Ailbhe Fitzpatrick, who is from Malahide, Co. Dublin, lives and works in Santa Monica, Calif.
By Peter McDermott
It was a case of “Ailbhe, we hardly knew ya!”
The young County Dublin music producer, performer and composer Ailbhe Fitzpatrick made a big impression during her short time in New York City before her relocation to the West Coast for work in 2018.
She was a popular presenter at the Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon, as well as other venues like the American Irish Historical Society.
Fitzpatrick also became involved with the movement Free The Bid. The Echo asked her about that and some other questions about her work and career generally.
Why did you move to Santa Monica?
When I was first interviewing for my job in New York City at a music production house called Beta Petrol, they sent me out to L.A. to meet the rest of the team out here. It was the dreamiest two weeks of my life and I instantly fell in love. The energy out here is almost hypnotic and so relaxed. When the opportunity arose to take a job out here I jumped at it. I moved to work as a producer, performer and composer for SOUTH Music, which is a dream role for me. I also thought to myself, well I am this far away from home why not push myself to go a little further!
Tell us something about your background in Ireland?
I grew up in Malahide, a beautiful little fishing village in Dublin. I feel very blessed to have grown up in such a wonderful setting. At home, I was always encouraged to embrace my passions, so I was surrounded by music, art, food, dance and performing. My parents always really allowed us to try everything out at least once. So that meant I learnt every instrument from the Irish harp to the drums to the bass guitar.
I spent so much of my childhood performing and I think this really stood to me in later life as it built a confidence in front of a large crowd, this is not to say that I don’t get nervous because I 100 percent do, it just means that I know what this nervousness feels like and it has almost become a sort of comfort zone for me in a way. My mom and dad have been huge influences in my life. They taught myself and my two sisters that we could accomplish whatever we put our minds too. Which has been a hugely powerful tool in life.
My sisters, Ellen and Aoife, are also two of my greatest cheerleaders and inspirations. They work so hard on any projects they put their mind to while maintaining a huge amount of empathy and care towards others. My house has already been a very strong community in a way, where we all support each other and push one another forward. I spent a lot of my young life singing, performing and dancing around the living room so it kind of became second nature. I studied music and piano at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, always studied singing and then spent some time as a vocal coach at the National Performing Arts School in Dublin. I studied Film & Broadcasting with Irish language at Technological University Dublin, specializing in documentary and ended up winning an award for my final year documentary – which was an amazing feeling.
What led you to New York initially?
I’ve always had an urge to move away, it just seemed to make total sense to me. So when I saw the opportunity of taking the J-1 visa, to go and work in my field for a year I jumped at it. I moved with two amazing girls I went to school with, which definitely helped to ease the transition as it meant I has a little bit of home with me at all times. New York just felt right. It was extremely intimidating at the beginning I have to say but once I settled in, got myself some work and made friends I fell in love. The city has such a magic energy that feels very inspirational. Everyone is there to work and hustle and make their way, no matter how hard it is.
Ailbhe Fitzpatrick pictured at an Association of Independent Commercial Producers event.
What did you think of the cultural scene in the city compared to that at home and elsewhere?
New York is such a melting pot of hundreds of cultures, languages, mindsets that all manage to life side by side in a really tight space. You never know who you are going to meet day to day and I think that’s what feels so special about it. I learnt a lot living there. You can hop on a train and go 20 minutes out of the city and feel like you are in an entirely different world. Most people their try to preserve their culture and language, which gives me so much happiness as I am very passionate about being Irish. The Irish cultural scene is really prominent as I feel that people love to understand their past and where they came from. I definitely found amazing groups of people in New York to share my culture with, including the American Irish Historical Society and the Irish American Writers and Artists Salons where I performed a lot during my time in New York City.
How is it in Santa Monica?
I like to describe it as “Pleasantville.” It’s a beautiful place to live and can feel almost too perfect at times. The huge bonus is that you can walk everywhere. People think I am crazy when I tell them I live in L.A. without a car. It’s really funny. So at least it means I can walk to restaurants, shops, bars and even pop down to the beach at the weekends if I need some down time. For me, being near the water is really important. Having grown up on the edge of an island – I’ve realized this is what Ireland really is over the years – I feel that being close to the ocean calms me down and brings me back down to earth. So I am very grateful to have found a place in Santa Monica for that reason.
So, tell us something about Free The Bid?
Definitely. Free The Bid is a hugely important movement in my opinion. It was started by an amazing female director called Alma H’arel. She felt that female directors were underrepresented in the advertising world. So she decided to create a movement that would push for at least one female director to be included in a director search for an advertising pitch. This movement has since grown and now showcases female editors, female colorists and most recently female composers. So when they reached out to SOUTH, they chose me to be showcased on the website as one of their female composers. Which is an honor! It’s really important that we all try to look out for each other and encourage others to get the recognition that they deserve.
What are your professional ambitions for the next few years?
There are a lot, which I guess is a blessing and a curse. I would absolutely love to push myself to release some music this year. It’s been a long term goal of mine and I think it’s time to take the leap! Then work wise, I would absolutely love to transition into doing more film and documentary composition work, as that is where my heart and soul is. I feel like working on long form projects leave more space for creativity.
Are there any projects that we should keep our ears and eyes out for?
This year is going to be really exciting. There are so many fun things in the pipeline. In particular I am going to be working with SOUTH Music on some really exciting commercial projects that are coming this summer. Then I will be working with the Cuala Foundation to help co-ordinate and perform at some live cultural events late in the year here in L.A. I have also been asked by the Culver City Cougars Gaelic Team to be their resident performer this year. Overall, I am really excited and I feel like 2019 is going to be really special!