INTERVIEW: Baby Jey

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Haley Pukanski 

Baby Jey

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IT has been cool speaking with Baby Jey

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ARTWORK CREDIT: Molly Little

about their new single, Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come, and what its story is. I ask the guys what we can expect from their album, Someday Cowboy, and how they managed to complete the record in only two days!

I discover how Baby Jey formed and what sort of music they are inspired by; the upcoming artists we need to get behind and support; if there are going to be tour dates coming up – they each select a song to end the interview with.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

The week’s been great. We’re getting ready to drop the second single off the record this week so that’s exciting. It’s called U Don’t Have 2 Go Alone.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Sure! We’re Baby Jey; a Canadian band currently based in Edmonton. We’re getting ready to release a new record called Someday Cowboy on Maintenance Records on September 14.

Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come is your new single. Can you tell me how it came together and what inspired it?

When we wrote these songs, we were listening to all kinds of different stuff: lots of Country music from the '80s like Tanya Tucker, Keith Whitley and Johnny Lee; lots of Soft-Rock like America and Carole King, lots of Prince. I guess our first single - Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come - is a play on ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’. It’s a fun little tune about having a mirage in the desert.

Someday Cowboy is your upcoming record. What sort of themes inspired the songs that will feature?

Jeremy: There’s a certain feeling of nostalgia to a lot of the album’s lyrics - we reminisce about tobogganing as kids and dreaming about cowboys. It’s fitting that I was able to play the same piano that I first learned on.

Mitch Holtby is in the mix for your new record. How did you meet him?

Mitch started playing shows in Edmonton in 2007. That was long before any of us were even old enough to go to shows but, once we got older, we definitely started seeing him at shows. Mitch came out to one of our shows in the spring of 2017 and asked us to open for him later that year. He seemed like a good fit to work with because we knew we wanted to go for a poppier sound.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Haley Pukanski

Is it true the record came together in two days?! Why did you decide to home-­record and lay it down so fast?

Jeremy: Mitch had been moving back and forth between Edmonton and Montreal. He had a bunch of his gear in Edmonton but no studio and no piano. We realized we could use the piano at my parents’ house and pay Mitch to build a temporary studio in their living room.

The band had played a bunch of shows leading up to the recording sessions, so we were able to just track the record live-­off­-the-­floor. Of course, we did do some synth and vocal overdubs after those sessions.

How did Baby Jey get together? When did you meet one another?

Jeremy: Both Dean and I had been active in other projects in the Edmonton music scene from 2012­-2015. Then, I left Edmonton to go to school in 2015 and a lot of my musical interests changed. When I came back, Dean and I started jamming. Then we went for lunch one day and I asked him if he wanted to start a band.

Is there more material coming next year? What might we see next?

Jeremy: We have at least another twenty songs written - so we definitely plan to keep recording and keep putting stuff out.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Haley Pukanski

Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

We’re playing a send-off show in Edmonton on August 24th at the Kasbar in the basement of Yianni’s on Whyte Avenue. Then, the full record drops on September 14. By then, we’ll be in New York so we’re hoping to secure a New York show that week.

You have achieved a lot over the past year. What do want to tick off the to-­list before the end of this year?

Shoot a music video if possible!

If you each had to select an album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Dean: Bryan Adams ­- Reckless

Classic Canadian album with timeless songwriting and dated drum sounds. ­

Jeremy: JT ­ - James Taylor

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mitch Holtby

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Not just yet: the best is yet to come (smiles).

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Paul McCartney.

Two bottles of sparkling water; one bottle of tequila; a bag of all dressed chips and a V.H.S. of the season recap of the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays season.

What advice would you give to artists coming through? ­

Hope for the best, expect the worst.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out? ­

Lovelet! Ghost Woman! Perpetuals!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Ghost Woman

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind? ­

I think, for both of us, playing music actually helps us unwind!

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music ­ I will do that). ­

Dean: I Am In LoveJennifer Lara ­

Jeremy: Miami, My Amy ­ - Keith Whitley

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Follow Baby Jey

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FEATURE: Beat the Monday Blues: Songs to Energise the New Working Week

FEATURE:

 

 

Beat the Monday Blues

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ALL PHOTOS: Unsplash

Songs to Energise the New Working Week

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EVERY Monday morning is a slog…

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and it can be hard getting inspired to face work and the rigours of the week! Maybe it is the thought of the weekend or a daily ritual that gets you through that tough Monday – we all have our ways of coping and enduring. I do think music can create positive vibes and give the boost needed to get through the cruelty of Monday. I have inspired a short playlist of songs to give that lift of energy, keep the sunshine hot and ensure you have enough energy to make it through Tuesday. Have a listen to these tunes; take a little from each of them and, hopefully, they will give you the ammunition to make Monday…

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A good day.

FEATURE: What Attitude Problem?! Are Modern Artists Fighting Against the Bland?

FEATURE:

 

 

What Attitude Problem?!

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IN THIS PHOTO: IDLES/PHOTO CREDIT: Pooneh Ghana for DIY

Are Modern Artists Fighting Against the Bland?

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I wonder whether there is personality and spark…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

in the modern music scene. Following the death of Aretha Franklin and what she gave to music; I asked whether there are modern artists and will we ever see someone who has that true gift to elevate about the average and stand the test of time. After writing that, I got to thinking about modern music and the characters that stand out. I chose IDLES as the cover stars because, right now, they are promoting their album, Joy as an Act of Resistance. It is their second effort and will be released on 31st of this month and a lot of attention has been swirling around the Bristol band. Their music is mixing the attitude and physicality of Punk but the subject matter is much deeper and more profound. The band are striking against toxic masculinity and values that have actually been passed through society for decades. There was a time – and it still happens now – where a certain way of living and expressing was seen as ‘manly’ and normal. It involves bottling things and being tough; being hard, lary and keeping emotions down. IDLES want to speak out against that and show how stupid that way of life is. They manage to perform music that has spit and plenty of grunt without subscribing to that notion a band needs to be all about sex, violence and promoting bad messages. They have vulnerability and sensitivity but mix that with youthful, everyday and relatable subjects.

Not only is their music and lyrics packed with depth, humour and intelligence but the band seem like the genuine deal. It has been many years since Punk died and there are very few modern bands that match the energy and inspiration of the past masters. Whilst few of the Punk bands of the 1970s talked about anything emotive or vulnerable; their music and electric spirit captured a mood and there was that rebellion – the ability to ignore crowds and strike a chord. A lot of modern bands are producing music that fits into the mainstream and does not really stand out. Aside from bands like IDLES and Goat Girl; Shame and Wolf Alice; I wonder how many groups have genuine personality, depth and resonance. It has been years since artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson ignited the scene and compelled people with their personality and incredible music. There was something at once edgy and revealing that stood them out and means, this many years down the line, we think of them and keep them in the mind. Modern Pop and R&B has some inspiring artists but I am rarely compelled by what I hear on the radio and T.V. Those genuine personalities and characters are fewer than they used to be and I wonder whether we are too spoiled and less concerned with vigour and true depth – too distracted and involved in technology to look up.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna/PHOTO CREDIT: Luigi & Iango for Harper's Bazaar

Maybe there is a definition difference between ‘edgy’ and ‘soulful’. This article, where the author recounts experiences of the 1990s compared to today seems to back my general thoughts:

Compare how people partied back then to how people party now, you'd think the '90s partying was conservative. Let's not forget American Pie of all great things, creating the word "MILF" as well. Things were peachy in retrospect; the driving force was teenage angst and that's how great the '90s were. We could afford to have the countries main musical reflection be because of teenagers being teenagers, not because we had war or the country was in a major economic slope. Nirvana, Offspring, Pearl Jam, Sublime all appealed to the rebelling youth emotionally, and because you could smoke to them all. As baffled as I am, things were entirely great, plus I was born. America was a Triple-A economic powerhouse, eventually being led by Bill Clinton leading just the very beginning of what would dramatically change the next generation; the technological evolution”.

I would not go as far to say modern music is boring and lacks soul but it seems like there are few artists talking about things that matter today in a meaningful and interesting manner. There are artists fighting against the Government and evil in the world but most artists tend to speak from the heart and write in many familiar and safe ways.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

Perhaps we will never see true icons and decades-enduring artists emerge but I wonder whether music has lost its fun, edge and force. Alongside the promising R&B/Pop artists and new bands; how often do you listen to a song or see an artist play and are genuinely moved and stunned? I started my looking at IDLES because you can never accuse them of being boring. There is so much to their work and they have so much heart and soul to go alongside the brilliant songs and sweat. Bands, once the reliable source of rebel, fascination and drama, have become a little restrained. There is invention and great albums being released but the sense of cool and swagger seems to have gone. Maybe it is still here but seems less real and exciting as it did years ago. It is a strange time where we have all sorts of artists, sounds and options available. The industry is as varied as it has ever been but there is not much brightness and boldness among the beige and lacklustre. It goes back to my feature regarding icons and whether the market encourages artists to make a difference and speak out. I listen to a lot of music but I rarely see interviews (or listen to them) and are hooked by what is being said; listening to songs and feeling here is a hero/heroine that is saying something new and compelling. The only real idol we have – who has been performing since the 1990s – is Beyoncé, I would say, and that seems rather sad.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Beyoncé/PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Pillai for L'Officiel (2011)

Like Aretha Franklin; Beyoncé is more than an artist who performs her songs and that is it: she is an activist and modern-day figure who wants to inspire generations and, as such, is fascinating to watch. I love a lot of her R&B peers and, whilst I think their music has edge and firepower; I am not overly-drawn to the person behind the songs. Do a quick Internet search – asking questions around music’s lost cool, magic ad substance – and there are articles that look at older artists and what is coming through now. I understand how hard it is being unique and saying something real and fitting into the modern scene. So many artists have to compromise and watch what they say. Mainstream artists of the past had to follow rules and watch what they say but you did get those genuine articles who whipped up a storm and caused eyebrows to raise. Can you see that happening in the modern market? Music is always interesting and meaningful but there are far fewer characters and creators putting genuine enticing and enigmatic albums; we do not have many bands that can get the eyes widened and linger long in the memory. I wonder why there are few willing to take risks and turn their noses against the rather controlled, conservative and conventional music scene.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

I think we owe it to those musical pioneers and icons to look at modern music and encourage free spirit and excitement. I am being rather harsh on modern music and I know full well there are exceptional writers and performers who are doing wonderful things. Aside from the odd band and solo artist; so little of today’s market and offering blows my mind and get my standing up, excited by what is coming from the speaker. IDLES are a small example of a band that can have fun and genuinely rally against the ordinary but deliver a potent and emotional truth. The music world has so many brilliant artists doing great things but I think a lot are holding themselves back and not exploring their full potential because they fear commercial backlash and criticism. We are becoming safer and more scared to be bold and create these fantastic and original artists – talking about politics, sex and modern life in a very fascinating and new way. Maybe it is impossible to reverse reality and modern music so we can please everyone and set the world alight. Music has changed vastly over the years and, like it or not, what we hear now is how much will sound and fare for many years to come. I can accept that but long to discover artists who break rules and the mould and stick their tongue out – where have all the pioneers, big personalities and rebels gone?! I have not lost all hope but, as I listen to older music more than what is coming out now, I yearn to see the day when we see something interesting and inspirational…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Unsplash

BACK in the music industry.

FEATURE: The Second Summer of Love: Thirty Years On: Its Controversy and Headiness – and Whether a Third Summer of Love Is Possible

FEATURE:

 

 

The Second Summer of Love: Thirty Years On

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IN THIS PHOTO: Spectrum in Jubilee Gardens (6th June, 1988)/PHOTO CREDIT: Time Out/Getty Images

Its Controversy and Headiness – and Whether a Third Summer of Love Is Possible

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IT seems each Summer of Love…

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IN THIS PHOTO: A crowd of hippies during the Summer of Love in 1967/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

involves a degree of excess and controversy! Not many of us were alive in the 1960s when there was that viewpoint of hippies joining together and a certain amount of 'experimentation' and free love ruling the scene. Artists like The Beatles, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), seemed to soundtrack something extraordinary and unusual – a unity and community that we do not often associate with the modern world. It may sound idealistic to suggest that Summer of Love as all perfect and countercultural. There was some violence and the drug-taking courted enough media focus. Against warfare and political tensions; it seemed like there was that hunger and desperation for a more peaceful and ‘relaxed’ lifestyle. Maybe it was a bit of a dream and ambition that did not properly define what the 1960s was all about. I only hear about the 1960s’ Summer of Love through photos and archive footage but I am always supportive of any movement, however brief, that provides chance for people to bond and detach from the starkness of the world. The music coming from that time was as experimental and blissful as the substances that were being ingested; the recklessness and lack of consequences. It may seem like I am bagging that time but the colour, music and spirit that was in the air captured something.

The spirit and sense of freedom being exposed and explored helped lead, through a few decades of separation, a second Summer of Love. It happened in 1998 and was a little different to the 1960s’ version. The 1980s’ incarnation has different music and drugs of choice. I keep coming back to that subject of drugs but, as I shall explore, it, again, became the centre of the media’s attention. Maybe acid was the ruling muse then – whereas pot and acid, in combination, was dominant in the 1960s – but the music was the biggest difference. A lot of celebrations will happen next week that look back at that time when, once more, the nation was together and something incredible was in the air. Whereas the Summer of Love extended to America back in the 1960s; the raves and Acid music (House and Dance, too) seemed to be a particularly British thing. Britpop was years away and, after during a time when Margaret Thatcher was in charge and there as so much division around. If you are foreign to how the 1988-started movement captured the nation; here is a rundown from Mixmag:

In 1988 a seismic change occurred in British society. It was caused not by a violent insurrection, demonstrations in Trafalgar Square or shadowy forces manipulating social media. The source of this bloodless revolution was a bunch of records from Chicago, Detroit and New York, a love drug called ecstasy and a load of potty youngsters doing the St Vitus Dance.

The hippie original may have been way back in ’67, but dance music’s Summer of Love was 30 years ago, an explosion whose shockwaves are still now rippling out across the world. It changed the fashion, the drugs, the clubs, the politics and the high times.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Danny Rampling at Shoom, 1988/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

“…The music of that period became known as acid house, but it’s a shorthand for wildly divergent sounds that range from funky pop records played by Alfredo in Amnesia to Detroit techno, Chicago house, New York garage and even hip hop. In 1988 this music combined with a powerful new narcotic to create arguably the most far-reaching and long lasting youth cult we’ve ever seen. It was the year that British youth discovered how to turn on, tune in and drop one.

Suddenly, all previous certainties melted away like a pill dissolving on the tongue. A new era was afoot. It was all about giving it a go and not giving a fuck. Gas fitters became DJs, aircraft personnel became record label owners, bank managers jacked it in to run clubs. Everyone was an impresario, everyone knew someone who’d made a tune. Qualifications? Fuck ’em. All you needed was the gift of the gab and a set of decks”.

To be a part of this new movement and scene; you did not need any qualifications and expertise. The somewhat grey and ordinary scene of 1988 – when music was not at its peak – was causing a lot of youngsters to feel isolated and purposeless. Suddenly, there was this wave of mind-opening music and spaces where everyone could congregate and lose themselves. The soundtrack – which I shall explore later – seemed to open doors and change things. I was a child in 1988 but was already aware there was not a lot to get excited about during that period. Each city had its clan of D.J.s who were bringing music to the people. Liverpool had Andy Carroll and Mike Knowler; there was Graeme Park in Nottingham and Nightmares on Wax in Leeds. London has Colin Faver and Eddie Richards whereas clubs like Asylum became hotbeds for this new expression and freedom. We look back at the 1960s and drugs that were circulated during the first Summer of Love. Whereas a lot of club experiences before 1988 involved hostility and drunken recklessness; ecstasy came in and seemed to change everything – something Mixmag reflects on in their article

There was another magical ingredient that had turned house music from a fad to a phenomenon: ecstasy. “Ecstasy was the accelerator,” says writer Matthew Collin. “Ecstasy was the drug that bound people together. It didn’t create the music, but it did help to create a community around it. And it gave it that passionate intensity. Of course, there would have been an electronic dance music culture without it, but it definitely wouldn’t have happened in the same way.” Once they’d been thrown together, it seemed as blindingly obvious as two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Swindells and Gavin Watson

There was confusion as to the extent of drug-taking behaviour; many were actually taking acid as it was cheaper and more available than E. The new Summer of Love was disconnected with Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and gave a voice to a generation that felt like they were being ignored and shunned. Thatcher did not speak for them and represent Britain how they viewed it. These D.J.s, clubs and songs seemed to emancipate the masses and, as with any great movement, create a wedge. There were the conservative and stuffy clans that turned their noses up and felt the new Summer of Love was all about drugs and disregard for the authorities. There were iconic spots coming up that have lived in the memory and we still talk about today:

In Manchester the resident DJ at The Haçienda’s Friday night, Mike Pickering, had been playing house since the first releases on Trax in 1985. By 1988 he had built the night into one of the strongest in the city. Then ecstasy arrived. “We were going to The Haçienda before it all kicked off,” recalls clubber Catherine Obi. “And then we walked in one weekend in our normal club outfits – black tights, DMs, MA1 bomber jackets – but people were all in T-shirts, sweating. I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ Within a month we’d had our first pill and we were just loving it. It was very, very strange how quickly it switched. It was like mass hysteria. But that was what was so good about it. All of a sudden it was like, ‘oh my god, look – everyone’s in it together! One nation under a groove’”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I will talk about the legacy of the 1980s’ Summer of Love but the scene was always threatened. U.K. laws made after-hours clubbing challenging and there was the fear that police raids and surveillance would compromise the fun and longevity. A lot of clubs were sprouting around the M25 and there was easy access to the countryside and city. It was easy for people to drive to raves and become part of something exceptional. The intensity of the raves and parties meant the scene died down when the 1990s came around; it was harder to license big parties and the media scandalisation created moral panic and Government uproar. The media’s uproar and the obsessive tabloid coverage meant the Summer of Love would close down. Writing in 1998, The Independent spoke with Adamski about his experiences and what defined the times:

Adamski was one of the first to perform house music live. "NRG" was a top 20 hit in 1989; 1990 saw his collaboration with singer Seal, "Killer", reach number one. His new album, `Adamski's Thing', is released on 27 October. His daughter Bluebell sings on one of the tracks.

"Acid house suited me: I loved partying, l loved taking drugs, I loved music that sounded good when I was on drugs. Some gay friends took me to Ibiza in 1988. And I popped my first E there. From then on it was wild, hedonistic. My hits provided me with a lot of disposable income and fuelled the drug-taking. I'd spend a few hundred quid every weekend. I went to Thailand, Goa, Glastonbury ... potentially spiritual places, but all I can remember was being off my nuts. I'd mix everything with E: acid, charlie, vodka. I would shag everyone in sight, male or female. My seven-year-old daughter, Bluebell, is a love child from that era. I met her mum at a boat party. We bonded over chemicals. [They split up in 1991 and Bluebell lives with Adam]”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The Summer of Love was a revolution and revelation for those who were in boring jobs and wanted to break free. The struggling economy and a Government run by Margaret Thatcher was not designed for a lot of youths who were ignored and not part of her plans. The great music and legendary D.J.s provided a temple and safe space for those who wanted to be with their tribe and feel loved. That almost-spiritual connection between person and the music was, in many ways, aided and heightened by drugs. Maybe we associated E and acid with that time and feel it is the reason why things came to a halt. Were it not for a certain ‘inspiration’ one could argue we would not have seen such media coverage. That coverage brought the Summer of Love to the majority and showed there was this new movement who did not want to be part of the Thatcher-ruled Britain.  Whether you see that as good or bad; one cannot deny the necessity and influence of the Summer of Love that happened in the 1980s. I shall leave it to Mixmag to talk about the legacy of the movement:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

But the Summer of Love was in no way a failure. It changed our views on sexuality, race and class. As Genesis promoter Wayne Anthony says: “It would have taken decades and decades of awareness campaigns to bring us all together. MDMA did more for multiculturalism than anything the government has ever done.” Acid house influenced advertising, film-making and art. It worried governments so much they introduced legislation to control it. It terrified breweries to the point where they introduced hilariously lurid alcopops to tempt kids back to booze. It transformed city centres and ushered in a new era of late-night licensing. It changed the way pop music was consumed. It changed pop itself.

What happened yesterday is what has allowed us to make today better, and the future bright. The values of the Summer of Love continue to influence a generation of young clubbers who are actively engaged in club politics, from the rights of transgender dancers to safe spaces for women, and whose activism has also been instrumental in the mushrooming of female DJs on our scene – nowadays some festivals have a 50/50 gender booking policy. Unthinkable in 1988”.

There are good and bad parts of the Summer of Love – much like the original in the 1960s – and it would be unfair to say it was a fad or ill-conceived revolt.

It was less about rebelling against boredom as it was creating a platform and space for those who felt isolated and lost. The music and innovators that came out during that time have influenced music today and I feel, like 1967 and 1988, there is a need for something in the air. The nation, again, is under a Tory rule and there is more isolation and division, arguably, then those two time periods. Music, now, does not have a singular movement of life-force that defines the time and unites people. There is this division and segregation; so many loose threads of scenes that have not woven themselves into a cohesive and colourful whole. The drug laws and rules would be huge and strict but you need not have a scene that is defined by drugs. Maybe it would be hard to have that much fun if it were not for stimulants and excess. You could have alcohol and some fun but it is important not to create a movement where the law and Government are clamping in from the very off! There are great D.J.s who could fuse elements of the two Summer of Loves and create new and exciting music. We have great clubs out there and I feel 2018 or 2019 would be a perfect backdrop. There is a lot more music and variety now than back in 1988 and the options are open for artists and D.J.s to create their own soundtracks.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Swindells

I feel there is more dissent and stress circulating than any other time in recent times. The mainstream does not have a Britpop-like force that will unify us and bring something joyful. The bliss and reaction we need will come from the underground and the clubs. Whether a third Summer of Love involves House music or something retro; a modern reworking of Dance or something completely new – there is a chance to mix things up and go wild. That wildness can be through creativity and music but there is always going to be the risk of drugs and drink playing a part. I am not condoning it but it is arguable the other two Summer of Loves would not have spread and caught on like wildfire were it not for substance. Everyone feels the strain of modern-day Britain and I think something accessible could be created so music lovers of all tastes could unite and enjoy. We often look to the mainstream for that massive inspiration but I feel, when it comes to something blissful and pure, there is not the talent and mindset available to initiate such grandeur and credibility. As we celebrate the 1988 Summer of Love and all it gave to music, good and bad, it makes me think, thirty years down the line, it is a prime time for…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Smith/Rex/Shutterstoc

A third incarnation.

INTERVIEW: Petrie

INTERVIEW:

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Petrie

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THE incredible Petrie

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have been speaking with me about their new track, June, and its background. I ask what it was like working with JESS on the track and whether the summer-time sound hides something more anxious – I discover how Petrie got together and which artists inspire their sound.

I discover what Petrie are planning next and which rising artists we should look out for; whether there will be touring dates coming up; the advice current musicians should heed when starting their careers – the guys each select a song to end the interview with.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Fuzzy. Lots of admin; finished some demos; wrote a lot of poems.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

We’re Petrie. One of our managers recently coined the term ‘credible Pop’ to describe us, which we like - lets the music do the talking. Have a listen. If I told you it was liquid Dubstep you wouldn’t listen, would you? It may be the most beautifully crafted thing you’ve ever heard but those darn labels can turn you off before you’ve even loaded the private SoundCloud link.

Tell me about the song, June. What started its creation?

We were in the studio with our dear friend Kosuke Kasza one evening when he hummed a tune, which we immediately turned into that cute guitar riff and then sort of quoted throughout the track. Up until that session, we hated making the instrumental first but his energy was so infectious we laid down a lot of the instruments and most of the melody that evening. He was practically bouncing off the walls…it was fantastic. After that, we recruited our hero/muse JESS to help us with the lyrics, which is when we really got stuck in.

It seems like there are doubts posing underneath the sun-kissed sounds. Was there anxiety and deep emotion in mind when the song was formulated?!

You better believe it. Ironically, there is nothing we dislike more than the notion of a ‘SUMMER BANGER’; so this song kinda poses as one - while the narrator essentially admits their experience of love is frivolous, completely situational and ready to collapse. Rather sweetly, I think, the love interest seems to totally agree.

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JESS pops up on the track. When did you start working together?

George, the conventionally attractive one, met JESS at college and then I properly met her studying the same course at uni. So, the stars aligned. She’s an incredible, honest lyricist and, holy hell, can she sing. I’d listen to her all damn day if she’d drop some freaking music (SOON! We’re actually mixing it right now. Hehehe). 

How did Petrie get together? Do you recall when it all sort of clicked?

We used to play in RAWWKK BANDDSS together before George heard Burn by Usher (laughs). Eventually, I moved from producer to all-round ‘band member’ when we started writing everything together. Now, neither of us can write anything on our own but we’re trying in case this ends miserably.

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The media and fans have shown a big response to your music. How does it make you feel getting that sort of feedback?!

HAHA. It’s reassuring that you think that...

Which artists are you influenced by? Who are the musicians who have made the biggest impact on the band?

Honestly? Joni Mitchell, Young Thug and Nirvana.

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Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

We’re playing a headline show at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington on 20th September and we’re very excited. It’s gonna be our best one yet we’re sure of it.

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

We once got guest-list for a sick club night, turned up embarrassingly drunk and got swerved by Aminé. He just went and danced on his own. It was really weird.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Frank Ocean. Sorry to be obvious, but, yeah. Chips on the rider.

What advice would you give to artists coming through?

Keep writing. You’re probably terrible right now and you will be for years (we’re still terrible, I think) but you’ll look back one day and think ‘damn that was fun’ and then you’ll start to delude yourself that those songs were good…it’s a trip.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Saint Torrente/PHOTO CREDIT: Noah Margaret

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Our elusive JESS - when she releases this damn tune. Saint Torrente makes incredible Avant-Garde, theatrical Pop and really kicked us up the butt, lyrically. Imogen writes VAST and gorgeous songs that tear our heart to shreds.

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IN THIS IMAGE: Imogen/IMAGE CREDITFionn Hutton

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

No.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Loz:  Honeycomb by Deafheaven

George: Margate by Sports Team 

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Follow Petrie

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TRACK REVIEW: Clare Bowen - Let It Rain

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Clare Bowen

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Let It Rain

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Let It Rain, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=146DT8ShGHY

GENRE:

Country

ORIGIN:

Nashville, U.S.A.

RELEASE DATE:

4th May, 2018

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THERE is quite a lot to cover…

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in this review, so I better get down to things. Before I look at Clare Bowen and her latest track; I wanted to speak about a few things. I will talk about Country music and its variation (including a bit about Bob Harris); female icons and artists who stand in the mind; a start in music that deserves time on the screen; a mix of acting and music (and how that can aid songwriting); activism and artists who take a greater stand outside of what they record; a little bit about Nashville and why that made an impact on Bowen – I will end by speaking about her career and where she might head. One has a lot to unpack with regards Clare Bowen and what she is all about. I am a fan of Country music and know it gets a bad rap with many people. There have been accusations the genre is not as diverse as it should be, in terms of race, but the music itself is among the most compelling out there. Whether pure Country or a mixture Pop and Country – listen to artists like Kacey Musgraves... – and you have plenty of diversity and colour. I grew up around artists like Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Glen Campbell and listened to what they were offering the world. I have not dipped into modern Country too much but I do know there is a U.S./U.K. divide. Here, it is a growing genre but we do not have the stars and artists like Florida Georgia Line, Carrie Underworld and Jess Williamson. There is a hot breed coming through and you have cities like Nashville, which I will come to later, that continues to produce these wonders. In Britain, we do not really have the same degree of artists but there is a bubbling Country scene emerging – we do not have the scenery and cities that are set up to accommodate the genre.

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I listen to Clare Bowen and she seems to define new Country music: you can hear the roots showing but there is a blend of other genres and sounds working away. We get it into our heads that Country is all about a certain wardrobe – the big hats, boots and spurs – and the songs are going to be all twanging guitars and something a little cheesy. There is Country music like that but most of it, especially now, is a lot more engaging, appealing and nuanced than you’d realise. Bowen is an artist who has been on the scene for a little bit and has grown in stature. Her voice has that mix of lustrous and vivacious; there are so many different emotions working away and you feel a real connection with her. The music is indelible and incredible and, with an album due at the end of this month, Bowen will gain a lot of new requests and interests. I will nod to the album in the conclusion but I wanted to highlight Bowen as someone who is keeping the bones of Country alive but is modernising its sounds and reaching new audiences. One of the reasons why Country music is getting acclaim and recognition in this country is because of Bob Harris. He is a fan of Clare Bowen and has featured her music on his Bob Harris Country show – lauding her talents and recommending we keep a watch out for her. Harris is a champion of the best new Country music from the U.S. and U.K. I have listened to his show and his warmth and affection – that legendary voice makes everything sound essential! – and get to witness so many eclectic Country artists speak and perform. It is illuminating hearing them discuss their career and background and what goes into their music. I discovered Clare Bowen through that show and, after that, was compelled to find out more. Harris’ patronage of the genre and bringing it to the masses means, in the U.K., there is a lot more visibility and attention given to Country.

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Every time I review a female artist; I get a chance to talk about the scene and how female artists are being perceived. I have just witnessed a documentary, last night, on Aretha Franklin and, whilst I have mentioned her a lot the past few days, it is worth bringing her back to the fold. One reason why that documentary fascinated me – it was a reaction to her death and a narrative of her story – is because of the footage of Franklin performing and the goosebumps elicited; the way she campaigned for civil rights development and gave a voice to so many who didn’t have one. At a time when we all need some guidance and answers; Franklin’s voice and soul – in many ways and definitions – will be a comforting and inspiring tool. She gave a greater voice for female artists and broke down a lot of barriers. Now, in an industry that is open and competitive as ever; I wonder whether people are spending time around an artist and truly getting to know them. I am spotlighting Clare Bowen because she is one of those strong female artists who has that multifaceted appeal and dynamic. She is an activist and has a kind soul; a story and progression into music that compels imagery and imagination; sounds that are exciting yet deep; a rise and popularity that can only see her ascend to the mainstream unchallenged – so many different reasons why she will go a very long way. We have a lot of songwriters out there who are interesting and strong but there are few genuine artists who you want to cherish and follow. Bowen is a performer whose live shows have stunned audiences and gained praise; her recorded music sits in the heart and stays in the mind for a long time after you hear it. She is very striking to behold and has a sense of style and confidence that fuses with unique songwriting and a staggering voice.

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Maybe she will not reach the heights of Aretha Franklin but I can recognise a true star that has a lot to say and can influence a lot of people. There is something about the female voice and the music being made that ensures and resonates harder and longer than that of the men. Maybe it is a natural compassion or a different lyrical approach – a more stirring and distinguished music that is not getting the passion and kudos it warrants. Clare Bowen is a standout among a busy Country scene because she has a sound that is not easy to define and categorise. Inspired by artists like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash; the young songwriter grew up around icons and splices Country and Folk together. The Australian-born, American-based artist releases her much-anticipated debut album on 31st August and the single, Let It Rain, was debuted on Bob Harris’ show to incredible reaction – so many people getting in touch and saying how much it touched them! You can always tell when an artist is primed for great things and the fact they have that natural and easy ability. Bowen is born to an artist and seems to channel her every being and iota of emotion into every sinew and note. That is what struck me about the Aretha Franklin documentary: she was described, by commentators and fans, as someone who brought the church and religion into every single song. The slightly shy woman became an icon and powerhouse when she came to the stage. I get a feeling that Bowen has a similar attachment to music and its meaning. It is not merely a career to her but a calling and addiction she has been working towards for her entire life. Listen to her music and watch her play and you can sense that desire for connection with the audience and the need to be heard. You, as a result, shiver and sigh at the music and all the power it holds.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @clarembee

The story of Clare Bowen is one that is destined for some sort of T.V. drama. She was struck by music and Country when listening to the Grand Old Opry on the wireless in her grandad’s kitchen. Maybe it was that show that did it but there was a Country lilt to the artist and a curious soul who felt an affinity with a certain voice and type of music. Clearly, right there, she had that love of music that possessed a beguiling beauty and human touch. Her voice coach noted that Country intonation and encouraged it to come through. It was a little while before she worked with heavyweights such as T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller; a tour of the U.S. and a big role on the American T.V. show, Nashville. I will look at her acting career in a bit but it is those early experiences and the love she felt for older Country stars that drew her to Nashville and what it stands for. The city is a community that recognises its history and is, quite rightly, considered to be the centre of music in the country. It is ironic, talking about Aretha Franklin, that I speak of Nashville and its starring role. Detroit, where Franklin hailed from, was always seen as the epicentre of musical innovation – Motown and Soul through to Garage-Rock that arrived in the 1980s and 1990s. That crown shifted and now, in 2018, one needs to head to Nashville if they want to discover all the best music in the U.S. Residents of New York and Los Angeles might argue against that assumption but Bowen felt a sense of belonging there and has negotiated scary and hard times to get where she is. It has been an interesting life with ups and downs that, according to Bowen, she would not change for the world. It seems like she has found her home and everything is slotting into place. Looking at the way she has come into music and blossomed compels visions of a big T.V. show and biopic.

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I am always fascinated by artists who come from quite ordinary and humble backgrounds and take big leaps. It is brave and scary following your heart and taking on a challenge that could go wrong. Bowen, since those early experiences to Country, has evolved and grown into a true star. It is the acting work and what that has done for her acting career that gets to me. Bowen gained acclaimed for her role in the controversial Australian film, The Combination, and as the lead role in the Sydney Theatre Company’s musical production of Spring Awakening. Around this time, Bowen took the advice of Cate Blanchett and bought a one-way ticket to L.A. In 2012, with a few roles under her belt, she arrived in America and took a bus – not right away – to audition for Nashville. Bowen won the role of a poet-turned-songwriter and found her calling. Bowen struggled with cancer at the age of four and it is a disease that impacted her hugely and the role in Nashville, in many ways, hit home – the relief and delight at getting a role in that show must have been a memorable and evocative time for the songwriter. Playing Scarlet O’Connor in the show, she was required to sing hundreds of songs and play countless instruments. Bowen overcame her fear of microphones and bloomed as a performer. She was once asked if she could play the banjo – ‘probably’ was her response – and drew from her childhood when writing. There are musicians who act as well and I always find they are disciplines that weave inside one another. In the case of Clare Bowen; the once-shy artist gained that role and strengthened as an artist. She has played in the U.K. with her Nashville co-stars and sold out the Royal Albert Hall wowed crowds up and down the country. Bowen has been in Nashville for six years and has stepped away from the role to record her album and ensure it is as good as possible.

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I have reviewed artists who combine performing with acting and feel you can learn so much from acting and bring it to music. Bowen learned disciplines and performance skills she has brought to the live setting and grown in confidence. The fact she has performed hundreds of songs has brought so many emotions from her voice and solidified her foundations. That instrumental talent means the music Bowen plays has more variety and depth than most. She can bring different elements to what she plays and that voice has benefited from acting. The two are natural companions and she can also bring experiences on the road to her acting work. Bowen plays shows between shoots and tours the U.S. with her fellow Nashville actor Charles Esten and her singer-songwriter husband, Brandon Robert Young. I feel the reason Nashville has impacted Bowen’s music is because of the sense of characterisation and narrative. Bowen brings that drama, story and characterisation into the music. She can not only write about herself in new ways – having grown since appearing on the screen and blossoming – but write about other people and characters. The protagonist, whether personal or fictional, has more body, life and meaning. She has learned a lot from her acting roles and sprinkles those skills and memories into the music. In turn, she can bring all the touring experience back to acting and take on new roles. I wonder whether Bowen will embark on more acting and balance the two careers. It is a busy time for her so I can forgive the need to concentrate on music but it seems she will do both. The fact she came to America to pursue acting means one will see her on the screen for a while to come. She was living in rural Australia a year before she came to America and those worlds clashing must have been startling.

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To transition from the detached and quiet lifestyle in Australia and arrived somewhere bustling, busy and moving must have taken its toll. It seems Bowen has embraced the possibilities and opportunities of the U.S. and seems like she has found her place in life. Bowen’s activism and kind spirit is another facet that intrigues me. She is an advocate for kindness and better understanding in the world. Bowen has said she cannot solve all problems and change the world alone but she is determined to take a stand and bring love to the people. That desire for kindness is an impressive and fantastic plaudit that stands her out from her peers. In 2015, she cut her hair and adopted a new image to encourage people to look past the physical. Although Bowen is a stunningly beautiful woman; she wants people to focus on the music and what comes from inside. That act of cutting her hair went viral and gained an enormous reaction. Bowen was startled by it and could hardly get down from the ceiling – an unexpected reaction and moment that has given her so much joy and fresh impetus. There is so much to love about Clare Bowen and so many interesting shades. She is that actor who has enjoyed a varied and successful career. Bowen has performed countless times and toured around the world; she is an activist and natural star that wants to make the world better – an icon that we can hold up at a time when so many artists are bland and ordinary. I am looking forward to seeing the reaction to Bowen’s debut album (it is self-titled) and how it fares. I am sure critics will love it and there will be a lot of interest from fans here – I expect Bob Harris to play a couple of cuts. It is a great time for Bowen and seems like everything in life has been leading to this moment.

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Let It Rain starts with a clap of percussive thunder and a definite sense of meaning. The percussion rolls and claps whilst the heroine comes in with a voice that is sweet and alarming. You have this alluring, sensual and incredibly crystal voice that juxtaposes the hardness of the background and environment. The composition acts as weather and that sense of wet and windy. Our heroine is going to let it rain and see the tears fall down her face. I wonder, at once, what has compelled the emotion and where the story has stemmed from. There is heartache and pain in her heart and it seems like something has impacted her soul. Maybe a relationship has ended and there have been some cross words but the state of the world, and all the pains and horrors we see, have got to her. Look at the song’s video and you’ll see the heroine in the outdoors, curled up and fighting the tears. She heads to a bar and solemnly orders a drink and is letting the emotion wash over her. The percussion gets calmer and employs great rhythm; it accompanies her as she assesses the scenes and tries to piece things together. You get beautiful Country twangs but there is that core of Folk that balances a stern and determined spirit with something more emotive and open. Bowen is going to let those tears come and not fight things. It seems like life in general has poured too much on her lap. She knows things are in a bad place but holding it all back and bottling things is not healthy. The heroine cradles a drink (in the video) and wonders where she heads now. At this stage, I have already drunk in so much and projected my own impressions. I get the feeling there is a romance in her heart; one that has ended and those memories keep coming back to haunt her.

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PHOTO CREDIT: TGMoments

One gets philosophy and pragmatic determination from Bowen. She knows you cannot experience highs without the lows; the levee needs to break and Bowen has got to a point where the pains and bad times have made her a stronger person. Rather than let them get her down, we see someone who is moving on and determined to embrace fresh horizons. Even though the heroine is strong and moving on; there is that pain working away and eliciting some serious revelation. It is rare to see a songwriter so open and positive given what she is facing. The initial percussive storm has mutated into a different beast that mixes with guitars and tenderly supports the heroine. It is firm and strident sound but one that holds a lot of compassion and love. Bowen, in the song’s video, is watching people play poker and is in the bar. She is emotional but watching people express their own emotions and pains. Compassion and positivity come out of everything. In the video, we see the bar’s tip jar is full of dollars – a woman who was playing poker has given her winnings and that, in turn, brings joy to the proprietors. It seems like that moment of light and kindness can make everything different. We see people comfort one another and the more downbeat and teary mood changes to something positive. Bowen takes from those around her and is keen to transition from the heartache and find a more peaceful plateau. Our heroine is not afraid anymore and is letting the rain and water wash over her. She will embrace it and knows there is light and hope ahead of her. Let It Rain is a mandate that projects strength against the tide. It is for anyone who has felt the pressure of life build up and not been able to see a way through. Many of us can relate to what is being sung and where Bowen is coming from. The heroine’s immaculate and emotive performance ensures the song gets into the mind and compels you to keep coming back. There is a distinct Country sound to the song but more of the modern breed – not the stereotyped view we have of Country and what it incorporates. There are few songwriters as strong and engaging as Clare Bowen. She seems to speak for everyone out there and can make the listener feel more positive and hopeful with songs like Let It Rain. If the track is an indication of what the album, Clare Bowen, will sound like; I know there will be a lot of new ears and fans heading her way.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Maarten De Boer for Hulu

From a challenging childhood to embarking on a trip to America and settling into a role in Nashville; it has been a whirlwind of a life that is getting better and better. The Australian-born artist is bringing Country music to new people and making it more accessible. That sounds rather dismissive but there are some who are uninitiated and ignorant to the pleasures of the genre. Bowen mixes Folk into the palette and has gained a lot of skills as an actor. That physicality, discipline and sense of fiction add a beautiful aspect to her music. The fact Bowen has grown in confidence and come out of herself means the writing is a lot more emotive and bold; her stories are much more vivid and deep. You get involved with the music and not only listen to the words and picture what is happening but think of Clare Bowen and how her life has changed. I know there are a lot of great artists out there but Bowen has managed to achieve so much and create such heat – someone who stands aside and is much more fascinating than most of the artists out there. From battling cancer and moving from Australia to being a big T.V. star and launching her eponymous debut; it has been a time of strength, realisation and success. Bowen brings love to people and wants us all to be kinder. She looks out at the world and knows we have a long way to go before there is harmony and grace. Her music, personality and words are helping make things better and getting into many hearts. I am a new convert and am stunned by everything I learn about her. Make sure you get Bowen’s album when it arrives and follow her career. Nashville has given so much to her and seems like somewhere she is drawn to. Maybe those memories of listening to her granddad’s wireless and experiencing those stars booming out – it sparked something inside her and compelled her to follow in their footsteps. Already a big name in the U.S.; I know she has a huge fanbase in the U.K. and will be back here soon. Follow her social media for all the dates but I know Bowen is playing back in Australia and will be there very soon – getting back home and bringing her fresh material to the people. If you have not experienced Clare Bowen and all she holds, make sure you check her out and fall in love…

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WITH a spectacular human.

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Follow Clare Bowen

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FEATURE: The #WHPowerList: Bringing the Influence of Women to the Next Generation

FEATURE:

 

 

The #WHPowerList

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IMAGE CREDIT: BBC

Bringing the Influence of Women to the Next Generation

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I am never too far from the subject of women in music…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Woman's Hour's Jane Garvey (who has interviewed various female artists/musical figures about their experiences)/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC

and ensuring I do all I can to promote their fine work. Not only do I publish regular all-female playlists and scathing looks at sexism in music – I am committed to being one of few male journalists tackling the subject regularly and asking what more can be done. It seems to me, a lot of the time, men are not talking with other men about the gulfs and issues that have plagued the music industry since time began! The exposure and availability of social media mean we are all aware of problems around gender rights but I wonder whether enough is being done (by men) to ask why attitudes pervade and, for no reason whatsoever, all the fantastic female talent across the music industry has to fight harder than the men. Maybe it is an ingrained attitude that suggests music and the arts is really a ‘man’s domain’. I have been compelled by Woman’s Hour’s Power List 2018 that seeks to define and highlight the most important and powerful women in music. Whether you feel artists like Florence Welch or D.J.s Jo Whiley are the most influential; producers like Catherine Marks or great female journalists in the mainstream – it is a chance to have your say and get involved. What, then, is the concrete and foundations of the Power List?

The Woman’s Hour 2018 Power List will recognise the Top 40 most successful women having an impact on the music we’re all listening to – whether that’s on radio, vinyl or streaming services.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: BBC

This won’t be a list of who’s sold the most records, or who’s making the most money. We're seeking out women who are demonstrating power in the industry, innovators and ground-breakers supporting and championing the work of other women or changing the industry from within – making it more equal, diverse and creative and an even more exciting business to work in”.

It is impressive and overdue such a commemoration and time for activism has come about. I hope the results and build-up around the Power List will prick some ears and, as ever, highlight the sexism and divides in music. I am always writing about the topic but feel my (meagre) voice is not capable of projecting real gravitas and impetus. The women judging this year’s Power List include columnist Jasmine Dotiwala and producer Catherine Marks; singer-songwriter Kate Nash and radio presenter Tina Daheley. It is an exciting and expert panel who will be able to look through the nominations and pick the most influential and powerful women in music. Power, essentially, does not have to mean business acumen and financial stock: a political voice or constantly intrepid songwriter is just as striking; producers and journalists who champion women’s music or muscle alongside the men in the industry are worthy of nomination. It is amazing that, in 2018, we are still four years off music festivals pledging a fifty-fifty gender split in terms of performers.

I will come onto festivals later but there have been a couple of changes. This year’s events like the Cambridge Folk Festival have given larger spotlight for women; in America, the 2018 Philadelphia Folk Fest has become the first to provide that desired balance:

Keychange, led by the PRS Foundation and supported by the Creative Europe program of the European Union, is an international campaign which invests in emerging female talent by encouraging music festivals to sign up to a 50/50 gender balance pledge by 2022.

Nordell said the Philadelphia Folksong Society sort of bent the pledge’s rules for this year’s festival — by going over the 50/50 margin. The lineup is made up of 55 percent women acts, and all of the headliners (Patty GriffinValerie June and Wynonna Judd), are women.

“The Philadelphia Folk Festival is all about coming together and appreciating music and one another,” Nordell  (Justin Nordell, executive director of the Philadelphia Folksong Society) said. “It is open to anyone of any particular race, creed, beliefs or what have you”.

It is amazing to think we have to highlight festivals when they provide equal footing for men and women – given the sheer scope and ability of women in the industry. There are a number of reasons why I feel the Woman’s Hour Power List needs greater oxygen...

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IN THIS IMAGE: The judges for the Power List 2018/IMAGE CREDIT: BBC

I still think there are those gender divides: women are fighting and promoting rights for women but how many men are getting involved and joining the fight?! I do not think there is deliberate segregation; a time for actual unity and productive discussion is paramount. When talking about the Power List; BBC Radio 3 presenter Suzy Klein had her say:

Music is pretty far behind lots of other businesses and industries. I think less than half of people in the music business work in a place where there’s any kind of equality drive, which is far lower than other sectors.” She added: “I think progress has been happening but at a slightly Jurassic pace. Some of the things, like Marin Alsop conducting The Last Night of the Proms obviously helps. It shouldn’t be a big deal…but for that to have only happened in the 21st century! Come on!”

For me, personally, the reason I am keen to undress the debate and reveal the women making a big impact in music is because of the past and current influence they have on me. I am a big radio fan and can see the imbalance that seems inexplicable. I am a listener of BBC Radio 6 Music and see, aside from a racial imbalance, there is a big majority of men on the station. The women on the station, including Lauren Laverne and Mary Anne Hobbs, are among the most passionate voices. They are keen to promote new musicians, have that deep love for what they do and, if anything, are more striking and resonant than their male peers – the fact there are no female drivetime presenters on the station is worrying.

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IN THIS PHOTO: BBC Radio 1 D.J. Annie Mac/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The same goes for BBC Radio 2. I love the likes of Claudia Winkleman and Sara Cox and, the latter, especially, gives me such a buzz and sense of warmth. Cox is the only reason I really tune into the station. She presents a 1980s music show and always leaves a much greater impression than anyone on the station – her bonhomie, witty and connection with the listener leads me to believe she would be perfect for primetime BBC Radio 2. I am a massive fan of Annie Mac and have been listening to her for years. In terms of sheer passion and the knowledge she has…there is nobody like her. I cannot think of a more skilled and essential D.J. in music right now. I have voted for her in the Woman’s Hour poll and know Mac speaks out against sexism and the role of women in music. Jo Whiley, when talking about the Woman’s Power List had her views where we need to make improvements:

Education is where it should all start really, that message should be put out there straight away. If girls want to work in any different area of the music industry, they should be told which colleges to go to, to start really young and be tenacious.” She is hopeful the Power List will achieve some change in this direction. She says: “I want my daughter to think she could head up a record label sometime or she could be a music producer in the studio. That’s what I want young girls to aspire to, not just to be on Pop Idol”.

I think education, or lack thereof, is a big issue. A lot of musical education involves paying for tuition and something that happens a little later in life. We ingrain useless information into children and give them lessons they are not going to carry through life. I feel sex education needs to be modernised and a little bolder; a General Studies course that talks about racism, politics and everyday subjects – music definitely needs to be a mandatory core.

The fact we have just celebrated Madonna’s sixtieth birthday and mourned the loss of Aretha Franklin shows how much respect those women hold. Both are very different but they are icons who have shaped music. I feel children coming through school need to know about them and their peers; producers and D.J.s who have changed the game; businesswomen and spokespeople who have asked for change and are electioneering on a daily basis. I would not be as interested in music and its awe-inspiring power were it not for women. Kate Bush is an idol and someone I am endlessly fascinated by; Björk is one of those musicians who continues to change music and innovate over twenty years after her debut album. I can rattle off countless names (of female artists) who have inspired me and the current flock who warrant great respect. The same goes for women in every corner of the industry – not only recording artists and those we see on stage. We go through our days and listen to music but do we really think about what happens behind the scenes and the gap between male and female artists? Mabel, daughter of Neneh Cherry and Cameron McVey feels a safe space for female artists is the business is a good step:

I would love to start some kind of safe space where females can collaborate, like a studio, where you can do what you want and experiment.” She described it as a “liberating moment” when she realised another woman’s success did not mean her downfall”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Musician and songwriter Jorja Smith/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

We never really celebrate women in music the same way as we do with men. We all know about the rich, stadium-filling male artists who get admiration and are seen as the biggest in the game. They have all the money and they get the majority of the press attention. The access of online music sites means we are seeing more female-made songs and news articles getting out there. Internet radio stations are spreading the love and, as great as that is, is it translating into industry change and genuine pledges?! A lot of female-fronted bands, like Wolf Alice and Chvrches, find interviewers treat them differently (to their male support) and see them as a curiosity. Look a festival floors and line-ups and it is still male-heavy. I am happy there are small changes happening and greater discussion happening. I think a lot of the mandates and promises are far too weak and insincere. Festivals, here, have pledged to create a gender balance by 2022 – why does it take four years to do something so simple?! The talent is out there waiting to go and I am baffled why these changes cannot happen next year! Rising British talent like Stefflon Don and Jorja Smith have talked about finding confidence and what it is like being a woman in music. Look at the way a woman writes and how she articulates her emotions compared to that of a man. I get something very primal, pure and long-lasting regarding female songwriting. We know most of the chart hits out there today are written and produced by men – this is something that needs to change.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

There is a lot more to talk about but we all know the truth: there is a huge way to go before there was equality and parity. I have written extensively on the subject of gender rights and would like nothing more than celebrate women’s rights and music on Woman’s Hour or a similar format. I feel there are not enough men coming through and do struggle to figure out why. The Power List is a rare chance to put women in the spotlight and look at the vast array of inspiring and strong creatives who are relatively unsung and making an enormous contribution. Head over to https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0695d4c and have a look and listen to all the great videos and article about the Power List 2018. I am eager to hear the results and what happens once they are out there in the ether. I hope there is a rolling of the ball that leads to genuine change and greater involvement from men – not hiding away and assuming they do not need to alter their attitudes. Radio 1Xtra’s Jasmin Evans is among the selection of women who are giving their experiences and calling for greater understanding. It seems strange for a bloke to wade in so heavily but music is not one of those industries that is about gender and we are unsure how to integrate women in.

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IN THIS PHOTO: BBC Radio 2 D.J.Jo Whiley/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I often think of the army and how many women are held back from the frontline. The musical trenches and frontline are full of women striking and shooting hard and showing immense strength. If we deny their voices or assume it is the men who hold the most power and prestige then that will do irrevocable damage. Look at the Power List page and there are email addresses and Twitter handles where you can cast your voice and vote and talk about the women in music you want to see honoured. We have a long way to go but, if we have yearly polls and events like this, it will make a big difference and pass positive messages to the next generation. The lack of education regarding music and gender roles is something I hope is overturned and addressed. I have a (very) long list of the women, through time, that has led me to where I am now. We would all be so much poorer and emptier were it not for the women in music and all they have given – and all they continue to do. From behind mixing desks and inside studios; D.J.s and producers pushing great music to hungry ears to those artists campaigning and delighting the masses…we need to bring these stories and humans to the forefront. Maybe a fifty-fifty music society is a way off – if we can ever achieve that – but I am confident, with great vocalisation and intent, we can all help to create a fairer and more even business. Let’s get that ball rolling and let’s get it…

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IN THIS PHOTO: BBC Radio 1Xtra D.J. Yasmin Evans/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

ROLLING now!

FEATURE: Minority Retort: Why Stormzy’s Humble Gesture Has Brought the Issue of Racial Imbalance in Music to My Mind

FEATURE:

 

 

Minority Retort

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IN THIS PHOTO: Stormzy/PHOTO CREDIT: Rankin for HUNGER

Why Stormzy’s Humble Gesture Has Brought the Issue of Racial Imbalance in Music to My Mind

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IT may seem like a weak link…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

but there is a connection between Grime artist Stormzy funding two scholarships for two black British students going to Cambridge University and the subject of race in music. I have discussed racism in music before but it seems the subject is not going anywhere. Before I move on; here is an overview of Stormzy’s generous gesture:

Stormzy has announced that he is funding two scholarships for black British students to go to Cambridge University.

The grime artist will pay the students’ tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant for up to four years of an undergraduate course.

Speaking on Thursday at his former school, the Harris City Academy in Croydon, south London, where A-level students were opening their results, Stormzy told BBC Breakfast: “If you’re academically brilliant don’t think because you come from a certain community that studying at one of the highest education institutions in the world isn’t possible.”

The 25-year-old, who won best album at this year’s Ivor Novello awards, has previously been praised for tackling social injustice, including advocating on behalf of victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. He is funding two places this year and two next year.

The move comes amid concerns about lack of diversity at the Oxbridge universities. Figures published in June showed some Cambridge colleges admitted no black students or accepted as few as one a year between 2012 and 2016”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: A Cambridge University college/PHOTO CREDITVadim/Getty Images

It is amazing to think that, after doing such a thing, some are labelling him racist – why not do the same for struggling white students? The issue with universities likes Cambridge is the lack of diversity. Stormzy is not trying to attack Cambridge or give black students a boost over everyone else. The university has said they are committed to reversing the racial imbalance and, whilst there is not a bias, I wonder whether black students from poorer backgrounds are being overlooked. If they are brilliant and academically gifted; they are, often, not able to afford tuition and survive there. There are white students in the same position but look at the lack of black faces at Cambridge and one has to ask why that is. It is certainly not anything to do with a lack of academic prowess or any sort of imbalance in schools. Stormzy has made this gesture but I hope the big universities do a lot more and make it more affordable for students from less-well-off backgrounds to go to the top universities. It is typical to see people talk of racism when a black artist does something good. Stormzy is not excluding anyone or favouring black students over anyone else – he wants more parity and equality in the education system. I listened to all the reactions and news stories around this and got to thinking about music and race.

I am going to be addressing women in music and the need for change later but, looking out at the world, and I wonder whether a lack of attention for black students is mirrored by a disadvantage and sense of discrimination in music. Racism in music is no new things: you only need to look at the MTV days when artists like Michael Jackson were being denied access because of the colour of their skin. Many might argue him changing his skin colour was a reaction to being blocked and denied. Things have come far in music but I still get the sense the industry is white and set up for those from a wealthier background. The mainstream is filled with artists who are either middle-class or white (or both). We are seeing fewer faces from working-class backgrounds and minority artists are marginalised. The old term ‘urban’ seems to be a lazy word for any music made by a black artist. Do we need to get out of the headspace that there is such thing as ‘black music’. In the same way female-made music is a gender and not a genre; black music is diverse, exceptional and as strong as anything else. Music T.V. has essentially vanished but I feel there is that need to put white faces on magazines and screens. Look at artists like Stormzy and I think of the Grime and Rap scene here and how it is diminishing.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Nicki Minaj/PHOTO CREDIT: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Maybe there isn’t the talent out there but I feel radio is still too geared towards the Pop and Rock markets. Hollywood is always having to answer accusations of racism – and rightly so! – but music is not being given the same kicking and demand for change. Look at music videos or which artists get the most say and there is a definite racial divide. This article, written two years ago, boils things down:

To put it simply: When Britney Spears got naked and covered herself in sequins for Toxic, she was nominated for Best Music Video. When Emily Ratajkowski got naked next to Robin Thicke in Blurred Lines, he was nominated for Best Music Video. When Miley Cyrus stripped off and broke a million health and safety rules by riding a piece of construction equipment, she wasn’t just nominated for Best Music Video of the Year – she won it. All of the above videos have been controversial, but they were acknowledged by the industry for their impact nevertheless.

But as soon as Nicki Minaj – whose black body deviates from Caucasian beauty standards – dares to own her own culture and dance in a similarly provocative fashion, it’s glossed over and relegated to sideline categories of ‘female’ and ‘hip hop’. Meanwhile, white artists who adopt black culture as their own continue to reap professional awards. And it’s time to stop pretending that that’s OK”.

There is that assumption there is a distinct sound associated with black artists. Look at Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak. Check out Kamasi Washington and Beyoncé. Listen to Cardi B and Rihanna; listen to Stormzy and Dizzee Rascal and then have a flick through Childish Gambino and Leon Bridges. Can you say there is anything familiar or similar between those artists?! Although there are fewer black artists in certain genres – Country and Rock, for example – that is the fault of the industry and old attitudes. Not enough is being done to promote black artists and shake this idealised view of the mainstream/what is desirable. Although there are some names from black music being given props and attention in the mainstream – the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé – that would ignore wider truths. How many music awards do you see being handed to black artists? How many of the end-of-year best albums are from black musicians? One could say that is a simple case of lacking talent (in the case of black artists) but I look at award ceremonies and see how it geared towards celebrating white artists. This article charts the last few years and how few opportunities are being given the black artists:

As many know, 2013 marked an interesting year for the Music Industry, as it was the first time in the history of the US Billboard 100 Chart that no Black Artist landed a №1 Single as Lead Artist. And with the U.S. being the World Leader in terms of Music Market Share, it was a no brainer that that statistic was also reflective of the state of Black Music by Black Artists internationally in various ways, and has been for quite some time (particularly in the UK, 1 of the World’s Top 4 Music Markets).

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rhiannon Giddens - one of very few black Bluegrass players - performing at the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular/PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Dwyer/AP

“…Three years following that, along comes the #BritsSoWhite “controversy”, which came after it was announced that no Black British Artists were nominated for a 2016 BRIT Award, despite the commercial success many of them achieved between the 2014–2015 Eligibility Period (e.g. Krept & Konan Top 10 Single and #2 Debut Album, Fleur East Top 10 Debut Single, Skepta Top 40 Single, Stormzy Two Top 20 Singles, Kwabs Top 40 Debut Album).

Moving on to the bottom line of this all, the reality of the Music Business today is that Black Artists are tired of “asking” to be accepted into the Mainstream arena. They are tired of the fact that we are still living in an era where their accolades are celebrated as being “the first Black Artist to achieve xyz”, whilst their White counterparts continue to accomplish the same achievements on a constant basis. They are tired of being completely overshadowed by Artists of other Cultures who have built their success off of performing Urban Music. For example, in 2015 60% of the Top 10 Best Selling Artists globally for that year are widely considered either Soul or Urban, yet only 2 of them were ‘of colour’ (unsurprisingly landing 9th and 10th place). See anything wrong with this picture?”

Labels and big record companies are full of white faces; music festivals are placing white artists in headline slots and many are ignoring the sheer volume of fantastic music from black artists.

I am hearing of black artists tempted into a music career afraid they will be shunned and given little focus if they attempt it. Look out at the mainstream now and you there are divides. Whilst Cardi B, Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar and giving voice to black musicians and showing what weight they have; they are a minority against the bland and endless sea of white artists. You go to major music venues and look at the music media. The same way there is a majority share for men (against women); there are far more white employees and faces. Even when you look at national averages – the number of black people in a nation compared to other races – and there is a lot to answer for. Small improvements are coming in but it is not down to the artists themselves to push things forward and fight. The sheer talent of black faces in the mainstream is impressive but think of the artists in the underground; those wanting to go into journalism and recording studios and are things necessarily better than years ago?! A lot of journalists are not familiar with the culture and background of genres like R&B and Rap; there is that dogged desire to stick to worn and fatigued genres like Pop and Rock – will we ever get to a time when black artists are put on the same footing as everyone else?

I grew up listened to amazing black artists like Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson; Nina Simone and Public Enemy. I was a big fan of musicians like Stevie Wonder and De La Soul and the girl groups like Destiny’s Child and En Vogue. Some of the most political, eye-opening and immediate albums of the past few years have been made by black artists. Priscilla Renea has attacked clear racism in Country music; Kendrick Lamar has lobbied for greater respect of black Rap artists and showing them proper respect; the Grammy Awards have been accused, almost every year, of ignoring black artists when it comes to the major prizes. Maybe the use of the N-word in Rap is turning some off and causing controversy/censorship but it a minor barrier that blocks a larger ill. By studying black music and the traditions being kept alive by artists; we are not only experiencing wonderful songs but learning about different cultures and experiences that few of us talk about. I am a big fan of Hip-Hop and Rap and, through its pioneers, can chart the struggle black artists have faced and how civil rights have played a big role in the rise and vitality of the genre. The voice and reality of a black artist like Nicki Minaj is vastly different to that of someone like Taylor Swift. That may be a simple argument but, if we place divides and do not address racism then the music industry will stay as it is now – artists and fans promoting black music rather than those in the industry.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Stormzy was interviewed last year and talked about race and how certain genres have been poisoned by stereotypes and misconceptions:

 “Of course, he knows more than he’s letting on, and his observation – of labels not understanding underground scenes and not knowing what to do with black artists – makes his position political by its very existence. British police and politics have been continually distant from underground black music scenes, and particularly grime throughout the mid-2000s, which saw symbols of “urban menace” like hoodies and tracksuits increasingly demonised. (Hoodies were famously banned in Kent’s Bluewater shopping centre in 2005.)  Now when you see artists like Stormzy appearing on front covers in full tracksuits, it takes on a renewed politics. He talks about a story that gained huge momentum last year after he tweeted about it – a London nightclub, DSTRKT, turning away women who were deemed too “dark-skinned” to enter. It gets a mention on the album on “First Things First” (“Fuck DSTRKT”) atop clipped basslines and eerie productions as he spits, “If it weren’t me you wouldn’t let my ni**as in the club”.

There are a lot of successful and pioneering black artists ready to come through and shake the music scene up. One sees endless talent and possibility but one wonders how long it will take until there is genuine equality and open-mindedness. From big award ceremonies and mainstream marketing to the artists celebrated and highlighted for praise – we have a long way to go before things are as balanced as they should be. Stormzy and other black artists know the problems in music and, with resilience, determination and pure intent they are ready to…

MAKE big changes.

INTERVIEW: The Slumdogs

INTERVIEW:

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The Slumdogs

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I have been finding out about The Slumdogs

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and what inspired their latest track, Cut the Conversation Short. They tell me how they came together and started making music; what the music scene is like in Blackpool; if there are any gigs coming up – they highlight some new artists to watch.

I ask what sort of music they grew up around and whether they ever get time to chill; the advice they would give to artists emerging; which act they would support given the chance – the guys end the interview by selecting a song each.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

We’re all good! Been busy preparing for shows, releases and all that jazz.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

We’re The Slumdogs; a raw Indie-Punk four-piece from sunny Blackpool; coming to a town near you.

How did The Slumdogs get together? When did it all start?

I (Bobby) knew Elliot previously from a band we were in and met Cam and Will through a band they were in a few years ago. Those bands fell apart and The Slumdogs was born.

Cut the Conversation Short is your new single. Can you reveal the story behind it?

Musically, we just wanted to write something that sounds explosive and you can jump to. The lyrics are somewhat of a social commentary on modern life - but without being political at all.

How did The Slumdogs hook up with Gary Powell’s 25 Hour Convenience Store?

We sent them our debut single (Nightmare) and invited them to a London show we had at Nambucca. The show went well and here we are!

Is there going to be more material from the band soon?

Yes. We’ve a single out on the 17th August and much more planned before the end of the year release-wise. Stay tuned.

What sort of music did you all grow up around? Who are your musical idols?

When it comes to songwriting; John Lennon is the main man. Lyrically, Bob Dylan is up there too. We all love Funk, Punk and anything that makes you move.

You are based between Blackpool and Leeds. I have not heard many bands come out of Blackpool. What is the scene like there now?

Blackpool is actually a lot better than people think! it just doesn’t get the media attention of a Manchester or Liverpool but there’s bands such as Strange Bones and Nana White Pepper, amongst others, who are doing really good things at the moment. Leeds is craz-good; a very D.I.Y. scene with incredible bands, venues and events in every corner.

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Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

Definitely. We have a big hometown show at Bootleg Social on 25th August with Proletariat and The Brookes. After that, there’ll be announcements about shows further afield. Keep an eye on our Facebook for details of where and when.

If you each had to select an album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Bobby: John Lennon - Walls and Bridges

Cam: Queen - A Night at the Opera

Will: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ debut album (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds)

Elliot: The Beatles - Abbey Road

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

When IDLES came to Blackpool, the energy in the room was insane. They sold out Bootleg Social. They’re a band that speaks about important topics and to have them sell out our local venue was inspiring.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

It would have to be The Rolling Stones, wouldn’t it? I can’t imagine they have a low budget for a rider… I’d be asking for new guitars, amps; champagne…the lot!

What advice would you give to artists coming through?

Write constantly and get out there and meet people. Stay true to yourself and, most importantly, don’t be a ****!

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IN THIS PHOTO: BlackWaters/PHOTO CREDITFuture Nation Sounds 

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

BlackWaters, The Surrenders; Dream Wife, Calva Louise and IDLES.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dream Wife

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

By going to the Pleasure Beach and eating Blackpool rock.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

W: Hey Heartbreaker by Dream Wife

E: Arms & Legs by Horsey

C: Arms of Pleonexia by Cabbage

B: L'Etat C'est Moi by The Blinders

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Follow The Slumdogs

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INTERVIEW: Natasha Hardy

INTERVIEW:

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Natasha Hardy

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THERE are some great Classical crossover artists emerging…

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that are breaking new ground and introducing people to a new type of sound. Natasha Hardy tells me about her latest track, Mi Ritiro, and what its inspiration is. She reveals how she got into music and whether Classical is coming into the mainstream more – she recommends a rising artist to look out for.

Hardy shares some favourite musical memories and tells me about her album, Lost in Love; where she sources inspiration for writing; what she is planning going forward – Hardy selects a few albums that are important to her.

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Hi Natasha. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi. Very good thank you. I’ve been busy - getting ready to release my new single - but have managed to enjoy a bit of the lovely English summer we have been having…so, all good.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

Hi there. My name is Natasha Hardy; I am a Classical crossover singer and I write my own songs. I sound like a cross between Enya, Sarah Brightman and Amy Moody from Evanescence - or so I have been told! I was once reviewed as being “Not quite classical” which is very true; it’s a perfect description and I actually use that at my tagline now!

Mi Ritiro is your new single. What can you reveal about its story and creation?

Mi Ritiro is a bitter-sweet love song that I wrote. It’s essentially the story about falling for someone and then realising that person is not who you thought they were and having to admit that to yourself. I wrote it in Italian as being classically trained some of my favourite arias that I sing are in Italian and the call to write in the original language of love (even though I am not fluent in Italian, I had some help with the correct grammar!) seemed appropriate.

I had written the lyrics and most of the melody when I teamed up with my good friend and wonderful pianist Stefano Marzanni. He helped write the harmony and arrange the piano part in a way that sounded classical yet simple. I wanted the song to sound like something between an aria from a modern opera and a song from a soundtrack of an old Italian movie. Once it was written, I worked closely with my amazing producer Tom E. Morrison, who worked tirelessly to bring my vision to life.  

Stefano leads the instrumentation with the beautiful original piano arrangement alongside the string section. On violin, I have award-winning violinist Dermot Crehan (Lord of the Rings, Andrea Bocelli, Annie Lennox; I am so blessed to have him on my track. Then I have Alice Sophie on cello, Alexander Verster on double bass; Graham Pike on brass and Tom E. Morrison playing keyboard. Oh, and myself as the vocalist of course. I am really pleased with the end result. Everyone worked really hard to give an amazing performance for me and Tom’s pristine production is the icing on the cake.  Graham actually played the trumpet part that you hear in one take. I was blown away when we were in the studio; I had goosebumps all over and knew instantly that would be the one to stay.

It is from the album, Lost in Love. Are there distinct themes and personal experiences you bring into the music?

Yes. I would say the album as a whole is based on the theme of love: wanting it, finding it or losing it. The album is a collection of self-penned love songs inspired by my passions, heartaches and the fairy-tale fantasies that falling in love can bring. All of the songs were written from personal experience on some level. 

As well as being a crossover artist, I am also blending different genres in my music. I tried to really capture my vocals with their vulnerable yet powerful quality to compliment the Celtic, operatic and orchestral elements. I have put my heart and soul into this album so I am hoping, with the cinematic styled arrangements and my heartfelt lyrics, people will connect to the songs.

You are a Classical crossover artist. Do you think Classical music is coming into the mainstream more? Would you like to see Classical music come to the fore a bit more?!

Oh, yes. It’s definitely more mainstream than it ever has been I think with acts like Lindsey Stirling and 2 Cellos doing extremely well - who are also writing original material. With shows like the sold-out Classical Hacienda and the Blue Planet score winning awards, there is a real appetite for this genre.

I think, for it to come to the forefront even more, music should be a compulsory subject in school and there should be many more government-funded musical initiatives. I believe that Classical music is constantly evolving and growing as it blends with different genres and it would be great for upcoming artists to have affordable access to venues that have ready-made audiences to try out their ideas.

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How do you get inspiration for songs/ideas? How important are old films and recordings regarding your viewpoint/aesthetic?

I think my inspiration comes from a simple observation: I observe my thoughts and feelings and then zone into whichever emotion is dominant. The trigger can be from a photograph, a movie; from watching someone else that reminds me of something that I have been through or from something that I desire. I then keep a note of that and then the work begins - when I write a song about it.

With regards to my aesthetics, I think art and illustration are more important to me than film. I am definitely influenced by my favourite artists such as Vermeer, Degas; Cézanne, Klimt; illustrators Edmund Dulac, Susan Seddon Boulet and Arthur Rackham to name a few. However, I do love scrolling through YouTube watching old film operas, listening to old recordings of Opera singers and old recordings of traditional songs. A combination of all of the above is important as long as it inspires me to be creative. My viewpoint is always my own.

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Can you reveal which artists played a role in your early life? How did you get into the industry?

As a child, my parents used to play Harry Belafonte, Doris Day; Shirley Bassey, Simon & Garfunkel; The Shadows, Rod Stewart and Crystal Gayle. Yes, I know; pretty eclectic! It doesn’t end there though. I used to share a room with my older sister so I had to listen to all of her R&B music and I have two brothers who both play guitar: one plays electric and one plays acoustic. So, I was forced to listen to Joe Satriani and Cat Stevens simultaneously - which I think scarred me for life; that’s probably why you don’t hear any guitar in my music!

I had my first piano lessons at the age of nine and my music teacher introduced me to Chopin and Beethoven. But, when I discovered music for myself that I loved, I used to listen to Enya, Enigma; Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac; George Michael and Prince. It wasn’t really until my early-twenties that I discovered Classical music and Opera through taking classical singing lessons and that opened a whole new world for me. That’s when I fell in love with Puccini, Rachmaninov and Debussy.

I got into the industry because when I was younger I thought I wanted to be an actress, so I decided to take singing lessons to add a feather to my bow so to speak. Through my singing lessons, I discovered my true calling as singing just felt so good. I didn’t realise the amazing journey it would take me on and I am still discovering new things about myself every day.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I hope my album is well received, that my live performance dates get lined up and that I go on holiday as, since I started my album, it has pretty much taken over my life for the last two and a half years.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Hmm. I have so many! Can I have two?! My favourite recent memory is that of signing my first licensing agreement for one of my songs from my album to be on a film soundtrack. It features in the independent film titled Of Gods and Warriors featuring Terence Stamp. That was a dream come true and is a memory to treasure.

A much older memory; this is from when I used to sing a lot in the care community for people with Alzheimers’ disease. I remember singing to a gentleman with a severe case and I held his hand and looked into his eyes as I sang one particular song. As I was singing, he lifted his head and he came to life right in front of me. He had tears streaming down his face and when I had finished the song he just started talking about his wife during the War and how he used to take her to dances and how that was their favourite song. He hadn’t spoken to anyone for years and we (the staff and I) were all in tears. It’s such a beautiful feeling to be able to touch someone like that. That’s why I sing: because I want to touch souls.

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

A Day Without Rain by Enya

She is one of my huge influences and it put me in a trance the first time I listened to it. I can still completely lose myself in her music.

Reverence by Faithless

Captivating. Reminds me of long nights of dancing and the power that music has on the body. It was also the first time I had really been touched by operatic music. The track, Drifting Away, opens with an excerpt of Margherita’s aria, L’altra notte in fondo al mare, from the opera Mefistofele; composed by Arrigo Boito. I think it also planted the seed that it is possible to cross different genres in a song if the production is good.

The film soundtrack to Betty Blue by Gabriel Yared – it brings back memories of great times with someone who is no longer with us. The music is just beautiful: fun, intense; delicate, heart-breaking.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

There are a few artists currently that I would love to have the honour to support but, if I had to choose just one, I would love to support Andrea Bocelli. Not only do I love his voice, but he is also such an amazing humanitarian - he does so much through his charitable foundation.

For a rider, hmmm; just a nice clean dressing room with a power point and full-length mirror; bottled water and bananas - lots of bananas! Not too green, not too spotty either!

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

Definitely. I am planning a tour in 2019. Dates are to be confirmed and will be announced on my website soon.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Practice, practice, practice!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Freya Ridings

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I haven’t had time to listen to loads of new music recently but I do love Freya Ridings. I love her voice and songs check out her song Ultraviolet. It’s gorgeous. Her newest single, Lost Without You, was featured in the Love Island U.K. T.V. series.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Music is part of my everyday life so to give my ears a rest I love to reconnect with nature. As I live in North London, one of my favourite places to go is Kenwood and Hampstead Heath with my beloved toy poodle and I love to go ice-skating when I get time. I also love a good movie and a pizza (Vegetarian Hot, please).

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Maria Callas - La Mamma Morta

Thank you for having me and thank you for asking such brilliant questions!

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Follow Natasha Hardy

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FEATURE: The August Playlist: Vol. 3: (Everything I Do) I Do It Fuh You

FEATURE:

 

The August Playlist

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sir Paul McCartney/PHOTO CREDIT: MJ Kim  

Vol. 3: (Everything I Do) I Do It Fuh You

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THIS is one of those busy…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Maggie Rogers/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

and rich weeks where all sorts of brilliant music is out! Not only has Paul McCartney released another single from his forthcoming record, Egypt Station; we have cuts from IDLES, Maggie Rogers and Stefflon Don – I have included a song from the late, great Aretha Franklin.

It has been a big and emotional week in music where we have celebrated and mourned. I hope this week’s hot new releases raise the spirits and get you in a good frame of mind to attack the approaching week.

ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Artists

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Paul McCartney Fuh You

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IDLES Great

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PHOTO CREDIT: Atlantic Records

Aretha Franklin Respect

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Cat Power (ft. Lana Del Rey) Woman

Drenge Outside

Stefflon Don Jellio

PHOTO CREDIT: Bernhard Wimmer

Petrol Girls Sister

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White DenimFine Slime

The Lemon Twigs The Fire

Pale Waves Black

whenyoung Dreams

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Eliza Shaddad This Is My Cue

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Maggie Rogers Give a Little

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Nicki Minaj Ganja Burn

PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Salacuse

The 1975 TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME

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PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Schmelling

6LACK Nonchalant

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Ailbhe Reddy Shame

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Bishop Briggs Baby

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Christine and the Queens 5 Dollars

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Jess Glynne All I Am

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The Kooks Chicken Bone

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MNEK Crazy World

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Rina Sawayama Cherry

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Sabrina Claudio Creation

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Tash Sultana Free Mind

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Tom Speight Want You

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Saradjola

YONAKA Teach Me to Fight

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Ariana Grande R.E.M

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PHOTO CREDIT: Eliot Lee Hazel

Death Cab for Cutie Autumn Love

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Mitski Remember My Name

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Slaves Photo Opportunity

TRACK REVIEW: D.A.N - Think About Me

TRACK REVIEW:

 

D.A.N

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Think About Me

 

9.3/10

 

 

The track, Think About Me, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFDRgTRhVt8

GENRE:

Electronic

ORIGIN:

Derry, Northern Ireland/London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

27th July, 2018

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IN this outing…

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I will look at icons in music and how we need to breed personalities and those that stand out. I will get on to songs about love and relationships and putting a new spin on the format; artists from Northern Ireland why it is a part of the world we should investigate more; getting songs played on the radio and having that widespread and national acclaim; putting something new into the fold and creating compositions that get into the heart; a look at where D.A.N might go and what his future holds. It has been a complex and interesting week for music where we have seen the death of a music icon and the birthday of another one. A lot of mixed emotions have been swirling around and I wonder whether we are going to see a week in music where we have felt that contrast. I am looking at the modern industry and searching around for something that fills the gap or gives guidance. It would be unfair to place all that pressure on D.A.N and ask him to be this big icon and create a legacy right now – that might happen but it is a long way off! I am listening to all the music swirling around and asking if we will see any legends and big names from the current breed. It may seem like an odd point to start on but I wanted to look at music now and how it has changed since decades past. D.A.N is one of those people who brings a lot of emotion and personality to his music. I think there has been something lacking in music lately and I do ask where that next breed of standouts is going to come from. D.A.N is someone who injects so much colour and depth into his sounds. I am not suggesting artists like him will match the heady icons we have noted this week but he is part of a revival and wave of new artists are standing aside.

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It can be rather boring listening to artists who stay the same and have very little innovation. I get into that mindset of hearing the same sort of thing rattling around and it can get a bit weary. Although I maintain modern music can never reach the levels of the older stuff and the artists who have come; there are so many interesting and promising musicians who are spiking my imagination. One of the reasons I am drawn to D.A.N is because he brings the listener into the music and it is a completely immersive experience. Too many tracks are quite cold and sterile and you never feel like you are part of the process. The songwriter has gravitas and passion and you can hear that in every note. Whether he is singing about something heartbreaking or not; you never feel like you are being pushed away and left out. D.A.N is a different force and really gets under the skin. His songs about relationships come from his heart but you never feel like there is cliché and the ordinary coming through. I am a bit weary of those relationship songs that deal with tropes and copy everything out there. D.A.N’s new one, Think About Me, is a hopeful song that looks at the dislocation of a relationship but has positive results. The hero is trying to make himself stronger and find independence after having his heart broken. A lot of love songs work with the negative and you can feel a bit buried and suffocated by what is being said. I like those songs that provide something spirited and stronger when they are being performed. Rather than get sorrowful and down; a track that has that lifted heart and finds something hopeful is a lot better. What you get from Think About Me is a story of facing disappointment and change but using it as an opportunity for betterment and reflection. It is inspiring hearing his latest track and the fact he is not going to let the end of a relationship get the better of him.

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Having that positive approach and being a bit more optimistic given the end of love is a rarity in modern music. I hope D.A.N, following his latest track, finds a new bond and can rebuild from it. It is strange how love forms so much of the creative mindset and how important it is to music. Some of the greatest songs ever written have been about relationships but, for the most part, it is the failure and bleak that forms the majority – how often do we hear about something more rousing and redemptive when it comes to splits?! I will move on now but come back to relationships a bit later down the line. D.A.N is based in London now but is from Derry. It seems odd to focus on Northern Ireland but I feel we overlook parts of the world and often assume everything great comes from the capital. Although I am always keen to champion London music; I am much more interested focusing on other parts of the world and what is happening there. Northern Ireland has been part of the musical landscape for decades now. The Undertones are from Derry and there are a lot of interesting new artists coming from that part of Northern Ireland. I know Hannah Peel has moved to Northern Ireland and it seems there is something about the nation that is attracting artists. London is still a big draw for musicians and provides endless opportunities but, as things get more expensive and city living is not affordable; people are moving away and finding something beneficial elsewhere. Derry is a great part of a nation that has some fantastic venues and local acts. You have The Glassworks and Never Centre and there is a lot of love about the city. Northern Ireland is a fantastic country for music and you cannot ignore what is coming from there. I feel D.A.N moved because he wants to get bigger acclaim and see his music spread but I am interested to see where he comes from.

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Do we spend time looking at music away from London and big cities and find what sort of variety there is available? I have been compelled to investigate Derry but there are other parts of Northern Ireland, including Belfast, with a great scene. Maybe E.I.R.E is a bit more active regarding music but Northern Ireland has so many great artists and venues to investigate. I hope more and more of us take the initiative and look at music from all around the world. As part of my daily activity; I get to discover music from all over the world but I seem to see a pattern emerging. A lot of submissions still come from obvious places and I wonder whether artists from smaller cities and towns get a look in. If D.A.N gets some love for Derry and makes me look over there; I am curious how many other artists there are that are not getting acclaim because the media is obsessed with bigger areas. I will come to a new subject in a second but I would urge everyone to take some time out and investigate the world of music – rather than what is happening in London or obvious places. That may seem like an impossible task but a bit more open-minded approach and study will broaden our horizons and make us all richer. I have seen D.A.N progress from the turmoil of insomnia and emotional worry on 0300 (Human) and arrive at a new avenue. The songwriter progresses with each release and I am excited to see where he goes from here. Think About Me is a much brighter and more vivacious song that sees him work with producer Dave Okumu and mixer Dan Parry. Between them, they have worked with the likes of Jessie Ware and Loyle Carner. That sort of pedigree is nothing to be sniffed at. It shows how much D.A.N’s music is resonating – he can attract that sort of talent and make his songs stronger for it.

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Another good reason why the songwriter is important is because of the acclaim he gets from radio. A lot of artists get airplay on big stations and it is something to be proud of. There is limited space and chance for artists to get their music exposed so, if you can, make something of it. I am one of those people who is keen to get artists publicised and see if I can get them to radio stations. It is a big step if you can get to national radio and the possibilities are endless. If you can have your music featured on local radio then that is important and is a great first step. I am always listening to stations like BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 Music and seeing what is coming through. D.A.N is an artist who has struck the imagination of radio producers and, as such, his music has spread far and wide. There is nothing to say, years from now, he cannot get to big stations in the U.S. and get a lot of tour dates over there. You have to have those ambitions and the fact he has managed to get onto big British radio stations is a huge step. I am excited to see how far he can go and what comes next. I know D.A.N is working on new material and there will be new releases very soon. I am going to keep an eye out and see what happens but I expect more and more radio stations to turn his way and play the music. If you can get your music played on radio and get reaction from it; that is a good way of getting gigs booked and having venue take note. I have heard so many artists get bookings directly from promoters and venue owners hearing their songs on the radio. D.A.N’s latest track has that summertime sound and, whilst it might be too late to have festivals lined up and get involved with that side; I am sure more gigs will come and people will be reacting to his music.

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I am looking ahead for D.A.N myself and wonder whether his music has been put in the hands of American producers and radio stations. I feel his music has such a great sound and would resonate there. Radio is a hugely powerful medium and cannot be underestimated. T.V. is a potent force but how many music shows have we got right now? It is rather sad there is nothing specifically set up for modern musicians. Many have to perform on cooking shows and non-music outlets and radio, in so many ways, is the only place to hear artists. I wonder whether we will see a music T.V. show come through and whether anything will change in that regard. My point is how important radio is and its power. I am pleased D.A.N’s music has struck the ear of stations and he is gaining a lot of new fans. He has seen his music played on T.V. shows like Made in Chelsea and BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 Music have spun his material. It is great seeing the Northern Ireland artist getting acclaim on T.V. and radio. Where does he go from here in terms of ambition? I will speak more about that in the conclusion but I feel D.A.N can go a very long way. Not only does the songwriter have a popularity and base on radio but his evolution marks him out as an artist with endurance. I have been speaking about icons and how few modern artists can match their brilliance but the industry is so much harder now. Artists like D.A.N have exceptional qualities and I feel he is someone who will remain for many years to come. I keep mentioning icons and classic music is because of the shifts in music and how we view it. I love modern music but so many artists are not putting effort in regarding composition and depth. D.A.N expends so much of himself into every track and you get a window into a unique musician who wants to inspire the next generation.

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It would be easy for D.A.N to repeat himself and not stretch his ambitions between releases. I have seen many artists discover a popular sound and then not expand from there. What we get is a rather samey and predictable career where you cannot really distinguish songs from one another. D.A.N can talk about love and its complexities but is always engaging and new. I loved when he sung about insomnia and emotional turmoil – not in a cruel way – because he managed to splice a striking core with a beautiful and soulful sound. Now, when recounting a break-up and coming out the other side more positive and bright; he injects something a lot more rousing and sparkling into the mix. It is a leap from 0300 (Human) but still sounds like him. What I am noticing from his music is how much confidence is coming in. I am not saying his early sounds and timid but it seems, with every new release, that spirit is raising and he is getting bolder. I mentioned how he is working on other material and I am excited to see what form that takes. Whether there is an album or E.P. arriving; whether he has summery tunes or a mix of emotions…it is going to be interesting discovering what comes from him. Not many artists are able to achieve such leaps and evolutions between releases and keep their identity intact. The songwriter is vibing from the attention and acclaim and providing the music world with some brilliant sounds. Let me look at Think About Me and a current release that is already turning heads and getting some big love.

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The hero starts the song by looking at the same old streets and investigating those old haunts. There is a patter of drums and something brooding working away. The composition is quite minimal and things are fairly tense to start with. The hero is looking at the immediate split and is walking through a street of memories. He gave the heroine space and time and it seems, regardless of how open he was, things were not going to last. I am already in the corner of D.A.N and wondering whether he will recover quickly. The early stages see the hero look at the old sights and places he used to visit with her. It has been a touch split and it is inevitable he would go back to where the two of them used to visit. You get vivid scenes and sights come through in his vocals. The composition is fairly light and that minimal approach allows the listener to paint their own thoughts. You are in the song itself and walking alongside D.A.N. Although there is that initial sense of remembrance and looking back; he is pining forward and what is coming next. The hero knows the girl is thinking of him and is still searching for answers. It would be unhealthy transitioning from a relationship and not wanting to know where things went wrong. As opposed those who wallow and let break-up eat them and haunt their mind; this is a more productive and pragmatic reaction to a bond that had been showing cracks for a bit. You get words where the author is talking to his heroine – she must think of him and knows there is something in her heart – but the music elevates and shines. The beats get brighter and lighter and electronics fuse in. It is a galloping and summery jam that gets into the heart and makes it beat faster.

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PHOTO CREDITCora Hamilton

Even if the early moments are a bit more downbeat and mournful; that soon changes to a more dynamic and spirited thing. Think About You is a feeling the spark is still there and everything is not lost. You can imagine the two of them going their own way and still holding on to the great times. I am not sure what caused them to end but it seems like everything is not lost. The hero is not yearning or begging for another chance: his mind is looking to rebuild and look at life in the future. Getting catchier and picking up rhythm; you are immersed in the song and captured by its hooks and flair. I wonder whether the song is taken from two sides of the conversation. It is obvious our hero is still fascinated by the heroine and does not want to completely lose sight of her. Those good times are in his mind and it is vital he keeps hold of them. You do not get the sense the songwriter is holding onto a raft and looking for salvation. He is determined to move through and find something positive on the other side. It is impossible to forget about the song and get it out of the head. You are stunned by the sunny notes and big chorus; the way the hero projects a positive outlook and is not letting things getting him down. In the midst of everything; I am thinking about the way he is holding onto the relationship and those memories. Maybe it is hard to completely forget and relinquish that grasp. You feel for him and wonder whether there is any chance of reconciliation. Rather than try and repair something that is struggling; I feel the hero is moving on and looking to find something on the other side.

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Many songwriters want to move on after love ends and that can be a really hard thing. The hero has accepted the best times are done but there seem to be no regrets and blame. It is easy to bond with a song like Think About Me because it puts you in a better frame of mind and gets your body moving. I predict it will be a big hit for him and prove popular with T.V. producers and radio stations. Many people are reacting to it already and there is every evidence to suggest he will have a big smash on his hands. You do not get many songwriters who can create very different songs and keep their own identity solid and clear. D.A.N does not want to repeat himself and be seen as a formulaic artist. He is making big waves and pushing himself with every track. I am excited to see other material and get a sense of where he is now. It is hard to get a real sense of which songwriters are worth a shout and who can remain the course. Such is the mass of artists available online, it is hard working through them all and making predictions. I am sure D.A.N will last for many more years and continue to do great things. The Derry artist is on a hot streak right now and seems to have his sights firmly set. Make sure you hear Think About Me and get involved with a brilliant creative revelation. There are not many artists out there like D.A.N. He gets into every part of the body and mind and makes you think and feel more deeply. In an age where there is so much meagre and predictable music; it is nice finding artists who go much further and have much more substance.

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I have investigated D.A.N before and am always blown away by his talent and instinct. He is an artist that seems to speak for everyone but does not have any likeminded peers. He can address love and its perils but add something hopeful and positive to the plate. I think he has a bright future and can go on to create a lot more great songs. I have been talking about icons and modern music vs. the past for a while – there is a point behind it. Whilst it is true it is near-impossible to see any of the new breed rise to iconic levels and stay in our hearts for decades; the climate has changed and things are very different. Competition is fierce and, rather than look for idols and icons; I feel applauding those who can survive and continue to find focus is much more helpful. D.A.N is a modern artist who can rank alongside the most promising of the mainstream. He is a multi-talented writer and musician and seems get stronger with everything he brings out. I am not sure when further material is out but you will have to keep an eye out for his social media channels. He will keep fans abreast and it will be excited where he heads next. There is nothing to suggest D.A.N cannot release a series of albums that will get into the critical mind and inspire new musicians. He stands aside from what is out there and wants to endure and remain. One gets something deep, engrossing and fascinating with Think About Me. The track, on paper, seems like an average and everyday workout regarding moving on from broken love and finding hope. When you hear the song come alive; there is so much working away that you are taken somewhere special. I have been a bit down regarding new artists and what they are about but there are some fantastic musicians who are showing great endeavour. D.A.N’s new music makes me think of Derry and Northern Ireland as a whole. It is a fabulous nation that is housing some remarkable new talent. Although the artist has located to London and is finding chances here; I hear his home running through the musical blood and it makes me want to investigate the music of Northern Ireland a lot more. If you have not discovered D.A.N and feel he is going to be your normal and predictable songwriter then give his sounds a spin and discover something wonderful. I shall end this here but I want people to investigate the rising star and find out why so many radio stations and media sources are promoting his music. Even if a bad relationship has influenced his latest track; it is the positives and possibilities that come from that fuelling his mind. The young artist is not getting down and letting things get on top of him. I am sure there are many more years (maybe decades) in the tank for D.A.N. He has that desire and heart that many songwriters do not possess. Follow the fantastic songwriter and see where he heads next. 2018 has been a great year for him but I feel next year will…

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TAKE him to a new level.

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Follow D.A.N

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FEATURE: Sisters in Arms: An All-Female, Summer-Ready Playlist (Vol. XXIII)

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

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IN THIS PHOTO: Stefflon Don/PHOTO CREDIT: Gareth Cattermole/MTV EMAs 2017/Getty Images for MTV

An All-Female, Summer-Ready Playlist (Vol. XXIII)

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I wanted to follow the last instalment of this feature…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Bishop Briggs/PHOTO CREDIT: Jabari Jacobs

fairly quickly so that there is a bumper of female-led music to get you into the weekend. There are some brand-new releases alongside some songs that have been out a little while. It is a mix of Pop, R&B; some Rap and a few other genres sprinkled in there. Hopefully, there will be something in there that will take your fancy and show music from women right now is not a genre – it’s a gender. We are all aware there is sexism and less attention paid to female artists so it is good to be able to celebrate them and show the wealth of talent around. Sit back and enjoy another rundown of female talent that should get you prepped and pumped…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jess Glynne

FOR the weekend.

ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Gettt Images/Artists

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Yummy Pearl GoodNite

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Tana MongeauW

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AadaeJust Found Out

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Bishop BriggsBaby

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Ellie Schmidly - Blossom & Bone

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PHOTO CREDIT: Elliot Kennedy for CRACK

Stefflon Don – Precious Heavy

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PHOTO CREDITMichael Vallera

Circuit Des Yeux (ft. Moon Bros.)Souer de Race

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Sarah ReevesAlways Been You

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PHOTO CREDIT: Louise Thomas for The Line of Best Fit

Annabel AllumFear Naught

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Leanne Robinson - Last Time (Change Your Mind)

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PHOTO CREDITGeorge Ogilvie

Bess AtwellSwimming Pool

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Say Lou LouGolden Child

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Josie MoonCall Me

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Na7halie Sade - Gravy

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LeyeT - Let Me Know

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Lucy MasonHigh and Dry

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Hannah GraceOh River

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Kate LomasDrink 2 U

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Jess GlynneAll I Am

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Gabbie Hanna - Honestly

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PHOTO CREDITSara Laufer

Daisy the Great - Company

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Jarina De Marco - Bilingual

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Britty Lovers Get Bored

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Lele Pons - Celoso

FEATURE: Sisters in Arms: An All-Female, Summer-Ready Playlist (Vol. XXII)

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

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IN THIS PHOTO: Red Velvet

An All-Female, Summer-Ready Playlist (Vol. XXII)

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MY mind has shifted from looking at Aretha Franklin…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Nonku Phiri

and her amazing legacy. I am not compelled to look at the best new female artists and songs that should bring back the sun and heat. There is a mixture of summer-tuned sizzlers and some cooler, more relaxing tracks that display the contrasts of the summer months. The autumn is almost upon us so, before I alter this feature; I felt it only right to put together another list of great female tracks/female-led offerings that will get your Friday kicking and get the weekend started earliest. Take a listen to the newest list of offerings and I hope they keep the spirit of summer…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Emily Magpie

IN your blood.

ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Artists

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PHOTO CREDIT: @ro.creativ

Basement Revolver Heavy Eyes

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Natalie EvansEmpty Rooms & Aeroplanes

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Georgia Fearn Master of Jazz

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Lauren Faith Just a Little

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Nonku Phiri - Sîfó  

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Lil Debbie Loaded

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PowpigConcerned

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Birch femme.two

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Lady SanityBullseye

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PHOTO CREDITThea Brooks Music

Vanessa MariaParty Next Door

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Vök- Autopilot

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LeadleyLike I Did

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Jaguar JonzeYou Got Left Behind

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FADE – Fall in Love

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Red VelvetMosquito

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Amy StroupThrill of It

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PHOTO CREDITLukas Gansterer

Mavi Phoenix Ibiza

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PHOTO CREDIT: Tor Hills

Natalie WilliamsExtraordinary

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Rebecca & FionaNeed You

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Stela ColeLucky Day

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Emily MagpieLast Train

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PHOTO CREDIT: Carlos Avila

Neenah Sun Tzu

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SimiI Dun Care

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Saweetie - ANTI

FEATURE: The Soul Chronicles: Aretha Franklin and Her Incredible Legacy

FEATURE:

 

 

The Soul Chronicles

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IN THIS PHOTO: Aretha  Franklin in 1987/PHOTO CREDIT: Norman Parkinson Archive/Iconic Images/Getty Images

Aretha Franklin and Her Incredible Legacy

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IT is axiomatic to say…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Aretha Franklin in 1967/PHOTO CREDIT: Atlantic Records

Aretha Franklin influenced music and changed things – do we really know how far that influence spreads and how she managed to push things forward?! Many of us associate Franklin with one song, Respect. It has become her anthem and a song that seems to speak for women and black musicians around the world; people in their homes and those looking to get respect and attention. It transformed and transcended its roots and potential. Although she has an illustrious and stocked back catalogue; I have always drawn myself to that song and, I don’t know – it seems to hold a power that no other track does. Writing yesterday; The New York Times looked at the song and how it became an anthem:

Ms. Franklin’s respect lasts for two minutes and 28 seconds. That’s all — basically a round of boxing. Nothing that’s over so soon should give you that much strength. But that was Aretha Franklin: a quick trip to the emotional gym. Obviously, she was far more than that. We’re never going to have an artist with a career as long, absurdly bountiful, nourishing and constantly surprising as hers. We’re unlikely to see another superstar as abundantly steeped in real self-confidence — at so many different stages of life, in as many musical genres.

That self-confidence wasn’t evident only in the purses and perms and headdresses and floor-length furs; the buckets and buckets of great recordings; the famous demand that she always be paid before a show, in cash; or the Queen of Soul business — the stuff that keeps her monotonously synonymous with “diva.” It was there in whatever kept her from stopping and continuing to knock us dead. To paraphrase one of Ms. Franklin’s many (many) musical progeny: She slayed. “Respect” became an anthem for us, because it seemed like an anthem for her”.

The article made a salient and interesting point: Do we see Aretha Franklin as a proper, album artist rather than the singer of a famous song like Respect?! Although that track has become a moment of wonder filled with spirituality and personal strength; I wonder how far we look back at Franklin and what she gave to music. I have been listening back at albums like Lady Soul (1968) and how that is almost a greatest hits album. Chain of Fools and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman are terrific but Groovin’ and Come Back Baby are gems in their own right. In the same year as Lady Soul, we saw Aretha Now come forward: Think and I Say a Little Prayer are incredible highlights that have been scorched into the universal memory since their release. On every album, whether spectacular or merely promising; something stood out that other artists do not possess – whether it is an intuitive talent or something she acquired as she became more confident. The article I have just quoted looks at Franklin’s interpretive skills and her adaptability:

It didn’t matter whether it was a Negro spiritual or something by the Beatles. It was all wet clay to her. The Supremes, Frank Sinatra, Leonard Cohen, Adele, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, ? and the Mysterians, C & C Music Factory: She oversaw more gut renovations than a general contractor. In 1979, she took the occasion of B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” to allow her backing singer to exclaim that she (and they) were “free at last.” Toward the end of her funked-up, very fun version of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” from the 1981 album “Love All the Hurt Away,” she tossed in some “beep-beeps” and a couple of lines from “Little Jack Horner” because she knew she could make it work”.

I wonder whether we give her entire career enough adulation and oxygen. Sure, there are those supreme hits like Chain of Fools and Respect but, from her early Gospel recordings to her 1980s collaboration with George Michael (I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) and you have so many different angles and shades. She could take any song and make it her own; fuse with another artist and naturally adapt and shine – how many artists can do that now?! Yesterday, I speculated whether we will ever see an artist who has that natural icon status and gives music so much. Franklin brought religion to her music and it was her spiritual side that gave her music its ethereal, transcendent and almighty force. Whether you believe in God or not; she believed he gave her the gift of that voice and she was not going to waste it. Every album – from 1966’s Soul Sister to 1998’s A Rose Is Still a Rose – uses that voice to its maximum. She was never your everyday warbler who belted songs without thought of nuance and dynamics; she phrased words beautifully to get the most from them. Leaving pauses between certain phrases and bringing in little sighs, laughs and imperious shrugs – touches that infused her music and gave it so special character. Above all, we had a personality who was able to elevate any song to heavenly heights and touch the masses. Almost, in a sense, Franklin was a pastor: an assigned representative of God who was channelling his love through her to the people.

Another New York Times article looks at that religious significance and how she managed a hard trick: mixing the spiritual with the sexual

Aretha Franklin absorbed the entirety of the black American tradition as she moved from church singer to balladeer to the greatest voice in soul music. Yet she would go one sacrilegious step further, and in a thousand double entendres, throaty growls and shouts of ecstasy, inject sexual need into gospel music. In so doing, she made herself the forebear of everyone from Madonna and Beyoncé to Adele. (Ms. Franklin remade Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” I imagine, because the joining of gospel cadences with a cheating lover was surely irresistible to her.) Other musicians, like Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, had mixed the two, but no one blended the sacred and the sexual quite as Ms. Franklin did”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Aretha Franklin at Chicago’s Cook County jail in June 1972/PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

I wanted to focus on her soulfulness and preaching because, strangely, it is something we think of when looking at her music. Artists, now, are less willing to bring religion and faith into their work. Maybe they feel people will ignore them or they simply will not be able to do their god justice. Franklin used fluctuations in volume and pauses to build tension and then exploded into a huge crescendo. Having recorded her first Gospel album at the age of fourteen; she signed to Columbia Records and moved to New York as a teenager. The piano, alongside her voice, was her weapon that she used to make songs of praise ecstatic and tender; tracks of cheating men filled with vengeance, judgement and a sense of confidence – that she was going to be alright and stronger than him. Anything and everything she touched turned to gold. Many see Aretha Franklin as a simple singer; we do not realise her incredible musicianship and interpretative brilliance. This recent article in The Guardian highlights how she used phrasing and melisma to devastating effect in her music:

When it is used most effectively, the melisma exudes sheer visceral power and can ignite existential catharsis. It suggests limitless emotional revelation and spiritual reckoning. Franklin took it to new heights. In her hands, form was also content that put a sly, critical twist on a song. If, lyrically, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) is at its core a lament about romantic abjection and, startlingly to some, about sexual submission as well (“You’re a no good heartbreaker / You’re a liar and you’re a cheat / And I don’t know why / I let you do these things to me …”), if Franklin sings a tale of love sickness as old as Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues, the form – how she audibly attacks the song itself – was a pop revelation. Our heroine sounds out the agony of unquenchable desire and couples it with astounding assertiveness. Her labour, her movement, her action become the subject of the song. Drenched in glory, she triumphs over and through the oppressiveness of the lyrics. She made her labouring body a central character in her music”.

I will end by speaking of Franklin’s legacy and artists who have followed her lead. Alongside her unique music and vocal ability; she gave voice to black lives and pushed the civil rights music forward. In the same way as she used religion to heighten her music; Soul became a chronicle of black struggle and the need for freedom and evolution. She wanted love and equality but was not willing to temporise that anger and desire. During years (and decades) when the black vote and voice was being struck against and silenced; she brought her music to the mainstream and delivered a phenomenal rebuke. Rather than attack politicians and criticise; the sheer power and grace her voice possessed not only inspired fellow musicians – and many black artists coming through – but resonated with the people. At a time when there is racial imbalance in music and a long way to go; I feel Franklin’s incredible music and messages will be an essential slogan and accompaniment. From her early Gospel days to recording albums like Amazing Grace (the 1972 hit that is seen as one of her finest); through to her later collaborations and appearances – how can we calculate the worth and impact Franklin made?! In musical terms, she is much more than a song or two: her entire progression and catalogue tells a story and charts the rise and reign of a true queen. Her civil rights importance and musicianship are another aspect; she provided messages of confidence and hope for people out there who were vulnerable or doubtful - urging a sense of togetherness and love in everything she said or performed.

You only need to perform a brief Internet search to see the artists who have been influenced by Aretha Franklin. Her death will spark fresh interest and discovery; new artists finding her music and being struck by her immense gravitas and ability. I hope Franklin’s musicianship and vocal phrasing will resound with artists in the current day. We do not see many who have her affinity for language and projection; can do so much with their voice and make any song, whether Gospel or Soul, sound like their own. Few genuine idols and standout voices have arrived in the past couple of decades – aside from the odd genius like Amy Winehouse. From George Michael and Beyoncé through to the modern breed of Soul singers – it is impossible to say just how many modern artists take something from Franklin (whether it is vocal or political; spirituality or something completely personal).

Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney and Mariah Carey have paid tribute and given their thanks; Cher, Carole King and Justin Timberlake have expressed their gratitude, sadness and love. The affection and respect for Franklin are evident: modern music is so much richer for her presence and we are all the better for having had her in the world. If a soul never dies or dissipates; that means Franklin will always be with us and watching over us. Current artists like Jenifer Hudson, Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson have stated how Franklin is an idol they are moved by.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Mariah Carey (photoed with Aretha Franklin) made a moving tribute on social media/PHOTO CREDIT: Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

I shall wrap things up with a quote/snippet from an article on Pitchfork but feel, given her death; we all need to look back at Franklin’s life and everything she gave to music. There is so much we undervalue and overlook; albums and times of her career that warrant investigation and fresh eyes. She was and is a role model who inspired generations and got into all of our hearts. The fact she is so beloved and people mourn so vividly speaks to her legacy – an artist whose immense voice and soulful potency will never be equalled or bettered. Although she is peerless; I hope modern artists learn from her and recognise how much she has given to us all. Pitchfork assessed her voice and catalogue and distilled it thus:

In listening to Aretha’s best songs—songs that innervate the nervous system and rattle us to our bones—we’re reminded of who we are at the spiritual level and how we are all deeply, and even maybe inconveniently, interconnected as souls. That’s what soul music is, that’s what soul music does—it illuminates the path to our mutual interdependence. Aretha’s feelingful back catalog remains a prescription for how we might find ways to how we might move away from the depressing atomization and fragmentation of modern life into soulful cooperation, getting togetherness, toward a funky “Soul Train” style dance with each other”.

Aretha Franklin’s music gave so much to so many people – each person has a different experience and reason for loving her. For her incredible, world-moving music and that incredible human behind it; the films, the albums and all the immense live performances; the highs and inspirational speeches; the grace, spirituality and immense power…we give thanks and, as many commentators have said when singing their pieces off…

SAY a little prayer.

INTERVIEW: Oriel Poole

INTERVIEW:

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Oriel Poole

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I have been speaking with Oriel Poole

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PHOTO CREDITGalen Oakes Photography

about her new single, Brighter, and filming its incredible video. She tells me about moving from the U.K. to the U.S. and what she wants to accomplish going forward. I ask which rising artists are worth a shout and what advice she would give to artists emerging.

Poole reveals what she does away from music and her favourite memory from her career so far; how she got into music and kindled that passion; what it was like working with Julio (the L.G.B.T.Q. advocate) on her current video – she ends the interview with a great song.

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Hi, Oriel. How are you? How has your week been?

Good, thanks.

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

Bold, sensual and otherworldly. Genre-wise, I produce Trip-Hop; combining the sounds of R&B, Electronic; Soul and Experimental.

Brighter is your latest music video. Is there a personal story behind it? How did it come together?

The song is about recognizing my magic inside, the inner-flame, ready to expand into the world. It's the voice inside my head saying, ‘let me out, already!’.

From a visual standpoint, the director, S-hekh Shem Hetep, saw the hypnotic side of my music and me and used that to create a video that was both whimsical and seductive; highlighting my essence as an artist.

The music video seems like it was fun to film! Was it a good shoot? Did you have a lot of creative control regarding concept and theme?

The director took the lead on the creative concept for the video. Of course, I had my say; I also brought in friends such as Ostara who led up the styling and set dressing to support the overall vision. One of the most challenging parts for me in the process was allowing - having a creative background in production design I enjoy being hands-on and driving the creative process forward. But, in the making of this music video, it was important for me to focus on being solely the artist.

Did you enjoy working with L.G.B.T.Q. advocate Julio on the shoot?

Yes. Julio is amazing. Such a talented force - he really helped me come into my skin and portray the sensual woman that I am on camera.

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Brighter is from your E.P., Sunday. Are you looking ahead at more material – or will there be more material released from the current E.P.?

I have another music video coming soon (for Foothills). I’m taking classes and working on a single right now while I save in preparation for the writing of the second E.P. I’m also pitching to labels in an effort to receive additional resources and support of the second E.P.

How did you get into music? Which artists compelled you growing up?

Music has always been in my blood. It was a matter of waking up to the desire to pursue it. I have a rather eclectic taste in music. Some of my influences growing up include Pink Floyd, Kavinsky; Björk, Enya; Jamiroquai, Erykah Badu; Zero Seven and Talking Heads.

I believe you were born in Britain but moved to the U.S. Was there a reason behind the move?!

My parents wanted to move to America - not completely sure why -; possibly for a chance at a different life. I was eight-years-old. It was hard letting go of everything I knew and loved that age but the experience did shape my perspective and provided me with a broader vision of the world.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

Securing a label or investor - 100k to propel to the next level of my career so I can focus exclusively on the next E.P., continued education; new creative content (music videos!) and a national tour. I’m looking for a company or individual who sees my whole package and wants to help provide me with the resources to scale massively.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Lotus. That venue is legendary: an outdoor amphitheatre shaped by natural, red rock formations. It is an honour to have performed there.

Which albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall

Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense

Both albums changed the way I experienced music.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Based on my sound, I would be best-suited opening for Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean; Bonobo, Bob Moses; Rüfüs Du Sol, Tame Impala; Woodkid, Little Dragon; Anderson .Paak and STS9.

Rider? A candlelit dressing room and yerba mate, please.

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

None at the moment but I will keep you in the loop!

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I am breaking through so I can only speak from the perspective of my present experience. Success is a combination of talent and drive. If you have something people are responding to and you are committed to finding the way - doing whatever it takes to turn this passion into a career - then this is the path for you.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jamie Lidell/PHOTO CREDIT: Lindsey Rome

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

More recently, I have been really feeling Jamie Lidell, Nonku Phiri and Nao.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Nonku Phiri

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Yes. I find time to go unwind and feed my soul. I go out and dance, connect with friends; be active in my body, be in my joy. I also practice meditation and Theta Healing every day.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Yes! Go check out Dear by Pete Philly

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Follow Oriel Poole

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INTERVIEW: Choze

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

Choze

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WITH Nothing to Lose out there…

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I have been speaking with Choze about the track and what inspired it. He discusses his upcoming plans and the influence of Clapham. I ask him which rising artists we need to look out for and the albums that have been instrumental to him – he tells me what it was like working with Skolz on his latest song.

Choze reflects on the past year and how it affected Nothing to Lose; what advice he would give artists coming through; if there is going to be more material coming up; if he gets moments to unwind away from music – he selects a good song to end the interview with.

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Hi, Choze. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi. I’m good. My week HAS been like most weeks: very productive

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I go by the artist name ‘Choze’ and I’m an Alternative artist that has been on the scene for a few years now.

Nothing to Lose is your latest single. Can you talk about the origins and how the song came together?

It basically came together about a year – one when London was going through tragic moments. Whether we lost hundreds of people due to the Grenfell Tower fire or the increase of gun and knife violence or Brexit; I just felt that it was time to speak on a few touchy subjects. I was brain-fried by the disappointment I was seeing and I wanted to address it.

What was it like working with Skolz on the track? What did he bring to the track?

I feel, when I work with Skolz, he brings out the best in me. His sound has his own stamp on it which I easily became a fan when he first started to play me his material. Nothing to Lose was one of the tracks he played to me and, at that moment, I knew I was going to record something deep on that record. The beat was just calling and telling me what I should say. He brought the edge that I needed to enhance my lyrics even more which is why I’m happy with what we’ve created together.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

It seems like 2017 impacted you. Looking at all the horror that occurred – including Trump’s election and the Brexit result – how do you see the year? Do you think the world has lost some of its mind?!

Honestly, I feel we’re living in the last days but also I’ll have to get back to you with an answer. It’s just too deep to respond...plus, we’ll be here all week if I do (laughs). 

Is there going to be more material coming later in the year do you reckon?

100%! I’ve got two more records to put out then the mini-album which I’m excited to share with the masses. Very personal record to me

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

Who are the artists that inspire you and led you to get into songwriting?

Kendrick Lamar, the Paul Institute; Skepta, Plan B and Mike Skinner. There are a few more but, roughly, these artists push me to write chapters after chapters. I feel they help my storytelling but push me to create my own style with it.

How influential were your experiences in Clapham, and the scenes you witnessed there, to you regarding your path into music?

Clapham can be very embracive and multicultural: it can also be very problematic and difficult to live which helps me write songs to explain my experiences growing up in neighbourhoods such as Clapham. But, honestly, how the area has developed over the years; I wouldn’t change it for the world and it’s what made me the artist I am today.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

To get a wider audience; to follow see and support what ‘Choze’ the brand has in store.  Plain and simple.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

My favourite memory is when I got a standing ovation to a packed crowd at Union Chapel in North London. That was a moment I’ll never forget. It made me feel that I’ve achieved my goal but motivated me to strive for more shows where I would work my best to receive more support from bigger crowds. It just made me a fiend for performance after that night.

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Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

I’ve got so many albums that are a big influence in my life but the three that comes to mind are Boy in da Corner by Dizzee Rascal; No More Idols by Chase & Status and 21 by Adele.

With Boy in da Corner; it was the album that described everything that was going on when I was in college/uni times. It made me believe that I could tell my story in my own narrative and believe that no one can take it away from because it’s MY TRUTH and nothing but MY TRUTH.

No More Idols showed me that you can collaborate with all different genres or artists but still make an album which people will say stood the test of time. It’s a classic.

21 was the most personal record for me. It’s showcasing a person’s emotions with no fabrication or dishonesty - which is why I believe Adele is the most important artist of our decade.  She put the transcript out to the music industry that ‘honest’ music always prevails no matter what.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I would love to support the Gorillaz - and my rider will be only water before the show and then a stiff Jack Daniels on the rocks after (laughs).

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

We’re just organising the dates as we speak. Go to my Twitter/Facebook/Instagram for more info (@CHOZEofficial)

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Never compromise unless you honestly believe it’s beneficial to achieving your reality - not dream, reality! Also, never stop. This game can never be taken for granted. You fail when you quit, simple.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Shai Sevin

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Skolz, Shai Sevin, Lemzi; The Grime Violinist, the Paul Institute; Anjlee Desai, ObongjayarMax Stone; DOGZ OR GODZ. Few more but I’ll get back to you.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Grime Violinist

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I still read books or watch inspirational docs to keep me motivated. I need those tools because I listen to music way too much - so they’re my ‘chill out’ sessions.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Jai Pauljasmine (demo). It’s still the greatest record I swear (laughs)

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Follow Choze

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FEATURE: The Queen of Soul Departs: Where Do We Go Now?! Can Modern Music Produce a True Icon?

FEATURE:

 

 

The Queen of Soul Departs: Where Do We Go Now?!

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

Can Modern Music Produce a True Icon?

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WE started this music day…

bidding the Queen of Pop, Madonna, a happy sixtieth birthday but have ended it on a sad note: we have had to say goodbye to the Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin’s passing has seen an outpouring of memories, upset and disbelief. When the news was announced she was gravely ill, a few days back, we were preparing for the worse. The seventy-six-year-old seemed to rally – friends and family said they’d hope she’d pull through – but it has been announced she has died of pancreatic cancer. I opened the day talking about ageism in music and how icons/older artists are given far less attention than new, young stars. Madonna’s sixtieth is a time for celebration and sharing memories of her but, in another way, it is a sure-fire excuse for radio stations not to play her music. We are all hoping more material comes from her but I wonder how many radio outlets will house her music and gives her the respect deserved. Looking at the life and music of Madonna and Aretha Franklin has given us all to look back at a music world that really doesn’t exist anymore. I felt this type of heavy heart when we lost Prince and David Bowie back in 2016. With each musical loss; we celebrate what that person gave but mourn the fact we will never see the like again...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna in 2014/PHOTO CREDIT: Mert Alas for Interview Magazine

It was wonderful casting my eyes back at Madonna’s life and my memories – the giddiness of discovering her in the 1990s and that evocative, media-courting star whose fashion, sexuality and incredible creative spirit has dominated music and changed the Pop scene as we know it. You get a personality with Madonna; a real spirit and unique human who strikes the heart and head in so many different ways. She has not merely got where she is by commercial success and doing the absolute minimum. You can smell the blood, sweat and tears in every music video, album and year of her musical life. Like Kate Bush and other Pop greats; they are compelling, ground-breaking and utterly beguiling. You are never bored and are torn between which songs are best; the fashion choices that stand aside; which controversial remark or wonderful event defines what makes that artist special. Madonna is still full of life but, with less radio play and ageism creating a lot of discrimination, I wonder whether the Queen of Pop will struggle to mix it with the new, critically-lauded breed. Aretha Franklin has departed us but we all look back at her incredible career and all she did. She was a big campaigner for civil rights and, in many ways, did so much to create equality, conversation and awareness. Her religion was a big part of her music and that immensely powerful voice scored some of the most evocative songs ever.

If Madonna changed Pop and spoke out against sexism, ageism and censorship; Aretha Franklin battled racism, hatred and brought so much love to people’s lives. She was and is that peerless icon who brought Soul into the mainstream and created some true anthems. Whether you prefer Think to Respect or like (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman and Chain of Fools best – there are so many gems to choose from! Her classic albums like Lady Soul and I Never Loved a Man the Way That I Loved You defined the 1960s and gave us so much brilliance. It is devastating she is no longer hear – for more than one reason. We will miss that music and the chance of hearing any new Franklin music but it is yet another musical icon that has left. Every time we say goodbye to a decades-surviving star who has enriched lives with the music, personality and memories; it seems like we are so much poorer and darker as a community. Look at the existing icons; everyone from Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones to Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith. Although I am not wishing death on any of them, from Paul Simon and Neil Young through to Roger Daltrey (The Who) and Robert Plant; one thinks their time is always precious.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Bob Dylan in Columbia Studios in 1961/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

That sounds morbid but those artists are in their sixties and seventies and one feels we will all live through the days when they are all gone. There are younger icons in our midst but imagine a day when we have lost every one of those idols and artists who defined the very best music ever. It is tragic to think of a planet with Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell; no Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon or Madonna – how will we cope when we only have their music in the world and not their bodies?! The obvious solution is to foster the new breed of legends who can create new memories, make history and redefine music – we can have a new roster of heroes and heroines and foster them. I look around music and there is a clear divide between these pioneers and geniuses and a bunch of artists who vary from the average to the near-iconic status.  Maybe the likes of PJ Harvey, Damon Albarn and the Gallagher brothers (Liam and Noel of Oasis) will be around for a lot longer but I cannot name anyone like Madonna, Aretha Franklin and Paul Simon who has done so much for music. One can say that is unfair – you need to give music a chance and cannot compare the climate of now with the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

The world is different and developing in terms of innovation, breakthroughs and changes. Now, when so much has been done; how do artists push the game forward and go down in history?! We have lost legends like David Bowie and Aretha Franklin but their legacy and brilliance is being carried by the new generations. The voice and depressing realisation comes when we think of their uniqueness and how much more alluring they are to the current crop. Modern music is more about streaming, promotion and predictability as it is mavericks, game-changers and genuine personalities. One of the reasons I am sad Franklin has died is her warmth and compassion; the immense vocal power she possessed right until the end; the consistent popularity and how she tackled civil rights horrors and spoke out. Her work in The Blues Brothers (1980) is one of my earliest childhood memories (I saw the film a few years after it came out) and it is amazing to think how much she packed into her seven-and-a-bit decades of life! Same goes for your McCartney, Madonna and Mitchell types. They have transformed music, settled in our memories – their music has been passed through the ages and is popular and worthy now as it was when first released. So much modern music is seen as disposable and easily forgettable.

It is hard to stand out and, at a time when there are imbalances, issues and drawbacks in music; I wonder whether we need the young stars to speak out more; do something different or just distinguish themselves from the pack. We do not see anyone who has the quirk and chameleon-like nature of David Bowie; the incredible background and awesome force of Aretha Franklin or the back catalogue and evergreen popularity of the bands of the 1960s. Each time a stalwart and pillar of music history dies or retires, it makes me think: Is music so modern and changed we will see merely great artists but never a true icon?! Will we still be recalling greats bands of today in forty years or have that surviving and compelling musician that brings about universal mourning when they die?! Maybe, given the digitisation of music and the scene changes, it is hard to stand out and go back to a time when genuine personalities could be found in the scene. A couple of years ago, producer Tony Visconti bemoaned modern music and how boring it is:

Guitar Star aims to unearth old fashioned, raw ability. I’m looking for virtuosos like HendrixCobain and Bowie.”

He also took an indirect shot at the inferiority of modern TV talent shows, saying: “There’s no fluffy back story, there’s no ‘I lost my pet dog in 97 and that made me want to play’ nonsense… No one can mistake me for Simon Cowell. It’s the worst time ever in the music industry”.

There are so many wonderful artists now and sub-genres are being created; we are seeing epic albums and brilliant tracks come out all the time and it is very exciting. I want to get to a point, forty years from now, where I can keep hold of the existing icons but have a new photo album of modern-day artist who has lasted that long and stand aside alongside the greats - those I can share with relatives and friends and talk fondly. We see the ‘best albums ever’ lists and most of them pre-date the last decade. We think of a ‘music icon’ and our minds go back even further. There are some modern-day heroes but I think the 1990s was the last decade when we started to make and elevate genuine personalities. I long to see someone with the fashion sense and changes of Madonna or a great band that can challenge The Who or The Beatles and produce album-upon-album of brilliance that lasts the ages. The sad thing is we always look back for quality and reliability. I have to cover new music but am not as attached to artists now as I was when growing up. Look at all these icons and unique personalities and they were living through wars, economic recessions and huge political changes. The Beatles defined the Summer of Love and songwriters like Bob Dylan documented the threat of nuclear war and destruction; Paul Simon defied rules and performed with black South African musicians during apartheid; Joni Mitchell and Madonna reflected the times and either directly confronted them or created a persona and art that managed to distract our minds and create something wonderful.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles in 1967/PHOTO CREDIT: Apple Music/Getty Images

I have been looking at this article and how it charts music’s changes through the decade; what bands of the past were writing about and how their social lives and relationships bled into the music:

In comparison to today's music which is not to say bad, but relatable in a different manner. A manner centered around our social lives or the physical aspect of relationships; partying, drinking, smoking, other substances, sexual relationships, and making money. Classic Groups like The Beatles (the best), Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, all wrote music revolving around love, story telling, growing up/teenaged angst, and definitely drug undertones worthy of mentioning (IE, "Dark Side of The Moon" by Pink Floyd). For instance, clubs are constantly playing "I took a Pill in Ibiza" by Mike Posner. Does that song have any sentimental or actual value to it? Unless you dropped some very intense substance and actually "felt 10 years older," then you have no way to appreciate that song for more than the catchy EDM backing his adjusted vocals. No, I didn't take that damn Pill, and no I am not going to listen to you when I am depressed. We seek out the comfort of previously stated groups; Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, etc.”.

Some good changes have come in – less excess and sexual looseness; better morals and activation through social media – but I wonder whether the way artists promote their music and the role of technology has removed the soul of music and meant it is harder to forge identities, longevity and true spirit:

The generation definitely started in a different way, but as technology came out we became wilder only because everyone posted about what we did. There were still new-age throwback groups like; The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Foo, Ed Sheeran, but things became more wild with Future, Drake, Lana Del Rey, Fetty Wap, Kendrick, A$AP Ferg + Rocky”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

 “… The soul is very absent from recent artists, and it's due to not having any common passion for everyone to relate to. So what'd we do? We embraced music to describe a lifestyle we want to live. It's not a bad thing because it creates new ways of finding friends and enjoying life, but it's just very different without any real backbone. I will be the first person to tell you that I listen to L$D by A$AP Rocky frequently because the meaning behind that song is very emotionally similar to the general idea discussed by the groups of previous generations. Rap is just fun too, along with EDM, and other not necessarily deep genres. The main passion of our peers is just one that isn't the same”.

I wonder whether our comparative lack of socialisation, community and interaction has affected how we view music and how artists are recording. If we are sitting behind screens and less connected with the outside world then it is not going to go into the music and, as such, resonate and affect people decades from now. It is a complex brew but I have that fear the last of the ‘icons’ – whoever that may be – will leave us and we will be sad.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

We will take to social media and provide sympathies and share all those great memories. The following days will be upsetting but, when we return to our normal lives, we will look around and see the new breed – all the legends have gone and one wonders how we will move from there. It is hard to swallow the possibility of a music scene with few greats like Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan; a world where values have changed and longevity is not a possibility – just a series of great artists who are around for years but we never hold them to heart the same way as the musicians we grew up around. Maybe the answer is simple or the real answer is there is no way to counteract reality. In any case, there is extra sadness in my mind thinking about Aretha Franklin and how she is gone. Such a complex, extraordinary and incredible being whose legacy and reputation was forged around more than music – she was a genuine personality who spoke out and gave a voice to so many others; inspired generations and broke down walls. Social media is flooded with condolences for Franklin and, when reading each one of them, I wonder whether we will see any modern-day artist who matches her legacy and status. It is sad to think but, in years to come, we will lose all of the true personalities and legends of music. Can we create modern heroes that last for decades and create such an impact as the icons of old? Thinking about it and I feel that likelihood…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Joni Mitchell (2015)/PHOTO CREDIT: Norman Jean Roy for New York Magazine

IS an impossibility.

FEATURE: “Hey Nineteen, That’s ‘Retha Franklin….” Remembering the Queen of Soul

FEATURE:

 

 

“Hey Nineteen, That’s ‘Retha Franklin….”

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IN THIS PHOTO: Aretha Franklin/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Remembering the Queen of Soul

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I starting typing this piece…

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

when I heard the news that Aretha Franklin was gravely ill in Detroit. It seems fatalistic and a little insensitive but, sadly, one knows where such news leads. The seventy-six-year-old is one of the last true icons in the music world and, hearing the news she seriously ill, did not get me thinking of sadness and mortality: I was thinking about the lyric that inspired the title of this piece: Steely Dan’s Hey Nineteen from their album, Gaucho. In it, the middle-aged protagonist (Donald Fagen) is aghast that ‘Ninteen’ (a teenage suitor) does not know who Aretha Franklin is. Rather than argue and provide a concise history of Soul; by the chorus, he is yearning for her Cuervo Gold and “fine Colombian”. That was not the first time I had heard Franklin’s name being mentioned through song, either directly or indirectly. That Steely Dan song came out in 1980: my discovery of the Queen of Soul must have happened sometime in the 1990s. The first thing that hit me was THAT voice. Her 1967 rendition of Respect (originally released by Otis Redding two years previous) blew away critics and led a rather green Redding to confess her version added new layers to his song. That is the song we associate with her and for good reason.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Seliger/STYLING: Yashua Simmons

It turns Redding’s tale of a desperate man who needs a lifeline and attention from a woman, in Franklin’s hands, is a mandate and anthem for respect and attention. In her version, she is in command and puts in a scintillating performance – transforming a somewhat piteous and defeatist lament of Redding. There are many other reasons why Aretha Franklin is the undisputed Queen of Soul. The album Respect was taken from, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You, is a five-star classic that houses, among other gems, the title-track; Sam Cooke’s Good Times and A Change Is Gonna Come. The way she could turn songs like Think and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and make them distinctly her own is incredible. Great singers, whether they are performed original material or covers/songs written by others inhabit the material and bring fresh perspective to it; they make it their own clothing and create something wonderful. Franklin is one of a small handful of singers, including Elvis Presley, who blows you away with their voice and sheer panache. Set aside the influence Franklin has and her incredible style; you have this powerhouse vocalist who could bring the house down and bring tears to the eyes. I recall watching a video of Franklin performing Carole King’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015 and moving an in-attendance King to tears. It received a standing ovation and showed, in her seventies, she still had that awesome power and command.

Last year, Franklin cancelled a series of gigs on doctor’s orders; she has had health problems through her career but has always managed to make it through. From removing a tumour in 2010 – doctors said it would add fifteen to twenty years to her life – to dropping a lot of weight during a crash diet in 1974; the tough and tenacious artist has always been drawn back to music and the desire to perform. Franklin’s last, proper studio album was 2014 Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics received great reviews and saw her tackle songs from the likes of Dinah Washington and Adele. A Brand New Me, released last year, saw the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra add their qualities to existing Aretha Franklin vocals. Although the reviews were not particularly good; it was another case of people wanting to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul. That was her forty-second studio album and arrived an incredible fifty-eight years after her debut. During that incredible career, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1979); she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in n 1987; the second woman inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 – so many honours and fantastic achievements! Many see Franklin as the voice of the civil rights movement and a symbol of black equality – at a time when there is still racial inequality around the world, that voice and memory are ever-important and crucial.

Jennifer Hudson is to play Franklin in an upcoming biopic and it will take on a sad tinge given the news we have received. It is hard to say how many singers, politicians and public figures she has inspired and made stronger. You can hear the influence of Franklin in everyone from Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé; Adele and any number of female vocalists whose power and potency recalls the unbelievable spirit of Franklin. Popstars like Mariah Carey have been inspired by Franklin and, look around music, and you will identify so many who owe what they do to her. Soul is one of those genres that is always slightly away from the mainstream but always relevant. During Franklin’s reign, she managed to put it to the forefront and it, in her hands, had the same force and physicality as Punk and Rock. Now, decades after her golden era, I wonder whether artists need to take from her and bring Soul right back to the mainstream. It will not be easy but the fact Franklin captivated the world and affected such change has not been forgotten. I am a big Soul fan and always struggle with the fact it is never given the respect it warrants. R&B and Rap get plenty of focus but what of Soul?! Maybe there is nobody out there who can match Franklin but, following her passing, there will be stars and artists coming through who want to follow in her footsteps.

This article, published in Elle in 2016, looked at the legacy of Aretha Franklin’s Respect, some fifty years after its release. They spoke with various figures who gave their impressions on the song – and what Franklin’s music meant to them:

And Gloria Steinem, a journalist edging toward the crusade that would define her life when "Respect" hit the radio, says, "I always felt that nothing too bad could happen in the world while I was listening to Aretha Franklin. Everything was good, including that I could dance with nobody around. True, there was a line in 'Respect' that made me anxious for both of us: something like, 'I'm about to give you all my money.' But I figured Aretha knew what she was doing, and nobody was going to mess with her. With us".

The interviewer sat with Franklin and asked her about feminism and race relations in the U.S. now (2015):

Franklin thinks feminism is working. "The president of the Kennedy Center is a woman. Women are moving into fabulous positions," she says. The women she's met and admired are a diverse lot: Coretta Scott King, Steinem, Oprah, Barbara Jordan. As for young female singer-songwriters, she's a fan of Alicia Keys, Adele, and Jennifer Hudson; she calls Judy Garland "one of the greatest singers there was."

When I ask Franklin about the presidential race and the current state of race relations, she seems reluctant to offer an opinion, saying instead, rather wistfully, "People are not as nice as they used to be. There used to be a time when we conversed. You don't get a lot of real responses now. They used to be more polite and well-mannered people, generally. It's minimal now." She pauses, and then: "I think it would be a far greater world if people were kinder and more respectful to each other." Respect: There's that word again”.

One of the most poignant interview quotes from recent times is in 2016 when People interviewed her. Franklin was asked which of the current singers should inherit the title of the Queen of Soul. They projected a few names but the reply from Franklin was to-the-point and expected:

Thus, we asked reigning Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin to weigh in on the new school of musical royalty, from Beyonce to Adele to Lady Gaga.

“There’s a lot of great singers out here,” Franklin tells PEOPLE diplomatically while celebrating her 74th birthday at the Ritz Carlton in New York City on Thursday, joined by Clive Davis, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Tamron Hall.

But when asked who she’d want to pass the diva torch to, Franklin’s answer was simply, no one. “I’m here!” she said with a smile. “I’m not going anywhere. This is what I do”.

That may provoke a tear or a wry smile because, however you look at things, her music is always in the world and her brilliance cannot be topped. I do not think there will be anyone who will dare challenge her title and can get anywhere near. Rather than try to equal Aretha Franklin or copy what she does; the legacy and influence will pass through the ages and, as the playlist at the bottom of this feature shows, she has managed to achieve so much brilliance during her six-decade recording career (more if you count the songs she was recording as a child). It is always heartbreaking losing an icon who has followed all of us and enriched our lives. Aretha Franklin was one of the last, great Soul performers and one of those artists who has managed to change music and society. There will be tributes played and sadness but, as Franklin said in that 2014 interview: “I’m here!”. Although she is not with us anymore, that quote above really sticks in the mind. It is true that, no matter how much times passes…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

SHE is not going anywhere!   

FEATURE: Sisters in Arms: An All-Female, Summer-Ready Playlist (Vol. XXI)

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

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IN THIS PHOTO: Shygirl/PHOTO CREDIT: Samuel Ibram

An All-Female, Summer-Ready Playlist (Vol. XXI)

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IT may be ironic…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dolls/PHOTO CREDIT: Gabrielle Hall

branding something ‘summer-ready’ when the weather is less than summer-like! The rain here is pissing down and those hot and sweaty days seem far behind us. In the same way that some people do a rain dance; I am hoping these blistering songs from some of the best female artists/female-led bands (from this year or last) in new music banish the bad weather and bring something much more pleasing to our shores. Whatever your tastes and musical preferences; I am sure you will be able to find something suitably arresting, pleasing and satisfying to ensure summer comes back…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Emotional Oranges

IN next to no time.

ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Artists

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Eirini Devitt Marry Me

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PHOTO CREDITTilly May Photography

Yama Warashi Kofun No Uta

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PHOTO CREDITIsha Shah

Petrol Girls Sister

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rosie Mackay

Saltwater Sun Hot Mess

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PHOTO CREDITKeira-Anee Photography

Dolls She Don’t Use Jelly

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 PHOTO CREDITDIY

Dama Scout Milky Milk

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Maya Wolff (ft. Fulgurant) What If We Can

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Bully Guess There

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Wyldest Island Gardens

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Alex Winston Tourist

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whenyoung Dreams

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PHOTO CREDIT: Yiskid

Shygirl Gush

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The Kut Love in the Rush Hour

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Emotional Oranges Personal

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Bella McKendree - Water

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PHOTO CREDITPaige Nelson Photography

The Little Miss Red, White & True

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PHOTO CREDIT: Hayley Stewart

Parallels Catch

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Maddie & Tae Friends Don’t

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Stephanie Quayle - Selfish

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Callaghan Summer Days

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Dorcha Bruiser

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Adwaith - Gartref

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Confidence Man Out the Window

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Natalie Evans In Trees

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LUCIA - Summertime

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After London - Dreams