Sarah Hickey told David Hennessy about her new single that deals with her feelings of fear and worry when walking alone at night, a song that sadly has special relevance after recent events.
The shocking recent killing of Ashling Murphy has sadly and poignantly made Cork singer-songwriter Sarah Hickey’s latest single especially prescient.
In Looking for Trouble, Sarah writes about walking home at night time and the feelings of fear and worry that come with.
Combining her trademark indie-pop stylings with elements of roots and blues, the song is a hard hitting reminder of something which is unfortunately an ever present in our society.
Sarah told The Irish World: “I suppose it’s an account of how I would feel when I’m walking and it’s late and I’m on my own, and feelings of fear or worry.
“And it seems to kind of a recurring feeling for me and I feel like other people connect to it too.
“I took my time with the lyrics because I wanted to make sure I got it right.”
Sarah began writing the song in 2020, finishing and recording it in August last year.
She confesses she felt somewhat uncomfortable about releasing it in the wake of Ashling Murphy’s murder for fear of being disrespectful or inconsiderate.
“It was strange, because I had picked the release date before that was in the news and it felt quite strange to have the song coming out.
“Yeah, hearing that in the news was shocking.
“I kind of nearly felt weird about the song coming out in a way because I didn’t want to be inconsiderate or something even though I suppose it is a relevant topic or Issue.”
The killing of Sarah Everard was another event that struck a chord with Sarah.
“Different things kind of came up in the news in between starting to write it and now.
“But there was news in England about different things, but one that was big in the news at the time was Sarah Everard.
“It felt like the song was nearly written about different things all the time that came up in the news.
“It made me realize that what I was writing wasn’t just something I was feeling. It feels like a collective thing.
“I didn’t really want to pinpoint anything in particular, the song is just my own feelings.
“It’s just how I feel. But it just seems to nearly coincide with a lot of different things that were going on.
“But again, it’s just an account of how I feel.”
Sarah says these feelings have always been there rather than being a reaction to any news stories in recent times.
“I suppose you always hear things in the news that would scare you.
“Like when you’re a kid, you’re told not to talk to strangers.
“The feeling of being wary of people was always there and I don’t know if it ever left.
“I think I’d always have been on guard in certain circumstances and it’s a shame because to be out walking at night-time or any time should feel like a nice thing and it’s hard that it isn’t, that you always have to be nearly looking over your shoulder.
“I feel like it’s been a present feeling for a long time.
“I only speak of how I’m feeling but it is something that I suppose you’re warned of.
“If you’re warned of something straightaway, someone’s instilling a fear in you, I guess.
“And then if there’s things in the news that come up about it, you’re going to feel like there’s a reason to be afraid.
“I don’t really know anybody that doesn’t have a story of something that was inappropriate or made them uncomfortable or was just completely wrong.
“The song probably stems from feelings that go back a long way.
“I think a lot of it is swept under the rug and seen as normal.
“Sometimes I think back on things and what seems like a fairly normal thing is actually not normal, it’s just made to seem like it is.
“It does come up in conversation.
“I suppose, in more recent times, it is conversation more.
“I think a lot of things are swept under the rug a little bit but it seems to be coming up more which is a good thing.
“It’s a sad thing but maybe overall, something good will come from it.”
One lyric from the song, ‘cold set of keys clenched in my fist’ paints a vivid picture.
“It’s one of those things that I think people do without even realizing they’re doing it.
“It’s just being a little bit on guard and trying to defend yourself but not really consciously thinking about it. It’s just really habit.
“I suppose it’s my take on how I feel walking home at night but I think any person can feel any of these feelings whether it’s daytime, night time. It’s a human feeling.
“But it definitely feels at the moment anyway and has felt for a while like it’s an ongoing thing with more than just me.
“I didn’t put gender in the song because I think that it’s a human experience.”
The song’s very first lines ask, ‘Am I looking for trouble, or am I just walking home?’
A later verse says, ‘Could be a saint, could be a sinner. I’m on my own so it really doesn’t matter’.
The Irish World tell Sarah we interpreted it by thinking the saint or sinner referred to the girl walking home in the song.
“I actually like the way you looked at it because it’s nearly the opposite for me.
“I’m thinking if I see somebody in the distance..
“If I’m walking on my own, and there’s no one around and I see somebody. If I start to feel a bit afraid, I won’t know who they are. They could be the loveliest person in the world, but I don’t know them so I’m probably going to try and walk a different direction or avoid that person.
“But I like how you see that it could be the actual person, walking home, it doesn’t matter who they are.
“Yeah, I like that.
“Yeah, I like leaving it up to the listener to decide what they think as well.
“I think that’s important with music because songs can take on a million meanings, so I think that’s good too.”
Looking for Trouble follows her previous singles Free and debut single, Hollow. There are also two more singles and an EP in the works, to be released later in the year.
Here Comes the Flood describes her as, ‘An artist that can leave a mark with her art’.
Sarah was making a name for herself in the Irish live scene when her progress was somewhat halted by the pandemic.
Known for her reflective, ethereal yet earthy music, Sarah immersed herself in song writing over the last two years and is currently working on material for a new EP, as well as releasing two more singles in the coming months.
“I suppose at the time being told there is a lockdown, it’s kind of a bit of a shock for everybody and something new to get used to.
“But I did get to come across new music and write more music and I have a lot of music now that I’ve written over the last while that I’m looking to record and release.
“So in a way it had its positive effect too.”
How would Sarah describe her sound? “It’s hard to describe your own style.
“I love Joni Mitchell and Jeff Buckley and there’s a songwriter Warren Zevon that I really like as well.
“They would be kind of the older ones that I listen to.
“I suppose it’s so broad, the music I listen to.
“It’s kind of anything from folk to pop to indie/rock, blues.
“So I think I feel like what I write might be a weird mix of all of that.
“There’s definitely a kind of bluesy/ rootsy feel to this song.
“When I was young, I started playing piano first.
“I always had a notebook and I was always writing ideas in it.
“I never thought about it but I suppose I’ve always been a songwriter and I just never really had the label for it.
“I think music’s always been around me.
“It’s always been a love of mine and I never grow tired of it.
“I could spend all day with music involved in some shape or form whether it’s listening to it or writing it or playing it and it just feels like the most natural thing to me.”
From Glanmire, Sarah graduated from the Cork School of Music with both a degree and a Masters and has been working with Christian Best, who plays with people like Mick Flannery and Paddy Dennehy, as producer.
“I love Mick Flannery’s music.
“I have a friend of mine who’s an amazing songwriter, her name is Sal, and she started recording with Christian.
“So I just reached out.
“I recorded my first track Hollow with Christian.
“I love creating a song and seeing how it grows in the studio and Christian’s amazing. He is really, really talented at what he does.
“It was great to have somebody really listen to what I wanted the song to be and kind of build from there.”
Looking For Trouble is out now.
For more information, click here.