Last To Leave: Ailbhe Reddy’s Artistic Growth

"Songwriting and figuring out how people tick are not too different..."

‘Endless Affair’, the sophomore LP from Dublin singer-songwriter Ailbhe Reddy, finds an artist in turmoil. She’s a young woman jumping from party to party, drinking too much and reflecting on what life she truly wants to lead and whether she’s taking the right path to get there. The duality of the project, however, is apparent throughout; as you progress through the record you begin to question if everything is truly as bad as it seems, or whether such moments of insecurity or uncertainty are merely the stepping stones upon which life-long friendships and moments are made.

“Loads of it’s written from a perspective of feeling petty and writing in the moment,” Reddy reflects as she speaks to Clash from the New York City apartment where she is preparing for a month-long US tour, culminating in a performance at Austin’s cultural carnival SXSW. “I went into this album knowing exactly what it was going to be about, it was gonna be about the fallout of partying too much but also the good sides of that and figuring how to balance those things, the duality of personalities you can be”. 

“You can be the pain in the ass person who’s too drunk at a party one night,” she says. “You can be hungover, a bad partner and a bad friend but you can also be a good partner, a good daughter and a good friend all in the same person”.

It’s been three years since Reddy released her heartbreaking debut album ‘Personal History’, an album which went on to be nominated for Album of The Year at Ireland’s Choice Prize and helped Reddy build her reputation as a songwriter of merit both at home and abroad. Reddy was previously preparing for a US and EU tour with her first album, and was even selected to play SXSW’s doomed 2020 edition, but despite her disappointment at the time she feels more prepared to take things in her stride with two albums of material in her back pocket. “I’m better set-up to deal with it now” she admits. “I’m older, more mature and my work ethic’s a little better than before. When something doesn’t happen once and you’re lucky enough to get a second chance down the line you’re also more ready for it in every possible way”.

Last year, Reddy made the big decision to finally make the move she’s always dreamed of and started to call London home; “It just didn’t make sense to move in a pandemic as I’d just be locked down in most likely a smaller room so I was really glad to be able to do it”.

The majority of ‘Endless Affair’ was written in lockdown, with Reddy messing with potential arrangements and ideas ahead of hitting the studio when they finally reopened in 2021 with producer Tommy McLaughlin in Donegal, the same studio in which she recorded her debut. “It was great,” she recalls of returning to Donegal to record. “There’s not much else to be doing other than recording so you really get in the zone which is key. Last time when we were recording the first album there was a problem with the internet so you couldn’t even be texting anybody, we were just fully focused which was a blessing”. 

“It was great to go back because I know the studio; Tommy, James and I know each other so well that it’s very easy to work together and we know each other’s processes. I’d demoed all those songs within an inch of their lives so we all knew what we were aiming for so there was nothing really extra to do”.

In contrast to ‘Personal History’, ‘Endless Affair’ seems a far more confident and self-assured album, louder and more dynamic to a point where one begins to wonder whether Reddy had been holding this all back all along. Tracks such as ‘A Mess’, ‘I’m Losing, You’re Winning’ and ‘Damage’ accentuate the indie-rock elements of her songwriting. “It’s more assured,” she replies when asked of her sound’s progression. “Loads of the lyrical content is very serious almost but I don’t think I’m a serious person so a lot of the production is really balancing that out. The first half of the album is all youthful debauchery, that immature and goofy time that when you look back on them you can’t really take yourself too seriously”.

“I’m a completely different person,” she reflects of her earlier songwriting efforts with her ‘Hollowed Out Sea’ EP in 2016, a project she wrote whilst balancing music with an office job she took after completing a psychotherapy degree. “I think I felt like I’d wasted a lot of time being a brat and wasting time so I tried to do everything all at once. I couldn’t tell you what I did in the three to four years between finishing college and this project, it all just passed me by”. 

“Songwriting and figuring out how people tick are not too different,” she remarks of her time in psychotherapy. “When you learn to analyse and view people in that way it’s impossible to extricate that from your thoughts and it means your songwriting is a way of trying to understand why you or somebody makes certain decisions or does certain things”.

Now seven years older, Ailbhe Reddy has well and truly captured the hearts of all who would listen. ‘Endless Affair’ already looks set to follow in ‘Personal History’s footsteps at next year’s awards and her time in NYC seems predestined to influence her sound no end; it’s intriguing to think of what could follow next. It’s sure to be a good time regardless. 

‘Endless Affair’ will be released on March 17th.

Words: Cailean Coffey
Photo Credit: Niamh Barry

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