Irish Indie-pop artist, Lydia Ford shares her latest single "Sink or Swim"
“Are you looking for something or running away from something?”
Indie-pop artist Lydia Ford was struck by the intensity of the question - or at least, the intensity of her reaction to the question. She was midway through a session with songwriter Anna Krantz (Ed Sheeran, Maren Morris) and had been discussing the story of her life. How she had upped sticks from Castlebar in County Mayo to Brooklyn simply because she was young and she could. How the creative community there inspired her to refocus on her passion for songwriting after previously deciding that studying for a degree was a wiser lifechoice than the pipedream of becoming a musician. How she had struggled to make ends meet there and had to fight against bureaucracy to renew her visa. How she returned home only to leave again, this time rerooting to Berlin in the middle of the pandemic where, six months later, she still didn’t know if she had made the right decision.
And now she was at a crossroads. After independently releasing a handful of tracks each year from 2019 onwards while also running her own marketing agency, it was time to pick up the momentum, sink or swim. This session was a small but vital chapter in the journey towards releasing her debut album later this year. As for the answer? Well, we’ll come back to that in a moment.
For now, let’s instead go back to the beginning. As a child, Lydia was surrounded by music: the “angry Green Day phase” of her older sister, who later became a musicologist; and the classic songwriting and ‘80s cool of her mum’s love for Fleetwood Mac and Annie Lennox. By the time she was nine-years-old, the only thing on Lydia’s Christmas list was a guitar. With that unwrapped, Lydia started playing and, inspired by Paramore and Tegan and Sara, joined a variety of scrappy teenage pop-punk bands. But after university she was working for Irish TV channel TV3. Music remained a passion, but it didn’t look set to be Lydia’s future.
That changed upon arriving in Brooklyn.
“Everyone there is a musician or an artist of creative of some type, and it’s not an embarrassing thing like it is in Ireland, where people are often like, ‘Oh, she thinks she’s a musician.’”
She posted some demos on SoundCloud, which led to an unexpected request from Hamburg deep house duo Steam Phunk for her to collaborate on some toplines. Their two singles together were positively received, leading to Lydia sharing her own music which evolved from poppier roots into something a little more reflective and introspective.
By 2021’s track ‘Feel It For You’, Lydia clearly had something worth nurturing. And tastemakers agreed, leading to airplay in Ireland and the UK, extensive editorial playlists across Spotify, press coverage from Billboard, Earmilk and Uproxx, and syncs in ‘Made In Chelsea’. Her reputation blossomed in the live arena too, with highlights to date including sets at Ireland Music Week 2022, Other Voices and We’ve Only Just Begun Festival.
Following ‘Feel It For You’, Faction Records (James Vincent McMorrow, Sorcha Richardson) got in touch, which would eventually lead to a deal with their imprint, Bloom Records, who are headed by new music champion Aine Cronin-McCartney. And now her debut album ‘Faking It’ is waiting on the horizon.
Not that making an album was Lydia’s initial plan. As she candidly admits,
“I put it off for so long because I was scared that no-one was going to listen to it.”
But in 2021, Lydia reacted to the claustrophobia of Berlin’s lockdown by collaborating remotely with producer Sam Stevenson. Creating songs that were “a bit more indie and a lot more personal,” their collaborations felt a step beyond what Lydia had previously released, and by the following year she had committed to a bigger project.
They spent six months working on a set schedule: Zoom sessions on a Thursday; Lydia would spend Fridays fleshing out those ideas in a local studio; and then Sam would develop the production ahead of the following week’s session.
While the pair looked at dreamy, sophisticated alt-pop artists such as MUNA, The Japanese House and Snail Mail for production references, Lydia’s songwriting was primarily informed by her own experiences.
It’s an album full of brutally honest self-analysis, ruminating on possibly heading home from Berlin in ‘Leave The Country’ or lamenting a lost relationship in ‘Timelines’ (“Left a mark on each other with a tattoo, I still don’t regret it but I'm afraid you do”). Her experiences reach their lowest ebb in the album’s brightest moment, confessing to being sufficiently broke to skip meals in ‘Faking It’ - a song which also supports Dolly Parton’s disdain for nine-to-five life and provides the album’s title.
Fittingly, ‘Faking It’ is engaging precisely because it’s a sum of experiences: high and lows, challenges and self-doubts, but with the feelgood conclusion that what you’re looking for isn’t quite as insurmountable as it might initially seem. And as a record that can connect with fans of Maisie Peters, Fickle Friends and Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Faking It’ surely represents the starting point of Lydia Ford’s next journey.