On her song ‘B a noBody’ - one of several direct, emotional tracks to be penned by SOAK since she turned thirteen - she writes about friends in limbo, scratching their heads about their future. They’re in a rut, stumped on where to go. Bridie Monds-Watson, however, now aged eighteen, gives the impression of someone who was practically born a songwriter. Keen industry-types had to be warded off from Bridie’s parents while she was taking her GCSEs, so the tale goes. Interest travelled to hometown Derry and it’s been by her side for several years.
But SOAK’s story isn’t as black and white as that might suggest. Yes, it’s true she played a gig and took a biology exam in the space of twenty minutes, but “I wasn’t going to pass that, anyway,” she insists. There’s a lot more to Bridie than music.
Dinosaurs, for instance. Her Twitter handle is currently “SOAKOSAURUS”, for no other reason than if you add “saurus” to the end of a word, it sounds “badass”. While claiming that “all your life lessons” can be taught through dino-cartoon ‘The Land Before Time’, she also has tattoos of her favourite prehistoric friends. “But they’re stupid. Don’t ever do it,” she protests. “It’s kind of ridiculous.”
By default, Bridie’s besties usually find themselves the subject of SOAK songs, whether they like it or not. These days, they won’t even be informed of when their travelling musician mate is returning from tour. Nope - she’ll just surprise them. “I like to pretend I’m not coming back and then I just arrive out of nowhere,” she laughs. “I’m like, ‘Hey bitches!’” One time, for reasons unbeknownst to everyday sanity, she hid in a bin. It was parked next to a cafe that became a de-facto hangout spot for her group of friends. So one friend asked the other to take some litter outside, and there began a particularly unhygienic homecoming. “In the moment, it was like ‘What can I do?’”
“I asked my Dad to teach me a few songs. I surprised myself in how addicted I got to it.”
Parts of her miss home, but for the most part Bridie is enjoying the wave she’s riding. Her parents no longer take a front seat in management, and friends are still - for the most part - the same. “The only part I don’t like is coming back and so much has changed,” she says.
For the past couple of years, there must have been a slight, if subconscious, awareness of what was coming next. “When I was young, I wasn’t really like, ‘I’m gonna be a singer!’” she says, but by the time publishers were travelling to Derry to make a connection, she knew something was happening. Especially when CHVRCHES put her straight on the map by releasing her ‘BLUD’ single on their own imprint, Goodbye Records. That’s when heads began to turn in their thousands. She comes from a “very creative family”, but despite her father being a Jimi Hendrix-loving guitar wizard, he never forced music into the equation. “My big brother got a guitar for Christmas when we were… ten? And I was like, ‘Ooh, how can you do that?’ And I asked my Dad to teach me a few songs. I surprised myself in how addicted I got to it.”
There’s music, and then there’s skateboarding, Bridie’s other passion. “I didn’t come out of the womb skating,” she has to stress, but she’s been on a board as long as she can remember. Videos for early singles see her scouring Derry’s more deserted areas, but she had to give up “properly” skating due to a nasty injury (“shit got bad”). “I can’t really do it right now while on tour because I’d break my wrists and… People would be angry at me,” she admits.
Skating’s been dropped, friends require bin-based surprises and the family are watching her career go skywards from a distance, but Bridie’s not sacrificing too much. A debut album - set for 2015 - puts together present day numbers with songs she penned from the very beginning. “This being my debut and the fact I’ve been writing for so long, it shows such a span. You can tell the songs that are older than others, and you can tell there’s an actual experience within them. Whether they sound incredible or not, it’s important to have them on there,” she says. In what’s been a mad journey, defined by unprecedented but deserved attention, SOAK’s fairly happy with the idea of being a somebody.
Taken from the December 14 / January 15 issue of DIY, out now. Photos: Mike Massaro.