just go around singing on the streets.

“It was kind of refreshing (at BIMM) because I was being taken seriously for the first time especially when I saw them at my gig.

“People actually believe in you and don’t doubt anything you say and they encourage you to have crazy dreams like playing the Malahide Castle one day.

“At school there were a lot of people who were just, ‘You’re mad’.

“And I was like, ‘Am I though? I’m going to do it. I’m going to write songs, I can write songs already. Why can’t I just record them and release them?’

“People were just like, ‘You’re mad’.

“But then I released my first song when I was in 5th year and then people kind of started taking me a bit more seriously.”

Sophie says her plans were greeted with derision from both her teachers and peers although some have changed their tune now.

“Every time I was in a careers class, I would get questions, ‘What are you going to write down on your CAO and what are you applying for?’

“I would say one college, ‘BIMM’ and they were like, ‘Are you serious?’

“And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m deadly serious. I don’t want to do anything else’.

“Why would I sign up for nursing when I don’t want to be a nurse?

“But it was hard. I kind of found it discouraging sometimes but half the time from my peers it was just bitterness and jealousy.

“You can just kind of tell.

“I had my friends that support me and that’s all that matters to me.

“There’s definitely people who come to me now, ‘Oh my God, this is so cool’.

“And I’m like, ‘You told me I was a loser three years ago but thanks for supporting me now’.

“It was hard but I definitely have thick skin. I got lucky with that.”

Sophie had her debut headline show at Whelan’s postponed and postponed due to the pandemic.

She was initially supposed to play it when she was 17 and would be 19 when she did get to do it.

The pandemic gave her a chance to work on her sound.

“I feel like I’m in such a different headspace now where I know exactly who I want to be as an artist.”

And who is that? Obviously you get compared to Rihanna, Anne Marie, Ariana Grande, how do such comparisons sit with you?

“I actually never expected to get compared to Rihanna.

“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s such a huge compliment’.”

Sophie has always found music to be therapeutic for her.

“My parents separated when I was really young.

“I think I was six or something so I’ve no real memory of it.

“I might have one vague memory of me being like, ‘I don’t even know what you’re saying to me but okay’.

“And then I remember getting older and kind of realising what it was.

“My mam stayed in the home with us for a few years so when she started moving out, I was like, ‘Okay, I know what’s happening now’.

“I think music really helped me and also my step parents are amazing.

“My stepbrothers and my stepsister, I love them.

“I don’t know what I’d do without them in my life.

“And my stepdad doing the CD for me and everything, I think maybe if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be a singer.”

Sophie’s number one fan will always be her father who rarely misses a show.

“He’d die if he missed a show.

“He’s my biggest supporter.”

So he’ll be there for your big night in London? “Definitely, 100%.

“He wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

What are the plans now, another EP? “I think when I released Beginner’s Luck my only disappointment was I felt like some songs got a little bit lost and they didn’t get the recognition that I wanted them to.

“So my plan is to just release a lot of singles and then make them a collective EP at the end.”

Does that mean you have the next single already picked out? “Yeah, I’m so excited about it. I wish I could tell you the name of it. I’m really excited about the next one.

“It’s a bit rockier and a bit Avril Lavigne.

“I’m really really excited about that one.

“I’ll definitely be playing it in London as a teaser.”

Sophie plays the Courtyard Theatre on Thursday 11 May.

Happier is out now.

For more information, click here.

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