Last week (September 22), the 2021 edition of the Vans’ Musicians Wanted contest wrapped up. Out of thousands of emerging act entries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, one winner has been crowned – Lemonade Shoelace from Northern Ireland.
The rising psych-pop artist was congratulated by the jury – which included 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro, rapper Denzel Curry, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Julia Michaels and British rock star Yungblud – for the its distinct from the project and the ‘devotion and dedication [put] in their art and their profession ”.
Now, as part of the award, Lemonade Shoelace (aka Ruairí Richman) will receive Vans products, Kramer gear, global music distribution, Spotify and Apple Music playlists and more. In addition, he and his group will be supporting Yungblud in Mexico City next January. NME caught up with him to find out what the victory meant to him and more on Lemonade Shoelace.
Congratulations on winning! How did you react when you found out you had won?
Thanks, that’s pretty crazy! Vans actually told me the day before that I won – I was staying in a trailer with my girlfriend and didn’t expect them to call me so soon. They would say, “I have some news to tell you,” then the phone kept cutting. I had already planned a livestream event at a club I work in and about 80 people showed up. [When I was announced as the winner], the room was going completely crazy.
I was at the AVA Festival last Friday and Saturday so I really celebrated there, and there were a lot of people who came up to me to congratulate me – people I didn’t know quite as well. It was really moving to see so many people united.
What do you think of the feedback from the judges?
It was really good and everything was super positive. They obviously know a lot about the music, but just knowing that they’ve listened to the songs is enough, but then hearing that they like it is even better.
You can now support Yungblud next year – what does this opportunity mean to you?
It’s crazy. In fact, we played our first gig the day before yesterday Friday, then we have two more shows by then, then we go to Mexico. It is certainly a huge opportunity for the project. I’ve never been to Mexico before and going there to perform on the same stage as Yungblud is pretty amazing.
I really like his character, he has incredible energy. I hope I can bring the same kind of energy on stage.
How will awards like new equipment and Spotify and Apple Music playlists help you as an emerging artist?
It will help me a lot. I haven’t been on playlists yet, so being put on Vans playlists is going to be really, really cool. I’m super excited about this because I always keep track of my streams and since winning Musicians Wanted it has already grown more and more. Can’t wait to see where it goes.
Tell us about your journey so far – who or what inspired you to start making music and how long have you been doing this?
I started producing a few years ago when I was studying at BIMM. I went to BIMM Dublin as a guitarist, but found that everyone was crazy about the guitar, so I had to find something else that I was good at. So I went down to the production side, but over the last couple of years I’ve taken it a little more seriously. I’ve always made weird, trippy music anyway, but I started doing real songs and they were very Tame Impala inspired – they’re probably my biggest inspiration. Since the confinement, I took it very seriously and I was able to find the time to continue to make as many songs as possible. I came out of confinement with the value of an album, so this was the most precious moment for me.
What makes a good song for you?
He must have a really good bassline to start with, but the melodies are also extremely important. The texture between the melody and the bassline is also important, but it is mainly the melody. I still think if you can play it on a music box – which is just a very simple melody – in your head and it sounds good, then it’s going to be a good song.
You play with a live band, how did you bring them together?
I was part of a mentorship program at Oh Yeah Music Center in Belfast called Scratch My Progress last year. As part of the course, you had to go on stage and play and being a producer, I didn’t have a band. My drummer was also on the course and I found everyone by word of mouth. It’s crazy how good they are – they are the best instrumentalists in Belfast. I couldn’t be luckier.
What is your vision for Lemonade Shoelace?
I have a lot of ideas. I don’t just want to be associated with music, I want to branch out and culture it in some way – like in art and fashion. I want to launch my own clothing brand as part of this one, like Rat Boy did with Scum or [Tyler, The Creator’s] Golf Wang.
You like to put positive messages in your lyrics – why is that important to you?
I think that’s the main theme of the whole project – brightening up anyone’s day with these posts. I think it’s important for the music to convey a certain message, or something that is uplifting or that connects with someone at large. I want to take it to the next level and incorporate a bit of spirituality and openness into the lyrics.
What kind of artist do you want to be remembered for decades to come?
Like just a goofy guy with a bucket hat who always has a message behind the songs. That would be great.