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One to watch

Ealing-Irish singer-songwriter Etaoin told David Hennessy about her new EP, being named as one of Amazon’s Ones to Watch for 2022 and why she would give a toe and a half for Taylor Swift.

The Irish World interviewed singer- songwriter Etaoin (full name Etaoin Rowe) in March 2021 when she had just released her second single Pale Damp Cheeks to follow her debut Bedroom Walls.

A lot has happened since then.

She has been named as one of Amazon’s ‘Ones to Watch for 2022’, therefore seen herself plastered on a massive billboard in Trafalgar Square and toured with Beoga. In fact since our chat she has also been named as one of Hot Press’ Hot for 2023.

She has also headlined Whelan’s in Dublin, toured in Germany and is working with a producer who works with Ed Sheeran.

“So much has happened since we last spoke,” she says when we spoke to her recently.

Etaoin released her second EP last year. Entitled I Hate Everyone (But I Don’t Mind You), it boasts latest single, If I Ever Find Home.

“It’s heart broken and sad, stripped back acoustic guitar,” she says of the single.

“Very similar to Bedroom Walls, it’s about the same boy as Pale Damp Cheeks was about.

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“I actually wrote it the same night as Pale Damp Cheeks, funny enough.

“It was after my first ever heartbreak.

“You know after your first heartbreak, you’re thinking, ‘Oh my god. My life: It’s over now and it’s not getting better. I will never find another’.

“It was wintertime, my parents had gone out and electricity had gone in the house and I could only see a faint light from upstairs.

“I was sitting downstairs by the radiator and I just wrote two songs pretty quickly in succession.

“The line at the end of the chorus is, ‘Left on the side of the road, now I don’t know if I’ll ever find home’.

“It’s very emotional.”

The EP also includes previous singles Sick of Me, Cold Blood and title track I Hate Everyone (But I Don’t Mind You).

“I think it’s a nice mix of the emotional and the more upbeat.

“Hilariously Cold Blood is about the same boy. He has a plethora of songs.”

If so many songs are about heartbreak, are they hard to sing?

“Some songs get hard to sing.

“There’s a song that isn’t released that is about a friend of mine who passed away.

“I wrote it a few years ago, to this day it’s very hard to sing.

“You spend so much time with the song and it’s something that’s in your ears and it kind of feels very private and secret and very yours and then it’s out in the world when it’s released and suddenly, it begins to feel slightly like everyone’s.

“Something that was written at a time when you were so sad- Time heals and everything- You begin to associate it with singing it to crowds and people singing along and stuff.

“So the meaning that it bears personally completely changes as time goes on.

“When you’re singing a song, you are in the moment but I never get sad singing them because I love gigging.”

What is it like to hear people singing back your lyrics? “Insane.

“Most of these songs I wrote in my bedroom, to have people know the words by heart and stuff is insane.

“What I love is when people come to me with their stories and how it has helped them.

“I get messages from people on Instagram, I’m almost like an agony aunt to them.

“It’s nice in a way, I feel like it really builds a level of trust between you and the listener.

“I was on tour in Germany just recently. I was kind of thinking, ‘It’s a foreign country and I’ve never been on tour in Germany before’.

“I didn’t know how the crowd was gonna respond.

“And then afterwards, just approaching you like you’re their best friend.

“And they’re saying, ‘Oh, it made me think of this’.

“It’s really, really moving.

“Even just being told that you can go to Germany to sing your songs and be paid for it is crazy, doesn’t feel like a job.”

Etaoin supported Beoga on their Irish tour in November 2021.

“That was amazing.

“I’ve been a fan of Beoga because I grew up with the Fleadhs and stuff.

“I’ve been a fan of Beoga since I was so young.

“So it was sort of a fangirl moment.

“A producer I work with, Joe Rubel, who also works with Ed Sheeran, let them know that I was a huge fan.

“They were like, ‘Hey, we love your music. Come on tour’.

“My first Ireland tour.

“And then I headlined Whelan’s a couple of days after the tour.

“Honestly, the Irish crowds are so much better.

“I love playing in Ireland.

“Whenever anyone would ask me, ‘Where are you from?’ I would never in a million years say England, I’d always say Ireland.”

Etaoin grew up between England and Ireland with a mother coming from Kilmacthomas in Waterford and a dad from Roscarberry in West Cork and Killinick in Wexford.

As she says, she was a ‘Fleadh baby’.

“Although I grew up in London, I’m an Irish artist at heart and everything else. Ireland’s like home to me.”

And it’s a mutual thing. Etaoin has long been getting support from Ireland with platforms like RTE and Hot Press catching on early.

“I feel like they’ve taken me under the wing a little bit, you know?

“I remember when I was younger, my dad said this thing to me which always resonates, ‘No matter what in your life, you will always have Ireland’.

“And I really feel like that.

“I really feel a sense of being supported and taken under the wing.”

Etaoin with some of her Fleadh prizes.

A student of the late Brendan Mulkere, Etaoin has eleven All-Ireland titles.

“I grew up playing the Irish music as well so from such a young age, I’ve always felt so accepted as an outsider who lived in London.

“Growing up I was doing Fleadhs and stuff like that, which was a great learning experience.

“I played flute, tin whistle, harmonica and I did the songwriting competition and the singing competitions, so I grew up in that whole world, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I always felt so welcomed and that’s exactly the same with my own music now.”

Since she released her debut single Bedroom Walls in January 2021, Etaoin has racked up millions of streams on platforms like Spotify.

Etaoin teamed up with emerging singer- songwriter Tadhg Daly for the recent duet, Not Over You. Like Etaoin, he is also one of Amazon’s Ones to Watch for 2022 and he also happens to have family in West Cork.

“We wrote the song in a day.

“It is a big thing when you trust someone with your music and everything like that.

“He’s amazing to work with.”

When she writes so personally, Etaoin needs to have that trust with any writing partner.

“There’s some writing sessions I’ve gone into and it’s just been awkward.

“You sit down and they would be like, ‘So how is your love life?’

“’I don’t want to tell you about my love life, this is so awkward’.

“Also me and Tadhg are a similar age so it kind of feels like I’m going in to hang out with a friend.

“You definitely need that trust.

“I don’t feel as if I can write a good song with someone unless I have a good friendship with them or I trust them enough to speak about my emotions because it’s all personal.”

No doubt Not Over You came from a personal place being about break-ups where there is still some love there.

“There’s so many different things in my experience as well that can cause a break up, distance and stuff like that.

“People drift and it is not necessarily because they’re wrong for each other.

“Sometimes it just doesn’t work.

“There’s love there but not enough love to keep relentlessly trying.

“That’s how I wrote the song with Tadhg. We talked about different ways that girls and boys see things in relationships.

“That’s why we did the first verse from the boy’s point of view and then the second is from the girl’s point of view.”

It reminds the Irish World of Taylor Swift’s Exile, her duet with Bon Iver, that was sung in a similar way.

Is Etaoin a fan of Taylor Swift? Well, she’ll only give up body parts for her..

“I love- I would give up a toe for Taylor Swift. I love Taylor Swift with my whole heart. You know what? A toe and a half, I would go as far as a toe and a half.

“She’s amazing. She’s actually one of the reasons I started writing songs.

“I’m such a huge Taylor Swift fan.

“I feel like she taught me how to songwrite from listening to her songs growing up.”

Etaoin has been supported all the way by her parents. Have they even missed a show yet? “Not one. They even came to the Beoga tour.

“They are so committed to being supportive

“Before, I was doing university for a while and then when the music thing kicked off, I got offered to be flown away to America and I had the option of deferring uni for a year and going with the dream.

“When I said, ‘I want to go to LA’, they were like, ‘Great, thankfully. Everybody else already knew that you loved music so much. Finally you’ve seen it’.

“Because it’s a scary thing to commit to it.

“It’s something that you always want but it feels like a dream in your head.

“It feels unattainable in some way, the music industry, because there’s no set route.

“But the two of them have been so supportive, my brother too.

“They’re always so encouraging and supportive and have so much belief in me.

“It’s so lovely to have that sense of support.

“I remember the morning that I started getting emails from my first ever record label, Universal.

“First I thought it was a spam email.

“And then I kind of woke up and thought, ‘Was it a dream?’

“Then I said, ‘Just let me check it out in case, it’s probably a spammer’.

“Then I realised it wasn’t a spammer.

“I ran downstairs. Screamed, ‘Oh my God’.

“My mum was at the hairdresser and I ran out of the house in my pyjamas, no shoes on, down the street, down the side of the motorway to the hairdresser’s where I bump into my mum coming back.

“The first thing she says was, ‘Your dad nearly had a heart attack because you screamed and ran out of the house’.

“I was like, ‘No, no, Universal contacted me’.

“I remember that. I’ll always remember that, that day was crazy.”

And Etaoin had that support when she needed it even more. She was sick as a child, even spending nine months in Great Ormonde Street Hospital, and her parents never left her then either.

“Growing up I was very sick.

“My stomach was paralysed and my kidneys failed a few times.

“I was in and out for years, 13 to- A few years ago my kidneys failed.

“There wasn’t one day where both of my parents didn’t turned up at my hospital bed and just sat there with me.

“How unbelievable is that? Not one day.

“My mum and my dad never left my hospital bed. They were there from morning ‘til night, always with a big smile on their faces.

“It was years and years of being sick.

“That was a hard thing growing up.

“I think not being able to be in school a lot of the time because I was in hospital, I think the boredom kind of bred creativity and that led to where songwriting came about.

“I’ve written songs about hospital.

“My friend who died, he was from hospital.

“That’s scary for a young person because you’re suddenly not in school.

“And then you go in and you feel a bit like the sick kid.

“There was one of the Fleadhs I completely missed because I was so sick at the time.

“Even all through that, my parents were so supportive. It went on for years.

“They managed to find some medication that worked pretty well.

“Thankfully I’m not in critical condition or intensive care.

“It’s just something I have to manage.

“Being able to go on tour and able to do all that kind of stuff is amazing.”

A definite career highlight for Etaoin so far is when she was put on a huge billboard in Leicester Square by Amazon Music after they named her one of their Ones To Watch 2022.

“That was unbelievable.

“I was crying my eyes out, that was ridiculous.

“I didn’t even know, I actually found out from Tadhg.

“He messaged me saying, ‘Dude, have you seen yourself on that massive billboard in Leicester Square?’

“Immediately I freaked out.

“I think it was around April time so I was thinking, ‘Is this a late April’s Fool?’

“I drove straight back to Leicester Square with my mum and dad and my face is on this billboard.

“It was the most insane thing ever.

“I started crying.

“Unbelievable, literally unbelievable and one of the big career highlights to date definitely.”

Etaoin has also recorded at the iconic Abbey Road.

“You go away and you have to pinch yourself.

“You really, really do.

“There’s so much history attached to there.

“It’s crazy because obviously there’s a pedestrian crossing and there are always people taking pictures of themselves walking across the zebra crossing.

“Being able to walk across the zebra crossing and into Abbey Road people just look at you like, ‘Oh my God, why are you going into Abbey Road?’

“It’s crazy.”

The EP I Hate Everyone (But I Don’t Mind You) is out now.

For more information, click here.

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