While many of us treated the pandemic as a time from which to bake banana bread and binge-watch countless Netflix shows, the Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter, Radley O’Brien, had other plans. Choosing to switch off from the outside world and instead dedicate his free time to produce melodic tunes, all the while perfecting his craft, the artist looked to be both productive and creative during the global lockdown we faced. And, the result? Dropping his sweet-yet-melancholic debut EP, “When Your Father Couldn’t Dance”, the artist proved that, despite how many may feel, the last year has not gone to waste.
When discussing the creation of his new project, the artist claimed, “While the exterior world represented evident hellfire, I was suddenly faced with the kind of interior conditions which were completely ideal for my own creative process. To have the privilege of zero distractions, no social opportunities, and to be able to sideline all of the promotion and extra shit that comes with being an artist was my absolute fantasy. I leaned into it and deleted all my social media, stopped drinking for a few months, and worked on music every day. This early lockdown period was when I wrote and recorded all the demos for the songs that would become the record. I really think the songs come from a person who had quickly become comfortable living deep within the subconscious.”
Upon the release of his EP and the music video for track, “It’s Gonna Get You Just When You Think It’s Gone”, the artist sat down with Wonderland to discuss the way he embraced the pandemic in a bid to make more music and his love affair with singles. Head below to read our interview with Radley O’Brien…
Hey Radley, how are you? How has this past year been?
I’m pretty good. For everyone, this past year has been an impossible one to describe. I will say that moving to Philadelphia, which I did with my band Blood on the first day of 2021, has been immeasurably rewarding and comforting. The City has an uncanny familiarity to me even though I have never lived here before, but I did grow up not too far from here in Virginia. Moving to Philly feels like the end of Big Daddy when you walk into a bar, and all of your friends are waiting there to cheers you on your birthday, and despite the terrible loss, you realise that the son you lost to John Stewart can be replaced. In all sincerity, it feels like this is home in a way I haven’t felt anywhere else.
The pandemic affected everyone in different ways, do you think it affected you creatively at all?
The pandemic’s toll cannot be measured. For anyone who has experienced a death in their family or is still suffering from symptoms, that loss can’t be put into words. Personally, I find myself really grappling with how to associate with a social and interpersonal atmosphere that feels unrecognisable from 2019. The long-term effects of the pandemic have been extremely hard to overcome for everyone. That being said, the lockdown conditions that the pandemic created were completely conducive to me as an artist. Early on in quarantine, before the BLM protests, I found myself in a paradoxical situation. While the exterior world represented evident hellfire, I was suddenly faced with the kind of interior conditions which were completely ideal for my own creative process. To have the privilege of zero distractions, no social opportunities, and to be able to sideline all of the promotion and extra shit that comes with being an artist was my absolute fantasy. I leaned into it and deleted all my social media, stopped drinking for a few months, and worked on music every day. This early lockdown period was when I wrote and recorded all the demos for the songs that would become the record. I really think the songs come from a person who had quickly become comfortable living deep within the subconscious.
How did you first get into music, what sparked the interest?
I first got into music doing a striptease to the song “Kokomo” for my neighbours with my slightly less slutty older brother, at the age of 5. I have always been obsessed with singles. In the same way that you pray to be in the graces of a crush, if I am lucky, there is one song in a given season that I will listen to on repeat, and it will completely take over me for a few weeks or months until a new one picks me up. Some of these songs have been “My Time” by Ann Steel, “I Am Waiting” by The Rolling Stones and “Se Telefonando” by Mina.
And now you’ve just dropped your debut EP, “When Your Father Couldn’t Dance”, talk us through your mindset going into this project?
As I said before, the plan was to use the opportunity of my life being on pause to spend all my time working on music. I loved it. I really feel like I am at my best when I feel like I am safe within a total mental vacuum, where I can’t be heard. The goal is to get so completely isolated, that I am able to forget myself. I have learned that nothing can happen until I get out of my own way and just shut up so I can actually let it happen.
You reflected a lot on your own journey and self-discovery for this project, what was this experience like? Did you face any personal challenges?
Yeah. I think the greatest personal challenge is the personal critic that likes to kill everything in its path, the one that can’t let you enjoy what you’ve made. I love when songs are at the beginning stage, and there are moments when you feel like both the artist and audience member to this new thing simultaneously. I think it has evolved into a balancing act between wanting to transmit how I feel and then completely detaching from the result so that I don’t kill it for myself or others before it can see the light of day.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
I would say an embracing of the shadow self, sexuality and a full-frontal assault of artistic amateurism.
Who would you cite as your inspirations?
Neil Young, Cindy Lee, Judee Sill, Dionne Warwick, Bo Harwood
What are you most excited for in the new year?
I want to be grouped by a minor league baseball team.