Bringing It Home: Sorcha Richardson Interviewed

Irish songwriter on falling in love, reclaiming Dublin as home, and her new album...

It’s a bright September morning when Dublin singer-songwriter Sorcha Richardson appears on Zoom from her Dublin apartment. The previous weekend, Richardson had performed to a packed-out tent at Electric Picnic, performing for the last time before the release of her sophomore album ‘Smiling Like An Idiot’.

“It’s kinda nice,” Richardson replies of how it feels to play the last show before the album’s release. “When I played my headline show in the Academy in March, I had the feeling that there were a few songs I wouldn’t play for a very long time; because the next time I was going to do a headline tour we’d have new material. Over the last few shows we’ve started adding new songs in and every time it’s been the highlight of the set so I’m really looking forward to playing a whole new setlist”.

Bringing It Home: Sorcha Richardson Interviewed

Clash is speaking to Richardson on the eve of the release of the album,which is a follow-up to her critically-acclaimed 2019 debut ‘First Prize Bravery’, which went to be nominated for Ireland’s Choice Music Prize and to cement Richardson’s place as one of the country’s most acclaimed contemporary songwriters and talents. Produced predominantly by LA-based producer Alex Cassnoff, ‘Smiling Like An Idiot’ is a reflection on the months of firsts that come with a new relationship, the first ‘I love you’, the first walk on the beach, and the early anxiety and tension that comes with not knowing what comes next but being excited every step of the way.

Sorcha Richardson wrote the record from her Grandparent’s house “by the sea, with a load of Jesus iconography on the wall”. Dedicating the front room in of the house to her writing, she set herself the task of working on a song a day for six months, contrasting heavily with her debut which was written over the course of three years.After six months of Zoom recording, she went to Dublin’s The Clinic studio to put the finishing touches to the record in collaboration with James Vincent McMorrow and David Anthony Curly.

Bringing It Home: Sorcha Richardson Interviewed

‘Smiling Like An Idiot’ is a far weightier collection than ‘First Prize Bravery’, something Richardson admits came from the process of playing the first record live. The new song’s uptempo accompaniment became somewhat a response to her debut, her weeks of touring across Ireland allowing her to get a greater sense of what elements audiences liked of her music. “I wanted the second album to be different, and I guess the writing process was different,” she explains. “I’m pretty okay at Ableton, so I was fully producing demos and I’d write and build songs around beats I was making so it was new that way”. 

As well as a sonic change in template, thematically the album also had an added weight of being intrinsically linked to a singlular moment in time. “The last album was a collage of multiple different people and memories over a number of years, whereas this is a distinct year-long period where you’re doing things like telling someone you love them for the first time and starting and building a relationship unaware of where it’s going to go,” Richardson notes; “Over time, I also realised it was about falling in love with Dublin again, after years of not calling the city home”.

Bringing It Home: Sorcha Richardson Interviewed

At the age of 18, after completing school, Richardson was awarded a scholarship to study in The New School, a progressive edge arts college in Brooklyn New York. Upon receiving a scholarship, she leapt at the opportunity. “I wasn’t moving to kickstart my music career or anything, I went there because I had a spot,” she admits of the decision to move, “I thought since I had a chance to go that if I didn’t try it I’d always regret it”. 

Richardson spent eight years in New York, and recalls the importance of the variety of music tastes and influences of her friends as particularly noteworthy about its impact today. “It took me out of what I had known in Dublin which was folky acoustic guitars,” she notes. “I think I just met a lot of people who were different to me and had a lot of different references and I don’t think you can ever not absorb some of that”. 

As well as different influences, her New York days also gave her a chance to make valuable industry contacts in the US, including producer Alex Casnoff whom she worked with for both her debut and latest album. “I’m very lucky with the people I met,” she adds, “I don’t know where I’d be without them”. She moved home aged 26, to a Dublin she’d almost forgot.

Bringing It Home: Sorcha Richardson Interviewed

Tracks such as ‘Smiling Like An Idiot’, ‘525’ and ‘Hard To Fake It’ soundtrack an artist rediscovering her roots again, and finding new meaning and building new memories in places she once thought she’d left behind. “When I moved home, I never thought I’d want to live here again, or have a life that I’d feel happy or fulfilled in” she adds, thoughtfully reflecting on moments passed, “but it was through meeting certain people that they showed me a part of Dublin that I never knew we had because I hadn’t lived here”. 

“Sometimes it can be hard” she adds, seemingly reflecting on rising rental prices and the fall in affordable housing across the capital, “and at the minute it doesn’t always welcome you back in the way that it might”. The duality of the album, of falling in love deeply for both a person and place simultaneously offers it an extra layer of depth and beauty to a record that’s both touching and daring throughout.

One particularly poignant track is ‘Purgatory’ – the oldest song on the album, it was originally intended for Richardson’s debut but not quite finding its home. “I tried so many times to write a new song about it but none of it work” she recalls of the process, reflecting on her decision and commitment to finding a way of making it work. Ripping up the verses line by line, she developed a whole new structure around the song’s chorus and adding an extra sense of depth with gliding instrumentation. “When we were in the studio recording it, that was the most exciting day,” Richardson laughs. “My drummer Cian and bassist Joe came and recorded it and we had all the lights turned off, at 2AM, they just went for it. I told them to try whatever they think works and they did four or five takes and it slowly fit together. It’s kinda a dark song and I wanted to lean into that so that’s one I can’t wait to play live”.

Bringing It Home: Sorcha Richardson Interviewed

It’s the album’s fourth track, ‘Spotlight Television’, however, that Richardson feels is most indicative of the album as a whole. “I think sonically that’s a good crossroads between a few different things that are happening. It’s a song about finding your feet again and learning who you are in a relationships and learning your effect on people”. This track in particular highlights the zoomed out nature of the album in comparison to its predecessor. Rather than narrowing itself on a single individualistic experience, the record finds a way of telling a deeply personal love story that’s equally synonymous with the experiences of others. It both guides the listeners through Richardson’s own personal journey whilst also leaving the track ajar to take their own trip down memory lane, reflecting on their own story and the each step that made up the road. ‘Smiling Like An Idiot’ feels like an album bigger than the artist who wrote it, and far greater than the sum of each individual song. 

As the conversation comes to a close, talk turns to the future and her upcoming Irish tour. A standout date is the biggest headline show of her career in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, where in the past she’s supported Mitski and James Vincent McMorrow. “When you grow up in Dublin, the Olympia is always the bucket-list place to play,” she smiles. “I’ve played there a few times as support, but it’s different when its your own headline show. My whole family are coming, I can’t wait”.

‘Smiling Like An Idiot’ is out now. For all upcoming tour details visit http://www.sorcharichardson.com/tour-dates.

Words: Cailean Coffey
Photography: Rachel Lipsitz

Follow Clash

Buy Clash Magazine