Next Wave #1131: Sarah Crean

Irish songwriter talks dealing with viral fame and the impact of endometriosis...

“I nearly had a anxiety attack on stage!”

CLASH is recalling the very first time they heard Dublin singer-songwriter Sarah Crean, when she acted as support for Irish alt-songwriter Kynsy as part of Dublin’s The Workman’s Club 12th Birthday last August. “I only found out about that gig a few days before, but it was the most excited I’d ever been for a show. It was 300 people and I sometimes play for 1200 now but it was the most terrifying night ever. I was nearly having an anxiety attack on stage but I managed to convince myself not to. I felt the stakes, I was getting shows where people were watching and I wanted them to believe in it as much as I do but I’m far more comfortable now.” Since then, Crean has gone on to have a remarkable rise, and surprise herself at how far she’s come. 

We’re speaking to Sarah Crean from her bedroom on a rare visit home following her performance to a packed-out tent at All Together Now festival in Curraghmore House, a fitting switch from our introduction. “All Together Now was on my bucket list so it was great to play, to have a full tent and for everyone to be so supportive,” she smiles recalling the weekend. “Those are the kind of things that remind me why I do it. Sometimes you’re thinking ‘Oh why do I put myself through this’ but those moments make it all worth it.”

The festival coincided with the release of her debut EP ‘Death By Laundry’, a five-track reflection on life on the precipice, unsure and uncertain of where to turn next. It was written over a near three-year period stretching from the early days of 2020 to the winter months of 2022. Crean recalls writing the project’s title track after Listening to Japanese Breakfast’s second album ‘Soft Sounds From Another Planet’, and thinking to herself that it was what real music truly is. 

“It was never forced,” she says of the songwriting process behind the EP. “I never felt under pressure to write songs for the EP it was just a case of here are the songs I have from the last few months, let’s put them in a chronological order and make that a project. I’m the type of writer who goes from the start of the EP to the end of the EP was the proper order it was written”.

The EP was always going to be written, however the base on which it was built, with support from AWAL, is in no small part thanks to the work of a man simply known as The Bun. The sunglass-wearing faux radio host, who posts TikTok videos under the username @thebun91.3, tracks down artists with tiny Spotify listenership and shines a light on their work – thanks to his 206.6K followers. On November 11th last year, Crean was attracting 295 monthly listeners when The Bun picked up her song ‘02:00 AM’ and shared it with his viewers. Within a matter of hours, Sarah’s listener count fired up. 

@thebun91.3 Next song up: 02:00 AM – Sarah Crean #indiepop #indierock #menitrust #japanesebreakfast #indie #sarahcrean #thebun913 #radiohost #spotifyplaylist ♬ 02:00 AM – Sarah Crean

“I had never heard of The Bun” Sarah remembers of the night her life changed; “he just popped up out of nowhere”. The video, which has since gone on to be viewed over 4.6 million times, came at a time when Sarah was unsure where to take her music next. “I had an EP ready but was too scared to release it independently”. Within 24 hours, ‘02:00AM’ had reached over 100K streams. “It was a Friday and it was the first day I started taking medication for my anxiety,” she laughs, “so I was already on edge so I let my friend Hannah monitor everything and she’d keep me posted. I remember at one stage she said it would hit 300K by the end of the day and it had already passed it by lunchtime. Hitting a million happened after about a week, and now it’s at nearly five million!”

“You do have to wonder how it happened and why TikTok decided to put it on everyone’s For You Page,” she continues. “I’m going to put it down to God but I don’t know what The Bun put it down to!”

From there, it was a whirlwind. Within two month, she had gone from an unsigned songwriter working on an EP in her Dublin bedroom to signing with AWAL in London and making the move across the pond. By April, she was putting the finishing touches to Death By Laundry in LA and guiding camera crews into laundrettes to capture the project’s visuals.  “Going to LA was perfect because I knew that’s where I wanted to finish the EP” Creans adds. “But it’s also got the aesthetic I wanted for all the visuals, so while it was amazing to go it was daunting at the same time.It was three full days of 18 hours making those videos, and it was so much fun but it was very tiring”.

Things were never always as easy for Sarah Crean, however. Before The Bun, she found herself in a rut between bouts of illness and on the edge of losing her sense of self. Endometriosis and adenomyosis had begun dominating her life, and heavily impacted her sense of freedom. A move to Berlin in 2021 in particular was hampered following a misdiagnosis before her trip, four years after the flare-ups which took over her life began. “I’d gotten a misdiagnosis before I moved to Berlin so I thought I’d dealt with it but when I got there it got worse and the doctors told me ‘no, it’s something else’ so I had to come home after about two and a half months. And since then it’s been a huge part of my life,” she says of her health problems.

The recurring pain and sense of uncertainty around her health has hindered her creative output, despite her best efforts to the contrary. “The pain of being sick every day… it is very hard not to let that seep into your work but I think I’ve learned how to turn it on and off and be able to control it better so it’s not taking over everything.” 

“I’m still learning how to write about it now. A lot of the stuff I’m writing at the moment is all about that, how the illness has progressed it’s taken such a chunk out of my life – at 22 – and there’s things I just don’t or can’t do because of it and that’s definitely hard but writing about it is important to me because it is such an important part of my life.”

It’s set to become a central tenet of her next project, one she’s currently in the process of completing. “The next thing I’m working on is something I’ve had the clearest vision of something I’ve ever had for a project,” she beams excitedly. “The last eight months have been intense: moving, getting sick again at a different level, meeting people, making friends, falling in love, all these things that I’ve never really experienced before, that’s what I want to document next. It’s about feeling like a girl in her 20s. It’s very dark again – all my stuff will be dark, always! – but for me it’s the first time writing about stuff that’s very, very real. I’m writing in the moment.”

‘Death By Laundry’ EP is out now.

Words: Cailean Coffey
Photo Credit: Neema Sadeghi

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