“I can be a relentless people pleaser. It’s exhausting,” Orla Gartland tells HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY when discussing her new song and video, “Pretending.” In the visual, out today (Oct. 16), the Irish indie singer-songwriter, musician, and producer finds herself staring in the mirror of a bathroom at a Hollywood party, one that’s gone off the rounds. As the chaos and monotony crash around Orla, she struggles with being honest with herself (“who are you so afraid to be?”) and being honest with others (“I lied about liking your dress”). Ultimately, she drops the facade and embraces her truth: “I want to go home / leave me alone.”
“ ‘Pretending’ is about being at a party — in this case, a specific party [laughs] – and hearing yourself back and not recognizing your own voice,” adds Orla. “Turning into whatever the other person wants you to be in that moment. It’s sad, but I’ve caught myself doing it a lot over the past few years.” Though a specific moment inspired “Pretending,” Orla’s deft songwriting has crafted a universal anthem for anyone trying to walk that social tightrope between “pleasing others” and being true to yourself.
This isn’t to say that Orla has stopped pretending. Quite the opposite. “I pretend all the time,” she tells HollywoodLife. “Being a musician feels like one big bluff sometimes – fumbling in the dark, trying things until something sticks. Though the last time I was straight up pretending.” As for a specific moment when she had to be something she wasn’t, Orla says, “When I was young, I used to make up lies to make myself seem more interesting. I’d tell people at school I broke my arm on the weekend or all of Westlife came to my house for dinner.”
The Dublin-born, London-based singer doesn’t need to stretch the truth to make herself look interesting. After building a buzz online by posting cover songs to YouTube, Orla ventured out on her own, crafting a distinct musical voice that saw her post her debut single, “Devil on my Shoulder” in 2012. From there, her career took off. She released her debut project, Roots, the following year, with subsequent EPs – Lonely People, Why Am I Like This? and Freckle Season – arriving in 2015, 2019, and 2020, respectively. Her music has amassed over 45 million Spotify streams, which is impressive, considering she hasn’t released a full-length album. However, that’s about to change, as she’s currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on her eagerly anticipated debut album scheduled for release in 2021.
Not all “pretending” is painful. Halloween is just around the corner. While Orla’s costumes in “Halloween” aren’t that frightening, don’t think she can’t be terrifying. “I definitely dressed up as a genuinely scary zombie bride at an age where everyone was being sexy cats, sexy nurses, sexy anything,” she says when asked her favorite Halloween costume. I don’t regret that. I was a sick zombie bride.”
“Pretending” is out now.