Those of us who love and miss live music are really feeling the gap that it's left in our lives – but what about the people who relied on it to make a living?
That's where Songs from an Empty Room comes in.
On Saturday, July 25th, a huge number of Irish bands and artists will come together to play to empty venues around the country – Dublin's Olympia Theatre, Galway's Roisin Dubh, Limerick's Dolan's, Killarney's INEC and Cork's Cyprus Avenue – with their performances beamed into the homes of Irish music fans via RTE2, 2FM and the RTE Player.
The music TV event will support two fantastic live events industry initiatives - Minding Creative Minds and the Association of Irish Stage Technicians (AIST) Hardship Fund – as well as sating fans of live music in the comfort of their own sitting rooms. Viewers will be encouraged to donate throughout the broadcast, while crew merchandise will also be available to buy.
We took the opportunity to have a chat with one of those artists, the brilliant Sorcha Richardson, about Songs from an Empty Room, her new EP (out July 24th) and how she's been finding lockdown in general.
Hi Sorcha, how are you?
I’m good, thanks!
That's a good place to start, actually... how have you been doing during lockdown? Have you been writing much?
I’ve been writing quite a lot. Right before we went into lockdown I borrowed some drum machines and guitars from friends and bolstered my home demo set up a little bit. The only real upside of having tours and festivals cancelled is that it afforded me a lot of time to work on new music, so that was a really good way to pass the time.
Last year was a big year for you with the release of your debut album 'First Prize Bravery' – were you happy with how everything went around that?
Yeah it felt like such a longtime coming to release an album and I’m very proud of myself and the people who I made it with. The shows that I played with my band after its release were my favourite that I’ve ever done and it was really nice (although a little bittersweet) that the final show we played before all of this was the Choice Prize in March, where we could celebrate the album again.
With your career steadily gaining momentum after so many years in the business, does it feel like the rug has been pulled from underneath you with Covid?
I think it’s the same for everyone. It’s disruptive no matter what stage of your career you’re in. Everybody has plans and goals that they’ve had to rethink. I just switched gears a little and spent most of my time writing. On the days I didn’t feel inspired to write, I made an EP of alternative home recordings of some of my older songs (which is coming out July 24th). There’s always ways to stay creative, even if that means working quietly out of sight for a while.
Did it affect your plans to tour or play live in a drastic way this summer?
Yeah I had a London show in March that was cancelled and then my Irish headline tour in April was postponed as well, and then a number of festivals in the summer, some of which were cancelled before the lineup was even announced. It’s so strange to go through the summer without playing festivals and just really makes me appreciate them more.
Let’s talk about Songs from an Empty Room. Why did you want to get involved with this project?
It’s for a really great cause to support the crew who really make the live music industry work. It’s also pretty rare these days that you get to play music with other people in any sort of live setting. I miss that a lot so I was always going to jump at the chance to get to do it, even if it’s just us and the camera crew.
Do you think it'll be more nerve-wracking performing to an empty room than a full one, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will be watching on TV? No pressure...!
I honestly get pretty nervous for every show I play so I think it might actually be less daunting to play to no one. If I think too much about the fact that it’s for TV I’ll get freaked out though, so I’m gonna try and forget that.
It's not the first time you've played to an empty room recently, though – you also played Other Voices 'Courage' series from Whelan's. What was that like?
I loved playing Courage so much. I am such a fan of everything that Other Voices do and any show I’ve played for them in the past has been really special. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to get to play a gig in April, when everything else in my schedule had been cancelled. I played a sold out headline show in Whelan’s the week my album came out so there was something very strange about playing there six months later, under such different circumstances. But it’s one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and an experience I feel really lucky to have been afforded.
What have you been listening to, watching and reading most lately – any recommendations for us?
I love the new Kacy Hill album. And I’ve had the debut single by Dunx “It Don’t Gotta be So Bad” on repeat too.
Finally, what are your plans for the next six months, the next year?
My isolation home recordings EP comes out July 24th. I was able to go back to the studio this month and work on some music with James Vincent McMorrow. I have a new single, which James produced, coming out later in the summer.
Songs from an Empty Room will be broadcast live on RTE2, 2FM and the RTE Player from 8.30pm - 10.45pm this Saturday, July 25th, with performances from James Vincent McMorrrow, Picture This, Aimée, Mother DJs, Soulé, The Academic, The Blizzards and more.