Indie-pop singer-songwriter Finn O'Sullivan's songs are so dreamy, they could score a wedding or a rom-com. Take her latest, "Every Time," a slow, romantic ballad she recorded with her friend Jamie Lammers, written about a relationship she wanted to work out.
The track begins with the drawn-out echoes of an electric guitar and O'Sullivan's soft voice. She and Lammers might as well be sitting next to you in your living room, singing by your side; the effect is almost uncomfortably intimate, and shows how O'Sullivan draws audiences into her personal life through music.
The eighteen-year-old, in her first year at the University of Colorado Denver, has been making music since she was a kid. Idolizing Taylor Swift, O'Sullivan picked up a guitar at twelve, and her parents, both musicians, taught her to play. It took a few years for the songwriter to take her music outside of her bedroom, though; she broke into the Colorado music scene a few years ago, performing at coffee shops like La Vita Bella and the Roost in Longmont.
O'Sullivan released an LP, When the Power Comes Back On, in February.
"When I wrote it, I was dealing with feeling like I had lost myself," O'Sullivan says about the song. "There was a person I was interested in, and we never really got the timing right, and it was about that. Now it's about rediscovering yourself and growing from experiences.
On the track, she sings, "All we do is drive through the night and listen to songs that we’ll never remember when the power comes back on," describing a fleeting relationship.
The song earned the grand prize in the folk category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, which allows musicians across genres to enter their songs for a chance to win cash, prizes and recognition.
While her music comes off as deeply personal, she often writes about things she hasn't actually experienced. "They're just things that I think or wonder about," O'Sullivan says. "One of the ones I'm working on is called "Swing-set Lovers," and it’s about a relationship, but not anything I’ve ever experienced."
She wrote a holiday song called "Take Me Home," which she says is about the feelings she imagined she'd experience when she no longer lived at home and had to travel back for the holidays.
O'Sullivan uses TikTok to share her writing process with fans. There she explains the meaning behind "Every Time," telling viewers, "Something that I haven't ever told anyone about this song is that I wrote it from someone else's perspective. I kind of essentially took what this person said word for word and just added 'hey baby' before it. I thought, 'If you add that, he wants me.' He didn't want me," she says with a laugh.
O'Sullivan is navigating the already difficult world of trying to become a musician while opportunities to play are limited by the pandemic. Still stuck in her coffee-shop phase of performing, she's itching to make more connections and perform at bigger venues. But with the unpredictability of the world lately, she's not sure what's next.
"I’ve always struggled with having a super-set-in-stone plan for myself," she says, "’Cause I never know what’s gonna happen."
Listen to Finn O'Sullivan's latest album, When the Power Comes Back On, on Spotify.
Correction, October 15, 2020: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified which school O'Sullivan is attending.