Atwood Magazine spoke to Sorcha Richardson about her debut album, ‘First Prize Bravery,’ and the memories and emotions that surrounded its creation.
A cross-continental move isn’t exactly a venture to take lightly, especially when it’s going back home after eight years. The memories gathered throughout the years begin to swarm the mind, creating pockets of nostalgia that both warm the spirit and sadden the heart—eliciting a yearning for the place one is leaving while also lighting a fire for the new destination. It’s a tug of war of sorts, and Sorcha Richardson channeled this same energy with her debut album, First Prize Bravery.
The album starts with “Honey,” a piano-led opener where the light shines on the docile vocals of Richardson. “I was doing fine ’til I let you in my mind. Honey, what the hell d’you do to me,” she sings with a beautiful ache behind her voice. She is wearing her emotions on her sleeve, setting the tone for the album and prepping listeners for a personal and impassioned journey. “Don’t Talk About It” follows after with vibrant guitar melodies and lively percussion. It’s a track of strength and the power to overcome the obstacles life will place before one.
Richardson’s knack for lyricism is showcased once again with the track “Red Lion.” An LA story filled with introspection and reflection, the track is a vibrant painting of the world as seen by Richardson’s eyes. “An endless vacation, a movie scene,” she thinks, quickly moving into the chorus which adds a short burst of energy by the onrush of instrumentation that occurs. The title track, “First Prize Bravery,” is subdued yet lush; the simple guitar melody serving as one of the track’s greatest assets. Catchy and sweet-sounding, the song captures a feeling of hope, Richardson singing of the moments in life that can often be seen as mundane. The essence of the album lies within this track, and its beauty is unmatched.
“Twisting the Knife” stands out with its delicate guitar strums, charming piano, and its quick spurts of instrumentation that provide an extra layer of depth to the track as a whole. Richardson has an almost ambivalent sound to her on “Twisting the Knife,” but one would still be hard-pressed not to be intoxicated nonetheless. For the album’s closing track, “Honey” is revisited, now dubbed “Honey Heavy.” Despite the same lyrics, the two tracks provide their own flair, giving listeners an emotional beginning and end to a debut album worthy of high praise.
Atwood Magazine had the chance to chat with Sorcha Richardson to discuss her debut album along with the methods employed on it. Get all of the info in our exclusive interview!
Listen: ‘First Prize Bravery’ – Sorcha Richardson
A CONVERSATION WITH SORCHA RICHARDSON
Atwood Magazine: I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me! First off, congrats on the release! How does it feel to finally have the debut album out?
Sorcha Richardson: Thank you! It’s very exciting. It feels like a big achievement to have gotten to this point. I’m just proud of myself and the people who made the album with me and excited for people to hear what we made.
When looking back to the days of Last Train, how do you feel you have developed as an artist and as a person?
Sorcha Richardson: I would like to think that I’ve honed my craft a hell of a lot since Last Train haha. I was completely winging it back then. I think I made that song on garageband with a really cheap mic and I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence about what I was doing. It’s funny to look back at songs like that, even if it feels a bit cringy, and to be able to see how far you’ve come.
The album revolves around your transitional period of living in New York and then back to Dublin – what does each place mean to you? What memories are you looking forward to bringing with you to Dublin?
Sorcha Richardson: Wow, that’s hard to answer. I lived in New York for 8 years, from the age of 18-26, so a lot of life happened there. Dublin is home and I feel so lucky that that’s the place I get to return to. There was a golden era in New York, before my friend group started leaving, where we spent a winter at Crown Vic in Brooklyn and Dorian Grey In Alphabet City (neither of which still exist) and that winter will always feel like a dream, because we just had so much fun and it felt like a huge adventure and I always felt a great sense of disbelief that we were allowed to live that life.
Listen: “Honey” – Sorcha Richardson
The track “Honey” has a haunting yet beautiful quality to it, and lyrics like “I watched you move around the room, you’re more magnetic than the moon that hangs over the balcony, as you made your way back to me,” showcase those qualities in such a celestial fashion. What inspired this different direction in sound for this track?
Sorcha Richardson: I just sat down at the piano at my parents’ house in Dublin and wrote it very quickly. I hadn’t played piano in ages and I think I always write a little differently on piano than I do on guitar. The house was quiet and it was the middle of a pretty cold January in Dublin. I was feeling a little confused, shall we say, at the time and that song was just my attempt to make sense of my very noisy, chaotic mind.
With “Honey” also being the first track on the album, it acts as a window into the rest of the album as a whole. Why this track for the opener?
Sorcha Richardson: Me and Alex decided pretty early on to make it the album opener. I think sometimes when you feel that way about someone, it can be hard to shake, and it colours every other experience you have so by opening with that track, it gives the chance for the listener to have that in the back of their mind, for the rest of the album.
First Prize Bravery is a very personal album, and it’s admirable how open you are in your lyricism with each track. Did you ever have moments where you thought to yourself “am I truly comfortable sharing this?” If so, how did you overcome it?
Sorcha Richardson: Those are just the stories that I’m inspired to write about. There are a few moments on the album that feel a little uncomfortable to talk about in interviews but I try not to think about that side of it when I’m writing.
Does a track stand out to you as one of the more emotionally difficult ones to make?
Sorcha Richardson: Maybe “Honey.” And “First Prize Bravery” feels heavier and sadder to me than it might sound on first listen. But I didn’t find any of them “difficult” to make because they are emotionally difficult. The more intensely emotional a song is, the easier I find to write about, because it’s obvious to me what I need to say, and in writing about it I feel like I regain control over the situation in a way.
You did a stellar job at creating a visual image in my head with “Red Lion.” The lyricism is truly lush. How did you approach the lyrics for it?
Sorcha Richardson: Thank you! I just wanted to capture this very special few weeks I spent in LA. I wrote a lot of that on the deck of this little house that my friend was renting above the Silver Lake reservoir, which is the house that I talk about in the song. Lyrically, that one came together pretty quick, because I was just describing what was in front of me. I felt very inspired by the people and the places in my life during that time, is all I had to do was write the details down.
Another track that stood out to me was “Twisting the Knife,” and it quickly became one of my favorites. It has a swaying quality to it where I just want to close my eyes and move gently to the acoustic melody. What did the song-making process for it look like?
Sorcha Richardson: That’s the only song on the album that came from a co-writing session. It started out as a demo that I wrote with Conor Adams, a friend of mine from Dublin who’s in the band All Tvvins. We spent a few days writing songs in his kitchen in Dublin and this was one that came from those sessions. I think Conor had written the piano loop, and we built the rest of the song around it.
I pulled the song up again a few months later when I was going through the album demos, and reworked some of the lyrics. I think it was the last song that made the album but now I’m very glad we included it.
Listen: “Don’t Talk About It” – Sorcha Richardson
The closing track, “Honey Heavy,” is described as “the version of ‘Honey’ that you sing at 4AM as you’re getting kicked out of the party,” and, honestly, what a spot-on description. What made you want to revisit “Honey” for this alternate version?
Sorcha Richardson: “Honey” happens so quickly but it’s quite an intense song that it felt like it deserved to be revisited. And once we decided to make it the album opener, it seemed fitting that we would return to it at the end, because you can go out and live all of these days and nights and meet new people and have transformative experiences, and yet still through all of it, sometimes you still have that same person in the back of your head. Some relationships are harder to shake than others. That’s why “Honey Heavy” closes the album.
Thank you again for taking the time! Last one for you: After listeners have their first initial listen, what are you hoping they get out of the album?
Sorcha Richardson: Stories they see themselves in, I guess. Stories they can apply to their own lives and find solace in.
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📸 © Cáit Fahey
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