Orla Gartland Gets In Touch With Her "Roots"!

Orla Gartland is a singer-songwriter from Ireland known for guitar interpretations of great songs and beautiful original compositions. She recently released an awesome music video for the song "Roots," the title track off her EP which releases today!Orla Gartland

Orla chatted with us about the people and experiences that inspire her musical style, and about finding her own voice in an ever-changing world!

Orla Gartland parents were never musical, but she and her siblings somehow became very attached to music very early on.

"My mum and dad don't sing or play instruments," she said. "But hobbies like that can be generational. My brother and sister are both really into it and I've latched onto it too. I've always been a bit confused as to where it came from."

Orla knew early on that she wanted to play an instrument. Some practical decisions guided her choice to pick up the guitar.

"What I really like about guitar is you don't necessarily have to learn a lot prior to being able to play songs," she said.

Orla's sister is a pianist who spent a lot of time in long and difficult lessons to learn her craft. Seeing this discouraged Orla from focusing on the piano.

"Before she was good she had to learn scales and a lot of dull stuff relating to theory," Orla explained. "I'm an impatient person, and I wanted to go straight into playing songs I heard on the radio. Guitar allowed me to do that really quickly. Really being impatient led me specifically to that!"

Though Orla does play a bit of piano, the guitar has always been her primary instrument.

Orla said that she is inspired musically by Regina Spektor and the U.K. artist Imogen Heap.

"Regina is definitely a 'pop' artist," she said. "I think that the word 'pop' can have a bad stigma attached to it sometimes, but she's brilliant. It's a quirky, left-tield, sort of weird pop and I really like that. It's music I'd love to make, and I look up to her a lot."

Orla said she would love to someday collaborate with Spektor, even if it would be a bit of a struggle!

"I'm usually ok if I meet people, I'm usually composed," she said. "But if I met Regina Spektor I'd melt into a heap on the floor and not manage to get any words out."

Regina Spektor is a more classically trained artist who is well versed in music theory. Orla admitted that, while she attended guitar lessons for a couple of months to learn the basics, she generally doesn't know what chord she's playing, and doesn't know how to read a stave.

She said that a collaboration between the two would benefit from the more constrained style, mixed with Orla's less controlled songwriting.

"In some cases it's really freeing," she said. "It's a more organic way to write songs, rather than bring restricted."

She's also growing increasingly fond of the up-and-coming 16-year-old singer-songwriter Lorde not just for her incredible music, but her maturity and insight for such a young artist.

"I've watched a few videos of Lorde, and she spoke about how artists like Lana Del Rey are always kind of portraying females in a needy way," Orla explained. "A lot of Lana's lyrics are like, 'I can't function without you.' Lorde was talking about how badly that paints girls, and kind of fosters this thought that women are incomplete without another person. That struck a chord with Lorde, and it became something she wanted to avoid."

She'd also love to work with the girl group HAIM.

"I'm nuts about them" she said. "I love their spirit. They're gorgeous and they just do their own thing, I think that's so cool."

She is particularly interested in HAIM's emphasis on electric guitars.

"I ultimately see myself going in an electric guitar direction," she said. "They just have a certain groove about them."

Orla is known not just for awesome original compositions, but also for covers with a twist.

She said that to perform her covers, she tries to listen to the original song as little as possible.

"I don't listen to the song that much," she said. "That sounds a bit strange really, but you can overkill it sometimes listening to it 15 to 20 times. I listen to it once or twice, have the lyrics in front of me, and just jam out."

Orla said that when it comes to being a musician, it's really important to make anything you perform your own, even if you don't set out to do just that.

"I think any sort of originality in my covers up until really recently is an accident," she said. "I don't specifically try to make them 'different.' It's just me being lazy!"

She recently released the music video for "Roots," the title track off of her EP, which released today!

The video features a lot of amazing art, including a giant whale, a cartoon version of Orla, and Alice In Wonderland-themed backdrops!

"I didn't know what I wanted to do at first," she said. "The song is about leaving home, and everything that comes with that."

The animation serves to tell the story without hammering it over the head.

"We wanted to incorporate that in a subtle way," she said. "I'm on a beach, representing my home town, and I'm being drawn away to more exciting places. I'm being drawn to shiny, exciting, weird things, and getting into trouble, being eaten by the whale."

The end of the video brings Orla back to a home that isn't quite the same as the one she left.

"At the end I'm back home, but it's a different place," she said. "It kind of plays on the fact that whenever I return back to Ireland, I notice things about it that are different. Even subtle things, like a family member getting a haircut, or a shop I loved not being there."

Orla said that she's a big fan of the EP format, which allows artists to release a few songs at a time over a longer period.

"I love the idea of an EP being a stump in the ground, capturing where you were at that time, in the sense of writing a diary," she said.

Orla keeps a personal diary because she loves to be able to go back and relive points of time in her memory.

"A while from now I'll be able to listen to Roots and say 'That's how I was feeling on September 2013,' she explained.

She loved the artistic aspect of the video because she is into graphic design herself.

Currently, Orla is on a gap year from college. She said that if she had gone this year, she would have chosen a course in graphic design.

"I'm not amazing at art," she said. "It's like any craft, and time wise I put more into improving my music.

She often designs her own tour posters and graphics for the web and describes herself as a nerd when it comes to art. Her art hobby also serves a more practical function.

"I think it's super important to have hobbies," she explained. "When music turns into a job, it can be easy to become all that you're about, which is not a great thing to happen sometimes. You need a hobby and friends who are into different things. The industry side can really suck the life out of people, so it's important to be able to escape from that and have another release."

Orla also credits YouTube with a lot of her success.

"It's a great tool that shouldn't be sneered at," she explained.

In the past, becoming a respected and well-known musician required performing in every show possible and playing in any opening slots available to get the music and your name out there. If musicians were talented and lucky, they would slowly build a following.

Orla said that process has changed today.

"The internet provides people with a whole host of new, free, super easy tools," she said. "It's something I'm massively thankful for. It's cool to put up your own song and get instant feedback from all around the world."

However, the world of YouTube also has its pitfalls.

"It's also a dangerous thing," Orla explained. "A lot of people will try to put you in a box. People might not take you seriously, but if you use it as a tool alongside gigging and the traditional sides of it, it's great to get out there."

Orla has been performing live onstage for years, but only recently has she become really happy with her stage performances.

She also stressed the importance of being yourself.

"Be different," she said. "Don't try too hard to not be like anyone else, but don't be a carbon copy."

One of the artists Orla adores is Ed Sheeran, and in her time as a musician, Orla has seen plenty of artists that were basically Ed Sheeran impersonators.

"It's alright because I love that music, and everyone has influencers, but you should have more than one," she said. "If you only have one, you start to sing like them, and play like them, and even look like them. I've never listened to someone who sounds just like Ed Sheeran that I liked more than Ed."

In the future, Orla plans to release more EPs.

"I've never decided how many I'd like to do, but I've already got songs I'd like to release for the next one," she said.

With the feedback she receives from Roots, she'll go on to consider what her next steps are.

"The feedback to the last one was interesting," she said. "I haven't necessarily released anything massively produced before, so it was a mixed bag of reactions."

Though the reaction to Roots was overwhelmingly positive, there were a few people who wished she would stick with what they were used to.

"A couple of people preferred my music more stripped back and intimate," she said. "These are sensitive people who have gotten me to the point, so I have to listen to them. But I always stay true to what I like."

She said that one day she would like to do an album in a couple of years, but that her EPs are stepping stones to that point.

Curious about Orla's music? Check out her social channels!

Are you an aspiring musician? Record a cover or original song of your own and share it with us at Sweety High for feedback!