SOAK – aka Bridie Monds-Watson – has always penned songs that feel wise beyond her years. In fact, most of the songs on her award-winning debut album were written when she was 15. Now 22, the singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland has released Grim Town, a follow-up that’s just as beautiful and broody, with perhaps a few more optimistic and danceable tunes than last time. We phoned Bridie up for a little chinwag about it all.
How did you first get into making music? I wanted a pair of drums for Christmas when I was 12 but I never got them. Instead, I got a guitar and decided to make do with that. I picked it up quite quickly and got a bit obsessed with the fact that I wasn’t shit at it. I forced my big brother to teach me, too – I think the first songs I learned were “Smoke on the water” or “Everybody hurts”.
And when did songwriting happen? It came quite quickly once I got a grip of the guitar. Writing songs was my first method of self expression. I think I became a bit addicted to being able to express myself through music like that, and to do it so accurately.
Who was the first person you played your songs to? I was actually in a couple of bands where we just did cover songs – that was me avoiding showing anyone my actual music. Then I made some songs in my bedroom and was putting them online and stuff like that. I remember playing a song for my parents and they didn't believe I’d written it. They didn’t know I had been writing my own songs in secret.
What does songwriting mean to you now? It really remains my main way of expressing how I feel about things I'd have a way harder time saying in person. It’s the place I go to in harder times.
How do you feel when you’re performing? There’s something kind of weird about being so vulnerable and honest in front of all these people, but there’s also something oddly satisfying about it. I always feel relieved after a show because I feel like I’ve said everything I’ve had to say. Doing live shows is a good release of weird shit that I’m thinking.
If you hadn’t gone down the musical path, what would you be doing? I have no idea! I left school quite early so I don't really have many qualifications. I’d like to think that I’d have ended up being in someone's band or a music producer. Failing that, I'd be really into working in a bakery.
What’s the attraction there? I don’t know how to bake at all. I do watch a lot of cooking shows, though. There’s something beautiful about how baked goods are made, and people who bake always seem very passionate about it. I think it’d be a nice calm life.
What kind of advice would you give to young songwriters and musicians? Take every opportunity that you can; say yes to everything for the first while, because you need to put yourself out there; the internet is your best friend. I also think it's important to be open to different people on the internet because that's where the opportunities at the start of my career came from. You can only play to so many people in one room but the internet is like an endless room with an unlimited amount of people who can come in and out. The biggest one is to try to stay as authentic and true to yourself as possible, because the music industry is really good at trying to push you into directions you may not necessarily want to go.
What can we find you doing on a Sunday? I will usually be with my girlfriend. If we’re not hung over, which we typically are, we’ll go have an adventure day. Last time, I went to Chester Zoo – an ethical zoo – and hung out with the orangutans all day. Sunday's kind of a day where god knows where I’m going to be.