Tom Waits’ ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’ blares away in the background as SOAK sits in front of a fireplace sipping a warm cup of tea.
It’s Wednesday evening and memories of the Hallowe’en celebrations in Derry the night before are still fresh in SOAK’s head.
“I saw some great costumes and I enjoyed some of the local music. I watched the fireworks and then came home - it was good fun,” she smiles.
SOAK, whose real name is Bridie Monds-Watson, is originally from Belfast but along with parents, Aisling and Jimmy and brothers Aaron and Egan, she moved to Derry when she was four years-old.
When SOAK moved to Derry she started school at Oakgrove Integrated P.S. on the Limavady Road before attending Oakgrove College.
English and music were her favourite subjects at Oakgrove and she disliked mathematics and science the most.
After completing her G.C.S.E.s in the summer, SOAK secured a place studying music at the North West Regional College (N.W.R.C.) in Derry.
“I am really enjoying my time at the N.W.R.C. There’s a great atmosphere in my class and all of the lecturers talk to us like we are young adults - that’s the way it should be.
“The music course lasts two years but who knows what might happen between now and then. But although a lot of what I am learning is to do with the theory of music, I find it beneficial when I am writing my songs or performing on stage.”
Music, and good music at that, was in SOAK’s sub-conscious even before she was born. Her parents, Jimmy and Aisling, would play Pink Floyd’s 1971 album ‘Echoes’ to her when she was in the womb to relax her.
“Obviously I have no memory of that whatsoever but get this, Pink Floyd are my favourite band to this very day. I am also a big fan of the Fleet Foxes, Lucy Rose and the Villagers.
“I’d also be lost without my family and friends Jack X Hutton, Zoe, Chloe, Bethany and Bronagh.”
Now 16, she appears to have the world at her feet. She started to show an interest in music a few years ago when along with friends Jane and Eva she performed one live concert with a band called ‘That’s What She Said’ at Derry’s Bedlam Market.
“That seems so long ago,” she says.
“We played one gig and that was it. I had only really started to play the guitar back then and I was also a singer in the band.”
‘That’s What She Said’ broke up, but Bridie, as she was known back then, had an idea. She wanted to go it alone and focus on both soul and folk music; SOAK was born.
“I took the first two letters of the word soul and added ‘ak’ instead of ‘lk’ from the word folk and came up with the name SOAK - it was that simple.
“It’s actually strange thinking about it now because my music is neither folk or soul,” she smiles.
It’s hard to believe at the age of 16, SOAK already has over 70 live performances under her belt and her guile for song and music has even led ‘Snow Patrol’ front man Gary Lightbody to say that SOAK is an ‘unbelievable talent, not only for someone so young but for anyone at all’.
SOAK recorded her first EP, ‘Trains’, in her own bedroom in Prehen. It sounded slick and stylish and music professionals agreed because after entering ‘Trains’ into a competition for up and coming Northern Ireland musical talent, she won and was given the opportunity and support to record her second EP, ‘Sea Creatures’.
“I regard myself as very lucky. So much has happened over the last year or so. I try not to think about it too much - I like to let my music speak for itself,” she says.
‘Sea Creatures’ is available to buy on iTunes and SOAK says that none of what she has experienced in 2012 would have been possible without the help and support of local BBC broadcasters Stephen McCauley and Mark Patterson.
“Stephen [McCauley] and Mark [Patterson] have been absolutely amazing. I have lost count of how many times I have visited Radio Foyle to play my music and do interviews.
“Stephen is a great supporter of local music and when I heard that he thought that my ‘Sea Creatures’ EP was the best record to come out of Derry in the last 10 years, I was literally speechless. To have someone like Stephen McCauley praising your music is a real compliment.”
SOAK’s quick rise to notoriety is exceptional in the sense that people of all ages have heard of her. She’s not just the latest teenage sensation to grab a few headlines and then disappear into the ether. Her music and lyrics are remarkable and resonate just as much with the 45 year-old father of three as they do with the 14 year-old schoolgirl trying to cope with her first teenage crush.
“I don’t know how to explain it but I just love writing about experiences. Not everything in my songs is about me - it’s about experiences that others close to me have gone through. I like my songs to have meaning and it’s great when someone says that they like it - I’ll never get tired of that feeling.”
SOAK appeared on stage at last week’s launch of the City of Culture programme in Ebrington. She says that she is looking forward to being part of next year’s celebrations and revealed that she will be appearing on RTE’s revered ‘Other Voices’ music programme when they broadcast from Dingle, Derry and London in the New Year.
“It’s going to be an amazing year for Derry and I am looking forward to getting as involved as much as I can.
“The last few months have been amazing for me. I have appeared on an RTE music programme with Damien Dempsey and he gave me plenty of advice and even said he liked my songs.
“I’ll be appearing on ‘Other Voices’ too and as a musician I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
In the next few weeks, SOAK will take part in the Belfast Music Festival. She is due to perform in McHugh’s Bar in Belfast on Wednesday, November 7 and the Oh Yeah Music Centre on Friday, November 9 as part of Belfast Music Week. On Saturday November 10 she will appear on stage at the Black Box for the Outburst Queer Arts Festival.
“I can’t wait to the gigs in Belfast. I still get a bit nervous before performing on stage but once I am up there with my guitar everything comes naturally.”
SOAK’s talent and individuality speaks for itself. For someone so young she is totally at ease with who she is and what she expects from life. She refuses to take any of what has happened in the last few years for granted and says that no matter what happens in the future, she plans on taking each change as it comes.
“Obviously I would be delighted to get a professional manager and a record contract but my main ambition is to just enjoy what it is I do.
“I don’t look at this as my job. It’s something that I will always enjoy doing and I find it easy to express myself through music and lyrics.
“I want to use my music to travel to as many places in the world as I can but I don’t think I’ll turn into one of these musicians who forgets where they come from.”
For more information on SOAK visit www.soakmusic.net, email email@example.com, Facebook http://facebook.com/soakderry or on Twitter @Soakofficial