Sorcha Richardson on prepping for the big time

Sorcha RichardsonSorcha Richardson is onto something. The Brooklyn-based artist has tickled our fancy since the release of her 2016 single "Petrol Station", and has gathered momentum on the New York music scene ever since; coinciding with an increasingly prominent presence on our playlists, and resulting in her inclusion in our Ones to Watch in 2018 countdown at the end of last year.

Fusing pop and R'n'B into one slick mash, Richardson's decision to move to The Big Apple from Dublin at the age of 18 represented a change in tide for the artist, who'd previously resigned her material to a notebook: “I’d been writing songs for a while," she explains, "[but] I didn’t have any of them recorded. They just existed in my head [...] and, other than the odd party when someone would pass me a guitar, I didn’t really share them with people."

"The anonymity that came with moving to New York was a major thing that pushed me to go and play shows. I could go do a set at a dive bar without any fear of running into someone I knew. It felt like I had a lot of room to fail, quietly!”

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Building up contacts involved in different musical circles proved to be the boost Sorcha needed following a year of living in New York: “I met this big group of friends from Long Island and started making music with them. Up to that point, I was writing songs on my acoustic guitar but their music was this kind of alternative electronic stuff. It really opened my eyes to the idea of working in a more collaborative way and pushed me beyond the walls of the genres that I was used to writing in.”

That's not to say she'd forgotten her roots: “I think the first thing I did was send my songs to all of the Irish music blogs and radio stations that I knew. The Irish music scene is extremely supportive of new Irish artists and so that seemed like the best place to start.  I wasn’t sure if I’d even hear back from anyone but I’m pretty sure there were demos I made on Garage Band that ended up being played on national radio. It was a good vote of confidence.”

New York is obviously a totally different kettle of fish, with a music scene that's so thriving, it's easy to get lost in the din. Sorcha agrees, but prefers to focus on the positives of her current surroundings: “It’s very diverse, which has allowed me to work with people who come from totally different backgrounds to me." However she admits, "It’s so big that it can take time to find your place and to find the people that are right for you to work with, and New York is expensive. So it’s hard to be an artist there!”

Sorcha has turned to the internet to help her stand out from the crowd, with personal and personable touches such as the handwritten notes that adorn her website: “I made the website a few weeks before I put out "Walk Away"," she explains. “At that time, I’d recently scrapped an EP and started fresh, and began writing in a new way that was way more direct than anything I’d done before. I used to always dress up my lyrics just enough to disguise the thing or person I was writing about.  But with "Walk Away" and the songs that followed, I stopped trying to do that.  And so I wanted everything from the website to the artwork to the lyrics videos to feel consistent with that.  If someone hears my music for the first time and goes to my website, I want it to feel like an invitation in.”

Another personable touch to Richardson's website is the open letter that calls for fans to send her their creative ideas, whether it be their own music, art, photography, or - well, basically anything. “People would message me saying they liked my music and then after a bunch of messages back and forth, I’d find out this person was also a musician or a painter or a photographer or something. It always felt so weird that the conversation would be centred around me and my music when the other person has some incredible talent of their own. So I wanted to write a note on my website that encouraged people to reach out and say hi but also to feel free to send me their stuff too.”

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In one of the most humble exchanges I’ve heard from a musician, Sorcha also acknowledges the people that take the time to listen to her music on a human level: “It’s really exciting when songs get a lot of plays, but it’s also easy to forget that there are real people behind those streams. There was a group of college students in California who used to send me videos of them writing their final papers at 4am with "Petrol Station" playing in the dorm. And another guy I’ve gotten to know called Harrie who lives in Sydney sent me videos of "Lost" be played in the café where he works. That stuff is really exciting to me.”

Away from the internet and the many virtual connections that she's formed, and onto the more immediate live scene, Sorcha has toured with fellow Irish singer Imelda May, who is known for her spellbinding performances: “I enjoyed touring with Imelda so much. I feel like I learned a lot on that tour.  Imelda and her band are so talented. The main thing I took away [was] how much fun they had every night on stage. I used to be quite nervous about shows, especially ones that felt like they were 'important', but [touring with Imedla] made me realise it really doesn’t matter if you make a mistake and playing a perfect set isn’t the thing that makes the show great.”

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All this play and no work? As a rising yet unsigned artist, Sorcha faces an age-old dilemma - to dedicate all of her time to her art, or supplement her life with a 'proper job'. She sees positives here though, too:I've always found that working a job I don’t enjoy is a huge motivation for me," she laughs. "[In the [past] the more I've hated a job, the more I would want to change my situation.  You have less time to devote to [your music] but hopefully, some kind of budget to pay for recording and videos and PR.  Ultimately, I think if it’s something you want to do, you’ll find a way to make it work. I used to have a job that meant I got home at 10pm every night. So I’d stay up until 4am working on music. If you really enjoy making music I think you’ll find a way to fit it into your life, regardless of your schedule.”

With plans in the pipeline for a UK show this year, Sorcha also has a few goals for 2018’s bucket list: “Make an album. Tour more. Go visit my friends in LA. Maybe get my friend Neal to finally give me a surfing lesson.  Be a better writer. Reassemble my drum kit.”

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