Small Songs from the Big Apple
New York-based Dubliner Sorcha Richardson discusses how the big city and recent illness have influenced her intimate folk sound
How long have you been playing music?
I took drum lessons all the way through secondary school; no one would have thought of me as a singer in school. I started writing songs when I was 10, but the thought of showing them to anyone terrified me, so I kept that very quiet for a long time.
You moved to New York for college when you were 18. Did you play professionally before then?
Other than one song that I wrote for a CD that my music class made in transition year, I’d never shown my songs to anyone, but I had a notebook full of songs, and didn’t want to give them away for someone else to sing, so I started sneaking off to open-mic nights in the East Village. The anonymity that came with being in New York made me feel quite safe.
Does that make establishing your name in Ireland more difficult, though?
It is hard. The past four years were insanely busy with college, so I haven’t been able to give as much time to music in New York as I would have liked. There have been a few occasions when I’ve been offered some good opportunities in Dublin, but haven’t been able to take them because I was away. I always try to be as productive as possible during the limited time that I am home.
You recorded your new EP ‘that kind of dark’ in Dublin on your last trip home. Although you’ve collaborated with electronic bands and DJs in the US and Germany, your own sound is stripped-back, beautifully understated folk.
Yeah, this EP is definitely darker than the last one. It’s about loss and guilt and regret – so brace yourself!
You very recently recovered from thyroid cancer – that must have been scary, particularly for a singer.
It was very weird. It didn’t scare me half as much as maybe it should have, probably because I had a lot of my testing done in New York, where I wasn’t really aware of how worried my parents were about it all. I had three surgeries, all of which did some short-term damage to my vocal chords. But for me to have cancer, and for one of my main concerns to be how long it would be until my vocal chords were back to normal – it shows what an easy ride I had. My friend from college was diagnosed with cancer about two months before I was, and she passed away in October. That’s something I’m very aware of when I think about my own cancer. I often feel like I get more sympathy than I deserve. There was never a point where I had to fight for my life. And I got the all-clear five days before Christmas, so I’m good as new!
You’re planning an album release some time next year - what’s the long-term plan?
I have no idea. I just want to carve out enough success for myself so that I can do music full time. God knows what city I’ll be in, or who I’ll be making music with.
THREE MORE FEMALE STARS TO WATCH
The River Cry
Ex-JJ72 bassist Hilary Woods renounces her rock roots for beautifully austere piano compositions. Her eponymous debut is out now.
Another musical chameleon, whose blend of acoustic pop is enhanced via the use of loopstations and laptops. She also provided vocals for Le Galaxie’s 2012 hit ‘Love System’.