Northern Ireland has no shortage of young acoustic troubadours. Throw a metaphorical dart in one of our many music-friendly boozers on any night of the week and chances are it’ll land on an earnest young soul with a guitar in their lap and a bag of ballads in their tortured heart.
If it’s someone with a genuine pop sensibility and the actual songs to back it up that you’re looking for, that’s a different matter. In a sea of singer-songwriters, it can be hard to find anyone with the looks, musical talent and that elusive magical ingredient that will help them take it up to the next level.
Allie Bradley has all those attributes and more. Blessed with a voice that can wrap itself around soul and pop with equal ease, Bradley has been building a solid reputation on the live circuit for the last couple of years.
In 2011 she released two splendid EPs, Sincerity and Flashbacks And Reruns, toured extensively around both Ireland and the UK, and found one of her music videos nominated for Best Female at the Irish Music and Television Awards.
With an equally impressive new EP, Two, now available, and a highly anticipated debut album to come, there’s a definite feeling that now might just be her time. Shortly before she took to the stage of No Alibis bookstore in Belfast for an EP promoting performance, I caught up with the Maghera-based songwriter to gauge her reaction to all the good vibes.
'I’m excited,' she says with a smile. 'Two is basically a collaborations record. A year and a half ago, when I was touring with Aaron Shanley, we wrote a song one evening and it was really nice to write with someone else. I’d never really done that before.'
From there she worked alongside local talent like Jamie Neish, Mark McAllister and Mark Graham, and before long a new project started to present itself. 'it’s always good to jam, so I just started writing some tunes and after a while I thought I had quite a lot of songs that were co-writes and it might be a cool idea to put that into a record, so that’s what I did.'
Produced and mixed by Peter Fleming, Two is an impressively eclectic proposition. Across its five tracks a variety of styles are explored, including more than a dash of good old fashioned soul.
'I like that Motownesque feeling,' confirms Bradley. 'I like to belt it out and do runs with my voice. There’s an acapella version of 'Be My Husband; on there that’s quite soulful, but each song is quite different so people can see different sides of me as a songwriter.'
If the soul side is an unexpected but welcome addition to her traditionally more folksy sound, then reggae is a genuine shock. 'I don’t think anyone would have expected me to be going down the reggae route,' Bradley laughs. 'But there are some big summer songs on there. 'I Need Money' didn’t start out that way really, but once we got into the studio it just kind of happened.'
Catchy and hook laden as the tracks on Two may be, it’s that startling voice that really jumps out at you. 'I’ve been singing all my life ... well, since I was in primary school,' recalls Bradley. 'I’m a veteran of all the traditional music singing competitions and I used to compete in the solo singing.
'My cousins had a guitar and I remember thinking I really want one of those. They taught me D, G and A and I thought I was Jimi Hendrix or something. I asked for a guitar on my Christmas list and Santa was good to me. From there I got some lessons and just played and played. The last three years I’ve been focussing on the songwriting.'
With her third EP out now surely the next stage has got to be a full album? 'It’s definitely something I want to do,' Bradley agrees. 'I just want to make sure I’ve got all the material in place though. It’ll all be different stuff with maybe a re-working of some older tracks cause that’s always fun.'
For now though, she just wants to get her music out there. 'I’m just eager to play and play and play,' says Bradley, reaching for her guitar instinctively. 'Now I’ve got a band behind me, so I just want to get out and play as many gigs in Northern Ireland as possible. Then, from October, I want to focus on the UK and get a few shows in London.'
Two is available now from all good online stores and can be streamed at via SoundCloud.