Truth is, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Orla Gartland. Despite being the tender age of just 17, the Dublin-residing singer/songwriter has amassed over 6,000,000 YouTube, released an EP on iTunes and garnered masses of support over the last few years. But don’t go thinking that she’s just struck it lucky with a few covers. Alongside applying her folk/pop style to other songs, she is an incredibly accomplished songwriter, with her most viewed original “Steps” becoming a personal favourite recently. I caught up with her to have a chat about her music, forthcoming second EP and what kind of animal she’d love to be. Catch that below, and then some of my favourite videos of her’s littered throughout the article. Love this girl, and remember the name.
For all those who aren’t familiar with yourself, introduce who you are and what you do…
HI THERE, I’m Orla, a 17-year-old singer songwriter from Dublin! I write songs, sing them, record them and use nerdy skills to unleash them across the internet. In that order!
How did you get into making music? Did you have a fairly musical upbringing?
My family’s big into music, but not the genre I’m into really! Classical music mostly, the skillful stuff. Which makes me a bit of an outcast in the corner, jamming along to folk and pop stuff! I started learning guitar about 4 years ago after wanting to learn forever, and just started singing along to that really. A few years on and I live and breathe music; I love it a little too much if I’m honest.
How would you describe your musical style?
The lovechild of folk and pop? Big influences for me would be Regina Spektor and Laura Marling, and I think those sort of styles creep through into my own stuff a lot.
A lot of people will recognise you from your wonderful YouTube channel, but what inspired you to set it up in the first place?
I had been playing guitar for just over a year and wailing alongside the chords. I hadn’t a clue how to sing; the breathing or any of the technical stuff (still haven’t the foggiest) – so just wanted some feedback on that really!
There can’t be a single doubt that you’re an immensely talented songwriter – so what inspires you when you sit down to write a song?
I’ve always tried to write about real experiences – I think it’s easy to tell when somebody spits out lyrics on a subject they know little about. So I try to avoid writing about anything alien to me! I focus on people mostly, people I know, writing about them, to them, or from their point of view! I love people big time.
So, your track “Sixteen” (which is going to be on your forthcoming EP)… What’s it about? Is it a real life scenario that you’ve encountered?
Yep, it’ll be one of the four tracks on the EP! For so long I avoided writing girly songs about love, but when I went through a chunk of life that inspired me to write about just that, I found it really hard! So I wrote in the third person about the situation I was in.
You released your last EP, ‘Laughing At My Own Jokes’ last year, and you’ve just been to England for a while to record the follow-up.. What was that recording process like?
It was incredible! Getting to spend a week being a full-on music dork was something I enjoyed a little TOO much. Everyone there was unbelievably nice, and a saint to put up with my studio nervousness! Recorded the last EP in a friend’s bedroom, so I was a bit shell-shocked starting off in a more professional setting.
How will the new record differ from the last one? Do you feel like it’s a better body of work?
I’m lucky enough to work with an ace producer on this EP, so it’s great to collaborate with someone who knows the ropes as well as someone who’s great fun to be around. Although I still have a soft spot for the songs on my first EP, they were written when I was 14, and i think my writing’s changed a lot since then! The new EP will be closer to the sound I’ve always wanted, with songs I’ve finally got some confidence in.
Any idea as to when it’s going to be out?
Seems decades away, but most likely around the beginning of summer!
Some – myself included – might call you a bit of a “YouTube sensation”.. But can you give any advice to those who were in your position a couple of years ago?
The best advice that was ever chucked at me was to avoid the nasty comments! The anonymous nature of YouTube leads people to act hard behind a keyboard, so I guess it’s important to sort the mindless hate from the constructive critiscm.
What kind of stuff is on your iPod just now?
Bucketfuls of Paolo Nutini, Bon Iver, Regina Spektor and Mumford! Coldplay’s newest album is a bit gorgeous and I’ve recently gotten re-hooked on Florence and that machine of hers.
On the interweb, you’re sometimes referred to as ‘musicmaaad’… Is that something you would change if you could, or do you quite like it?
I complain about it a little, but truth be told it doesn’t bother me too much! I wish there was an interesting tale behind it though, and there really isn’t!
You’re currently unsigned, but what would it take in the future for a record label to sign you? Is creative freedom a big thing for you?
Although I need to soak up any music advice I can get, I’ve definitely reached a point of confidence in my music to value creative freedom as a big priority. It’s quite easy to spot when someone wants to make money out of something they have little passion for, so if I was ever approached with any offers I’d watch out for such people! But I’m still in school with over a year left to go, so it’s not something I’m worried about right now. For my upcoming EP I have a team of great friends to work with, and I couldn’t be happier!
What are your big plans for 2012?
Releasing my first proper, studio produced EP will be a big milestone to pass – and with that will hopefully come a music video and some gigs! I find myself on a big excitement buzz when I think of everything ahead of me this year! This can only be good!
And finally… When I interviewed your good friend Lauren Aquilina a while back, some likenesses were drawn between her and an owl.. But if you could be any animal in the world, what would it be and why?
Most likely a cat! Ed Sheeran’s new music video has portrayed them as the party animal of the creature world. They also don’t get slagged for being ginger!