Orla Gartland no longer singing into the void 

Celtic folk-rock singer Orla Gartland – who just turned 20 – always has worked overtime online to futher her music career. “I’m quite a geek in the social media circles. And I feel like I was always a bit ahead of the curve, but not in a cool way. In a very dorky way,” she says. It was her secret to success.

These days, Gartland actively posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, touting her current sophomore EP “Lonely People,” her appearance at South By Southwest in Texas and an introductory U.S. jaunt that brings her to San Francisco next week.

“I love a good Instagram. I take photos of little weird things, like shots of crowds at my shows – just things that I find visually pleasing. And this filmmaker friend of mine and I made these 15-second clips that are posted there, as well. And to work within a 15-second framework was really amazing,” she says.

Still, she has YouTube to thank for getting noticed. At age 13, she began posting bedroom-taped cover-song videos. Her whimsical channel has now amassed over 11 million views, total.

“When I started, it was very much the dark ages in Ireland, YouTube-wise,” she says. “But I saw music videos were being posted, and I wanted to get involved, so I just made very simple videos, unedited, very lo-fi, and only one take. But people in Ireland really loved them. So I accidentally stumbled upon this great new medium, and everything else has followed after.”

There was no rhyme or reason to the covers Gartland attempted, which was part of her allure. She was never in tune with what was happening on the charts, and she preferred sending up vintage 1980s pop instead. There was no concept of “going viral” then, either.

“So for me, there wasn’t necessarily one big crazy breakthrough – it was a very organic, slow-burning thing, which was cool,” she says.

Later, when she slipped originals in, the response was overwhelming. “My own songs were receiving a lot more positive attention than my covers, and that was really refreshing.” Gartland quickly understood how to monetize her online fame – by playing concerts.

She says, “And to do a show and look out and see actual faces? That felt like the turnaround point. Until then, I wasn’t aware that I had created this online platform that I could turn into this really genuine, loyal following. A lot of times, I felt like I was just shouting into the void.”


Orla Gartland

Where: Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. March 24

Tickets: $10 to $13

Contact: (415) 800-8782, www,brickandmortarmusic.com

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Tom Lanham

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