Orla Gartland is a 20-year-old Irish singer-songwriter who’s been capturing the hearts of people around the globe since she got her start playing covers of pop songs on YouTube. Not only does she have a flawless voice, mad guitar skills, ginger locks and supreme songwriting abilities, she also has incredible charisma. She’s witty, funny and downright magnetic, on stage and off.
“I like things to be energetic,” she said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I don’t want to be a sulky singer-songwriter singing about a breakup or something really slow and making everyone feel suicidal.”
Gartland’s show last week at Brick and Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco marked the second-to-last date on her first headline U.S. tour, a huge milestone for this blossoming young musician. And she’s loving every minute of it. Unlike in the United Kingdom, she says, “I feel like everyone here is so open and nice. People are really encouraging and positive and they come up with this beaming smile and they’re like, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’”
The praise Gartland receives is not unfounded, especially for someone so down-to-earth and friendly. She makes time at the end of every show to meet her fans, never failing to show how much she appreciates them with a hug and a big grin.
Gartland’s setlist for the San Francisco show was a mix of old favorites and new tunes from her recently-released EP, Lonely People. The Irish singer has been pumping out music for years, but this newest release is more polished and synth-poppy than any of her previous endeavors.
The inspiration for her new sound came from an expansion in Gartland’s personal taste. “Stuff that I was listening to shifted in a pretty dramatic way,” she said. “I still want things to be very guitar-centric and to reflect how they were written and didn’t want to go too full-blown polished with it, but I just started to like little grooves and fancy things,” she explained. The new songs reflect this new sentiment, as there are a lot more electric guitar riffs and grooves that lend themselves to bouncing around on stage, all the while maintaining the honest lyrics that her fans adore. Gartland admits she thought she was taking a bit of a risk with the new sound, but the reception to it has been overwhelmingly positive.
Seeing Orla Gartland at a small venue in the states was an absolutely magical experience for anyone lucky enough to be in the crowd. It was very intimate and special in a way that only small indie shows can be.
Most people at the show were longtime fans who had been watching Gartland’s YouTube channel since the early days and knew every word to every song she sang. But while YouTube served as a fantastic launchpad for the singer-songwriter, Gartland is looking to break away from the stigma of the “acoustic bedroom cover artist.”
“YouTube is a crazily helpful and invaluable tool,” she remarked. “It’s the only reason anyone knows me, and it’s not something to ever be ditched, but if you want any longevity and to be a solidly good artist you also have to do the more traditional end of things.” Gartland, therefore, is putting a little less energy into keeping up a steady stream of YouTube covers and more into writing and releasing her own material and touring as much as she can. And based on the quality of the music she makes, it’s a decision no one can really complain about.
Gartland may be a bit of a newbie to the music industry, but she’s already poised to be making waves worldwide. The future looks bright, and she’s ready to take it by storm, with her electric guitar and winsome smile in hand.