Staying Sane: Somebody's Child On The Search For His Sound

Staying Sane: Somebody's Child On The Search For His Sound

Cian Godfrey on lockdown creativity, and finding an honest path...

“It was a strange realisation alright!” Somebody’s Child frontman Cian Godfrey admits as we talk over Zoom, cameras off to save ourselves from awkward half-stares as the internet blinks in and out of coverage, “This is the third EP released in lockdown in Ireland, that’s 12 songs and we’ve now been a band longer in lockdown that without it”.

Clash is chatting with the Dublin indie-pop artist on the eve of his since-released EP ‘Stay Sane’. The project is expected to mark the final release before he releases his much-anticipated debut album next year. Excitement is building for the album's release, but Godfrey is taking all in his stride. Writing on the album is all but finished, it’s now about finding a time that suits the full band to record and discovering the golden thread that, thematically, will tie the project together. “It’s one of those things that you could be messing with forever and never be happy” he laughs, reflecting on the process so far, “but sometimes you need to pull the trigger and get it over with”.

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Godfrey’s music education began in the suburbs of Paris, where he lived with his parents for the majority of his early childhood. In Paris, he was immersed in the music of his Dad’s favourites which included the likes of Leonard Cohen and John Waits. Despite neither parent's own music ability, they were determined to give their children the opportunity they never had. “They put me through piano which I hated,” Godfrey admits of his earliest musical upbringing. “I did grades and stuff but it just wasn’t for me”.

By the age of 16, however, something changed. “I started putting chords together and realising that the music I was humming to myself wasn’t anyone else's song” he notes of the time, adding the importance meeting like-minded friends had on his love for music. By then back in Ireland, he was unsure of what to do when it came time to go to college. Lacking a passion in either business or medicine, he decided to study music, and to give creativity a go.

Like many music college students, Godfrey arrived in Dublin’s BIMM branch determined not to fall into the trappings of modern pop. “I rejected what my parents listened to and drifted towards what was on the radio at the time,” Godfrey explains, “but then I had this sense of maturity throughout college to go beyond that and friends really helped pave my music taste”. It was only after leaving college that he found himself leaning on his inner pop sensibilities. “I rejected them in college just from being a brat” he admits, “I needed to accept that it’s okay to have a little bit of both involved in your songwriting”.

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Shortly after leaving college, Godfrey found himself struggling to be creative, especially when it came to finding his own unique sound. “I became obsessed with finding ‘my sound’” he recalls, “that really hindered my songwriting a lot because it’s a huge amount of pressure to try to define yourself before you’ve even started”. It was only upon realising it was others' jobs, not his, to define his sound that the music came flowing back, but with one small change. He began using an alias. Somebody’s Child was born.

The Somebody’s Child era began as a means of experimentation, for Godfrey to rid himself of the shackles that came from a need to stick to the pre-ordained rules of any particular genre. “Genre is just words used by bloggers to hashtag stuff” he notes, coyly. The Somebody’s Child moniker also afforded Godfrey the opportunity to write for other people, but he found that industry even more difficult to break into. Within months he was back touring, and was quickly garnering interest from labels in Dublin and overseas.

Then, almost just as things were picking up, 2020 hit. From having touring plans stretching on for months to sitting in his room; Godfrey initially found the transition tough. “The hardest thing about creativity is that if you try too hard things will start to sound too forced,” he remarks, “but if you don’t try enough you won’t come out with anything”.

Thankfully, the fallow period was short lived and in the following 18 months he’s released two EP’s, with ‘20-Something’ arriving in August and ‘Hope, Amongst Other Things’ in the early months of this year. Featuring tracks such as the electrifying ‘We Could Start A War’ and the anthemic ‘Hold Me Like You Wanna’, he quickly began racking up a following; going on to become something of an Irish radio regular. Understanding his quick ascent, however, has been difficult for Godfrey, and he’s always weary of getting ahead of himself.

“When you got to industry events, people are always telling you you have to write more of a certain kind of song, or songs like that or whatever, but it’s tough now because you don’t know what’s connecting with people,” he explains, “everyone has different tastes and my music is all over the place in that it does have poppier numbers but also some heavier, more indie-bits”. “That’s what I love about the new project,” he adds, “we all have varying emotions even from the start of the day to the end; within an album to have a huge variety of emotions without being stuck to a particular genre is liberating”.  

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His latest EP, ‘Staying Sane’, is by far his most ambitious release to date. Written in the seaside village of Bundoran in County Donegal, it offered Godfrey, along with his songwriting partner, the opportunity to explore the world outside his bedroom for the first time in over a year. The fresh air, and the unique blend of cultures and traditions that come with a tourist town, gave them the idea to base the project around a road trip down Ireland’s west coast. “We really romanticised this area,” Godfrey explains, “it’s quite a small area, but at the same time it has all the markings of a tourist village, the casinos and the restaurants and everything; which meant it became a place where there was a big mix of cultures from both the North and South”.

Before he knew it, Godfrey had a collection of tracks to bring home, and rather than drip-feed them as singles, he decided to package them together as a project. “It was something we didn’t intend to make really,” Godfrey explains of the decision, “normally if you write four songs you only keep one but these felt really rooted in a certain time and place so we decided to release them together”

“That’s one of the stranger things about music,” Godfrey admits, as the clock ticks towards the conversation’s conclusion. “A lot of the time when you’re writing you don’t know what things mean, but when you look back later things really start to resonate with what’s going on in your life”. Who knows what’s next in Somebody’s Child’s future, but one thing is for sure, Godfrey is determined to enjoy it while it lasts. Roll on the album.

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'Staying Sane' EP is out now.

Words: Cailean Coffey

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