Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
When we stumble upon an old video of Ariana Grande on Broadway or a single Stefani Germanotta released before she was Lady Gaga, we feel that secret thrill of seeing a glimpse of artists they normally keep hidden: The time before they were successful. Thanks to the internet, newer generations of artists don’t have the luxury of that mystery. Florence Pugh’s six-year-old videos — from when she was attempting to brand herself as the singer “Flossie Rose” — sit as a slightly embarrassing, but ultimately charming, time capsule in light of the fact that she was just nominated for her first Oscar for Little Women. It’s for that reason that Orla Gartland, whose second music video for “Figure It Out” is premiering exclusively on Refinery29, hasn’t deleted evidence of her own musical beginnings.
“I'm starting to come around to the idea that it's kind of cool,” she told Refinery29 over the phone, admitting that she at one point wanted to delete her old work, spanning eight years. “Now when I find [a new artist] I actually want to see their backstories. I don't really love finding an artist and there being one song and no information about them. I struggle to get a sense of who they are.”
Posting her singing videos to YouTube — spanning from folky originals to the occasional Spice Girls cover — led to a friendship with YouTuber Dodie Clark, a musician in her own right. Clark introduced her new internet-turned-IRL friend to the right people, helping her go from posting covers in front of her yellow bedroom wall to making full-fledged music videos. Gartland and Clark finished up a tour together in 2019 for Clark’s Human.
Gartland’s latest EP, Freckle Season, contains five songs centred around a breakup, one of which is featured in the upcoming BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People (“I’m so jealous that you’ve seen it and I haven’t!” she cried when I mentioned the show). Gartland chose three of the songs to film a new collection of music videos titled “The Freckle Season Sessions,” acoustic and stripped of the production that may have distracted from their roots.
“It felt like coming home,” she explained from her London studio space she’s rented to work on her first album.
In the new “Figure It Out” video, we first see the 25-year-old on the other side of a set of glass doors. Her singing is muffled until she steps outside, scrunching up her face and belting out the lyrics. It’s done all in one shot, just Gartland and her guitar. In that sense, it’s not so different from eight years ago at all.
Refinery29: You first released a music video for “Figure It Out” in 2019. Why did you decide to make a second one?
Orla Gartland: I wanted to take it back to the root of it. I find making things bigger and producing them to be so exciting, but you can run away with it sometimes and you lose the core of whatever the hell you're singing about. This video is one of three songs from the same EP called Freckle Season. It was a little spotlight on three of those songs, doing them in a different way and each in different locations around this one weird house that we found.
Speaking of Freckle Season, tell me about making that EP. Why “Freckle Season”?
Before I wrote this set of songs, I promised myself I would never write too much about relationships and breakups. And then I went through a breakup. [I wanted] to cast some sort of spotlight on every shade of everything I was feeling. I've always been really obsessed with the way our bodies show the passing of time, [like] I get super freckled in the summer. There was this whole A to B of getting through this breakup; it felt like a sort of season.
How involved are you in things like the art and merch made for your music?
I'm an independent artist. I do pretty much everything, but I bring in friends here and there. I have an artist that I work really closely with, a girl called Demii Whiffin. She's someone I found on the internet a long time ago, and since I found her she's made everything for me, from a tour poster to this EP artwork.
You got your start on YouTube, which we’re seeing more and more with musicians. Would you call yourself a YouTuber?
I'm a geek from the dark ages of YouTube and it felt like a very different time. You didn't need to be produced. You made videos with your phone or your camera. I was a fan of a lot of people there, which is why I started putting videos up. But I very quickly realised I don't feel like a YouTuber. I definitely want to be a musician that uses YouTube and not the other way around.
Who are your inspirations?
There was a UK girl called Kate McGill. She's now in a band called Meadowlark. She was one of the first people I saw on YouTube. [And] a lot of the British wave of nu-folk, you know, Mumford [& Sons], Laura Marling is amazing, Lucy Rose, Ray Morris.
I want to write an album. I've been doing these EPS and I feel very proud of them. It's a little bit like always a bridesmaid never a bride: Always an EP never an LP.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.