'I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone - I'm trying to be better than myself' - Dublin singer Soulé talks success
Two of her tracks have garnered more than 1 million streams each on Spotify, but streams do not make the artist, says Dublin singer Soule.
Her debut single Love No More earned the 23-year-old Balbriggan native a Choice Music Song of the Year nomination last year while follow-ups Troublemaker and What Do You Know have each surpassed the aforementioned Spotify milestone.
"I remember when I got my first million I thought, this is definitely not my mam playing the song over and over!" she laughs. "She does play it all the time in the house, but I realised it wasn't just her, or my friends, playing my music. It was people outside of Ireland. Even talking about it now I'm just like, 'What?'
"The first time it was such a big deal. I was so chuffed. I never would have imagined a million. I got 5000 plays on Love No More and I was chuffed. I was like, 'Oh my God!' Butterflies. With a million plays I didn't know how to react. It wasn't something I was expecting. It wasn't on my list of goals."
She seems genuinely surprised by the success. Although she's being lauded as the poster girl for the urban scene in Ireland, she's also far too down-to-earth to accept that label.
"I'm far from that, honestly, I feel like it has always been there, the urban music scene has always been there, it was just underground in Ireland," she says.
"The only thing happening now is we're getting support, we're getting radio play, we're being featured in the media. We're just coming to the forefront now. We all know each other. We've all been supporting each other for years. Now we're showing people that there's a lot happening here in Ireland and we're just adding to what's already there. Rock bands like U2 have been killing it in Ireland for years, pop singers, and singer songwriters. We're adding to that and it's amazing."
Fresh from performing at Eurosonic in Amsterdam, along with nine other Irish acts, she was thrilled to fly the flag for home. London born but Irish raised she says felt "very proud to be up there representing Ireland".
"Honestly, I hope I made the country proud. I made sure I was patriotic - I had my green fur coat on!" she laughs.
"There was a variety of different [Irish] acts; rock bands, hip hop, me, urban pop, so I felt it truly represented what's happening in Ireland at the minute."
Soulé's journey into music has been refreshingly organic. Although she's been singing all her life, she took time out after school to earn a degree in tourism from DIT, and credits time spent at college with increasing her confidence and helping her to figure out the kind of artist she wanted to be.
"It was an amazing experience and it helped me to grow and learn how to work with people. It helped with my confidence too because I'm quite introverted. It boosted my confidence and my self-esteem," she says.
"I'm so glad I never fully went into the music industry at 16," she adds. "I didn't believe in myself or know what I wanted to be. I wanted to be somebody else, I wanted to be like so and so, and I didn't know who I really was. That's me personally - there are people at 16 who know exactly what they want but I wasn't sure. I thought I wanted to be like Whitney Houston, or a Spice Girl!"
Believing in yourself is the one piece of advice she would give young singers aspiring to embark on a career in the industry. She'll be sharing that and other snippets of advice to second level students during the AIB Future Sparks Festival in March, which aims to bring leaders in business and young entrepreneurs together to inspire students.
"I wish I had had it when I was in school," she says of the festival. "The one thing for me is to believe in yourself because I feel a lot of young people, especially growing up, there's peer pressure, there are positives and negatives surrounding them, and believing in yourself is such a big thing.
"Be sure of yourself and you'll be grand. There will be ups and downs but believing in yourself is the one key thing. Also put your head down and work hard and you'll be grand!" she giggles.
Once she left university, armed with her new sense of self-confidence, Soule hooked up with Diffusion Lab, "a collaborative hub with label, studios, writers, musicians, in-house producers" based in Dublin.
"I walked into the studio and they were like, 'We want to work with you. We think you have talent'. At that stage I had a different sound so it was all about growing for me," she says, revealing it has taken three years to find her vibe
"Some people might think I've come out of nowhere the past 12 months but it has taken a lot of hard work to get here," she says.
As for chasing those Spotify millions, she says she feels no pressure whatsoever.
"I'm very chilled and I'm very lucky I have a super chilled and laid back team around me," she says. "I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone. I'm trying to be better than myself. I'm not even thinking I've got a million on this, next time I need a million. If it does, amazing. If it doesn't, I'm still achieving things, playing music, playing gigs.
"Because I have a million plays it doesn't make me an amazing artist. Love No More was my first single and it has 250,000 plays and that's still my proudest single. It doesn't have a million but it's my debut and I'll always love that song."
Having been taken under the wing of Diffusion Lab, Soulé says she has been spared any negativity in the business, and has not experienced any of the harassment currently being exposed by some fellow artists in the industry as #MeToo gathers momentum.
"With Me Too it's so heartbreaking seeing that happening to other women and I definitely stand with them and I think it's a great thing to speak out. There are some people like myself who haven't experienced that but it doesn't mean we can't stand with those who have and support them," she says passionately.
"No matter what, it's wrong and we have to speak out to change what's happening in the industry. People in the music industry and entertainment industry have experienced, and are experiencing, it so Me Too is a great thing to give people confidence to speak out."
She adds, "I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who truly love me and support me and if that was to happen I know they would be supportive of me. A lot of people don't have that so I could myself lucky."
Having spent the past year honing her live performance at the likes of EP, Longitude, and Forbidden Fruit and a headline, sold-out show at the Button Factory, Soulé will be spending 2018 predominantly in the studio, "collaborating with different songwriters and producers" and releasing an EP, "or maybe not - we'll see" she laughs.
In the meantime you can meet her and other ambassadors Jack Kirwan, Gordon D'Arcy, and Iseult Ward at the AIB Future Sparks Festival takes place at the RDS on March 22. For more info check out www.aib.ie/events/future-sparks-festival