Irish singer on a new album and coming out as non-binary

Every teenage prodigy eventually ceases to be a teenager. They generally cease to be considered prodigies. That’s when the trouble can start, says Bridie Monds-Watson, aka acclaimed singer-songwriter Soak.

“I hit a wall. When you’re in your twenties, there’s such pressure on you to get everything resolved. And having the future [planned out] very clearly. And I didn’t think I had some of my shit together.

Monds-Watson explains the song Purgatory, the heartbreaking opening number from the gripping new album, If I Never Know You Like This Again.

“Days roll me down/Another year run off the stage,” one line says, as Pixies-style guitars growl and chatter. “I won’t shake hands at the end / But it’s breathing down my neck.”

Aged 16, Monds-Watson was hailed as the future of Irish music, with everyone from the NME to the BBC lining up to rent the Derry artist’s 2015 debut album , Before We Forgot How to Dream. The project’s “melancholy charm” was praised by Pitchfork; the Guardian reported Monds-Watson’s “cocooning, raspy voice”.

Seven years later, Soak is still around and with a career that continues to go from strength to strength. However, the stardom that some predicted has yet to come. And because Monds-Watson is a human being, there were fights in this story.

“It was mostly about the pressure of time, the pressure of expectations. Trying to figure out where you fit in the world,” the singer explains, diving into the inspirations of Purgatory. world. While not wanting to waste time.”

It’s kind of hard or scary to see the first thing you do being considered great when you don’t know what you’re doing.

“It’s only now, with this record, that I feel like I know what I’m doing or know what I really have to say.”

The past few years have been difficult in other ways. A few years ago, Monds-Watson, who has a girlfriend in Dublin, came out as non-binary and favors they/them pronouns. Each artist tackles these issues in their own way: Speaking to the Irish Examiner recently, Kae Tempest said going public as trans was difficult because they shared such a personal part of themselves with the world. For Soak, the process was no less difficult.

“In public, I’ve always been very open about being queer. I grew up in a setting where it was supported and acceptable — in my family and my groups of friends,” says Monds-Watson.

“[But] for me, it was difficult to understand where I felt on the gender spectrum. I realized I had a lot of really pent up feelings about it. And internalized transphobia, I guess. It was a big process for me to work this out for me personally. And then to put it publicly, it certainly took a long time to process those thoughts and feelings. It’s only by being transparent about it that I’ve been able to meet more people I can resonate with.

As anyone who has been within 15 yards of social media knows, trans rights have become a source of heated online “talk”. For Monds-Watson, the best way to handle this “debate” is to stay away from Twitter, which is, after all, designed to exploit and monetize our rage. Without conflict and without choosing sides, these sources of income would dry up.

“They want us on our phones. And they want us to fight. This is how algorithms work. What I think is really bad. I don’t know: you could get carried away with that. I think you would be wasting your time. I am here for healthy discussions and whatever means they can be carried out. For the majority of stuff online, that’s kinda dumb. People just want likes. They don’t care what they say – people like Joe Rogan and stuff like that. If I wanted to motivate myself, I could spend a lot of time online. I try to avoid it.

As a touring artist, the pandemic was a challenge. But rather than descending into funk, Monds-Watson’s new album feels like a heart-pounding gesture of defiance against lockdown torpor. Recorded in Donegal last year, If I Never Know You Like This Again unfolds like a zingy valentine to 1990s indie rock, reminiscent at varying times of Kim Deal, My Bloody Valentine and Ash.

“We absolutely loved doing it. We started after a year of confinement,” says Soak. “Everyone was so relieved to be in the same room, playing together, seeing each other and making music. There was so much joy that we were all together. I hoped our joy was captured in the scrapbook.

One topic Monds-Watson is very outspoken about is gender balance in Irish music. According to a 2020 report, female artists make up just 7% of domestic acts aired on Irish radio – a bias that has consequences for concert ticket sales and festival headlines.

“It’s so screwed up to be honest,” Monds-Watson says of the broadcast imbalance. “If you’re 99% of the male playlists, people hear that on public radio, then they buy the tickets, they support the artists, they go to the shows. How does anyone have a fair chance if they won’t even let us start with the basics? »

It’s not just a matter of fairness. It is about recognizing the quality of female and non-binary artists.

“And honestly, there are so many amazing and diverse musicians and bands in Ireland, from all walks of gender expression and sexuality. We’re in an awesome time for that.

It’s really a shame that they [radio playlisters] don’t highlight all there is to offer.

They are not doing themselves a favor and they are not doing anyone else a favor. It’s shitty and it also makes you lose a bit of hope and faith in the country. If you are not supported at the base of the music, what can you expect? »

Monds-Watson is currently on tour with indie star Lucy Daucus. This is followed by solo dates in Limerick and Dublin at the end of the month. Meanwhile, another big puzzle revolves around a planned move to the capital. This is proving fraught with affordable housing in the capital more scarce than ever.

“I was in England for four years. I moved back to Derry last summer. Since then, my girlfriend and I have been trying to find a place in Dublin. You know what it is: pretty impossible. We always try. It’s horrible. And the thing is, I’m not even from Dublin. I wanted to go back to Ireland. I missed the Irish. And Dublin is the perfect place for me. I can’t imagine being from Dublin and [not being able to rent]. It’s tragic.

  • If I Never Know You Like This Again is out May 20.

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