Orla Gartland never wanted to be anything but a musician. Something connected when she sang; she knew she had something worth sharing. It’s foolish to get in the way of what’s supposed to be.
By the time Orla finished school her audience was ready & waiting. “I started writing songs when I was fourteen,” she continues, “and I really wanted to share them. But you had to be eighteen to play in the pubs around Dublin. So I’d go down and beg them to let me play, like, ‘please! I’ll just drink squash!’ but they never have any of it.” On a whim, Orla found herself sharing her music online. “People began commenting and asking when I’d be uploading the next video – I was like hey, I guess this is what I do now.” Covers of songs she loved began to spread and reach new listeners, but it was the originals that made them stay. “Right from the start I noticed a more positive reaction when I sang my own songs – it felt like a good sign”.
Orla’s first love was folk and cites Laura Marling as the first artist to really turn her world upside down. Over time she became drawn closer to the eccentric, the quirky, the energetic – artists like Imogen Heap, Darwin Deez, Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple. “I just love artists that inject their character into their work.. where every song shows an uncompromised, undiluted version of themselves. That’s what I want my music to feel like.”
Buoyed by the response to her songs from around the globe – 130k subscribers on YouTube no less – Orla packed her bags and made the move to London. “I’m from Dublin. Lived there, went to school there, my entire life was there,” she says. “But the moment I finished school, I knew I had to uproot. London is so different to where I grew up; this city is so big and scary and alive. I knew it was the place for me to develop as an artist.”
“I don’t think at the time I realized how mad it was,” she recalls. “Looking back it was a big step; I was young. I slept on a lot of couches, proper rite of passage stuff. But at the time, it just felt like something I needed to do.” Orla dove into production and began experimenting with different instruments and sounds, bringing her songs to life. When she felt she had finally found her voice, Orla began building a team around her and within a year she had signed a publishing deal. “There was a lot of hard work but it felt like magic when everything began falling into place.”
Next came teaming up with the writer/producer duo Ben Langmaid – the unseen half of La Roux – and Sean Genockey (Reuben, Shame). It was a team that clicked from the off. “I have met producers that are so patronizing,” says Orla. “They want me to slap some vocals on the track and leave them to the rest, to have no other input. Ben and Sean know that this is my music and so they trust my instincts; they’re there to help me realize what these songs can be. I’m in really good hands.”
Now Orla is ready and primed to release her first single, a feisty alt-pop track called ‘I Go Crazy’. “It’s about telling someone you love them for the first time and not hearing it back” she explains. “Bad times. I went into the studio the next day so fired up and channeling the emotion into the track was cathartic.” The track is one of many of Orla’s upcoming releases that is firmly rooted in personal experience: “if it’s not a bit awkward and uncomfortable to sing, then it’s not honest enough.”
These new songs effortlessly point to where Orla is going now, and it’s clear her audience adore her for singing about a life that’s not dissimilar to theirs. When her two May headline shows sold out in an hour, there were no doubts about how excited these fans are for new material. “I’ve got a brand new live setup, a three piece. I am so ready to get gigging”. She smiles. “This is definitely the best version of myself yet…”