Bridie Monds-Watson (aka SOAK) started writing songs at the age of thirteen, having watched her Dad playing the guitar growing up and, keen to impress him, she took to recording her first batch of lo-fi, acoustic demos in secret.
“When I was younger I was unbelievably shy,” she says. “I didn’t really have many friends, and I wasn’t really close with my parents then – the idea of telling my Mum anything was just … no. So when I started writing songs it was a way that I could tell her something, but not directly. I could hide things behind words, which was easy for me. I’m always hiding behind words.”
This can be seen most clearly in the lyrics of ‘Sea Creatures’, penned in response to watching a friend get bullied at school. The song introduced threads of companionship, isolation and humour (“I pray for you / But you know I don’t like Jesus”) which would slowly bloom in Bridie’s music.
Bridie uploaded an early demo of ‘Sea Creatures’ to the BBC Introducing player in 2012, which lit a fuse that would see SOAK hailed as one of the rising stars in Northern Ireland.
Her debut album ‘Before We Forgot How to Dream’ is a coming-of-age record in more ways than one. Vividly capturing the roller-coaster of adolescence, it traces not only SOAK’s extraordinary journey in her own career thus far, but also those more universal themes of friendship, family, and what to do with your future.
On its surface, ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’ may appear nostalgic – romantic, even - towards a more innocent time, and despite the tumultuous tone which actually lingers beneath the record, there is a persistently positive element to SOAK’s music.
“People grow up and nobody believes in Magic anymore, or you’re told to lower your expectations and that certain behaviour isn’t appropriate. This album is definitely about that time when you believed a bit more in things.”
You’d venture that belief will take SOAK further yet in her young career, though ultimately her debut album seems to explore those joys and fears we take with us through life, from adolescence into adulthood – but simply get a little better at hiding.