Ailbhe Reddy on her new album Endless Affair and the power of queer songwriting

Read all about her new album concept, writing process and how being a queer artist in Ireland has changed in the past ten years.

black and white portrait of Ailbhe Reddy ahead of her Endless Affair release

I was incredibly lucky to sit down with Ailbhe Reddy ahead of the release of her new album, Endless Affair, on March 17. Together we chatted about her writing style, the musicians she idolised and how being a queer artist in Ireland has changed over the past ten years.

I am loving your new song, ‘Last to Leave’. How did you go about writing that?
I wrote it at a time when I was working in a music shop. Whenever I was hungover, I’d end up scrolling lyrics on the back of blank receipts. So the lyrics came together while I was working, and I put together all these little scraps of paper that I had.

It was about someone that I was, I suppose, infatuated with. It’s about watching them at a party and being irritated because they’re going around, not caring about anyone else.

And probably the reason that I found that frustrating was because it mirrored behaviour I don’t like about me, you know? I always think those things that we find frustrating in other people are mirrors of ourselves.

Do you usually write songs in bits at a time or do you have a typical writing process?
I think so many writers say this, but the Notes app on my phone. I was comparing with a friend recently and we have thousands of little one-liners and stuff.

And I’m a lyrics person. It’s usually that I have a concept, and then it’s building around that concept and finding these little ideas that would like fit in around it. In this album’s case, the concept was being the last to leave the party and leaning into the fact that you’re going to act like a total bollocks, basically.

It’s such a rebellious theme for a record. How is your new album, Endless Affair, different from your first?
Personal History was a debut album, so it just felt like a collection of songs. There was no thread, really. But with Endless Affair, everything is fresh and it feels like there’s a true concept about being out of control and not being able to let go, whether it’s a relationship or a party.

Speaking of parties, tell me about this Endless Affair cover artwork!
Ruth Medjber is the amazing photographer. I’m really into design and graphics so I had a strong idea of wanting it to look like this outrageous house party scene, and I wanted to be the only one looking at the camera. It feels almost like breaking the fourth wall.

Ruth is the kind of person who is so happy to just shoot for the stars in a way I wouldn’t dream of doing. If I’d been left to my own devices, I would have done it with six people. I don’t want to bother anyone, you know? I’m so glad that I worked with someone who was like, “No, we’re gonna get 30 people stuffed in a room. We’re gonna get an amazing photo.”


It looks so cool. And queer! In an earlier GCN interview, you talked about how it felt to perform a love song with she/her pronouns for the first time. I’m wondering how your experience as a queer artist has evolved since then?
Oh, wow! Interesting question. I was 23 during the Marriage Referendum in Ireland and I remember feeling like doing that was the bravest thing I ever could have done. Now I would put “she” in the song absolutely anytime. But it felt huge to me. Ireland has changed so much over the last 10 years, 15 years. It’s such a different place.

What’s cool is, when you talk to younger artists now, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid at that.

Yeah, that is something I’ve noticed with the younger queer community. Even talking about how I was nervous about holding a girl’s hand in public is unrelatable.
Yeah, that’s so fucking cool. I’m so glad that they don’t have to go through that. I’m delighted for them, and that’s why we did it. We had an easier time than the generation before us. There’s been so much progress in the last 10 years.

Hearing that quote from myself back is kind of mind-blowing because sometimes I even forget it.

I remember when it felt so cool and edgy to hear any female artist singing about a woman in a song. It was so rare.

I remember hearing a Lucy Dacus song years ago called ‘Night Shift’. She had such a great song and she says, “call you a bitch and leave”, and it’s like, oh my god, she’s talking about breaking up with a woman. And it was this feeling of just like – this thing is for me. So much popular culture at the time was for everyone else.

Bands like Pillow Queens changed the game. Imagine having a band like that to look up to and you were like, 16, and you see them being so successful and strong and cool.

Totally. Pillow Queens was one of the first queer Irish things that I discovered when I moved here and the experience of growing up with them sounds amazing.
I remember being 16, and I used to watch this YouTube channel called BalconyTV which was filmed in Dublin. They used to get artists in to play a little acoustic song on a balcony; I loved it.

Wallis Bird was on it and there was something in me when I was just like, “I know, she’s gay”. And I immediately became obsessed with her music. It’s not just that she was queer and a musician, she was Irish as well. This person feels like they’re from the same world I am.

Looking ahead, what are you most excited for with your career?
I’m in a really nice place where I have an album coming out, and I’m touring.

This is probably the most solid place I’ve been with in my career – just to be in a position with a label; they’re brilliant people. And I know I’m going to be working on another album next year. It’s not going to be a whole case of pulling together as much money as I can to get an album done. I know it’s all mapped out. That feels good.

For me, I tour to be able to continue to record. All I want to do is keep recording, and releasing, and hope a few people listen along the way.

It’s really cool to hear that you tour so you can record more, I wonder if most artists are the opposite.
I’m a shy guy. I like touring, it’s nice meeting people and going to different places, and I adore travelling. But for me, it’s all about the studio.

I can sit and work in the studio for 10 hours straight. I could spend weeks and weeks just writing and recording with other people. It’s my favourite thing in the world, and I get to do it as a job. That’s pretty cool.

Thank you so much, Ailbhe, and best of luck with Endless Affair!

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