Roisin O'Hagan Talks "Sunset Valley" and Writing from a Fictional Place

Based in the English county of Essex near London, Roisin O’Hagan grew up with a medley of music playing throughout her household. Her parents exposed her to Counting Crows, Bruce Springsteen, Alanis Morissette, and various folk bands. At 11 years old, she began a journey of her own musical discovery and found Taylor Swift’s first two albums. “I couldn’t understand how she could write something that made you feel like that and it kind of just clicked in me that I wanted to be able to do that,” she says speaking about the craft of songwriting. “(I) didn’t know what it was or how to do it, but I started to rip songs apart and try and work them out and write my own.” O’Hagan then played picked up a guitar, learned three chords, and wrote her first four songs as soon as she could.

Growing into her teen years, O’Hagan got involved in her local open mic scene around Essex. Her life consisted of two main pillars: school and playing live music. At 19, she went off to university and got a degree in Music Journalism. Her education taught her many aspects of the business which only helped O’Hagan on her musical journey. “I learned a lot about artist PR and marketing for myself and at the same time, as I was in London, I would go off after uni and play a gig or go to a gig and network,” she explains to The Nash News.

When she speaks of the open mic scene, I ask her about country music in the UK and what it looks like there to which she responds, “The UK, in general, has this little country music scene that’s sort of been blossoming over the last few years I’d say.” She adds on, “The scene is quite small and everyone knows each other.” The country/Americana community started to grow when O’Hagan was in university and she started playing country music showcases.

And although that’s where she found herself fitting in, she never liked the label or classified her sound into one “type” or genre as she exclaims, “I don’t care too much for labels because if you try to label something, people say it isn’t that anyway. I don’t mind what it is as long as people are enjoying it.”

When speaking to O’Hagan, she had just gotten back from spending 10 days in Nashville. The only time she had previously been there was for a few days in 2019 when she went with her family on a vacation. “This was the first trip I was going specifically for music,” she says. She speaks passionately about spending time in the studio and having numerous co-writes with other songwriters. A major highlight also was that she was able to meet the studio musicians who had played her older music and got to collaborate on future releases with them in person.

Her latest release, “Sunset Valley,” marks a new chapter for O’Hagan. It’s the first time she’s not working entirely independently and has a manager around to assist her. The track is the first of many coming out over the next few months. “It’s the most lighthearted, maybe, of all the songs,” she remarks while explaining why it was the first to come out before the other tracks. “I think it’s relatable but it’s fictional. It’s not about me as a person and there’s characters in it and it’s a made-up place. It’s representative of young love and hoping that you’ll find love again in the future.”

O’Hagan describes the song as a buffer for future singles and a summer project that’s in the works. Everything that is set to come out after the lead song, is much deeper and personal to O’Hagan. “Sunset Valley” is upbeat with sprightly percussion as O’Hagan sings about a love story filled with naivety and youthful energy.

Because “Sunset Valley” is fictional with almost movie-like depictions scattered in the lyrics, O’Hagan got to take a unique approach and wonder into a different niche of songwriting. “Over the last couple of years or so, I’ve really been trying hard to always improve as a songwriter,” she exclaims excitedly as she runs on with her words, “Improve might not even be the word, but just change and evolve and not write the same thing and feel personally rewarded for writing something I feel is different.”

“Sunset Valley” shows her Counting Crows influence that’s always been there since she was a child. She also cites the sister records Folklore and Evermore by Taylor Swift, which were both hot topics and inspirations when she wrote the song. “It was like wow, you can just make it up,” she exclaims with a laugh.

Her introductory project is set to be released later this year, continuing this new musical phase in O'Hagan's life. She expands on her upcoming release saying, “It’s much more on purpose what I’m writing at the moment. I always wrote throughout my teens because I had to.” She continues, “Every song on this EP is being written with more purpose as it went along. There’s a lot of little quotes that I hold as values personally and things that inspire me about life.” She circles back to "Sunset Valley" and the line that ends each chorus, “The better things take time."

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