We all remember our unfortunate first social media usernames or email addresses, usually a wild combination of ill-advised nicknames and current favourite things, maybe with the odd meme reference thrown in for good measure. Luckily, for most of us, these remain firmly in the past, but for Ireland’s Smoothboi Ezra it’s a slightly different story.
“Basically, when I was 14, me and my friend were gonna start a band and we didn’t know what to call it, and at the time the ‘dat boi!!!’ meme was all around. You know, the guy on the unicycle?!” they laugh. “We were obsessed with it and we used to put it on everything. I don’t know where the ‘smooth’ came from but I do remember we were at some religious retreat when we decided.
“We both went to Catholic school and I wasn’t paying attention; I was thinking of band names and I just remember we came up with it on the spot and, to remember it, I changed my Twitter handle on my phone to @smooth_boi. And nothing happened, and we didn’t make a band, and then when I was releasing ‘Thinking Of You’ on Spotify years later I had to come up with an artist name and I thought I’d be able to change it. I didn’t just want to be Ezra, I needed something to set me apart from the other Ezras, so I put it in as a placeholder and now I can’t change it and everyone knows me as that, so that’s what I am!”
However, though their name might originally be the thing drawing attention, Smoothboi Ezra’s confessional and moving pop is what pushes them even further apart from the rest. Recording mostly in the shed that they live in at the back of their garden in the small coastal town of Greystones, music had originally been a hobby more than a career goal. “I don’t know why, but I just always assumed I wouldn’t do anything,” they shrug. “When I was younger, I just did what I liked and I never thought it would go anywhere. I was always writing things, and then I taught myself how to record on my iPad and released them. There was no real motive for it to turn out any particular way, it was just me doing it because I wanted to at the time.”
"I needed something to set me apart from the other Ezras, and now I can't change it."
That all changed with the release of 2018’s debut single ‘Thinking Of You’ - the first song they ever properly finished or recorded - and now Ezra is gearing up to release their eagerly-awaited debut EP ‘Stuck’ later this month. “I recorded all of it in my room. I have a section over there for recording things but I usually just bring everything over and record on my bed,” they say. “A lot of the time I fall asleep in the middle of it!”
Written last spring, ‘Stuck’ explores the intricacies of relationships through Ezra’s diary-like lyricism. “A lot of the time, my diary entries become songs because it’s easier for me to not think about anything and just write down words and make them rhyme afterwards,” they explain. “A lot of the time I don’t know what the songs mean until I read them back and make them rhyme and I’m like ‘Oh, that’s about this...’”
Their early songs weave between themes, depicting the kind of relationship rollercoasters that will likely ring familiar to every listener. On ‘Palm Of Your Hand’, Ezra unfurls the feeling of being utterly devoted to someone: “You don’t believe me while I hold your hair back and you’re throwing up on the floor / I could’ve stayed home but why would I miss out on this”. Meanwhile, on ‘Without Me’, they provide a lamentation on lost love - “I got your text, I saw that you were with your friends / They’d be mine too if I hadn’t let it end”. Throughout the EP, it’s the singer’s cutting songwriting that’s at the fore.
And indeed Ezra’s songs have already hit home for many, with their DMs flooded full of messages of support and stories of how their songs have helped people. “I’ve had some really nice messages from people saying that they listened to my music and it spoke to them,” they note. “I’ve had a few parents of kids who are going through things that I’m going through who have told me what my music means to them as a parent watching someone else go through it. That’s quite nice.”
“I don’t have massive goals for everything, I just want to go with the flow,” they smile. “I want to release music and I want the people that want to hear it to hear it. I just want to make music and see what happens!”
What happens should be smooth sailing from here.
As featured in the June 2021 issue of DIY, out now.