Laura Keane is a producer, singer, and songwriter from Dublin who performs as ELKAE. Earlier this year, with the live music industry still at a standstill, she took a chance and moved to the Isle of Man to be with her long-distance girlfriend, who she had only met three times IRL. What followed was a move to a slower pace of life and a rediscovery of herself.
If you had told me a year-and-a-half ago that I’d be living on the beach with my girlfriend, on the Isle of Man, in the middle of a global pandemic, I’d have said you were crazy. But, here I am. It’s funny how life leads you to places you never thought you’d be, with people you never thought you’d know.[restrict]
This journey started in February last year, a month before Ireland’s first lockdown took place, a fantastic time to get into a long-distance relationship, I know. But we both found something in each other that we couldn’t walk away from. It’s funny because at that time, and for at least two years leading up to that, my whole life had been music, music, music. I mean, it still is – but there’s less intensity now. In Dublin, I was gigging regularly and loving it but I was feeling the pressure: selling out headline shows, planning my next release, trying to write the next song, rehearsing with my band, working a full-time job, going to college, finding time to socialise… and time for myself. I’m not sure I even remembered who I was for a while if I’m being honest, it’s almost like music had become my identity. I felt more like ELKAE than I did Laura.
I used to say, ‘I just wish I had more time’. I needed a better work-life balance to reconnect with myself a bit, to do things for me and not just to better my career. Music is such an incredible part of my life and there are so many amazing things that come with being an artist, however, it can be quite restricting in ways. I’ve always envied friends who were able to jet off to Australia for a year then come back and pick their job up right where they left it. Being a music artist doesn’t work like that – especially in the early years when you’re trying to establish yourself, stay relevant, and keep building the momentum you’ve worked hard to create.
Flash forward to now, and it’s a different world, isn’t it? In some ways worse and some ways better. My decision to move to the Isle of Man came after many discussions with my girlfriend over FaceTime from my bedroom (where I basically lived for a year). Everything I was doing musically was remote and nothing was going on in Dublin that I couldn’t miss out on. All the things that had been restricting me had vanished. I decided to do everything I needed to do to set myself up for the year, musically, and then move over.
So I made a plan: I got into the studio, recorded a year’s worth of material, got some new photos done, packed my stuff, and left. Of course, there were some complications – border changes and things like that – but we made it happen.
After a year of being in a long-distance relationship and only seeing each other in person three times, we deserved it.
It’s funny how much you can build a connection over FaceTime. It’s almost like we virtually lived with each other. We’d fall asleep on a video call, wake up, say good morning we’d go to work. Then we’d come home and go about our day with each other in the background on FaceTime. The next day we’d do it all over again. Being stuck in lockdown helped us grow our relationship from a distance – I was stuck at home the whole time and she’s a bit of a hermit anyway so we had the extra time to give to each other!
Did I mention that we’re Covid free over here on the Isle of Man? No masks, no lockdown, nothing. It’s crazy how quickly you readjust. Although the first time I tried to step foot into a shop without a mask I felt like I was doing something illegal.
Things are different over here anyway, though. Even aside from the whole lockdown thing, island life is different from the hustle and bustle that comes with living in a city with one million other people. Things are smaller, slower, but in a nice way. I live on a beach, a 25-minute walk from their main town (or a 15-minute rollerblade away – which has become my main form of transport). As I write this article, we’ve just come in from an impromptu swim in the sea and bought ice cream from a woman who knew our order before we had time to tell her.
When I first got here I applied for some jobs one evening – that same week I had three offers. We have a gorgeous apartment facing the ocean, that is completely affordable; we even have a spare room that’s been transformed into a little home studio for me. I had to take a trip to the doctor’s last week and it cost me nothing. So, yeah, life is pretty easy over here and I feel so grateful we could make it a possibility.
I feel I handled the whole lockdown life pretty well. I had all the usual bumps and lows everyone experienced but overall I was okay. However, looking back on it now from what feels like the closest thing to a post-Covid world, I still get a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. It’s not something I’d ever want to go back to, but I suppose you have to take the good with the bad. In one way, it’s made me realise how much I miss and love my life, how grateful I am for it. How I spent too much time complaining about being too busy doing things I wish I could be doing right now. But, in another breath, I’m so happy I got to just stop for a moment and spend some time with myself, get to know myself again, and find balance.
When the world returns to normal and the music industry is alive and kicking in Ireland I’ll be back. I’ll be back knowing myself better, knowing that I love to cook, bake and rollerblade by the ocean. I know who my favourite painter is, who my real friends are, what it’s like to live with a girlfriend. I know that long-distance relationships can work, that I’m weirdly obsessed with puzzles – but gigging is still my absolute favourite thing to do. I know therapy works for me and journaling is essential to my sanity and personal growth. I love a good skincare routine, I’m obsessed with sci-fi movies, I have a favourite comedian, a favourite podcast and I’m not as afraid of the ocean as I thought I was.
Nearly all of these things, I didn’t know, or at least forgot about myself, before this year. I was too busy getting caught up with life – but not taking a moment to stop and live it for no other reason than to enjoy it.
ELKAE’s new EP ‘Girls Like You Like Me’ is out on Friday 9th July on all platforms. Find her on socials at @ELKAEmusic.[/restrict]