HAVING reviewed/interviewd artists like...
Hannah Dorman; I know there are a lot of eager British Country artists coming through. Combining- the genre- with Rock and Soul: you need to keep your eyes peeled. Country music- in this country, at least, has always had a bit of a poor reputation- seen as inferior to the U.S. equivalent. Perhaps that is true of the ‘older’ examples: the new, young breed of Country artists (in Britain) are causing re-appropriation and resurgence. I caught up with our leading proponent, Sasha McVeigh. At present, she is looking to perform in the U.S. - visa issues are delaying that a bit- but the young heroine has determination and ambitions. When I’m Over You- Sasha’s latest single- marks her as an extraordinary talent with a massive future. I was keen to discover Sasha’s influence; how recent events in the U.S. - including the shooting at Pulse- affect her as a musician0 any advice she would give to new musicians…
Hi Sasha. How are you? How has your week been?
It's been up and down. Right now I'm waiting for my U.S. visa to come in so I can get over and start my tour!
Those new to your music: can you tell us a little about yourself?
Well, I'm a British country singer/songwriter but my music also has Pop, Folk and Soul overtones. I'm very real and honest in my songwriting and I consider my fans to be friends. We're all on this journey together.
Being a Country singer-songwriter: which artists were influential to you growing up?
I'd have to say the more traditional artists were my major influences at first; Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson were the main two. My dad is the big Country music fan in the house and he would dance with me around our coffee table to C.M.T. when I was little. I loved Shania Twain growing up and also Elvis Presley. Music was always playing in my house. It went from Motown to Cat Stevens in the blink of an eye so I had a very diverse musical upbringing.
Do you think there is a growing/notable Country scene in this country- or is it something still U.S.-led?
The perception of the genre, over here, has changed drastically in the last two years. Country music was very much considered to be a bit of a joke in the U.K., but with more and more American artists coming over and the rise of U.K. Country acts- people have finally started changing their opinions and seeing that it's probably the most genuine genre out there. I'm not sure that it will ever be as popular over here as it is in the U.S. because, in America, it's the genre is a part of American culture and it's tied up with patriotism- whereas we don't have that same assimilation with it here.
You have played a number of gigs and cities in the U.S. - Sasha’s first American dates saw her play in Nashville- and the U.K. Which stands in your mind as particularly memorable?
Oh wow, there have been so many incredible gigs. I'll never forget the times I spent singing on Broadway in Nashville at Tootsie's and Rippy's etc. I made lifelong friends there and just learnt so much from all the musicians I played with. Also, I had the chance to sing the national anthem when I played the main stage at Taste of Country Festival in New York. There were 20,000 people in the audience and everyone was singing the anthem along with me: I had tears in my eyes it was so magical. However, a huge highlight for me was when I played the Academy of Country Music Awards Kick-Off Concert in Las Vegas with Hunter Hayes. It was the first big show I'd ever done; my face was on a 100ft billboard and everything. I would give anything to go back and do that again!
This year has been a busy one for you. What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
Well, I have my U.S. tour coming up where I'm performing at festivals and also doing some headline shows all over the country. I'm also planning on recording my next record later this year which is very exciting.
Aside from yourself, of course: which new musicians have struck your ear recently?
I'm not really sure who I'd pick in terms of “new musicians" but in terms of ‘new to me’ (in that, people I don't normally listen to or hadn't heard of before) I'd have to say the band, Disturbed. My band is also a band in their own right, Loveless Effect - you should check them out, by the way, their stuff is killer and they just released a new single - but we were on our way to a show and they put Disturbed's new C.D. in and Sound of Silence came on- they've done a cover of it and it's the most hauntingly beautiful thing I think I've ever heard. It's been played on ‘Radio 2 a bunch of times recently and it catches my ear every time.
Reviews of your live performances have been very effusive and impressive. What is it about live performances that connect you with the audience? Have (early-career) dates across America given you a lot of confidence and experience?
It has definitely served me well, gaining so much experience in Nashville. When I started doing this professionally in 2012, I wasn't very confident on stage. It wasn't that I was nervous; I would just do things like touch my hair and fiddle with my clothes. It really allowed me to come into my own and get a stage presence. Live shows are my absolute favourite and I think it's hugely important to connect with the audience. I got a great tip from Jerrod Niemann when I performed at Country Jam. He said he was given the advice from another artist; it was to remember when you play a big festival, the way you connect with the people way in the back is to look into the cameras that they have on the stage because those feed to the big screens and that's what the people at the back focus on. I think that's how you can make a show in front of 10,000 people really intimate.
I Stand Alone- Sasha’s debut album released last year- was met with acclaim and fan support (its creation was the result of a crowd-funding campaign). What themes and events inspired the album’s creation?
All of those songs told the story of my life right up to the recording process of the album. I wrote the title track, I Stand Alone, when I was 14 and then Someone to Break My Heart was written a week before I went into the studio. Recording a full album was something I'd been dreaming of since I started all of this. I was dying for these songs, these stories to be heard and it was amazing to see them get the response that they did.
On that front: can we expect a new album/single any time this year?
That seems to be the million-dollar question lately. I hope to get something new released this year. Obviously, I already released my new single, When I'm Over You, which is a definite taster of the new music that's to come. It honestly all depends on finances and whether I can find or raise $25,000 to record an album or $15,000 for an E.P. I have all the songs ready to go and I even know what the album title will be, it's all about funding. So, we'll see, fingers crossed!
Love and heartbreak go into a lot of Country- and all other genre-types- and music. Have relationships and heartache been particularly important to you as a songwriter? How would you say (your style of writing and singing) differs from others?
Songwriting is all about putting emotions into lyrical and musical forms and nothing stirs emotions as much as falling in love; being left heartbroken and falling out of love. Everybody can relate to that. People are actually quite surprised that I haven't dated a lot of guys because my songs would have them believe otherwise. For example, since August, I've probably written 20 songs about the same guy; dealing with different emotions, different angles of the relationship. I never get why the press gives Taylor Swift such a hard time for writing about her exes because EVERYBODY does it, people have been writing about their exes for centuries! But, the point is, I write about whatever is relevant to me. I find it difficult to write from fiction, I prefer to write out of personal experience so that probably makes me different from other people because in general songwriters can just sit down and write a song, I can't do that. I try to be as honest as possible in my writing so that if I spoke the story, it would be almost identical to the lyrical form. I've been told my voice is different from a lot of my contemporaries because I have a deeper tone and of course my British accents comes out from time to time. It's nice to know I'm unique.
Taste of Country hailed you as a name to watch: you have been backed by the likes of B.B.C. Introducing, Bob Harris, and the U.K. Country Music Awards. Is such attention quite daunting for someone so young?
It can be if I think about it too much. It's amazing to get recognition from such prestigious music outlets and especially from someone like Bob Harris. He's been wonderful and I can't thank him enough for his support. There aren't words to describe how incredible it feels to have people appreciate my music the way they have. I couldn't believe it when Taste of Country did an article on me and said I was "one to watch". It was very surreal.
This year has seen a lot of tragedy and unrest- from famous musicians’ death and the atrocities in Orlando. Has/does this motivate/affect you as a musician? Do happenings like this spur you to get your music out there and bring it to the people?
The music world has lost a lot of greats this year. It's actually quite sad because artists like Prince and Bowie really shaped their genres and carved new paths in the industry, who knows what it would be like now if it weren't for them. That kind of thing inspires me to carve out my own path and not be afraid when doors close. It's a tragedy about Christina Grimmie: she was born a few days before me and she started putting videos on YouTube around the time I did. I loved her videos and I was always so surprised that she didn't break into the mainstream because her talent was out of this world. It's scary, thinking about what happened to her. She was doing what she loved and let her guard down to be with her fans, and that guy used it to his advantage. Then a few days later there was the shooting at Pulse. I just don't really know how to comprehend it all. Orlando is like a second home for me, I've been vacationing there since I was three-years-old. I have more friends there than I do in my hometown and it was terrifying watching the events unfold and not being able to get a hold of some of them. Thankfully they're all okay. I can't imagine what the families are going through.
You have accomplished so much already. Are there particular things you’d like to tick off your Music Bucket List?
I try not to keep a bucket list if I can help it because then it makes every opportunity seem like a tick in the ‘dream box’ so to speak. But I'm definitely hoping to get to perform at The Ryman in Nashville; if I had a music bucket list: that would be at the top.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Umm...buy a lot of lottery tickets and hope you win! Okay, I'm kidding, but all joking aside, it is a very expensive industry. You need to be prepared to go into debt you may think you'll never get out of - unless you're lucky enough to have a wealthy family or an awesome investor. Touring costs money because of hiring venues, renting a vehicle, paying the band. Recording costs money because of the studio, the musicians, and the producer. It costs money to get merchandise made. It costs tens of thousands to get played by major radio and in the U.S. You'll need around $300,000 to put on a radio tour. You will get more no's than yes's. Doors will close and you'll contemplate giving up at least three-times-a-day. But if you want it enough, you won't give up. I honestly can't imagine myself doing anything else. I live and breathe music. For me, it's not about making millions or ending up on the cover of a magazine. I just want to be able to tour whenever and wherever I want to and be able to record music without restrictions. That's the dream for me!
Finally- and for being a good sport- you can choose any song and I’ll play it here- it can be one of yours or a particular favourite.
Ooo, nobody's ever let me do that before...hmmm...well my manager and P.R. guy are probably going to want me to choose one of my songs- but I've never been one to do what I'm told so I'm going to go with Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri- because it sits along the lines of what I've been writing recently and I've always loved the way she portrays the relationship and the guy in the lyrics.
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