Ailbhe Reddy: “I choose to put myself out there”

by James Hendicott

Every so often, an album comes along that’s dripping with beautiful personal stories and perspectives, and captures hearts. Ailbhe Reddy was a regular on the Dublin music scene, but not a star member, when she released her debut album ‘Personal History’ last year.

A slow-builder of a record, it evokes emotional takes on her own life to tell stories, and captures something of what it is to be young and slightly vulnerable and facing into the world. Nominated for the Choice Music Prize last week, Reddy missed out on the win, but will have gathered plenty more love for her delicate performance for the event, highlighting some of the album’s finest moments. There’s no question she’ll be emerging from the current crisis, ultimately, performing shows to much larger audiences than when it all started.

“It was my first album obviously, so I suppose I don’t have a frame of reference,” Reddy says looking back at her debut record. “Releasing during a pandemic was tricky. I had the album finished in September 2019, so the world I released it into was very different to the one I envisioned.”

“We spent the first few months of lockdown having deals taken off the table and tours cancelled, so by the time I released Personal History I was just excited to get it out into the world. It was just before another major lockdown so I was lucky enough to be able to go for dinner and celebrate a bit!”

“I really loved all the messages of support I received from people and hearing about how people connected to the music in different ways. I’ve always said that you can put out the most personal song in the world, but once other people hear it they project their experiences onto it and it becomes a bit less yours everytime you play it.”

“I have definitely tweaked a few lyrics to hold things back,” she says of the more personal side of her music. “Not for myself, I don’t really mind because I choose to put myself out there.  But I would definitely take out anything that identifies someone else too clearly, as other people don’t choose to be part of someone else’s songs, so that always seems a bit unfair!”

“I was really hopeful that I would get on the shortlist,” Reddy says of Choice, which was fiercely competitive this time around, and ultimately won by Limerick rapper Denise Chaila. “A lot of people had told me that I was in with a good chance, but it was hard for me to see that because there were so many albums this year that I loved and would have held in very high regard that didn’t end up on the list.  So I suppose I was really grateful and a bit surprised.”

“I was talking to a friend who lives in Australia now about the Choice Prize nomination and we were reminiscing about how when we were both starting out gigging back in 2013/14 on the scene in Dublin that the Choice Prize seemed like this distant, impossible, unachievable thing.”

“I never got to a point where I thought I would not only be nominated, but be friends with most of the other nominees.  I have discovered so many acts over the years through the shortlist, too. I’m totally bummed that there won’t be a big party in Vicar Street this year but hopefully we can make up for it down the line when things are more stable and safe!”

Reddy, though, is already looking forward, with plans to release a second album when the time is right. “I have just finished recording my second album, which I did in Donegal again and have co-produced myself with Tommy McLaughlin.”

“I want to keep writing and releasing albums for a long time and I would love to be back out touring as soon as possible,” she says.

Ailbhe Reddy’s Choice nominated debut album ‘Personal History’ is out now.

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