When Bridie Monds-Watson was 14-years old, a friend of hers was being bullied by another girl at school in Ireland.
Saddened by the experience, Bridie, now better known as SOAK, took to writing a song in a stream of consciousness manner to deal with the resulting feelings.
“I don’t understand/what her problem is/I think she’s just a fish!” SOAK wrote of her friend’s tormentor in a song that came to be called “Sea Creatures.”
That sort of quirky train of thought runs throughout all of SOAK’s songs, which she writes primarily to deal with things happening in her life. She delivers those songs in a soulful booming voice that belies her diminutive, now 19-year-old, stature. On stage, she’s friendly and warm with a touch of shyness as she strums a guitar that accompanies her haunting voice.
At DC9 on Sunday night, SOAK opened her show with “Explosions,” and the very full room immediately fell silent upon the opening notes of the sad folk pop song.
Watch SOAK perform “Explosions” for The Sunday Sessions, recorded live in The Workman’s Club, Dublin, on Oct. 19, 2014:
Unlike “Explosions,” most songs performed by SOAK were from her debut album, Before We Forgot How to Dream, released by Rough Trade Records last May.
In the song “Blud,” as performed later in the set, SOAK sings to her parents in response to hearing them fight. She and her brother are banished to their rooms, where she puts her ear to the floor to listen to her parents continue to argue in the kitchen below her.
“You’ve got a problem/I cannot fix it/Hear the anger through the ceiling/I wish I missed it,” she sings sadly, noting “You’re in my blood” to describe how painful the confrontation is for her.
SOAK is most certainly a dreamer and given to delightful whimsy. Her visit to DC9 marked her fifth performance in the United States on this tour, and she said she draws a picture to commemorate each of her performances so far. For her visit to DC, she drew a picture of herself on the roof of the White House with President Barack Obama. In the picture, the White House is flying a rainbow flag in celebration of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which affirmed the right to marriage for same sex couples in all 50 states.
The DC9 crowd cheered at SOAK’s sentiment, and the little lady with the big voice seemed content for a time to be among friends.
SOAK closed her show with a cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. Watch her play that cover at The Great Escape Festival 2015 in the United Kingdom on May 29, 2015:
SOAK continues her US tour on July 14 at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan. Then she departs to Europe for a bit before returning to the United States to perform at the Hideout in Chicago on Saturday, August 1. She’ll follow that up with more US dates in early August.
If you like soulful folk pop, you’ll love SOAK. Be prepared however. This teenager’s big heart and penchant for tackling sad topics may stir your own soul as well as your ears. Bring a handkerchief if you’re prone to being moved by the music you love.