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Melbourne singer-songwriter Eilish Gilligan takes us inside her EP ‘First One To Leave The Party’

We take you inside our favourite new albums with the artists who made them. We're sitting down with Melbourne singer-songwriter Eilish Gilligan to chat about her EP 'First One To Leave The Party'.

We’ve all been there – gotten dressed up and dived into a night out that we wanted to get out of immediately. Melbourne producer and singer-songwriter Eilish Gilligan is channelling that emotion and heartache on her new EP First One To Leave The Party.

As much about the despair and heartache of grieving a relationship as it is about the strength and learning in moving on from it, First One To Leave The Party is pure Gilligan. By that we mean it is brimming with intricately-crafted sad bangers.

There is something irresistible about a euphoric-feeling pop moment that is both big and grand but also deeply drenched in emotion and feeling. It’s the kind of music you can dance and cry to at the same time – here, Gilligan’s EP is full of those moments. 

Every second of her new record feels deliberately and expertly constructed – from the grand, hook-filled choruses to the moments that make you pause for breath.

Showcasing her attention to detail, production skills, and powerfully stunning vocal, if you’re only just meeting Eilish Gilligan on First One To Leave The Party we promise you won’t be forgetting her any time soon.

The producer, singer, and songwriter has made a big mark on the local music scene in the last few years, delivering a slew of much-loved and celebrated standalone singles since her debut back in 2016. With a knack for powerful pop production that holds just as strong when it’s wrapped in theatrical, dancefloor pop as it does in floating, dreamy moments of vulnerability, Gilligan’s tunes have received nods from the likes of triple j, Rolling Stone Australia, NME, and Bandcamp.

It was a long time coming, but in November 2020 Gilligan built on her run of rich singles – like 2017’s ‘Creature of Habit’, 2018’s ‘S.M.F.Y.’, 2019’s ‘The Pull’ – with her first body of work, her debut EP Hospital. Self-produced and self-written, it showcased a tender, delicate side to her songwriting and builds perfectly into what we hear on its follow up.

There is a lot to love about First One To Leave The Party, but what might be the most exciting is how masterfully Gilligan has packaged up the breadth of her sound in just five tracks and less than 20 minutes. Strong yet vulnerable, heartbroken yet hopeful, playful yet tender; this is the magic of Eilish Gilligan. But what makes it even more exciting, is that it leaves you knowing there is so much more to come.

To celebrate the release of Eilish Gilligan’s new EP, we sat down with the singer-songwriter to take us on a deep dive through First One To Leave The Party.

eilish gilligan first one to leave the party
Image Credit: Jeff Andersen Jnr

The Eilish Gilligan Story

From the beginning

Eilish Gilligan: “I first started making music as a very small child; I would have been about 5 when I started running my fingers along my Nanna’s piano. My parents noticed that and put me in piano lessons, and I’m so glad they did – because that’s what got me here! Music is something I’ve chased for years, and it never gets boring. It’s hard, and frustrating, and challenging – but always fulfilling, and never dull.”

What you’ll hear

“My sound has always been pop music with pianist origins. Almost all of my songs start out with just piano and voice, so there’s always a whisper of the piano in there somewhere, even if it’s just a feeling. It’s what comes most naturally to me when I’m writing – and the piano is such a beautiful sound, I’ve never tired of it.”

Inside the First One To Leave The Party creative process

“The creation of this EP was tumultuous but deeply rewarding. I started writing for this EP around the end of 2019, and had originally hoped to have it out in the world by mid-2020 – and that was when the pandemic really got in the way! I needed to get through the closed borders from Victoria to NSW to finish First One To Leave The Party, so I had to be patient all through Melbourne’s extended 2020 lockdown. I decided to turn my focus to another EP (my piano-focused EP Hospital) while I was waiting – and after an unexpected additional release cycle, the borders opened and I was able to finish FOTLTP. I’m so happy it’s finally, finally coming out into the world.”

Down memory lane 

“Writing with my dear friends Gab Strum and Alex Lahey in February 2020, before COVID-19 was really taking off in Australia, is one of my favourite memories from this EP. It was such a different time, and in lots of ways I really miss that. The songs we wrote together, ‘Up All Night’ and ‘First One To Leave The Party’, will always have a special place in my heart.”

Tell us the story

“I’ve always thought of First One To Leave The Party as a cohesive collection of songs that retell the story of the last party I went to before the pandemic shut everything down. I went to this party reluctantly, hoping that my recent ex would be there (they weren’t), I felt sad and lonely, and I was the first one to leave. These songs developed over their lengthy incubation period into the most idealised version of this night – how I really wished it had gone, not necessarily how it truthfully did go…”

Audience Takeaway 

“I really want this record to be as healing for others as it was for me to write. I was hurting badly when I started this EP, and now I am in a much better place. I would love for some of that energy to come through upon every listen.”

Say it in a sentence 

First One To Leave The Party is…”How it feels when you’re the first one to leave the party.”

For the love of music 

“I love the sense of true satisfaction I have within myself when I know I have written a good song. There’s nothing quite like it – it’s cathartic, it gives me an opportunity to enter a flow state; making music can be torturous, but it’s all worth it in the end.”

Kicking goals 

“I think that staying productive during the pandemic is something that I am incredibly proud of. I took a moment of adversity and I turned it into a creative opportunity, finishing two EPs concurrently and writing new material at the same time. I also grew an entirely new online community through livestreaming on Twitch. I did all of these things, while faced with the stress and anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic, while working remotely as a university lecturer and music publicist, and I am extremely proud of that.”

Overcoming struggle town

“On top of the mostly practical issue of the closed borders, the stress and anxiety of being an artist in the midst of a global pandemic, in a country subject to frequent lockdowns and very little government support (particularly for the arts), was incredibly trying. I know how good the music on this EP is, and how much my audience will love it, so that’s always been the bottom line that’s helped me to get through the hardest moments of the last 18 months – but it has not been easy.”

Essential Listening

Eilish Gilligan – First One To Leave The Party

“The guitar on the title track ‘First One To Leave The Party’ is the guitar that we recorded on the day the song was written – it’s played by Alex Lahey and recorded onto Gab’s iPhone and it sounds absolutely perfect.”

Eilish Gilligan – When You Forget Me

“I was reading a lot of poetry while I was writing this EP – ‘When You Forget Me’ in particular was inspired by Sunset II by Margaret Atwood and Derek Walcott’s Love After Love.

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