Bridie Monds-Watson is kind of a star these days. Not in terms of the sensitive, indie-folk heroine narrative that built up around her debut ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’, making SOAK the youngest ever Mercury Prize nominee, but in the sheer electricity that runs through her during live shows. “I think I’m becoming the kind of frontperson that I always wanted to be,” she tells us via phone in London, having just returned from a video shoot in LA. “Whereas before I would use my guitar as a shield, now I just wanna be in the crowd and be part of it.”
Her new album, ‘Grim Town’, addresses the shields that we still hold up in day-to-day life, with the town itself forming an imagined location to deposit those anxieties. Like its predecessor, the record doesn’t shy away from life’s dark corners, but that doesn’t equate to pessimism in the SOAK philosophy. “I wanted to make it really honest and cover the whole spectrum of emotion,” she explains, “while also being quite empowering and hopeful.”
That spirit enabled a renewed sense of peace with how to present different elements of her own identity, including sexuality. “I came to realise how good and easy and lucky I’d had it, and how that’s not the usual way,” she admits. “I had this fear of being defined as a gay artist and nothing more. But the reality is that every time a queer artist talks about how normal being gay is, it helps… I realised I had a really good platform to do that.”
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It feels significant when Monds-Watson talks about “almost shouting” on this record, where previously she mumbled. But that’s the beauty of SOAK, and especially ‘Grim Town’: its confidence well earned from experience.
Would she offer a younger musician any pearls of wisdom now?
“Literally just be yourself, because nobody cares for fakeness. It’s not going to get you anywhere,” she says, then pauses. “The most original thing you have is yourself unfiltered.”
In 2019, SOAK is clearer and sharper than ever.
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'Grim Town' will be released on April 26th. Words: Matthew Neale Photography: Ellius Grace
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