Friday, October 11, 2013

Orla Gartland

Orla Gartland on YouTube at 14
A few ago a very good friend of mine (happens to be the Art director for Kansas City Irish Fest) sent me a link to a youtube video by a young Irish ginger lass tagged with the simple message, "You're welcomed."  That young artist's name is Orla Gartland.

I can't even remember what that song was right now.  But I was impressed.  Just a young girl sitting in her room with a yellow wall behind her, and her guitar, and a good voice with a need to share.  (By the way, I did thank Cami.)

Orla was only 15 at the time, and already you could hear a maturity beyond her tender years in some of her lyrics, in her ability to turn a phrase and in her instinctive handling of the synergystic fusion of melody and emotion behind the lyric.

In a world of pop music devoid of melody and full of kind of coarse, "in your face" attitude, she's a breath of fresh air.

Though a slew of covers out there, she's been writing originals all along.  She's done a great job on covers (Bastille's "Pompeii" comes to mind - I actually like it better than theirs) but it's in her originals that she shines.  It's all her, and it shows.  She has a sound that is distinctly "Orla".  She also has a reputation for her strained mid-song faces and goofy selfies.

Many of her originals so far have dealt with the emotions that go with those last years you're kind of stuck in the middle between childhood and adulthood, which is perfectly suitable.  Write what you know, and it'll come out naturally.  She seems full of a contagious enthusiasm for life and friends and music and even in her more moody material you can feel an underlying sense of forward-looking optimism.

Orla's material runs the spectrum from whimsical to pensive, and as examples of those ends I'll put up my two favorites of hers, "All the Little Details" -- which brilliantly captures the awkward combination of fear and excitement that goes with trying to approach a crush (plus it's one of the cutest music videos I've ever seen) -- to "The Ground", which captures the fusion of defiance and brokenness that comes with rejection -- and from there to another of her best to this point, "Ripping at the Seams", revealing how observant she is of human nature and relationships.

She's 18 now, and while she hasn't shed the sheepish goofing kid image yet, she soon will.  Judging by the quality of her studio recordings and the official music videos for her songs, she's got some good connections in the music world.  She's a savvy marketer.  I think she's a smart girl who knows what she's doing. The yellow wall will fall by the wayside, and I believe she'll break out and have real success.

By and large so far I think a good chunk of her current fans are teens and tweens, but she also a substantial number of fans who are ... errrr ... uhhh ... old enough to be her father. :-)  I've been watching her kind of like a proud uncle, which is wierd because I don't really know her and I have absolutely nothing to do with any of her talent.  Go figure, I can't help it.  It's that infectious, she makes you feel like you do know her.

Orla Gartland in concert at 19
A recent still of her in concert gave a glimpse at a grown woman quite comfortable in her own skin.  I don't think her early breakthrough (from a YouTube artist) success is a fluke.  I think she's a gifted singer and a promising songwriter.  With each new song, I wonder if she's run out of ideas like some flash in the pan -- but when I hear them it's clear she hasn't.  She's just getting started, and she'll get better.  If she can keep her head on straight and just keep doing what she loves, I think she's going places.  Give her a listen and keep an ear out for her.

Her first EP, "Roots" is available for pre-order on iTunes

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