Mad, Again, I Mean… Seriously? That’s what rising electro-pop artist LAOISE has to say throughout her striking new EP, ‘Mad.’
Hailing from Galway, Ireland, Laoise (pronounced ‘Leesha’) launched onto the scene in 2016, barely out of her teens, with the glistening gem, ‘YOU,’ introducing her smooth alt-pop vibes, alluring vocals and mature sense of storytelling to the rest of the world, who were fast to catch on.
Growing up playing traditional Irish music on the fiddle, Laoise spent her childhood tagging along to pubs with her talented multi-instrumentalist parents and older sister, constantly enthralled in the enjoyment and comradery music brought to her community, which soon inspired her to attempt songwriting. “Music was always around the house, so I guess that’s how I got into it,” she acknowledged. “I properly sat down and finished writing a song when I was about fourteen years old and that got the cogs turning. From there, I started studying songwriting in college and now I’ve just finished my thesis,” she casually slipped into the conversation. “It’s funny, because it wasn’t until I moved away from it that I realised how lucky I was growing up there.”
Now 22 years of age and living in Dublin, the singer-songwriter’s second EP, Mad, reveals a more confident and brutally honest side to the artist, as she overcomes the hardships conveyed throughout her previous releases and comes to terms with life’s trials and tribulations.
“Lyrically, Halfway was touching on a lot of mental health issues I was going through at the time around anorexia and bulimia,” Laoise explained. “The only way I was getting any cathartic release from it was through music and writing into words what I was trying to make sense of in my head. Musically, It was my first time really playing around with synths and figuring out what I liked, so it was very experimental in that sense too. It’s still a daily battle, but now that I’ve overcome a lot of that, I feel like the child in me really came out again and I’ve come into the artist that I wanted to be, without realising.”
Describing the EP as “word vomit of the things you wish you could really say to people,” Laoise explained, ‘Again’ is about the power of telling somebody you won’t let them do that again, while ‘I Mean…’ is about missing everything and ‘Seriously?’ is the ‘I want you’ of the storyline. “Putting the songs in order like that was really just about connecting them together, because they all come from the same place of talking about things that were annoying me,” she laughed.
Co-writing and producing the entire EP with Sean Behan and Richey McCourt, Laoise admitted that she can sometimes take her time writing a song. “Mad took an entire year to finish because it kept changing, whereas we finished I Mean… in one day, it just poured straight out of me. Because Mad took so long, I feel like I know every aspect of it, but I Mean… still feels kind of new to me. Each of the songs were fun to write as they all offered different challenges.”
“When Sean and I met Richey it was like a completely different door opened that we didn’t even realise was there. That’s why I love collaboration, because you can each bring ideas out of one another that you didn’t know were previously there. Doing that with Richey was so much fun because he’s a big Robyn and Taylor Swift fan, as am I, so it was nice to have those similar references mixed in there along with the other artists myself and Sean listen to. Just having more people in the room creates such a good energy. When I listen back to the EP I sometimes wonder how we finished it, because we just laughed so much in the process, we were hysterical.”
Filled with a bed of pop hooks, sweeping synths and slick production, it was the fans who asked for a stripped back version of Again, which has fast become Laoise’ most streamed song. “If you were to hear the demo, you wouldn’t be able to hear much of a difference, because that’s how the song sounded when I wrote it. As a songwriter, it’s really important for me that a song can stand up on its own and I find it incredible that people want to hear the song in its more vulnerable state without all of the glitz and the glamour, because I would think, that is what they want to hear.”
Although the inspiration for most of her lyrics stems from her own experiences, Laoise admits that on occasion it will spark from her friends stories. “I’ve always been so interested in conversation and how people say things, because I grew up speaking Irish which is very poetic. It’s a very metaphorical language and I love the way the tone differs. Even if I hear a snippet of a conversation from people who walk past me on the street, I may use it as an idea for a verse, but the overall song will still be from my own personal experience, it kind of becomes a mix. I look at songwriting like a jigsaw and all of these stories and experiences I gather along the way are the pieces of the puzzle that come together to shape and form a full song.”
Artists such as Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks are also among her top influencers. “I still can’t believe that Kate Bush wrote Wuthering Heights when she was so young! She’s so incredible and I love how theatrical she is and Stevie is just so honest with herself and her music,” Laoise gushed. “There’s so many new artists that are inspiring me at the moment too, I’m a massive fan of Khalid and am obsessed with Lennon Stella, her lyrics are so straight up and I love all of her rhythms. There’s so much great new music out there that sometimes it gets overwhelming!”
With a visually strong aesthetic to boot, Laoise is very much in control of her entire creative-identity as an artist. “I see a lot of colours, layers and visuals in my mind when writing. I once told somebody that their verse was very green but the chorus felt very purple, so I’m unsure if they would work together, and they just looked at me like I was crazy,” she laughed. “We all see music differently and maybe I do have a bit of synesthesia, but whatever it is, colours certainly help me.”
Since releasing a fun, bright video for Again, Laoise latest video for Mad takes on a thought-provoking scenario in a spectacularly playful approach. “Music is this big beast of an industry, and the more I work within it, the more stories I hear of, particularly women, being told they need to act a certain way to be able to sell their art. So the idea in the video is that a mad scientist is experimenting with trying to create the perfect artist or person, because in reality, they don’t exist.”
Working with the same team behind the visuals for Again, they enlisted a team of film students straight out of college to help with the video. “It was so great, because for most of them it was their first time on the set of a music video so you could feel their passion and excitement, it was really fun.”
As well as producing captivating visuals, a love of performing is definitely cemented in her roots. “I know so many people who hate performing, but it has to be my favourite part,” she admit. “You don’t expect that when you are writing words onto a piece of paper, that other people are going to have them memorised and sing them back to you, it’s like being in an alternate universe, I love it! You’ve already put all of the work into the songs, they’re done, and all you have to do is go out there and sing them. It has been fun that the stages are getting bigger too, because it means that I have more room to skip around,” she chuckled.
Comparing festival season to Christmas, the remainder of this year is shaping up to be one long celebration for the rising star, with upcoming sets at both Longitude Festival and Lollapalloza Berlin, just to name a few. “Glastonbury or Coachella would be a dream to play,” Laoise professed. But in the meantime, she’s anything but mad with the opportunities that her new EP has presented her with to date, not to mention increasingly proud of the growing independent scene in Ireland.
Being a young independent artist in today’s music climate is a feat Laoise stated is both ‘a blessing and a curse.’ “Like anything, there’s going to be the good and the bad,” she added, “but the scene has changed so much in Dublin since I moved here four years ago. There are so many independent artists now, it’s like we’ve all come together and built this extremely supportive little community, filled with so many different genres. Of course we’ve had Sinéad O’Connor, The Cranberries and Enya who are all incredible, but there’s never been small or medium tiers for people to release music here. We’ve always had this massive infrastructure, that means getting signed and moving away, but with an outlet like the internet, it allows me to stay home and build my career from here.”
“Being able to post something that’s going to go around the world in a second is absolutely insane,” she continued. “Okay it’s a saturated market now, but that’s where you then need to work on what makes you different, and of course I have those days where I think, I’m just a small blonde girl, there’s loads of other people out there like that, but it’s about trying to find self belief, which is hard. One of the biggest factors for me, is avoiding comparison, because that’s not going to make any difference. A lot of the time you can quickly become bitter, but what I’ll say to that is, don’t be bitter, be better. There’s no point in comparing ourselves to others, because each person is going to be different and being able to show your differences and not be scared about them is something I am always working towards.”
“Don’t let anybody treat you like crap, but also own up if you have treated someone like crap,” Laoise said of the message she hopes people take from listening to her EP. “There’s a lot of layers I used to pile onto situations where I thought I was acting in a certain way because of my anxiety, but I was really just not being nice at all and now as I’m entering my early twenties, I can acknowledge that, which is a really hard thing to do. I guess becoming more emotionally intelligent probably comes with age, but try be more real with yourself and those around you,” and as her final words ring out.. “Just don’t be a dick!”