Oh, Sister: 'I’m finally writing songs that I’m happy with'


Do we need another female singer-songwriter? Feist; Laura Marling; the now ubiquitous Lana Del Rey: the internet being what it is, we can find what we are looking for with the click of a button. 

This is the question that boomerangs between record labels and music critics and often becomes a barrier for those trying to get their big break. But when Oh, Sister plays, such a question becomes arbitrary.

Oh Sister – otherwise known as Sarah Berresford – has the potential to be the next big thing on London’s music scene. The 23-year-old from Barnard Castle in County Durham came to the capital when she was 17 to seek her fame and fortune. And with her first single and EP out in June, it looks like six years of waiting tables to pay the bills may finally be paying off.

Berresford describes her sound as “American music with English lyrics.”

She says: “It’s very American rock ‘n’ roll inspired rhythms and chord changes, and then the lyrics are quite English.”

She lists her inspirations as Skeeter Davis, Buddy Holly, Morissey and Bob Dylan (Oh, Sister is a nod to his song of the same name as well as a tribute to her own sister). But a more modern critic might recognise Norah Jones or Laura Marling in her sweet, silky voice (“That’s a really nice thing to say!” she gushes).

When we meet at the Queen’s Head in Islington, Berresford has just finished a set of recently-penned songs: “As soon as I write something I try and play it in front of people as soon as I can, ‘cos it almost makes the song more real for me.”

Just from watching her play, you can tell how dedicated an artist Berresford is. Petite and bird-like, she is wearing a black t-shirt and black leather trousers. Though she makes no show of herself, when she plays it is as if there is no-one else in the room; the odd brushing back of her long blonde hair is the only hint at self-awareness. If an athlete’s body is their temple, hers is her guitar.

You wouldn’t believe it, but Berresford confesses that she has come a long way since she first started writing songs at the age of 15: “I think it just took me a long time to get really honest about things, because I was young, and I was trying to be like the people I admired rather than just you know, write what you think and let that be good enough. I’m finally writing songs that I’m happy with.”

It also took her a while to embrace where her songs were coming from: “Sometimes I write about other people, you know, how I view the situation, but a lot of times when you’re writing about someone else it kind of spills over and ends up being about you and you look back and go, oh my God, I was writing about myself but I put it onto someone else so I could deal with it a bit better.”

In this turbulent world of one-hit wonders, and the vast depths of the internet a big pond for little fish, there might just be the possibility that Berresford could struggle. When challenged with the age-old question, she openly replies: “I don’t really think the world really needs another songwriter, in fact.”

But you get the impression she’ll be ok. “I could never shove anything down anyone’s throat – if they want to come to a show, they’ll come to a show. I just always wanted to write, really – I just wanted to write songs.”

Oh, Sister is playing at the Notting Hill Arts club on 9 May and the Hackney Picturehouse 1 June. To find out more visit wavegoodbyewavehello.com