Soak has been opening for Tegan and Sara in Eastern Europe. She is adorable! (And very talented. :) I suspect T&S chose her to open because she reminds them of themselves at 16, though I'd also suspect that they'd quickly say she is way ahead of where they were at 16. ;)
One to watch: SOAK http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jan/27/soak-bridie-monds-watson-sea-creatures
The 16-year-old singer-songwriter from Derry, SOAK, aka Bridie Monds-Watson, releases her second EP in a year
Bridie Monds-Watson never had a girly phase. At five, she went round the house in wellies and a swimming hat; by the age of 11, she was a "gangster" with a collection of neckerchiefs. Today, she wears a boxy silver jacket and boys' jeans with turn-ups, and has a gigantic fissure in her earlobe lined with black plastic. Asking Bridie -- aka SOAK -- about her image feels intrusive somehow, because at 16 such things are so fragile. But SOAK, who only picked up a guitar three years ago and is still driven to gigs by her mum, is not fragile at all.
Her new EP, Sea Creatures, is a vivid portrait of teenage deep-thinking: intricate, ambiguous psychodramas chewed over in her distinctive Derry accent, a bit like a young Paul Brady if he were singing Joni Mitchell or reading aloud the diary of Anne Frank. Songs are generous and outward-looking: the title track captures the feeling of watching a friend suffer at school and yearning to tell her it will get better. (The name, SOAK, combines 'soul' and 'folk' - "strange", she says, "as my music is neither.")
Fingers Crossed is a love song sung with the acknowledgment that love is on the wane. Some of the thrill here is simply watching wise "adult" observations coming out of the mouth of a kid. But the formidable intensity that has captured people's imaginations on YouTube dissipates when she opens her eyes and that, too, is a very important part of SOAK.
"I am really not a dark or depressed person," she says with a laugh. "I'm from a very happy family." She explains that her mum is particularly keen for people to understand this and you can see why: if your child has a preternaturally high talent for writing about internal conflict, people might assume you kept them locked in a cupboard under the stairs. Bridie is close to her family: she came out to her parents at 14 -- and doesn't think that was particularly young, or particularly old, or particularly interesting at all.
She is private about the individual dramas that inspired her songs, but you suspect that's because she wants to protect old school friends (she is now studying an extended diploma in music at a higher education college in Derry, though, having just been signed to Warner Bros, it remains to be seen whether she'll need to complete it).
On stage, she works hard to dispel the image of a tortured soul and witters away like a less-smart-ass version of Ellen Page in Juno. "I try and use the gap between the songs to show the other side of me," she explains later. "I happen to write easier when I'm angry or sad, but I know from watching other musicians that you want more than that." As favourite bands she volunteers Abba and Pink Floyd ("not enough people appreciate how great those keyboard riffs are"); she mentions her sadness at the news about HMV, recalling that the first time she got paid for a gig -- two years ago -- she ceremoniously spent all her earnings on records.
That seems surprising somehow, symbolising, perhaps, a teenage record-buying public largely ignored in recent debates.
Then again, 16 year-olds seem to symbolise a lot of things for adults. Philip King, the organiser of Dingle's Other Voices festival (she will appear at its spin-off event as part of Derry's City of Culture celebrations next month) sees SOAK as a symbol of peace in Northern Ireland: her big brother was born on the day of the ceasefire; she attended Derry's first integrated college and has no direct experience of the Troubles at all ("it didn't look fun").
Perhaps, if she represents anything at all, it's the potential of songwriting to show the complexity of a person's inner life. Someone once said you can never truly know your children. If they all wrote songs like this, we would.