Laoise, aka Laoise Ní Nualláin, is a Galway musician who’s on the verge of breaking big. She released her debut single proper, You, back in November and it earned her attention from multiple media outlets, like the UK’s Clash Magazine and Berlin-based music site Nothing But Hope And Passion, as well as Irish music bible Nialler9. You’s dark, brooding electro-pop is a taster of her upcoming debut EP Halfway, which is coming out this spring. Before that, the title-track is released as a second single in February. We met her to find out more.
You come from a musical background, where you played piano and violin from childhood. Can you tell us about that and how it developed your musical upbringing?
I remember seeing a violin solo with a full orchestra on the television when I was very young, about four years old or so, and being so mesmerised. I told my parents I wanted to play and I was at my first lesson straight away. I played traditional Irish music for years before learning classical piano when I was ten and I hated it. Hated it. I was so terrible! Though it was good to gain an understanding in that realm of music, I couldn’t connect with the music being written so perfectly on a page and I think that’s when I realised I valued music as a form of expression, rather than just entertainment. I guess this developed my musical upbringing in the sense that I needed, and still need, a place to express myself or I’ll go crazy.
So at what point did Laoise, as a project and concept, come into being? When did you start releasing and performing music as an artist and how has that evolved to its current incarnation?
Laoise came into play just over a year ago when I was moving into heavier, more electronic styles and sounds. Using just my first name as a project or concept has actually given me more confidence to try new things with my music. I think I felt a little trapped in the singer-songwriter genre so when Laoise evolved last year, it made me feel like more of an artist and creator when writing and performing music. I guess it’s all in my head, really, but I think that’s why it works. Plus, some people have difficulty saying Laoise already; I won’t get started on my surname!
You started off with a more guitar-focussed style, and then began to move in a more electronic direction on the songs that make up the Halfway EP. What inspired that stylistic shift?
I was going through a lot of personal changes when I started moving from folk-pop into a more electronic direction, so it was very fitting at the time. I find electronic music more evocative and expressive in comparison to a lot of other styles and genres. Changing styles suited my music and its content and it translated very well because of electronic music’s diversity in dynamic and sound.
You wrote Halfway during your recovery period from physical and mental difficulties. Did you find that making it was a therapeutic process? Does music have a value as an emotional release for you?
Making the Halfway EP was definitely a therapeutic process. When recording it, I relived some difficult emotions I experienced in the past, but I was able to process and reflect on them. Like I said before, from a young age music has always acted as an emotional release for me, but writing and recording these songs really proved this as there was no sense of regulation or convention.
Can you take us through the writing and recording process for Halfway? How does a typical Laoise song come together?
I wrote the majority of the songs on the EP with piano or guitar at first. It was when I worked with Seán Behan [from A Place Called Kai music studios in Dublin] that I was able to steer the songs into a more electronic sound. Seán recorded, produced and mixed the EP. It was his work that brought the songs to life. We recorded the songs in a spare room in his parent’s house with one microphone and a fairly old laptop, so it’s actually quite exhilarating that the songs came together so well.
You have quite an oblique lyrical style, preferring to hint at and create moods than telling stories directly. Is that your preferred writing style?
Yes, I’m quite ambiguous when it comes to lyric writing. I try not to give a lot away just because I enjoy having my own interpretation when listening to someone else’s song, and I want others to do the same with my music.
And finally, Halfway is out in April. After that, what does 2017 hold for you? What are your plans for the this year?
This year I plan to record and release more music. I’ve been writing a lot over the past few months and my style has started to change again. I also have some gigs lined up.
Halfway is out on A Place Called Kai in April.
Words: Austin Maloney