19-year old Wicklow songwriter/artist Ocean Tisdall is in a reflective mood as he sits down with GoldenPlec from London.
Following a year that saw Tisdall break onto the scene with the release of his debut single, Broke Up With My Best Friend and sign a record deal with Universal Music, there is a lot to catch up on.
“It’s been crazy but the best type of crazy,” he admits, looking back on the past twelve months, “I’m in London now so there are no real restrictions, so it’s great to be back in person with people, constantly creating. It’s such a nice change to being locked down in your room”.
Broke Up With My Best Friend
Tisdall was raised in Manor Kilbride, a small village high in the Wicklow Mountains surrounded by sloped plains and woody terrains. A member of a tight-knit community, Tisdall found it hard at times to break away from the expectations of those around him and pursue life as an artist and a creative in his own right.
“It has some negatives,” Tisdall admits of life in his hometown, “In a small village, saying that you want to be an artist isn’t met very well, they want you to focus on getting your Leaving Cert, go to university and put your dreams on the backburner”.
“Definitely being the outcast, that weird quirky kid can take a bit of a toll” he recalls, before adding that regardless of the difficulties he faced, he wouldn’t change a thing. “It’s made me who I am today,” he remarks, “and has inspired all the music I’ve made in my career”.
As a child, Tisdall was diagnosed as dyslexic. As other students were reading chapters on ancient Irish history, Tisdall would find himself skimming through the pages looking at the illustrations. That reduced accessibility to the written word pushed Tisdall towards more visual and sonic templates, which is how he first fell for music at a young age.
“It definitely helped a lot,” he admits of having music as an outlet to focus on. “I think school is very black and white and isn’t aimed at people who are creative or don’t just learn from a textbook.
“I think school is very black and white and isn’t aimed at people who are creative or don’t just learn from a textbook."
It did help to release things that were bottled up inside me, things that were annoying me about school and about society. It was really important for me as an outlet and a way of letting go of those feelings and frustrations”.
At home, he was raised on his mother’s love for ’90s divas and country music. “She has this massive radio player in the sitting room and she used to play all these old tracks blaring around the house” Tisdall laughs, as he remembers his earliest musical memories, before being introduced to more contemporary artists of the time by his older sister.
By 10 years old, Tisdall was hooked and wanted to be a star. “I told my sister I was going to be Jessie J,” Tisdall adds, “but she kept telling me I couldn’t be someone else and I had to be myself”.
Tisdall’s move to the UK at 17 years old to pursue music, and returning upon the onset of the pandemic, played a significant role in inspiring him to write his debut single, Broke Up With My Best Friend.
Tisdall had found it hard maintaining his friendships from home while he was busy away, and noticed upon his return that the friends he once relied on had drifted away over time.
“I saw they were all out together and realised I wasn’t part of their world anymore” he remembers, “and that really hit hard so I just went to my room, opened up voice notes and just spoke about how it made me feel and the words I spoke in the voice note just became my song”.
That track has since gone on to garner an online buzz and it featured on radio playlists across the country. “I never expected the reaction it got, it felt really rewarding” Tisdall smiles, “seeing how much people really connected with the song was neat”.
“I was tackling a lot of things that I felt like I wasn’t confident enough to talk through...”
Two weeks after the track’s release, Tisdall received an email from Universal Music asking to jump on a call. Overjoyed and shocked in equal measure, he did laps of the house in joy, baffling his mother and sister who had just returned from a walk. “I didn’t know what to do, I was delighted”.
Universal loved the single, and were just as enthused about his unreleased work, including his upcoming debut EP. “They loved the project and they really got it which was really important to me” he adds of the collection, which touches on similarly personal topics as his debut.
“I was tackling a lot of things that I felt like I wasn’t confident enough to talk through” he notes, “being a boy, a really hard thing in society is that I felt like I always had to bottle up my emotions and wasn’t able to express myself and there was a lot of frustration with that”.
Having signed with Universal in July of this year, Tisdall is looking forward to a hectic 2022, with projects and live shows both high on the agenda for the New Year. “I just want to get back in the studio, constantly writing” he hopes, “I’m just excited for normality again”.